T. Colin Campbell

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T. Colin Campbell “…presently holds his Endowed Chair as the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry in the Division of Nutritional Sciences” department at Cornell University and is the co-author of The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight loss and Long-term Health (Campbell, 2016a, para. 2 & 4). Dr. Campbell’s research career began in 1956 at Cornell University where he completed his “…graduate studies in nutritional biochemistry on the topic of food and health” (Campbell, 2016b, para. 1). His research focused on consuming high quality animal protein while simultaneously finding more efficient ways to increase consumption of animal based protein to ward off malnutrition particularly in children (Campbell, 2016b, para. 2). However, what Campbell observed was that those individuals who consumed higher amounts of animal protein had a greater risk of developing cancer. Coincidentally, a study was published at that time in India that lent some credence to his observations. In the study, rats fed more animal protein, particularly casein found in cow’s milk, had increased rates of liver cancer while those rats fed lower amounts of animal protein did not develop liver cancer (Campbell, 2016b para. 2-3).

The results of this study coupled with his own observations led him to apply for continuous research grants with the United States National Institute of Health where he and his research team spent the next 27 years researching the link between increased animal protein consumption and the risk of developing cancer (Campbell, 2016b, para. 4). What Campbell and his research team found over the course of 27 years of research was that cancer could essentially be altered within rodents by controlling the amount of casein they ingested. Altering the amount of casein consumed within the diet could, according Campbell and Campbell (2004), control cancer “…like flipping a light switch on and off” (p. 60).

His research found that when rats were fed plant proteins from wheat and soy in place of casein they did not develop cancer, even at levels of 20% which were found to be the approximate carcinogenic threshold for casein consumption (Campbell & Campbell, 2004 p. 60). However, what Dainf and Campbell (1987) found was that casein, the protein in cow’s milk and dairy products, was actually carcinogenic to rats at levels as low as 10 and 12% of dietary intake of protein. His research continually verified his observations while working in the Philippines. What Campbell found was that increased consumption of animal protein increases the risk of cancer in humans. His research was trying to find the metabolic pathway by which this occurs, but what he continually found led him to what he terms “nutritional principles,” which he feels are the fundamental building blocks of science in all mammalian species (Campbell, 2016b, para. 6-7). The nutritional principles are listed below:

  • “Although genes are the fundamental foundation for all biological effects, it is proper nutrition that controls the expression of these genes, upregulating good genes and downregulating bad genes” (Campbell, 2016b).
  • “Nutritional effects cannot be ascribed to the effects of individual nutrients-that’s pharmacology-but to collective effects of countless nutrients and related chemicals” (Campbell, 2016b).
  • “Formation of so-called chronic diseases (cardiovascular, neoplastic, autoimmune, metabolic) should not be described by a single rate limiting mechanism but by a multiplicity of highly integrated mechanisms that seem to act in symphony” (Campbell, 2016b).
  • “Altering disease development and/or its reversal by single chemical (i.e., drug) intervention does not make much sense” (Campbell, 2016b).
  • “Cancer is reversible by nutritional means” (Campbell, 2016b).
  • “Animal proteins as a group, have distinctly different biological properties from plant proteins as a group” (Campbell, 2016b).
  • “Observations on animal protein associations with health and disease outcomes among human cohorts and populations include both direct biological effects of protein as well as indirect effects of nutrient’s that are displaced by the consumption of high protein diets” (Campbell, 2016b).

Dr. Campbell’s research led him to the above conclusions not just based upon his own lab results and research, but also due to his work on the China-Cornell-Oxford project. Due to tax-payer funding that went into the research and the sheer weight of the evidence that came out of the China-Cornell-Oxford Project, Dr. Campbell felt compelled to tell the world what they paid for when he compiled the data from the China-Cornell-Oxford project into a bestselling book called The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight loss and Long-Term Health.

According to the internet archive waybackmachine (n.d.a):

The China Project was conceived in 1980-81 during the sabbatic visit of Dr. Chen Junshi, Deputy Director of Institute of Nutrition and Food Hygiene, Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, to the laboratory of Professor T. Colin Campbell, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. A short while later, they were joined by Professor Richard Peto, University of Oxford, England, and by Dr. Li Junyao, China Cancer Institute, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and their colleagues in China, the United States, England, Canada, and France (para. 1).

