Kathy Smith reviews WHOLE – Rethinking the Science of Nutrition by T. Colin Campbell, PhD.
Have you ever picked up a book and within a few pages realized you’re reading something transformative? The author is outlining a point of view that you hadn’t considered before, but once you read it, you immediately feel it to be true. That’s how I felt when I started reading WHOLE by Dr. Colin Campbell.
Although the very opposite of a light summer beach read, I couldn’t put it down. This book is a paradox – an academic page-turner. It affirmed my suspicions about the type of nutritional information we receive and clearly explained the science proving why the current government-mandated approach nutrition doesn’t add up.
Prior to WHOLE, Dr. Campbell published The China Study, which presented his evidence that a whole-food, plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat. In this book he explains how and why nutritional science has been reduced to a numbers game – counting vitamin and mineral intake milligram by milligram, food by food to reach a daily total. Dr. Campbell explains why reducing fruits and vegetables to a single nutrient (oranges for vitamin C, meat for protein, milk for calcium) ignores a number of important biological facts. The most important is that any given food has thousands of nutrients. It’s the total nutrient profile that counts most… the whole food package.
The current system ignores the fact of bioavailability. Putting 60 mg of this and 40 mg of that doesn’t automatically add up to 100 mg of usable nutrition. The body chooses when to process and absorb certain nutrients based on its own needs. So forcing certain vitamin and minerals into our bodies is no guarantee they’ll actually be processed.
Another simple but telling fact is that fruits and vegetables from different areas may contain a different nutritional make-up. Soil conditions, climate, season, storage and processing can all vary nutrient concentrations in the same item by as much as 200%.
Another failing of our current nutritional system is ignoring how nutrients can alter each other’s performance in the body. For example, calcium can hinder the iron absorption by as much as 400%, while carotenoids like beta-carotene increase absorption by as much as 300%.
Dr. Campbell also presents research showing what effect nutrition has on our immune systems and why synthetic chemicals contained in meat-based protein can be linked to illnesses like cancer. He explores the ideas of industry and government’s involvement in perpetuating the existing system and offers straightforward, common-sense solutions to addressing our nutritional needs.
The logic of whole food nutrition has been with us for generations. People have been eating this way for thousands of years. According to many, whole, plant-based foods contain almost all the nutrients we need and in amounts that are more consistent with what our bodies can process and absorb.
Why does this book ring true? Because Dr. Campbell is a nutritional biochemist bringing over fifty years of reflection, analysis and wisdom to deconstructing the system he once supported. He explains how he arrived at his conclusions and effortlessly makes you believe in the truth of his assertions. This book is a revelation. I urge you to read it.