American society has a general notion that we are neither in control of our genes nor the environmental factors which cause disease. Under this assumption, many may be throwing up their hands and wondering: What’s the use of trying to prevent disease when it is inevitable?
A current medical assumption is that early detection of a disease in fact prevents disease from killing us. But does it? Unfortunately, this approach in western medicine does not save lives. In my experience, it merely prolongs life of lower quality. A nutritional biochemist, who I both admire and follow, by the name of T. Colin Campbell authored The China Study in 2005, explicating discoveries that could alter our way of life.
Two points(there are many!) contained in the book are ones I would like to relay to you most as they give evidence contrary to the current American diet and furthermore provide scientific support for the practice of a macrobiotic way of eating.
1. Diet can cause, or reverse, the majority of contemporary degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Epigenetics is the study of genetic expression, that is the study of mechanisms outside of our DNA that can cause a particular gene to express itself. The genetic propensity an individual has for a particular disease can, on a chemical level, be “turned on” or “kept off”. How can we control the expression of our genes?
Hopefully, you guessed that we have an enormous amount of personal control with our diets. The China Study proposes that although cancer is a result of many things, including toxic external environmental influences, the cancer gene that we may have in our DNA is likely to be “turned on” as a result of what we eat.
T. Colin Campbell made this discovery through experiments involving rats and the dairy protein casein, concluding that it was a very prevalent and potent carcinogen in our society. When animal and dairy protein comprises 10% or more of our diets, our genetic markers for cancer activate. When our intake of those proteins falls below 10%, those same markers deactivate.
2. Eating whole foods facilitates the absorption of nutrients, not isolated dietary supplements.
Mr. Campbell’s research shows that while taking a dietary supplement may have an unpredictable effect, a whole food works within the body to foster a better environment in which to absorb nutrients. In the book, he uses a case involving beta-carotene and Vitamin A in relation to lung cancer. It was discovered previously that people with higher levels of these nutrients in their blood were less likely to develop lung cancer, even if they were smokers. The results of a controlled experiment involving supplements with these nutrients shocked many.
Those taking the supplements actually developed lung cancer at a higher rate. This is because we cannot assume to know how the body will take in and distribute nutrients because the body takes care of itself in a healthy digestive system. The conclusion was that when integrating particular vitamins and minerals into one’s diet, a whole food(an example being a vegetable or whole grain) must be eaten to ensure the healthy, balanced absorption of nutrients.
A conclusion of The China Study is to transition to a whole food, plant-based diet. It is rare to see mainstream nutritional research promote such healthy habits. T. Colin Campbell’s contribution to the evidence of the efficacy and healthiness of a plant based diet gives so much credence to macrobiotics. Whereas science and research can offer proof or conclude something, there isn’t much in the book guiding people or offering methods of how to switch or change diet and lifestyle.
I find it is here where his research and my life work complement each other. If I can’t provide the evidence on why our current diet standards are so imbalanced and unhealthy, The China Study does. And if The China Study does not offer suggestions or guidance to a reader about eating healthy or practicing a healthy lifestyle, I can.
As contemporary society, we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot that we have inherited, both culturally and genetically. We have the developments and technologies of modern science that has greatly informed and changed our methods of observing the world around us. We also have a cultural history that spans at least 10,000 years around the globe, which also includes a vast knowledge and history of practicing health, mindfulness and awareness. It behooves me in my own practice to honor the insights given to us by the past as well as to integrate and utilize the techniques that technology offers to insure our health for both today and future generations.
I am interested in hearing your opinions and responses on this topic.