During the late 70’, early 80’s observational data suggested a link between food consumption and cancer risk. The first observation was that the standard American diet (SAD) high in animal based foods and oils, and relatively deficient in fiber was associated with greater colon and breast cancer risk. The second observation was that environment, more than genes or ethnicity played a significant role in the progression of cancer, individuals seemed to inherit the cancers of the country they moved to (the internet archive waybackmachine, n.d.a).

China was chosen due to a recently published, at the time, cancer mortality atlas showing varying rates of cancers in 2,400 counties. Residents within these areas tended to spend their entire lives in the same area consuming the same diet exclusive to that region. The rural Chinese diet was, at that time, low in fat and high in whole plant-based foods, completely different than the SAD diet (the internet archive waybackmachine, n.d.a, para. 3-5).

The first survey took place in 1983 and 1984, and the second in 1989 and 1990. The same counties were surveyed both times, 65 counties, 2 villages per county, 50 families per village, one adult from each family 6500 individuals submitted to blood, urine and food samples while a 3day diet questionnaire was documented. During the 1989 -1990 survey in china and Taiwan 20 additional families per county were added thus concluding the study with 10,200 adults and families followed. The data combined, compared to dietary, lifestyle, and diseases within these counties and compared to the cancer deaths rates within these counties (the internet archive waybackmachine, n.d.a, para. 7-10).

According to researchers of the China-Cornell-Oxford Project “small additions of animal based foods to an otherwise plant based diet could elevate blood cholesterol (both total and LDL), thence to elevate the risk for the chronic degenerative diseases” (Internet archive waybackmachine, n.d.b, para. 5). Their data also suggested that “the ‘dietary and lifestyle’ factors chiefly associated with the ‘degenerative disease’ counties included metabolic and dietary factors which characterize diets richer in animal products and higher in total fat” (Internet archive waybackmachine, n.d.b, para. 4).

The researchers results showed a vast difference between that the Chinese and Americans dietary pattern for example animal foods comprise approximately 0-20% of the Chinese diet, while Animal foods comprise approximately 60-80% of the diet of Americans (Internet archive waybackmachine, n.d.b, para. 7). According to researchers “disease patterns in much of rural China tend to reflect those prior to the industrial revolution in the U.S., when cancers and cardiovascular diseases were much less prevalent (Internet archive waybackmachine, n.d.b, para.10).  Thus leading to the conclusion that industrialized societies tend to consume increased quantities of animal based foods and thus have increased disease rates.

The implications of this research indicate that diet can effectively reduce disease rates within the U.S. by lowering the current dietary guidelines which recommend dietary patterns contain 30% of our daily caloric intake from fat. This means decreasing the fat intake of animal-based foods while subsequently increasing the consumption of whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. In essence individuals should be following a more whole foods plant-based diet to curb dietary diseases patterns within the United States. According to the Internet archive waybackmachine (n.d.c):

Health care costs could be dramatically reduced were citizens to opt for low-fat plant-based diets. Rates of high cost chronic degenerative disease not only would be reduced, but also increasing evidence suggests that these same disease may be ameliorated or even cured by this same diet (para. 7).

The China-Cornell-Oxford Project was a large epidemiological study that the New York Times referred to as “the grand prix of epidemiology” (Brody, 1990, para. 2). According to Brody (1990), the implications are startling:

Obesity is related more to what people eat than how much. Adjusted for height, the Chinese consume 20 percent more calories than Americans do, but Americans are 25 percent fatter. The main dietary differences are fat and starch. The Chinese eat only a third the amount of fat Americans do, while eating twice the starch. The body readily stores fat but expends a larger proportion of the carbohydrates consumed as heat. Some of the differences may be attributable to exercise. The varying levels of physical activity among the Chinese were measured, but the data have not yet been analyzed (para. 2).

