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Food for Thought Series: Assessing the Truth Behind Nutrition & Health Claims

Whole book cover and Dr. T. Colin Campbell, PhD

Quotations From Whole[1]

“When you hear a health claim, ask yourself three questions: Is it true? Is it the whole truth, or just part of it? Does it matter?” – Page 15

“When I think about whether a health intervention matters – in other words, whether it is worth pursuing for an individual, business, or researcher – I use three basic criteria … [rapidity, breadth, depth].” – Page 17

“The speed at which most nutritional benefits appear when switching to a WFPB (whole food, plant-based) diet is jaw-dropping.” – Page 17

“The WFPB diet deals with so many diseases and conditions that you begin to wonder if there isn’t just one basic disease cause – poor nutrition – that manifests through thousands of different symptoms.” – Page 19

“Plant-based nutrition tends to elicit enormous effect sizes.” – Page 21

“People who adopt a WFPB diet find that most of their health problems were caused or significantly worsened by their old diets and resolve naturally and quickly once the body starts getting the proper fuel.” – Page 25

The Truth Behind Nutrition & Disease: An Illustration

Define truth. “Truth, in metaphysics and the philosophy of language,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica, “[is] the property of sentences, assertions, beliefs, thoughts, or propositions that are said, in ordinary discourse, to agree with the facts or to state what is the case.”[2] What about “alternative facts,” such as the “fact” that animal-based keto diets are safe and healthy options for weight loss? What about the mistruths that go viral in the social bubbles of this instant world, such as the claim that eating manuka honey can boost your immune system? How can anyone know which reality is true? And how do these contradicting “factual” realities collide to impact our health?

On page twenty of Whole, Dr. Campbell proposes a unique thought experiment that helps to illuminate the truth about the limited breadth of traditional treatments compared to lifestyle interventions. An experiment that illuminates the truth about nutrition and health. He challenges us to pick a disease and imagine a doctor providing two treatment plans. What would those two paths look like and which one is commonly accepted as “true”, despite its side effects and failure to treat?

Let’s begin our experiment. The disease is type 2 diabetes.

Treatment #1: Pharmaceuticals prescribed[3] could include Metformin, Sulfonylureas, DPP-4 inhibitors or insulin (just to name a few!). These treatments will not cure the disease but could help the sufferer to live with it. Side effects include possible joint pain, damage to the pancreas, weight gain and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels). One could argue that another side effect (eventually anyway) would be death from the disease’s overall impact on the body.

Treatment #2: Whole Food Plant-Based Lifestyle which prescribes natural, whole foods alongside physical exercise and other practices that help to promote an emotionally and intellectually balanced life. These treatments can not only halt the disease, but also reverse its progression and improve both the quality and quantity of life for the sufferer. Side effects include healing other health issues, stabilizing weight and blood sugar levels, and improving the health of other organ systems in the body. One could argue that another side effect would be an overall improvement to the patient’s general quality of life.

If Treatment #2 is a real option, then why is it not better known? Why is this truth not more mainstream? Conversely, why is Treatment #1 so widely accepted as safe? The answer is complicated. Whilst there are subtle powers at play that seek to confuse the public, society still bears a responsibility to be vigilant about the Truth. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Unless you are a scientist, it can be very difficult to discern what is true, especially when it comes to understanding research data. The public therefore relies on competent, reliable sources, but these are often difficult to assess as well!

For an example of this confusion, take these conflicting sources on the subject of nutrition, fasting and the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The first is WebMD,[4] which states that, “The American Diabetes Association [ADA] doesn’t recommend fasting as a technique for diabetes management.” The ADA[5] takes it a step further, downplaying not only fasting, but also the role of nutrition in general in treating this disease;[5] they state that, “there is no single ‘magic’ diet for diabetes.” They do, however, promote some pretty singular medications.

