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Nutrition: The Future of Medicine

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I doubt that few would disagree with the observation that nutrition is one of the most confusing words or concepts in the English language. What we choose to eat also is one of the most emotionally intense topics of human discourse, ranking up there with sex, religion and politics. Yet, properly practiced nutrition, as a dietary lifestyle, can do more to create health and save health care costs than all the contemporary medical interventions put together.

I know well this story. Having started a research and teaching career in nutrition over 50 years ago, I have seen the passion, the frivolity and the arrogance over and over and over when people talk about their food choices. This topic is very, very personal. It's sad because I do not see very much progress over these last four to five decades. Lots of shouting and not much constructive thought.

It is true that we have discovered a tremendous amount of information but this does not mean discovering what it all means. Indeed, our focus on details has created an enormous pile of contradictory observations--permitting too many people to construct ideas that please their palates and wallets more than educate their brains.

I don't care to pass personal blame or pose conspiracies, for we are all participants in this great war of words of what nutrition really means. Nonetheless, somewhere there is an origin and it is fostered by our professions, my nutrition and medical research community and my clinical colleagues' medical practice community. This is not surprising. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the most influential research funding agency in the world, is comprised of 27 institutes, centers and programs and not one is named the Institute of Nutrition. Research funding is a mere pittance in a couple of the institutes and most of this is dedicated to the study of individual nutrients that I consider pharmacology, not nutrition.

Further, there is not a single medical school in the country that teaches nutrition as a basic medical science. At best, a few may have an elective course that treats the subject in a most superficial manner.

Public citizens, therefore, are left to fend for themselves against the hyped up claims of the food and drug industries.

If we are to understand the true value of nutrition, we must begin by considering the health value of whole foods, not the nutrient parts extracted from them. In that context it is whole, plant-based foods that express an effect that is far more then the sum of its parts. When done right, advanced heart disease can be cured, type 2 diabetes stopped and reversed, cancer can be prevented and, with some newer evidence, controlled after it appears. The range of diseases that can be prevented is more than impressive. The breadth and rapidity of the nutritional effect not only prevents disease but actually treats many of these diseases while restoring and maintaining health. The totality of these health effects are far more than almost anyone knows.

It is terribly frustrating when I know these effects, I know the savings in health care costs that can be had and I know the personal responses that virtually everyone experiences when they try this for a week or so. I also know that, historically, we have been slaves to a nutrition-less health information system that, in effect, is designed to keep us in mental chains, thus to maintain the status quo.

But there is light at the end of this tunnel. Former President Clinton recently discovered and used this information and, much to his credit, told his truly impressive results on "CNN" to Wolf Blitzer.

I am not sure he knows how far reaching is his contribution. It is time for the rest of the public to get to know this as well. This information is on the right side of history! Mark my word.

T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies