Respected doctor and author Natasha Campbell-McBride was interviewed recently by Dr. Joseph Mercola. A Russian-trained neurologist, she has a practice in the UK in which she treats autism, ADD/ADHD, depression and Bipolar disorder with her nutritional protocol, which in some phases excludes all plant material.
You can view the article here
In one part of the interview, Dr. Campbell-McBride states:
“When you cook vegetables, their cellular structure gets broken down, and they are much easier to digest. They become more of a feeding and nourishing food rather than a cleansing food. Raw fruits and vegetables are indigestible for the human digestive system. They don’t feed us; they cleanse us… But as we cook the vegetables, and as we ferment the vegetables, we break down their cellulose structure. They become less of a cleansing detoxifying food and more of a feeding and nourishing food.”
OK, where to start? As you know, my opinion differs. According to everything I have learned, and been involved with for many years, when you cook vegetables, the enzymes which would have helped them to digest become denatured and therefore the food is less digestible when cooked. Additionally, many of the vital nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, enzymes and trace nutrients are destroyed. Likewise, I have to disagree with the blanket statement that “raw fruits and vegetables are indigestible for the human system”. If that were the case, how is it that thousands of people are thriving worldwide on a regime high in uncooked fruit and vegetables, and not just thriving, but reversing many degenerative disease states? I would have to amend this statement to “there may be a tiny minority of people for whom certain fruits and vegetables, when eaten raw, may present a digestive challenge”. Generally, inability to digest certain raw veg is a very individual thing, and there may only be one or two types of veg that are the culprits, with other types being fine. Likewise, the preparation methods of these fruit and veg were never mentioned. If they are blended into soups and smoothies, for example, their digestibility soars, as is the case with juicing. Cooking is not the only way of breaking down the cell wall, and of course cooking destroys nutritional value, whereas juicing does not, and blending may only affect a tiny percentage of micronutrients (although opinions differ here within the raw community – Brian Clement vs Victoria Boutenko for example).
Fortunately, she does redeem herself and mentions fermented food, which as we know can be very beneficial for health, restoring often-depleted probiotic gut flora. The health of many long-lived societies is often attributable to the fact that their diets contain a lot of fermented food. However, it was the next statement that really got me thinking. “Humans are not designed to eat plants because we are not herbivores since we do not have a rumen”. Well, neither does a horse, a rabbit, a guinea pig or a rat, but they are all herbivorous. And, since we “only have one small stomach, which contains pepsin and hydrochloric acid”, we therefore only have one dietary option available to us, and that is animal flesh. What about the great apes then, whose digestive systems are very similar to ours? They do not eat animal flesh or dairy products. They do not cook or ferment plants prior to eating them. They have very similar dentition to ours, and they have similar concentrations of gastric hydrochloric acid (HCl). Surely that tells us something? Additionally, the concentration of our gastric HCl is a thousand times weaker than that of a true carnivore (wolf, cat etc), and as simple observation will reveal to you, our dentition is nothing like theirs.
“Humans are not fit to break down plants at all. Most plant foods, when we consume them in a raw state in particular, they go all through our digestive system, and they finish up practically undigested in the bowel where the bacteria – that’s our equivalent of the rumen – partially break them down and convert them into short-chain fatty acids… and that’s the boost to our human metabolism.
But if you try to live entirely on these plant foods, you will run into trouble, as vegans do… In order to feed yourself, you have to consume animal products… meat… animal fat… fish… eggs… good-quality dairy products…”
I disagree. Many vegans do not run into trouble at all. In fact, the living foods vegans have the best health profile of practically everyone, provided that they are doing it in the right way. My counter argument would be that IF you feed yourself with meat, animal fat, fish, eggs and dairy products, you will run into the same problems that everyone else in sick Western society experiences, i.e. high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease, stroke… I could go on, but I will cite the recent study published by researchers from Harvard medical school, which found that eating an extra portion of red meat per day significantly increased cancer and heart disease rates. See my other blog post for more details.
Finally, let us consider the validity of the following statement:
“Indeed, in order for us to produce sex hormones, we need cholesterol, because they’re made from cholesterol. We require vitamin A and vitamin D. We require a lot of protein. In order to produce sex hormones, they have to eat meat, eggs, and animal fat. If you don’t want to produce sex hormones; if you want to be infertile, and if you don’t want to have any sexual desire, then the vegan diet is the right diet that you should follow.”
“We need cholesterol to produce sex hormones” – yes, absolutely true. But what she neglects to mention is that the liver produces all the cholesterol that we need. After age 3, we no longer need a dietary source of cholesterol because the liver takes over this function. Yes, we do require Vitamins A and D. But we need our Vitamin A as its precursor, the carotenoids, which we get from plants. Indeed, Vitamin A poisoning is a real concern if we eat organ meat, especially liver. Vitamin D, absolutely, but 90% comes from sun exposure, not food! It is poorly absorbed in the digestive tract, so sun exposure is the recommended source.
“We require a lot of protein” – nonsense, in my opinion. If we did, why would the protein content of human breast milk be approximately 3%, designed for our time of most rapid physical growth? We really do not need a high protein diet. There are certain types of people who require more protein than others, true enough. If we derive our protein from animal sources, we massively increase our risks of heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, stroke… need I say more? If you would like the researched facts on this, please listen to my CD “The Real Truth about Food”, available at www.optimisedliving.com
“In order to produce sex hormones, they have to eat meat, eggs and animal fat”. Again, in my opinion, nonsense. We know that sex hormones are produced from cholesterol, and that we make our own cholesterol. “If you want to be infertile….. the vegan diet is the right diet to follow.” Not so. Brian Clement, Director of the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida, has lost count of the number of infertile couples who have successfully conceived following detoxification at the institute, and by following their health-building guidelines, based entirely on the living foods vegan diet. Philip McCluskey describes the raw vegan diet as “the sexiest diet on the planet”, and there is a study currently under way into the effects of the living foods regime on sexual desire. If it left you with no sex drive, why is it that the Hippocrates regime appears to so successfully reverse infertility?
Surely, all infertility is, is nature saying “this species is so sick we don’t want it to survive”?
I agree, some vegan diets are a total disaster. But to state that veganism is a rapid way to create your own demise is, I feel, unfortunate, especially if it propels people towards a dietary regime that will ultimately destroy cardiovascular health, cause liver and kidney damage, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and osteoporosis, and, ultimately, shorten and degrade your life.
My final comment on these dietary suggestions is, since this doctor has measurable success in treating gut-related conditions, could it be that the success stems from what the diet leaves out? No, I am not talking about all those wonderful health-giving plants that are so high in antioxidants and minerals, vital for our health, wellbeing and longevity. I refer to the fact that this regime completely precludes the use of grains. This makes a huge amount of sense, since a lot of the conditions she is treating respond brilliantly to a gluten-free diet. Perhaps we should view it this way – it is not the consumption of animal products that are creating the good results and “nourishing the body”, it is just that the success comes from what is absent.