Resolving the Health Care Crisis: T. Colin Campbel at TEDxEast

I’m here to talk about health.
Your health, my health, the health of your families and friends. Especially our children;
and I’m actually here to talk about the health
in fact of our country. But talking about health,
thinking about how we can get health, we are in a system today
that is not exactly to our liking. I think many of you would probably agree
that we have a health care crisis. Eighteen percent
of our gross domestic product is accounted for by the money we spend
for taking care of our health. In this country the United States
has the highest per capita health care costs in the world. We’re twice as high
as the next highest country. But in spite of all this money
that is being spent, the quality of our healthcare,
we’ve got to really face it, the quality of health care
in this country, according to the statistics and health
indicators, place us near last or last among similarly
economically developed countries. On top of that we got another problem too,
we’ve got more than 50 million people who don’t have health insurance
and that’s up 40% just the last decade. This is a fantastic business model,
I think you would agree, it really has been,
a lot of people are making a lot of money. But as far as health
it’s not a good health model. In terms of looking to the future
of what’s likely to come, because of this problem we presently have,
if the tripling of childhood obesity during the last decade
or the last 30 years is any indication, we’re not going in the right direction. Especially when we think about too,
the invasion of our children by type 2 diabetes; it used to be called
adult-onset diabetes. We might have to put
the children thing in it too. Or the eighty-three percent increase
in a harsh drug like Ritalin in our children
during the last four years. Something is not quite right. Talking about prescription drugs
by the way, at the present time nine out of ten people
60 years of age and older are consuming at least one or more
prescription drugs on a regular basis. I’m not one of them by the way
and not more than 60, neither is my wife taking drugs. Prescription drugs cost on the other hand
have doubled in the last decade and it’s after we take into consideration
adjustment for inflation. And on this particular point as much as
we are using prescription drugs these days, it’s sort of the centrepiece
of our health care system, it turns out it’s a number three
cause of death. Some would say number four, depending on
how you divide up the first three, but in any case you don’t see this listed in the causes of death
in mostly the popular reports. Something’s missing, something is missing
from our system and that’s really
what I want to talk to you about. I’d like to suggest it’s nutrition,
we don’t understand it, it’s confusing, and on this question
concerning nutrition let me just do
a little defining here if I may. Nutrition if we think logically is
actually using food to maintain health and prevent disease and the typical diet
that we now, in my view, believe is the healthiest possible diet
is a so called 80-10-10 diet. Namely it’s the nutrient composition
having to do with 80 parts carbohydrate, 10 parts protein, 10 parts fat
on the basis of an energy basis. And that translates into a practical
message what I’m talking about now it’s a whole food plant-based diet
with little or no of the three devils. Oil and fat being one, sugar and salt. That’s the diet
that really does create optimal health. And on that question concerning
nutrient composition, by the way, nutrient composition is the index,
is the characteristic of food the best defines its effect
on us in terms of health. And in terms of this
nutrient composition question, antioxidants, complex carbohydrates
and vitamins, those are the key elements
that really give rise to health. They’re all found in plants,
that’s what plants really are. Plants make these things,
animal foods don’t make these things. We might see a little antioxidants
in animal based foods from time to time, but that has to do with the animals
having eaten that kind of thing before they were slaughtered. Fat and protein are essential elements,
absolutely essential elements, but it turns out that plants have about
nine to eleven percent or so, on average, animal-based foods have quite a bit more. So there’s this distinctive difference
between animal and plant-based foods. There’s another class of food
that has crept into our society, too, in more recent decades
that has to do with processed foods. Processed foods their nutrient composition
is all over the map, it depends on what, how one combines
pieces of the other groups of foods. Processed foods also are not good
because they tend to be very high in salt, sugar and fat, the three devils. So I come back to my main point,
this whole plant-based foods that really was doing the job for us. Now when people think about
whole plant-based foods, we’ve known for a good long time,
our grandmothers told us, the mothers told us that,
it prevents future disease, but it’s not only about using this diet
to prevent future disease and here is the kicker,
here’s the thing that really matters that the public tend not to know. It’s also about
using this same kind of diet to actually treat existing disease and I think that’s
a really important concept, because it goes right to the core of what our healthcare
and medical care system is all about. Here’s a list of diseases, for example,
that one can find in a legitimate scientific literature, in a peer-reviewed
literature, here are diseases that have been documented to be affected
by a whole food plant-based diet. That is to say
this kind of diet prevents, suspends, that means stops the further progression,
or cures all of these diseases. We can now cure heart disease,
in fairly late stages. We can cure type 2 diabetes
in a very short period of time. I have spent more than 50 years
in this field as an experimental researcher,
