Recently, my husband and I watched the documentary, Forks over Knives, a film that details the claims and groundbreaking research conducted by Dr. Colin Campbell in his book, The China Study. According to Dr. Campbell (nutritional scientist at Cornell University) and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic), many of the world’s degenerative diseases (osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease, all forms of cancer) can be controlled and/or reversed by significantly reducing (or rather, eliminating) animal based protein and processed foods.
One of the more fascinating results is rooted in a 20+ year study conducted by Dr. Campbell on lab rats. Briefly, the study took two groups of rats and fed the first group with 20% animal protein and the second group, only 5% animal protein. Both sets of rats were given enough Aflatoxin (a fungus, mold that is highly carcinogenic) to get cancers. Long story short, every single rat fed the 20% protein had liver cancer or precursor lesions and not a single rat in the 5% group had cancer or lesions.
In a separate study, the results are even more astonishing. When the team decreased the animal protein of the 20% rats to less than 10%, Dr. Campbell found that the cancer lesions on the liver decreased in size and number. In a nutshell, the results of this study suggest that cancer can be jump started, restarted, slowed and even halted by adjusting the level of protein intake.
Somehow, I found myself discussing both studies a couple of times in the past few weeks – mind you, I never once rudely interjected my stories of these studies or interrupted someone just to spew some analytical details about lab rat study results. Instead, I diplomatically and gently relayed these stories to welcomed audiences and within a relevant context – but it didn’t take long before the welcome wore off.
What has amazed me the most about people’s response is not so much the unwillingness to seriously consider the implications of Dr. Campbell’s results, but rather two other elements of the response: 1) the outright defensiveness and/or need to explain the necessity for all things animal protein in their lives and 2) how quickly many audience members hastily write Dr. Campbell off as a quack, a farce or some kind of a ‘pretend doctor of real science’.
Sometimes, I end up feeling attacked – “Well, do you eat meat? Are you vegetarian? Do your kids drink milk? Are you growing cancer cells in your body?”
Yes, my family and I eat meat and drink milk. But I want to change our diet – a diet that is already relatively low in animal protein, but that still has major repercussions on our environment, our wallets and potentially, our health. The implications offered by Dr. Campbell’s studies are controversial given the state of our beef and dairy lobbying prowess on capital hill, but they are anything less than astonishing, intriguing and incredibly convincing. Whether or not we become vegans is an entirely separate question (I highly doubt it); however, I do think it is possible to decrease our animal protein intake to something less than 5% over the course of the next few years – I’m calling this the 5% Diet.
For many, this might seem like an extreme interpretation of Dr. Campbell’s data, but for my family and our needs, its definitely plausible. Will all of this change in lifestyle and diet be worth it all in the end? Only time will tell, but I can’t wait for time. I have to make a decision about how we are going to eat our way through life based on the information offered up now. Personally, if there is a small chance that changing our diet can prevent rapid and unnecessary deterioration and emotional heartache, I’d argue that the change is worth it.
Besides, I doubt my family will miss the level of meat and dairy we currently consume or that we will go hungry anytime soon – there are so many scrumptious non-animal based foods and variations on those foods that we haven’t tried yet.
The 5% diet. Ch-ch-check it out. As a bonus for considering this diet, I’ve included a recipe for my version of Dal, a delicious, creamy lentil and kidney bean dish served up with some brown rice and bread.
Patty’s Pretend Dal
1 cup of brown or black lentils, soaked and fully cooked
1/3 cup of kidney beans, soaked and fully cooked
½ cup of tomato puree
1 tomato, diced
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 garlic, minced
½ inch of ginger, grated
1 green chili, finely diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili
½ teaspoon fenugreek
½ teaspoon garam masala
2-3 cups of water (more if necessary)
¼ – ½ cup of half and half (optional, if you dare)
In a large pot over medium to low heat, add the oil and then, the onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, green chili, cumin, chili, fenugreek, 1 teaspoon of salt and garam masala. Stir frequently until the tomatoes and onions begin to cook down, about 10-15 minutes.
Once the onion and tomatoes have cooked down, add the beans, tomato puree and about 2 cups of water (the water should cover the beans by about 2 inches). Bring to a boil and then let simmer for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After 20-30 minutes, check the dal for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Serve with rice or naan and a little bit of yogurt to manage the heat, if you want.