Dr. Campbell Responds to Dr. Mercola | T. Colin Campbell, PhD. | 09/11/09

  • digg
  • Delicious
  • Furl
  • reddit
  • blinklist
  • Technorati
  • stumbleupon

Read More: china study, colin campbell, mercola, weston price

Get VegSource Alerts Get VegSource Alerts

First Name


Email This Story to a Friend

For background, it should be noted that Dr. Mercola's views, when he says that the China Study is "seriously flawed", parallel very closely those of the Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF), a Washington-based agricultural lobbying group. They assert, among other claims, that high cholesterol diets are healthy even beneficial thus supporting their advocacy for the consumption of raw un-pasteurized, un-homogenized grass-fed beef and other animal-based food products. They also, perhaps to be politically correct, recommend the consumption of fruits and vegetables but in a way that is virtually meaningless. They rely heavily on a personal survey that a dentist, Weston Price, did during the 1920s and 1930s when he visited a total of 14 indigenous peoples in various parts of the world to examine and photograph their dental health (dental caries and dental arch formation). However, the WAPF, by principally relying on Price's findings, go far beyond what Price actually did. They would have us believe that he published extensive data to support the health value of cow's milk and high cholesterol animal based foods and, further, that he 'discovered' a fat soluble factor in milk that is likely responsible for these healthy effects of cow's milk. I read his book and there are no data that Price accumulated, tabulated and interpreted to support this view. Indeed, the so-called fat soluble factor mentioned by Price was noted at a time during the early days of vitamin discoveries when little was known about their metabolism and biochemical effects, except that they divided into water and fat soluble substances. The most oft-quoted criticism of The China Study promoted by the WAPF and their allies is that written by Chris Masterjohn, a 24-year old man who, not being either in the profession or trained in the subject, viewed research from a very limited perspective. I previously replied to his and related remarks in a comment posted on the Internet at

Although I find it difficult at times to 'debate' people whose professional views are aligned with their commercial interests and who have no experience in peer-reviewed original research (except for a few letters to the editor, I find no evidence that Dr. Mercola, for example, has successfully submitted his findings to the critical review of peers), I must turn my attention to the substance of Dr. Mercola's criticisms. His critical views are quite general and far ranging but the main points seem to be as follows.

"Among the many associations that are relevant to diet and disease, so many pointed to the same finding: People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. Even relatively small intakes of animal-based food were associated with adverse effects. People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease."

The adverse effects of animal protein, as illustrated in our laboratory by the effects of casein, are related to their amino acid composition, not to the effects of pasteurization, homogenization, or of the presence of hormones, pesticides, etc. Even though pasteurization and homogenization may cause slight changes in the physical characteristics of proteins, I know of no evidence where the amino acid composition is altered by these treatments.

This focus on amino acid composition of proteins is important because animal based protein will be the same regardless whether it is provided by grass-fed or feed lot fed animals. Moreover, the casein that we used in our extensive experiments was produced before hormones were introduced and before factory farming became the norm, thus it represented mostly animals that were grass fed.

There have been many different kinds of studies for well over a half century showing that the nutritional responses of different proteins are attributed to their differing amino acid compositions that have nothing to do with pasteurization, homogenization or contamination with foreign chemicals. These differences in nutritional response disappear when any limiting amino acids are restored.

In our case, for example, we found that casein was a powerful promoter of experimental cancer (in dozens of experiments over a period of more than 30 years) and that this effect was attributed to a large number of highly integrated reactions within the cell and well as within the body. Two of the more prominent of these biochemical/physiological responses result from increased production of growth hormones and an elevation in body acid load (metabolic acidosis) that impacts a number of critical enzyme activities. Wheat protein, unlike casein for example, did not stimulate cancer development but when its limiting amino acid, lysine, was restored, it acted just like casein. There have been literally thousands of studies going back many decades showing a similar effect on body growth and other events associated with body growth--all resulting from differences in amino acid composition of different proteins. These differences have long been described by the concept of "biological value" or, perhaps, "protein efficiency ratio", which served as a starting point for my own research career that started with my doctoral dissertation program more than 50 years ago.