if you will, in the area of nutrition and want to share with you
a little bit about where I came from, and why I think the way I do. Now it’s controversial for some, but nonetheless I really believe
in the data that we have obtained. Initially I was involved in investigating
nutrients on a one-by-one basis and still today that’s the way
research tends to work, looking at one thing at a time,
just one thing at a time. But over the years I finally
came for the view and this is really where the punch line is, this is where
the power of nutrition really exists: nutrition should be recognized as
a holistic effect of countless nutrients, involving countless diseases,
working through countless mechanisms. Now I want to share with you, just some, as I look back and sort of ask myself
how did I sort of get to this place, because I didn’t start here
in my career some 50 years ago and want to share with you
just a few observations that are taken from my own research. Quite a number of years ago
now 30, 35 years ago, that kind of set the stage in a way
for developing some principles that apply to what nutrition and health
really is all about. This model I’m going to be telling you
about in the next three or four slides here involves a laboratory animal model,
laboratory rats in this particular case, that had been genetically programmed
to get cancer and so let’s see what do we see. I’m interested in this particular case
here to see what effect nutrition might have on that model, where the genes
are there to create the disease. When we feed, in this particular case,
an animal that has the ideal levels of protein, that being
about twenty percent of total protein, when we feed a diet
that is 20 percent dietary protein, these cancers are growing well
in the first six weeks in those animals. In contrast when you feed a diet
of 5 percent dietary protein, they don’t, even though that they’ve been
genetically programmed to get the disease. There’s this next little bit of
this observation really struck me as being quite significant, namely
when we watch these sort of cancers growing in the first stage
and switch the diet back and forth between 20 percent protein and
5 percent protein, you can see it there. We could got to a point we could turn on
and turn off cancer development, it was a very exciting concept,
because it basically says, in this case it’s protein, but basically
in a more general sense, it shows that nutrition
controls cancer development. Very exciting concept instead of
thinking about genes causing cancer or carcinogens causing cancer
or viruses causing cancer. What I’m talking about here
in this particular case, nutrients, nutrition basically
controlling cancer development. Now it turns out
that the protein that we were using, up until a certain point in time,
I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it, because it was a protein
that was available for us, was casein. Casein is the main protein in cow’s milk!
Why is that important? Well soy and wheat protein for example does not increase cancer development
like does casein. Here’s a couple of plant proteins
not doing it, one animal protein doing it,
a major difference between the two. So it’s suggested
at that particular point in time, the hypothesis, that maybe
animal protein would promote cancer and plant protein would prevent cancer and that came down
as a fairly general statement that it was to carry through
much of my research, it turned out that’s the bifurcation
that really led to these distinctive differences
between the two different kinds of foods. Now, as I say, this was a little troubling
for me personally at the time, because actually
I was raised on a dairy farm. There’s me up front maybe I think it was
about nine and a half years ago or so. [LAUGHTER] And another just sort of
sidebar story here before I go on, I talked about casein, dairy and so forth,
so we have a lot of evidence now that dairy is a troublesome food,
a very troublesome food, not just because of what we found with respect to its ability
to increase cancer. But you know we, my family, we don’t use
dairy anymore, haven’t in some time, and I suggest if we want to do it right,
you know, get with the program. [LAUGHTER] So let’s get back then to the model
that I was using, just to tell you about some of the principles that in fact
affected me and my thinking, in a larger context as we went forward. Namely in this particular case we were
looking at just not that 5 percent, 20 percent kind of thing,
but we were looking at a range of protein concentrations
in the food to see what happens. And you can see here that in the lower
levels of protein, dietary protein, from 4 to 10 percent
in this particular case, it’s not the exact amounts
I’m really concerned about here, it’s the inflection
that I want to talk about. But with up to about 10 percent
dietary protein, what you can see is that protein
is doing its good thing, it’s not creating cancer,
it’s not promoting cancer. Protein is an essential nutrient that
we need it, everything’s working fine. So what I’m talking about here
is when we consume it in excess to the amount we need and in fact,
most of us humans actually live in that red zone, where we’re consuming
an excess of what we need. So that 10 percent is enough,
really is enough and that actually have provided by a diet
made up of whole plant-based foods. If we’re consuming a diet
of whole plant-based foods, we’re actually getting the ideal levels
of protein, we don’t need more. But unfortunately 95 percent of us,
according to the national statistics, are consuming an excess of what we need and we do that by actually consuming
animal based foods. Now I just want to take you
to this notable idea here coming from these experiments
that I found very interesting. Just a little schematic,
so just treat as a schematic. I’ve just sort of given you two clusters
of cells, one cluster of the red cells, those are the ones,
let’s argue, let’s propose they’re the genetically programmed cells
that give rise to cancer, the seed has been planted.