Contrary to what WebMD and the ADA claim, many doctors have a track record of treating diabetes with diet. Dr. Alan Goldhammer of the True North Health Center is one such doctor. He has had enormous success in treating and reversing this disease through nutrition and fasting. “We find working with diabetic patients to be a very rewarding challenge,” he says. “They often respond remarkably well despite years of frustrating, unproductive care. Because the consequences of the disease are so devastating, a real deal of satisfaction can be derived from helping the diabetics avoid the typical route of disease and degeneration.”[6]

As such contradicting claims may be discouraging, it’s more important than ever that we find trustworthy, reliable sources of information. Though it is not always easy, society most assuredly has the ability to separate the marketing from the matter. Something as simple as checking online to see whether a health claim has been published in a peer-reviewed journal makes a big difference. It behooves each member of society to do that work—to dig beneath the headline to find the truth of the matter.

And for those who dig, the rewards are many. For example, Susan Cowdrick[7] lost 53 pounds and reversed her type 2 diabetes simply by switching to a plant-based diet. In her own words: “I believe EVERYONE deserves to know the TRUTH and make an informed decision on what they eat and how they treat their own bodies.” Well said indeed.

Eric Adams, author of Healthy at Last, also reversed his disease through nutrition. As an ex-NYC police officer who woke up one day to find himself blinded by his disease, he now says, “It was like I was never diabetic at all. Decades of poor health habits and tens of thousands of Big Macs, chicken wings, and French fries—all reversed in a matter of months.”[8].

For reputable studies showing how a WFPB lifestyle can treat this disease, look no further than the great Dr. Neal Barnard[9] and his 74-week clinical trial on nutrition and its impact on type 2 diabetes. Spoiler alert, it is good news! We truly do have the power to cure this disease and that power begins on our forks with true, optimal nutrition. WebMD[10] might claim that, “when it comes to reversing diabetes, there’s no magic pill,” but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a truth.

Discussion Questions

  • Please share where you find reliable information about nutrition and health.
  • When searching for information about nutrition and health, what are the factors that help you to determine the efficacy of the information and the authority of the source?
  • Have you been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes? What course of action are you taking to mitigate its impact on your life?
  • How can the Center for Nutrition Studies better help you to find the truth about diseases and the nutritional arsenal at your disposal?

 

Whole By T. Colin Campbell, PhD with Howard Jacobson, PhD

Whole picks up where The China Study left off. The China Study revealed what we should eat and provided the powerful empirical support for this answer. Whole answers the question of why. Why does a whole-food, plant-based diet provide optimal nutrition? Whole demonstrates how far the scientific reductionism of the nutrition orthodoxy has gotten off track and reveals the elegant wonders of the true wholistic workings of nutrition, from the cellular level to the operation of the entire organism. Whole is a marvelous journey through cutting-edge thinking on nutrition, led by one of the masters of the science.

This article series is intended to provide thought provoking quotes from the book Whole in order to encourage discussion amongst its readers. Please leave your thoughts or answers to the discussion questions in the comment section below.

References

  1. Campbell, T. Colin (2013). Whole. BenBella Books. ISBN 978-1-939529-84-8
  2. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/truth-philosophy-and-logic
  3. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351199
  4. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/fasting-diabetes
  5. ADA website. https://www.diabetes.org/nutrition
  6. Conservative Management of Diabetes. Dr. Alan Goldhammer. https://nutritionstudies.org/conservative-management-diabetes/.October 1, 2013 – updated January 2nd 2019
  7. I Lost 53 lbs & Reversed My Type 2 Diabetes With a Plant-Based Lifestyle. Susan Cowdrick. https://nutritionstudies.org/i-lost-53-lbs-reversed-my-type-2-diabetes-with-a-plant-based-lifestyle/
  8. Adams, Eric (2020). Healthy at Last: A Plant-Based Approach to Preventing and Reversing Diabetes and Other Chronic Illnesses . Hay House Inc.
  9. Barnard ND, Cohen J, Jenkins DJ, et al. A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(5):1588S-1596S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736H. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2677007/
  10. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/can-you-reverse-type-2-diabetes#2-6

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