I should also mention that my experimental research extended well beyond the singular effects of animal protein and, as we proceeded through the years (all supported by NIH funding and documented in several hundred publications in well known professional journals) it included experimental studies on other nutrients, other mechanisms and other health/disease outcomes. These additional findings only became more provocative and convincing that a diet comprised of plant-based foods created the best health on what seems to be all accounts. The effects in humans, as shown by my physician colleagues are profound, broad and fast.

I mostly reject what Dr. Mercola and his WAPF colleagues are claiming. While it may seem reasonable to assume that grass-fed animal products compared with feed lot animal products are somewhat healthier on some accounts (perhaps due to a more favorable fatty acid composition, slightly more--but still minimal--tissue antioxidants derived from the plants being consumed), they do not come close to the health value of plant based products. But even if this slight advantage of organic, grass fed animals were shown to be true, this hardly justifies its being of interest for the general public.

There is no possibility that their is enough land, water and other resources to meet the current and future demand for these products. Because this is so obvious, I have often wondered what motivates this argument for grass fed animal agriculture. When I find people vigorously making this argument (and some do!) at the same time that they have a monetary incentives, I can't help but wonder if these thoughts are not connected. In any event, I know of no convincing evidence that consuming grass-fed animal products are really better health-wise than feedlot animal products.

On one final point, those who lament a "serious flaw" in The China Study mostly limit their arguments to the China project itself, as if this is all there is in our book. It is not. It is only one of the eighteen chapters. These critics fail to note what Tom and I tried to do in writing the book. It was simply to tell the story in a way that I myself learned it, by using as much as possible my own first hand research and policy experiences that persuaded me, then let readers decide for themselves. We simply asked that the reader to "try it" before making his/her final opinions. If my long years in research have told me anything that's really important it is that we should be interpreting scientific evidence not as an absolute truth but as a component of a wider message within context. Deciding what is supposedly absolutely true is great for making money but it is not for making health.

There is far more that I could say that refutes the scientific basis for advocating the diet promoted by Dr. Mercola and his colleagues associated with WAPF. But time intercedes.

T. Colin Campbell

Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus
of Nutritional Biochemistry

Cornell University
Ithaca, NY


26 Comments | Leave a comment


It almost a 100% guarantee that the people who are promoting meat and dairy as healthy are linked to the industry itself. Like WAPF which originally was mostly cattle ranchers and now focuses on brainwashing the masses into believing you need cholesterol and saturated fat and meat and dairy in your diet.

Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF for short) uses a lot of tactics to mislead and confuse people from completely mistating the basic facts of what a study found, using research that no one can actually locate in a journal, and using industry funded research that is designed to manipulate and confuse.

WAPF will never tell you that grass fed cows have severe nutritional deficiencies. The organic dairy farmers where I live fought against the grazing requirements because of how poor that diet actually is and their testimony is part of the permanent record at the USDA.

WAPF will also never tell you that there is 0% requirement for ANY cholesterol or saturated fat. Only essential fatty acids are required and these can all be obtained easily from plants.

So they are left with attacks. And that is what they do. The China Study itself is not that easy to attack because it is based on looking at what thousands of people were eating and then analyzing the data to see what kinds of foods were associated with which health problems. This kind of epidemiological study is truly as good as it gets in looking at all the data.

The meat and dairy industry is so heavily subsidized that it would collapse if the government stopped funding it. And they do fund it, everything from the land to the slaughterhouse and the water and the transportation is subsidized.

Add to that the enormous tax burden of health care and environment destruction and I can see why they have to resort to attacks just to keep getting their subsidies and customers. They have nothing else.


John Robbins has a great piece on the Weston Price Foundation. You can find it here.


This I found stunning:

Wheat protein, unlike casein for example, did not stimulate cancer development but when its limiting amino acid, lysine, was restored, it acted just like casein.

I don't remember that at all in The China Study!
I believe that it dramatically changes the message which I got from the book.

Ok - it's to be expected - proteins are proteins - their immediate source (meat or plant) shouldn't matter.

