Something very exciting happened to me yesterday. I received an email asking whether I wanted to interview my hero, Dr T. Colin Campbell. He is the bestselling author of the The China Study. and one of the world’s most preeminent nutrition science researchers. The topic for the interview? How to boost immunity against COVID-19.
About Dr Campbell and His Message
I have deep respect for Dr. Campbell who has spent his career swimming against the tide as he shares compelling findings about the associations between diet and disease. I also have wonderful memories, from 33 years ago, of sitting in his Cornell University lectures and learning about Nutritional Biochemistry. Little did I know I’d have the opportunity to connect with my professor all these years later to discuss one of the most urgent matters of our lifetime.
Under normal circumstances, when Dr. Campbell has an important message to share, he sends a submission to a professional publication. But these days aren’t normal, and this message can’t wait. It is for this reason that he reached out to me, and many others, to review Our Most Important Defense Against COVID-19: Finding Hope through Scientific Evidence.
Summary of Our Exchange
I did connect with Dr Campbell (not in person – the picture above was from an event he attended a few years ago in Boston) and he answered my questions about his commentary. Following, I share with you a summary of his message, and our exchange, which I believe provides strong guidance during these extraordinary times.
I’ll start with the basics. There are crucial habits that are within your control that better protect you against COVID-19: proper hygiene, physical distancing, stress management, and adequate rest. You likely know of and have implemented these habits.
Another Important Habit
There is one habit, though, that you may not be aware of. While not widely discussed, it is no less important and powerful.
“People can defend themselves against the worst effects of the COVID-19 infection, and help flatten the curve of hospitalizations, by strengthening their immune systems through their food choices.” – Dr T. Colin Campbell
A whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet can provide control over the strength of your body’s immune response to this pandemic. Based on his and other scientists’ research, Dr. Campbell is confident that, while not a panacea, a WFPB diet consisting of minimally processed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds boosts production of antibodies and thus inactivates viruses. (2-10)
Increase Defense Against COVID-19
As he states in his commentary, avoiding animal based foods (meat, dairy, eggs and fish) and consuming a WFPB diet does not mean we won’t get infected by COVID-19, “but it should increase our defenses to avoid the worst effects from the infection.” In this environment, it’s all about risk management. That’s why we wash our hands and physically distance ourselves. These actions are not definitively going to prevent us from getting COVID-19 but it is thought by experts to lower the risks. The same is true of a WFPB diet.
Why Don’t We Know This
You might wonder why, if a WFPB diet is so powerful for promoting optimal health, fighting viruses and reducing risk for chronic diseases such as type-2 diabetes, certain forms of cancer, heart disease and strokes, we don’t know this. (1) One explanation: There is a mistaken belief that people won’t or can’t change their dietary habits. If nothing else, COVID-19 has shown that humans are very malleable and can adjust to challenging situations.
Word Is Spreading
But news is spreading, thanks to Dr Campbell’s work and other medical and nutritional professionals. Popular documentaries like Forks Over Knives and The Game Changers are not only entertaining but powerfully debunk the myths that animal products are necessary for good health, strength and athletic success.
The plant-based food industry is expanding rapidly and providing us with an abundance of delicious, convenient and satisfying options. So, this is a fabulous time to, like many before you, make the change, join the plant-based movement, and start enjoying a wide variety of plant-based foods. You’ll be amazed by the myriad of ways that fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds can be combined to make dishes like pancakes, burgers, lasagnas, chilis, casseroles, stir-fries, cakes, cookies and muffins.
How to Get Started
Join this global 10 day jumpstart, purchase plant-based foods in the supermarket, search the internet for recipes, buy a cookbook, watch YouTube videos or join a Facebook group support. Reach out to me for suggestions, support, and pantry stocking tips.
It’s Not Too Late
If you are concerned that it’s too late to make this change or it takes too long to realize the positive effects, know this: you can reap the benefits of eliminating animal foods from your diet and consuming whole plant-based ones very rapidly. Dr Campbell’s research shows that benefits can be seen within as little as 24 hours. One of the most promising and hopeful messages he shared with me is this:
Even if you are suffering from one of the pre-existing diet related diseases that makes you particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, a diet change now can help you to minimize the severity of the virus should you become infected by it.
Now Is A Great Time
The time is now. Don’t wait for that “just right” moment to implement change. Please share this message with your loved ones, your friends and your neighbors. My hope is that it resonates far and wide, from one continent to another.
Be well and take care my friends. Sending love to you all.
- Campbell, T. C. & Campbell, T. M. I. The China Study, startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health. Expanded Version, pp. 290-291
451 (BenBella Books, Inc., 2005).
- Muller, L., Meyer, M., Bauer, R. N., Zhou, H.-X., Zhang, H., Jones, S. et al. Effect of broccoli sprouts and live attenuated influenza virus on peripheral blood natural killer cells: a randomized, double blind study. PlosOne (2016).
- McAnulty, L. S., Nieman, D. C., Dumke, C. L., Shooter, D. A., Henson, A. C., Milne, G. et al. Effect of blueberry ingestion on natural killer cell counts, oxidative stress, and inflammation prior to and after 2.5 H of running. Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 36, 976-984 (2011).
- Majdalawieh, A. F. & Carr, R. I. In vitro investigation of the potential immunomodulatory and anti-cancer activities of black pepper (Piper nigrum) and cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum). J. Med Food 13, 371-381 (2010).
- Chen, J., Campbell, T. C., Li, J. & Peto, R. Diet, life-style and mortality in China. A study of the characteristics of 65 Chinese counties. (Oxford University Press; Cornell University Press; People’s Medical Publishing House, 1990).
- Cheng, Z., Hu, J., King, J., Jay, G. & Campbell, T. C. Inhibition of hepatocellular carcinoma development in hepatitis B virus transfected mice by low dietary casein. Hepatology 26, 1351-1354 (1997).
- Hu, J., Chisari, F. V. & Campbell, T. C. Modulating effect of dietary protein on transgene expression in hepatitis B virus (HBV) transgenic mice. Cancer Research35, 104Abs (1994).
- Hu, J., Cheng, Z., Chisari, F. V., Vu, T. H., Hoffman, A. R. & Campbell, T. C. Repression of hepatitis B virus (HBV) transgene and HBV-induced liver injury by low protein diet. Oncogene 15, 2795-2801 (1997).
- Campbell, T. C., Chen, J., Liu, C., Li, J. & Parpia, B. Non-association of aflatoxin with primary liver cancer in a cross-sectional ecologic survey in the People’s Republic of China. Cancer Res.50, 6882-6893 (1990).
- Chen, J., Campbell, T. C., Li, B. & Peto, R. Diet, life-style and mortality in mainland China and Taiwan. A study of the characteristics of 85 Chinese counties. (Harvard University, 1998).