The immunogenic event has occurred. OK there so there’s those are the cells
that have programmed to get cancer. The blue cells are normal cells. So on the left we’ve got a high dose, let’s say a high dose
of genetically prone cancer cells. On the right we’ve got far less of those,
just a little bit. Now if all else is considered equal, nothing else has changed
beyond that point, obviously the one with the highest dose
of the genetically programmed cancers we’re going to get more cancer,
fair enough. The ones on the right get less cancer. So in that particular case it’s legitimate
to say that genes cause cancer. All diseases really start with genes
at some fundamental level. So in this case we can say
genes cause cancer, sort of makes sense. However look what happens
when we get to that stage and now, you know our genes are constant
over a lifetime, more or less, but we go beyond the genes
if we look in this particular model here, it turns out that
if you take the cells in left where there is a very high degree
of genetic concentration of the cells, feed them the low protein diets
you get less cancer, not more. In other words you completely just
switch it, so what really matters here is not the genes, what’s mattering
in this particular case is the expression of those genes,
that in turn is controlled by nutrition and that is really
one of the most fundamental properties of nutrition across the board. Not just in this particular model, but in this particular model
was actually a key. It was a key, it was a lead in,
in fact to a larger consideration. So nutrition controls cancer genes,
it controls genes across the board, really quite interesting
for all kinds of diseases and so we could say
nutrition trumps genes. That’s my view and we have lots of
evidence now to really make that point. It’s something we can do about, rather than something
we can’t do anything about. And it turns out there’s a list
of these same positions again that all basically start with genes
controlled by nutrition. So I have a question in the current
conversation we’re having now, if nutrition controls genes then why are we spending
so much money for genetic research? In my estimation,
a rough approximation, we’re spending at least a hundred times the amount
of funding for genetic research that we do for nutrition research. When in fact it’s nutrition,
it’s nutrition that actually gives us the health,
it’s not the genes. Genetic research of course makes money or
at least there’s the perception of those who are making this money available
that in fact it’s doing that. Nutrition research only makes health. So it comes down to this,
how do we understand nutrition, as I said in the beginning, it’s about
looking at one nutrient at a time. And we see that every day,
the recommended dietary allowances, this nutrient, you need this much,
food labelling. It’s actually led to a vitamin supplement
industry as a matter of fact. At 30, more than 30 plus
billion dollar industry, we now know that nutrient supplements really don’t do
the job, that’s not what we need. I like to say
let’s call that an old paradigm. The practice of medicine is the same
sort of argument, at the present time our health system, our medical practice
system is reductionist in nature. We think about single causes, single
bio markers, you go to the doctor he tells you how much cholesterol
you have, how much blood sugar as if these are really things
that count, all by themselves. Or single diseases
that’s how we give them this international classification
of disease code, doctors get paid
according to what they diagnosed. By our thinking of health in terms of
one thing at a time in a very narrow little context like that, what it needs is
OK now we’re going to find one thing to cure things,
we make drugs with other side effects. That becomes the primary means
of health maintenance. So I’m going to suggest,
we’re at the threshold now, we can be at the threshold now
of actually transforming the entire healthcare system
and think of it in a different way. Think about what we can do
and that’s really about nutrition. There’s countless, as I said
that we have to think about nutrition this is a real challenge
to the way we do research and the way we think about things. Nutrition is not
a one-on-one kind of thing, it’s a collective thing, we call wholeism,
a holistic kind of idea. It’s really quite frankly an anathema as far as the scientific community’s
concerned, that’s at least my experience. But that’s what nutrition is, many disease
working as a symphony and interestingly, this is simple, it is very complex biology
but it’s a simple solution. Just decide what we should put
in your mouths, a whole food plant based diet, vegetables,
fruits, grains and legumes. Don’t add back the oil, fat and sugar,
it’s a lot cheaper, it really works. And as far as coming back to my initial
take, my initial thesis is concerned, we now have information,
empirical data to actually show that if you take a group of people, I’ve been involved
in a couple of these tests now. If you take a group of people
give them the right food, the things that happened to us whether
we have a disease or not are remarkable. You can see these things
within a week or two. Cholesterol goes down,
body weight drops off and I’m going to say that should be the future of medicine or
let’s say, I don’t like the word medicine, let’s say it’s the future of food
and the future of our health. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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