But those of us who are using soy milk as "insurance" or tend to eat to "complete" our proteins are basically no different than someone who is an omnivore. The protection of a plant based diet is from sticking to a traditional (aka McDougall) diet - and by avoiding the protein completing pushed in early editions of Diet For a Small Planet. It argues that one should adopt a McDougall diet - starch based with limiting proteins.


Wheat protein, unlike casein for example, did not stimulate cancer development but when its limiting amino acid, lysine, was restored, it acted just like casein.

I don't understand the import of this statement, can you break it down for me?


The statement that:

Wheat protein, unlike casein for example, did not stimulate cancer development but when its limiting amino acid, lysine, was restored, it acted just like casein.

The body uses the various proteins in a certain ratio. When one or more are lacking they are the "limiting" proteins in that the others can't be fully used. Most starches (ie wheat/oat/millet/spelt, corn, beans) are lacking in one or more proteins which we must get from our food as we can't make them.

When we read The China Study the impression we had was that a plant based diet dramatically reduces the chance of certain cancers and this happens over a "normal" range of protein intake (5% to 20%). Based upon other reading, much of this is likely from a LIFELONG plant based diet.

Our take of the China Study was that animals fed a 20% dairy protein (casein) diet basically all died when exposed to aflatoxin. But all lived if their diet was 20% plant proteins or if their diet was only 5% casein.

From that it seems that a plant based diet is a cancer protector.

To some people their take is that they can continue to eat meat - as long as the animal protein is a small fraction of their diet.

A flip side is that if one completes the proteins (by mixing beans with wheat/rice/corn - as was pushed by early editions of Diet For a Small Planet) or has a lot of soy in their diet (a complete protein) - then one has no additional protection against cancer.

So it seems that the common veg diet (not the McDougall diet) is prone to a higher incidence of cancer.

I use MD John McDougalls name because (I've not talked to him about this yet) my understanding is that he promotes traditional, WHOLE (minimally processsed) food, diets based upon starch - diets with a long history of safe consumption.

What many of us in the "western" world fall into is a fear of lacking - lacking calcium, lacking various vitamins, omega 6 and 9's, etc etc. This is quite strong - even in my family. To combat this fear we consume soy milk (vitamins, calcium, omega 3's) and flax seed (omega 3's), vit. B12 and other things to deal with a possible deficiency in the diet. I see this happen a lot with friends who are not veg - feeding their kids fish at least a few times a week for fear that they will not get enough protein or "good" oils.

So - my take now on the China study is that, from a health standpoint, meat consumption is fine - if the portion sizes are very small. After all we're all going to die - how much are you going to go out of your way to extend life a few more days or weeks? One should also not go for the typical veg diet (high in highly processed soy products) but aim for a whole-food / minimally processed diet.


It's the lysine part that confuses me. I have to take 1200mgs of lysine to prevent herpes simplex (cold sore) out-break.

Also, I read that soy, especially it's by-products, are not as good for us as touted by many and I avoided Soy Milk and replaced it with Almond Milk.

I am still confused as to whether or not to eat whole grains and at the same time, taking lysine. Is this having the same effect as casein? I am confused.


I want to try to explain the lysine issue being discussed here.

While it is true that adding lysine adds more protein, it is not true that this implies in any way that eating meat is healthy.

The reason lysine is a problem is simple - the more protein you consume the more fuel the cancer cells have. They need protein as their building blocks. Try Lemon Balm tincture for cold sores - you apply it directly and many people report that sores never comes back.

So then why isn't small amounts of meat okay? Because meat is loaded with many other killers, like saturated fat, cholesterol, and conjugated linolein acid (CLA for short). Also even 'a small amount' contains too much protein.

Joseph Mercola, another one of the board members from Weston A Price Foundation, posted an article on about raw milk and CLA in which he claimed that CLA is a cancer fighter.

Dr Campbell has done wonders trying to explain all this in his book "The China Study" which is a must read. He explains that the so-called anti-cancer claims around CLA are due to the fact that it is so carcinogenic that it activates the immune response, just like some pesticides.

Because making claims in articles the way that Mercola does is not regulated by the FDA (as it is on products) he can say whatever he wants.

