WHOLE—Rethinking the Science of Nutrition
Review by Herbert J Sorensen, MD
Perm J 2013 Summer; 17(4):95
In the Fall 2006 issue of The Permanente Journal, The China Study by T Colin Campbell and his son Thomas was reviewed. Now, in 2013, we have WHOLE—Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, as a sequel. Why did the author decide to bring this book to print? The China Study focused on the evidence that tells us that a whole food, plant-based diet is the healthiest human diet. WHOLE focuses on why it's been so hard to bring that evidence to light and on what still needs to happen for real change to take place. In this book, the word "whole" is a reference to a whole food, plant-based diet, but imbedded in the chapters is a much wider application—the whole story and the whole truth about the conflict between two competing world views of health. The narrative of the two contrasting paradigms provides the most comprehensive compendium that I have ever encountered in a single volume of facts regarding these two world views. It's an eye opener!
What are these two world views of health? First, it's necessary to define reductionism—a paradigm that looks for truth only in the smallest details, while ignoring the big picture. Table 1 is a summary of the two contrasting paradigms.
By functioning within the reductionist model, medicine focuses on the individual symptoms and calls each of them a disease. For each disease, an identified biochemical element is used in a linear fashion to address the target symptom. Having authored some 350+ publications on nutrition, having written The China Study, and having served on multiple expert and grant review panels, the author has unique insights into how government, drug companies, the medical system, patient advocacy groups, and lobbies work exclusively within the reductionist model. He details how these entities are interconnected, functioning for profit, to the detriment of the health of individuals, the nation, and our environment. The use of a whole food, plant-based diet continues to provide the most effective approach to being healthy, but the forces aligned against it are huge and often hidden.
What, then, are the authors' take home messages of WHOLE? "We must recognize nutrition as a cornerstone of our health-care system, not a footnote."1:285 "It's time for us to begin a real revolution—one that begins by challenging our individual beliefs and changing our diets, and ends with the transformation of our society as a whole."1:290 "The crucial shift in the way we think about our health will happen, one person at a time."1:289 "The most important step is to change the way you eat."1:289
The clinical insights and relevance of WHOLE are important and often unexpected. I hope some of you reading this review will decide to delve deeper into this subject by reading and profiting from WHOLE. The choice is yours—one at a time!
1. Campbell TC. Whole—Rethinking the science of nutrition. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books; 2013.