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Published on October 20th, 2014 | by Scott Cooney


Whole Food, Plant Based Diet: Benefits of the Most Powerful Green Living Idea Ever

vegetarian food is awesomeGreen living is a terrific lifestyle. Not only do you get to save money, it’s usually very good for the planet (you feel better about leaving the world a better place for your loved ones), and it’s usually very good for your health. Biking? Better than sitting in a car inhaling fumes. Walking? Sure beats trying to find parking, spending money on gas and getting speeding tickets. Hiking? Way cheaper hobby than going to the mall and buying a bunch of plastic junk.

There is one green living idea, however, that rises to the top in terms of benefits to you, to the world, and for your wallet: going vegetarian….or at the very least, eating less meat.

The environmental benefits of vegetarianism and the catastrophic environmental destruction of the livestock/factory farm industry are well documented. But for the 95% of the world that is not hard-core green, the health benefits of vegetarianism are perhaps a bigger draw. Recently, I attended a lecture by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, about the linkages between animal product consumption and personal health. As someone who’s studied this for over 20 years, I was still blown away by how convincing the evidence, particularly with regard to cancer, that eating animal products is absolutely terrible for our health. A vegan diet can even help improve your skin.

T. Colin Campbell lecture in Honolulu

T. Colin Campbell gives a lecture in Honolulu to a packed house about the benefits of vegetarianism in disease prevention and general health

Among the mind-blowing findings that Dr. Campbell showed during his talk:

  • As a percentage of GDP, the U.S. spends more than any other country in the world on health care, about double the next biggest spender. The results? A terrible life expectancy, and levels of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and other epidemics that are higher than the global average by wide margins. We also use double the amount of pharmaceutical drugs as other countries…in fact we lead the world in pharmaceutical use.
  • Funding for nutrition research is virtually non-existent…roughly 3% of total medical research.
  • Animal products are completely lacking vital nutrients that help our bodies–antioxidants and complex carbs are only found in plant foods. In addition, vitamins are virtually non-existent in animal products.
  • The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein is roughly 10% of calories. But the study that that number was derived from was a study of young men (who likely need more protein than other demographic groups), and showed that the minimum protein needs for this group was 6% of calories. The problem, according to Campbell, is that the USDA then adds two standard deviations, just to err on the “safe” side and ensure that people get more than they likely need. But even if you add those two standard deviations to the protein needed by the most protein hungry demographic in our species, it’s only about 10%. Plant-based foods contain about 9-11% protein. Animal products contain about 15-20%.
  • There is a very strong correlation between the amount of animal products eaten and rates of cancer. Dr. Campbell’s 30+ year history of research in the field has shown an exceptionally clear result with both human and animal studies that ties overall disease (specifically, but not limited to, cancer) with animal product consumption. And protein, which everyone thinks they need more of, is the culprit! In one experiment, rats that were fed a diet of 20% protein got tumors 100% of the time (30 out of 30 test subjects). Rats that were fed a diet of 5% protein got tumors on their livers 0% of the time (0 out of 12 test subjects). Further, researchers were able to “turn the cancer on, and turn the cancer off” by manipulating levels of protein intake. When rats with cancer were switched to a plant based, 5% protein diet, cancer was literally “turned off”. When they then returned those same rats to the 20% protein regimen, it turned the cancer back on.

This slide shows Campbell’s research “turning cancer on and off” by manipulating animal protein intake. At 20% protein, cancer cells multiplied and tumors grew. At 5% protein, cancer growth was virtually eliminated.

Want to know more about Dr. Campbell’s work, but don’t want to spend the time to read the 1000 page plus tome on all the medical science? No worries…just make sure to catch Forks Over Knives, if you haven’t seen it already.

Photo from Shutterstock


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About the Author

Scott Cooney is a serial eco-entrepreneur including being the solo founder of Pono Home,, and CleanTechnica; author of two books; former sustainability consultant with clients including Johnson & Johnson, Eastman Chemical, Wal-Mart, and Duke Energy; former Adjunct teaching the first course in sustainable business in the MBA program at UH Manoa; lover of local, healthy food and especially vegan nachos. Find Scott on Twitter

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