But Dr Campbell points out that just because a carcinogen activates the immune system it doesn't make it a cancer fighter. It just makes it a carcinogen.

But this is how things get all twisted around, and it is what the pro meat and diary folks excel at.

They also are really good at making all kinds of false attacks on soy and other extremely important vegan foods.

The bottom line is that you need to understand as a vegan that there are millions of dollars being pumped into the media by the meat and dairy lobbies to confuse the issues and keep everyone confused. They even fund major university studies, so you can't count on that either anymore.

The China Study found that even a small amount of animal based food is associated with negative health effects.

Good luck - I hope it works for you.


The point is NOT to even have to treat a herpes outbreak, but rather to PREVENT it. Twelve hundred mg of lysine are necessary to prevent the overload of tyrosene, in which case one (I) gets an outbreak. Not only I, but those susceptable to herpes simplex virus, which resides in the nerve ganglia behind the ears. If tyrosine surpasses lysine, then out comes the herpes simplex. Your simplistic remedy is fruitless and does not address the prevention, only treatment.


I'd really suggest emailing Dr McDougall (maybe he'll address the topic in his monthly newsletter) and consulting with an MD, who doesn't just prescribe, in order to get a good 2nd view on your situation. I'm not into alternative medicine, wiji boards or that other stuff. I've had too many university courses and tend to believe that if there was any solid science behind this stuff you could find it in published journals. Science is great at what it does - but one must understand the limitations of it.

I like Dr. Mcdougalls take on Soy.

Don't each much of it - it's not a wonder food. But it's not really bad for you either - I would not fear it.

To me all of the soy/other milks are just a fortified drink - use it in moderation - it's unnatural and basically a muliti-vitamin that makes oatmeal taste even better :)
Treat all dairy products, and their imitations, as deserts - have only a little and infrequently.

My one guess - is that if you adopt a healthy, whole food, starch based, diet - that you will not need to take mega doses of lysine.

Also - having done ONLY A BIT of Googling - I can't see any reason why lysine would be of benefit to you - there doesn't seem to be any solid science behind it.

You may benefit from reading some of MD Joel Furhman's books - and trying a water-only fast and then come out of that with an elimination diet. Perhaps your symptoms have something to do with a food allergy (warning that is a WILD guess!) - and the only way to identify that is via an elimination diet.

Best of luck whatever you choose.


Thank you for taking the time: There is plenty of evidence that 1200mg of lysine daily prevents the outbreak of cold sores. The virus resides is the ganglia behind the ears and when taurine exceeds lysine, there is a break-out of cold sores. I have found that this is true, and as long as I take lysine every morning on an empty stomach, there are no cold sores. If I take less than 1200 mgs, i.e., 1000, I break out withing a week and I have to take 2000 twice per day to bring it under control and make it disappear. I was not speaking of the lysine in meat, only the suppklement and all the evidence suggest 1200mg per day will keep them away. It works, and that is all I can ask. I am working on becoming vegan, but the lysine stays in my repertoire of supplements. Thanks again for your reply.


This article and some of the comments posted seriously upset me. I myself am a raw foodist and do not eat meat, but I consider Weston A. Price a hero. His book is literally my bible. He went out and researched things firsthand--and he stated himself that he was disappointed, as he had wanted to find indigenous groups that survived only on plant foods.

Besides eating meat, I have found that I agree with nearly everything presented by his foundation. I love going to veg sites and reading about vegan/vegetarian versions of food, but I often find I have to alter the ingredients anyways because there are so many processed foods.

My health and mood has improved significantly by eating raw foods, and I think that you can be healthy by eating this way, which is as close to nature as possible. This is what Weston Price found in his studies; the healthy natives did not eat processed foods. His numerous photos support this. While I don't condone eating meat, I think he had the right idea, and as everything he did was non-profit, I don't understand why people are attacking the foundation as if it is.

Things don't have to be black and white; there's no reason to totally support one side and hate the other.


Milk is good for you? Well, I may not be a food scholar, but the only thing I ever got from milk was a bunch of nasal allergies.