The research data suggests that to curb the risk of cancer and heart disease within the U.S., lowering fat consumption to about 20% of daily caloric intake is needed; however, dropping levels of fat consumption to 10 – 15% is ideal (Brody, 1990, para. 3). This evidence is further corroborated by both the Pritikin Program and Ornish programs, whose diets contain approximately 10 – 15% or less of calories from fat. In fact, according to Horrigan (2010), the evidence for this data is so strong that in 2010, Medicare took notice of both the effectiveness of the Pritikin program as well as the Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease and after carefully reviewing the published data, found both programs to be effective at slowing or reversing the progression of heart disease and announced they would pay for the intensive diet and exercise program which is now covered under Part B of Medicare (p. 346).

This epidemiological study provided further insight into what other researchers had been alluding to all along, that meat centered diets high in fat and animal protein increase our risk of chronic disease. Reducing and eliminating the consumption of animal based foods may have the potential to reverse a variety of chronic diseases and increase overall quality of life.

To learn more about the China-Cornell-Oxford Study, Cornell University has put together a series of 8 videos explaining everything from the development of the China project to the future implications for those in China since the advent of American fast food chains. For those interested in the findings may wish to view both the Descriptive Findings as well as the Analytical Findings from the study. The video called analytical findings may be the most interesting for those wondering about the link between diet and cancer, diabetes, and heart disease link.


Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s website can be viewed here – http://nutritionstudies.org/

T. Colin Campbell Quotes:

“The Answer to the American health crisis is the food that each of us chooses to put in our mouths each day. It’s as simple as that.”

“True carnivores eat their flesh fresh and raw. Cooking flesh and then ingesting it increases the risk of developing cancer. Even the American Institute for Cancer Research will verify this well-hidden gem. It’s because cooking flesh, especially at high temperatures, creates nasty substances called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These HCAs are known to cause cancer numerous types of cancer, including colon, pancreatic, stomach and breast. Now add nitrates to the mix and cancer gets a gold star.”

“No chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein.”

“Casein (the main protein found in dairy), in fact, is the most relevant chemical carcinogen ever identified.”

“Casein, which makes up 87% of cow’s milk protein, is the most significant carcinogen we consume.”

“I know of nothing else in medicine that can come close to what a plant-based diet can do. In theory, if everyone were to adopt this, I really believe we can cut health care costs by seventy to eighty percent. That’s amazing. And it all comes from understanding nutrition, applying nutrition and just watching the results.”



Brody, J. E., (1990, May 8) New York Times. Huge Study Of Diet Indicts Fat and Meat. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1990/05/08/science/huge-study-of-diet-indicts-fat-and-meat.html?scp=8&sq=%22T.%20Colin%20Campbell%22&st=cse

Campbell, T. C. (2016a). Dr. T. Colin Campbell. Retrieved from http://nutritionstudies.org/about/board/dr-t-colin-campbell/.

Campbell, T. C. (2016, August 16b). Nutrition, Politics, and the Destruction of Scientific Integrity. Retrieved from http://nutritionstudies.org/nutrition-politics-and-destruction-of-scientific-integrity/

Campbell, T. Colin, PhD, with Thomas M. Campbell II . The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2004.

Dunaif, G. E., Campbell, T. C., (1987) 7 1298-1302. Dietary Protein level and Aflatoxin B1-induced preneoplastic hepatic lesions in the rat [Abstract]. The Journal of Nutrition. http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/2886567

Internet Archive WaybackMachine China-Cornell-Oxford Project on Nutrition, Environment and Health at Cornell University Overview. a. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20090307141602/http://nutrition.cornell.edu/chinaproject/index.html

Internet Archive WaybackMachine China-Cornell-Oxford Project on Nutrition, Environment and Health at Cornell University Results. b. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20090307165623/http://nutrition.cornell.edu/CHINAPROJECT/results.html

Internet Archive WaybackMachine China-Cornell-Oxford Project on Nutrition, Environment and Health at Cornell University Implications. c. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20090309014332/http://nutrition.cornell.edu/chinaproject/implications.html

Horrigan B.J. (2010). Ornish and Pritikin programs approved by CMS. Explore. 6(6), 346-348. DOI: http://www.explorejournal.com/article/S1550-8307(10)00182-5/abstract

VegSource (2014, Jan 27). Animal Protein “Turns On” Cancer Genes – T. Colin Campbell PhD. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mguepudBoYA

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