Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition

New York Times Bestseller

What happens when you eat an apple? The answer is vastly more complex than you imagine.

Every apple contains thousands of antioxidants whose names, beyond a few like vitamin C, are unfamiliar to us, and each of these powerful chemicals has the potential to play an important role in supporting our health. They impact thousands upon thousands of metabolic reactions inside the human body. But calculating the specific influence of each of these chemicals isn’t nearly sufficient to explain the effect of the apple as a whole. Because almost every chemical can affect every other chemical, there is an almost infinite number of possible biological consequences.

And that’s just from an apple.

Nutritional science, long stuck in a reductionist mindset, is at the cusp of a revolution. The traditional “gold standard” of nutrition research has been to study one chemical at a time in an attempt to determine its particular impact on the human body. These sorts of studies are helpful to food companies trying to prove there is a chemical in milk or pre-packaged dinners that is “good” for us, but they provide little insight into the complexity of what actually happens in our bodies or how those chemicals contribute to our health.

In The China Study, T. Colin Campbell (alongside his son, Thomas M. Campbell) revolutionized the way we think about our food with the evidence that a whole food, plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat. Now, in Whole, he explains the science behind that evidence, the ways our current scientific paradigm ignores the fascinating complexity of the human body, and why, if we have such overwhelming evidence that everything we think we know about nutrition is wrong, our eating habits haven’t changed.

Whole is an eye-opening, paradigm-changing journey through cutting-edge thinking on nutrition, a scientific tour de force with powerful implications for our health and for our world.

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Tags: New Health Ideas

3 comments for “Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition

  1. GskFn
    June 21, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    Explains why The China Study is not mainstream The gist of T. Colin Campbell’s new book, Whole, is this. After publishing his radical landmark in 2005, let’s suppose what he reported there is true. Eight years later, why hasn’t that information and perspective broken through to more widespread awareness? Why hasn’t your doctor or dietitian told you about it, or heard of it, or given it serious consideration? Why haven’t school lunches changed across the board? Whole gives answers.Three p-words permeate Campbell’s thesis here: profits, power, and paradigms. Power and profits drive the big businesses of livestock and processed food, Campbell argues. For elaboration on how the processed food industry influences people’s eating habits against public health while in pursuit of sales and profits, I recommend (2013) or (2009). More controversially perhaps, Campbell also argues that profit motives fuel the chase for pills, patents, and procedures in “health care” or as Campbell calls it, the “disease care” industries of pharmaceuticals, hospitals, and medical practitioners. Registered dietitians may be compromised too, as their influential trade association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, receives major funding from the junk food business including Coca-Cola, Hershey, PepsiCo, Mars, and Unilever (that covers several major ice cream brands), as well as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Dairy Council, among others. (p. 271) The food and health care industries also buy power and influence by funding, in part, the careers of politicians, food regulators, and media outlets (including both popular media and some scientific journals) (p. 181-262). That’s a big argument, and Campbell states it earnestly. He looks at, “all the political maneuvering and financial pressure…a version of reality shaped more by the profit agendas of Big Pharma, supplement makers, hospitals, surgeons, and suppliers of processed food and industrial meat and dairy than the truth.” (p. 261)But what about science? Don’t the health sciences uphold an objective space where research like Campbell’s can get a proper hearing among fair-minded truth seekers? Here Campbell covers a lot of ground. Whole unpacks Campbell’s frustration with food sciences that drive for answers in small elements of biochemistry, often dismissing or putting up stiff resistance to studies at the level of major dietary patterns, lifestyles, and community-level differences in health outcomes (p. 45-164). Campbell knows from personal experience. He has contributed to food science both at the minute level of biochemistry, and also at the lifestyle and community levels like a medical sociologist would do, as The China Study makes clear.Campbell’s account in Whole may serve as vivid material for science studies. This is a field where sociologists and philosophers grapple with questions of how human foibles, careerism, and powerful interests sometimes distort and inhibit the advancement of science, and how new theories occasionally burst through to scientific acceptance despite formidable resistance. Campbell deploys the concept of scientific “paradigms” in food studies. Scientists cluster their investigations and share basic assumptions within a broad current of thought, or paradigm, the thinking goes, for as long as the prevailing paradigm seems productive, until one day the paradigm runs out of answers and gives way to challengers. In our time, Campbell suggests, the paradigm in nutrition is that animal foods are healthy sources of key nutrients that call for microbiological research; and the paradigm in medicine is that disease is to be cured through pills and procedures that call for biochemistry in pharmaceuticals, biotechnological engineering, and surgical protocols. The notion that medical and nutritional sciences, or any science, organizes into theoretical paradigms that hold sway during periods of “normal science” springs from Thomas Kuhn’s launching pad for the field of science studies, first published in 1962, . T. Colin Campbell goes further, intimating that scientific grant makers should promote a more appropriate distribution of financial resources in health-related studies, in order to breed a research environment that would admit a variety of approaches, even if they contradict the main thrust (p. 214-217). His thinking…

  2. Allen Scott
    June 21, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    What You’ll Learn in Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition 0

  3. Stella Blackson "Stella Star"
    June 21, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    Another great book from Dr. Campbell 0

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