Milk is NOT good for those past their teeny-bopper years. It has a deleterious effect on adults, and opens pathways for prostate cancer. I advised my neighbor of this (who was a prolific milk drinker) and he ignored my advice, and he got prostate cancer, chemo, radiation and surgery. In all likelihood, it may have been avoided. In general and a good practice, don't drink milk.


Maria - Milk IS good for you - if you're a baby cow. ;-)

Not sure how we got to this place where we think that drinking the milk of another mammal for our entire life is a good thing. Pretty bizarre practice when you really think about it.



We have not evolved to eating things because they're good for us or give us a maximal life span! We survived because we ate enough to survive to be parents and grandparents and were healthy enough along the way.

One way to think of it is diversity. How many human populations are there which are vegan or vegetarian -without dairy / dairy products?

Is such a diet possible in your area given local food - and at what cost of high technology and energy?

A population is much more likely to survive if their food source is diversified. Getting thru the winter is a lot easier if one has food that can be harvested in the winter or will last thru the winter.

We live in exceptional times - where food comes from half way around the world (fresh greens in the winter) or where we can get rice and other crops that are just as far from local. This gives us the choice of a diet which can extend our life and minimize disease. Clearly many of us do not choose that - they choose taste and tongue tickling enjoyment first.


Dear Dr. Campbell: I read your book and heard your talk on the China Study about 4 years ago. It was the first convincing data that a veggie diet made sense. so I switched to a veggie diet with about 5% meat content, no dairy products and fresh fruit daily. I eat as much as I like, get daily exercise walking 4 miles per day and have been fit as a fiddle. I am age 60 now. I have converted about five other family members to your ideas and my diet and we love it. It is easy to stay on salads, fruits, nuts, etc. I am a scientist by trade and think the US health care system should wake up and see the truth. Sugar over consumption is a huge problem too. Mark Stearns, Drexel University Medical School, Philadelphia.


Mark: I forwarded your message to Dr. Campbell. Here was his response:

Thank you for your compliment. You might be interested to know that I have given about 300 lectures since our book's publication 5 years ago and its sales has continued to increase, with no formal PR except such kind people like Jeff Nelson and my lectures. Most of my lectures are now to medical schools and conferences, including the inaugural lecture in 2 of the 3 new medical school started in 2009.

This message is really catching on, thanks to people like yourself, Jeff and many others!

T. Colin Campbell

Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus
of Nutritional Biochemistry
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY


My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer of the thymus four months ago. He is fairly young (46) and has been in good health his whole life. He is a reatuarant manager and took a position with a high end steak house about 3 and a half years ago. About 9 months into the job I noticed that his body was letting off an unpleasant smell and his breath was also becoming increasingly bad (which had never been the case before). My husband worked long hours and often didn't eat till the end of the evening and that meal usually included a very large piece of meat.
After reading Dr. Campbell's book we have both become vegans and only wish we had gotten his information earlier. We will never know for sure if my husband's heavy meat diet triggered the growth of the cancer but it seems likely considering the evidence laid out by Dr. Campbell. I am grateful to Dr. Campbell for his work and his efforts and most of all his courage to follow his truth inspite of the immense pressure from his peers to do otherwise.
My husband's most recent CT scan looked really good and we are so grateful that remission seems a real possibility. However, because of Dr. Campbell we feel we can meet the challenge of staying cancer free half way instead of waiting helplessly for its return.
As for Dr. Mercola I think that he is a caring and kind person and most likely wants the best for those he advises. However, as Dr. Campbell points out, he does have a financial investment in what he says. Every other time he posts he has a product to go with it. I am sure he is offering these products because he wants to offer the best of what is available. However, profits motivate even if on the unconscious level. How can he be objective when he has a stake in what is being sold? Personally he lost me when he started selling tanning beds but that's me.
I only suggest that you read "The China Study" front to back and ask yourself what is Dr. Campbell trying to sell?...nothing as far as I can make out. Next, ask yourself the same question of Dr. Mercola and I am affraid you'll have many products to choose from. Think for yourself and don't just be persuaded by sound bites--do the research as it just might save your life.


All the best ghetto buddha!

