T. Colin Campbell, PhD has been dedicated to the science of human health for more than 60 years. His primary focus is on the association between diet and disease, particularly cancer. Although largely known for the China Study--one of the most comprehensive studies of health and nutrition ever conducted, and recognized by The New York Times as the “Grand Prix of epidemiology”--Dr. Campbell’s profound impact also includes extensive involvement in education, public policy, and laboratory research.
Dr. Campbell grew up on a dairy farm and was the first in his family to go to college, where he studied pre-veterinary medicine at Pennsylvania State University. After obtaining his B.S. degree, and while completing his first year at the University of Georgia veterinary school, he received a telegram from a well-known professor at Cornell University, offering a scholarship and research opportunity too good to turn down. And so, he completed his education at Cornell University (M.S., Ph.D.) and MIT (Research Associate) in nutrition, biochemistry, and microbiology. He then spent 10 years on the faculty of Virginia Tech’s Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition before returning to Cornell in 1975, where he presently holds his Endowed Chair as the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry in the Division of Nutritional Sciences.
Dr. Campbell’s research experience includes both laboratory experiments and large-scale human studies. All of his research was generously funded by peer-reviewed public funding (mostly NIH, but also the US State Department)—none from for-profit sources. He served on grant review panels of multiple funding agencies—mostly NIH, but also the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR)—participated in the development of national and international nutrition and health policy, and authored over 350 research papers, most published in peer-reviewed science journals. Throughout his career, he has confronted considerable public confusion and controversy concerning nutrition and its effects, especially concerning for-profit, corporate control of the nutrition message.
Aside from chairing more than 40 graduate student research programs, his most notable contribution is conceiving, organizing, and directing the first research project between China and the US, following rapprochement in the late 1970s, involving Cornell University, Oxford University (U.K.), the China Academy of Preventive Medicine and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. Later, this project won the most significant medical research award in China (among 111 entries) during the post-Premier Deng Xiao Ping era (1978–1997). It was called the “grand prix of human epidemiology” by a New York Times feature article.
To synthesize the findings of his long and rewarding career and to give back to the public whose lives are threatened by rampant misinformation and special interests, Dr. Campbell co-wrote with his son, Tom (MD), The China Study (2005, 2016), which has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 50 foreign languages. He is also the author of The New York Times bestseller Whole (2013) and The Low-Carb Fraud (2013), both with Howard Jacobson (PhD), and The Future of Nutrition (2020), with Nelson Disla. Several documentary films feature Dr. Campbell and his research, including Forks Over Knives, Eating You Alive, Food Matters, PlantPure Nation, and From Food to Freedom, the latter two produced by Nelson Campbell. He continues to present public lectures on health and nutrition, having now delivered more than 1,300 lectures internationally (30+ countries) and nationally (40+ states). He is the founder of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and the online Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate powered by eCornell.
He has received numerous lifetime achievement awards, including from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM), the Plantrician Project, and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), among other awards highlighting his courage and leadership. Most of these awards were enabled by tenure and academic freedom to speak.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell was born in Virginia in 1934. Raised on a dairy farm.
1956 Penn State University B.S. Pre-veterinary
1957 Cornell University M.S.Nutrition, Biochemistry
1962 Cornell University Ph.D. Nutrition, Biochemistry Bacteriology - Conducted experimental research on utilization by ruminants of a nitrogen waste product to produce animal-based protein.
Worked as a technician in a commercial laboratory, testing chemicals and irradiated foods for cancer-producing capability in experimental animals.
Director of a commercial program in microbiology and radioisotope technologies. Tested commercial chemicals causing cancer in experimental animals. Collaborated with the FDA to develop a bioassay to evaluate a toxic chemical found in the feed of poultry thought to be present in human food as well known as "chick edema factor".
Research Associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, Massachusetts. Continued investigating "chick edema factor". It was later identified by government scientists as dioxin. Eventually, it was shown by others to be a contaminant of a defoliant used in Vietnam called Agent Orange.
Professor of Biochemistry and Nutrition, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia
Worked for the US State Department on a project in the Philippines to develop a nationwide network of feeding centers for malnourished children, especially to insure adequate protein consumption.
Served on a U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition (chaired by Senator George McGovern) which recommended decreased consumption of red meat and increased consumption of vegetables, fruits and whole grain cereals in order to decrease risk of heart disease. This activity proved to be enormously troubling for politicians because it brought into question the main staple of the American diet, meat.
Accepted a full professorship at Cornell University where experimental laboratory work was continued until about 1997.
Member of National Academy of Sciences panels on saccharin carcinogenicity that showed difficulties of assessing cancer risks, especially as related to public perceptions of risk.
Member of National Academy of Sciences committee on Diet, Nutrition and Cancer that was the ﬁrst (reasonably) official report recommending for cancer prevention increased consumption of vegetables, fruits, and whole cereal grains and decreased consumption of total dietary fat to 30% of total calories.
Co-Directed a nationwide survey of diet and lifestyle characteristics in China to produce 1990 monograph, Diet, Lifestyle and Mortality in China. A Study of the Characteristics of 65 Chinese Counties. It was a joint collaboration between the Chinese Government, the University of Oxford and Cornell University and funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NIH), the Chinese government and the U.K. Imperial Cancer Research Fund.
Re-surveyed same 65 counties (plus 4) in mainland China along with 16 additional counties in Taiwan for a total of 85 counties and 170 villages. This data shows the effect of westernization on dietary habits upon the development of cancer and other chronic degenerative diseases.
Senior Science Advisor, World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research
Closed experimental laboratory operations at Cornell University to focus on delivering the whole food, plant-based message to the general public, health professionals, and government agencies both nationally and internationally.
Co-authored the internationally best selling book "The China Study, Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health".
Founded the nonprofit T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. The mission of the nonprofit is to promote optimal nutrition through science-based education, advocacy, and research. In 2009, the Center premiered the online Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition powered by eCornell.