I wish that a family member, who died of cancer (colon -> lung -> bone) and had a diet high in animal products milk, butter, beef would have heeded my advice to go vegan / low protein. I've seen people diagnosed with cancer get desperate in their 2nd year (last year before death) with all sorts of nutty things - but none were willing to try diet modifications. Oh they tried mega doses of vit. C, supplements, wierd blood transfusions and searched out scorpion venom and whatnot. But even when the cancer activity is being tracked via blood tests and scans ... a diet change for a few months would give some indication (if it helps).

As for the change in smell - there are animals (dogs at least) who seem to have the ability to smell cancer. I'd hesitate to blame the cancer on the most recent job - cancer growth is typically well in excess of a decade before it's detectable (see Dr. McDougall).

Keep a positive outlook (read MDs Dean Ornish & Joel Fuhrman) and focus on the good things in life - not the cancer. What will be will will be - but how do you want to spend your life?



Just want to write a few words about THE CHINA STUDY. It's a great book with lots of important info which I read last month.
I'm not a scientist,neither a researcher but I have been a lot of times in China,(rural China), up in the country, visited many different parts of China, longer stays, because my wife was born there and lots of her relatives are still living there, in small villages; most of them are farmers.
During all my stays there, I have never met a Chinese who lives on a vegan diet. They all eat white rice, which is a processed food. Brown rice is even difficult to get. What I do know is that most people of rural China eat a diet, based on white rice, vegetables and fruits. They also eat meat, but not too much, simply because they cannot afford it.They fry their foods in peanut oil. All Chinese use oil. They also eat eggs, oh yes. What I never saw there is a milk drinking Chinese or a cheese eating Chinese. To my opinion, beside a small consumption of meat (mostly chicken), the big difference with the Western diet is the use of dairy products, like milk, butter, cheese, in the Western diet


Interesting observations johnboy. My boss spent many years in China and I asked him about white rice consumption. His story (and I have no idea whether it's true or not) is that before the Cultural Revolution only royalty ate white rice. After the revolution, everyone was declared 'royalty' and hence white rice became widely available.

In addition to the absence of dairy foods, I imagine there is also a lack of sweets?


Dr. Campbell never claimed the Chinese people he studied were vegans. What the studies show is that the less animal product they ate the less disease prone they seemed to be.



I agree on that. The only point I wanted to make is, that a 100% vegan diet is not a natural diet. I do not know of any vegan community in the world. There are however many examples of health and longevity among those who live in communities, eating plant based wih little meat or fish sometimes.
I strongly believe in the powers of a plant based diet and recommend this diet to everyone, just wanted to make my point that a 100% vegan diet, is a diet we created. The reasons for most people to go completely vegan, may be not only related to their health. It's a new diet, just like our bad Western diet that didn't exist either 200 years ago. Within now and hundred years we'll know much more about the benefits of the 100% vegan diet. Going back thousands of years, I still cannot find any info about communities where people were living 100% vegan.


Oh really?! For 1000s of years, what did they eat in the Garden of Eden? Duh.


Dr. Mercola is just about the finest "snake oil" salesman the world has ever seen. Not only is he selling something in almost every article he posts, when he isn't selling he's setting up a future sales pitch with the earlier article. He now sells tanning beds and water filters. I am upset with myself for taking his lame advice, indeed even so far as telling others what i supposedly learned from his nonsense. I stopped using my microwave oven for a month until I met a nuclear physicist and forwarded him Dr. Mercols'a nonsense about microwaves- he advised me all contained in the article was garbage! I stopped taking flu shots based upon his advice- he is selling all kinds of vitamins to enhance your immune system in place of the flu shots he waged war upon. Beware of Dr. Mercola the world's finest Snake Oil salesman. He has technology on his side.


It's very sad that almost every "authority" who is into raw food, alkaline balance, healthy food, or just HEALTH in general, has his or her own shop with plenty of supplements, water ionizers and many things more.It's easy to understand why people have no idea anymore about what is good for their health and what not. It's said already: there are so many supplements, all good for you, that there's hardly any space left for real food.
I think you better spend your money on wholefoods.Reading all supplement stuff makes me think it's not possible anymore to live a healthy life without taking supplements.

Leave a comment