The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health
Pros: lots of great, well-explained research; engaging voice
Cons: if you’ve read his more recent books, you’ll know some of this
What is the healthiest diet for people to eat has been a question confounding many people of affluent societies for a very long time and the most popular books are those promising a quick-fix (fad) diet. Perpetually overweight and obese people keep hoping to become youthfully slender by the fastest means possible, believing that then they’ll be healthy and more successful or attractive. Unfortunately, though, they soon go off the complicated, often very strict and time-consuming diet and gain back what they lost and much more. Brilliant biochemist T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University explains why this happens and what we must do to stimulate long-lasting weight loss in a healthy, easy way in all of his books, starting with 2006’s The China Study: Startling Implications For Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health.
Let me cut to the chase (how did that saying get started/?). It’s not a particularly fashionable diet promising quick weight loss and many medical doctors assume their very sick patients won’t be interested in it, even though there are hundreds of unambiguous clinical studies published in the prestigious medical journals over the decades about its life-saving benefits. It’s a whole foods, plant-based diet that threatens the status quo and terrifies those in the drug, medical, and agriculture industries if it would become well-known how it prevents and reverses the diseases of affluent societies where too much animal protein and fat is consumed. This means heart disease, most cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, obesity and more. If more people ate more plant protein instead of highly-processed foods and animal protein, many less people would be sick and in need of doctors and drugs.
But the media prefers to keep us confused and eating for the health of those above-mentioned industries rather than us. Campbell started out about five decades ago now buying the claims of those industries. He grew up on a Virginia dairy farm and got his education with the intention of helping malnourished people to get more animal protein in their diet, but when he studied peanuts and their carcinogenic fungus in separate studies, he began to realize that much more study was warranted before he could explain his surprising findings. His expertise developed with working with government committees that bowed down to industry, with over seventy grant-years of peer-reviewed research funding and 100 research papers (at that time), and the China (and Taiwan) Study where he teamed up with the best of China’s nutritional researchers, hundreds of medical assistants and dozens of labs on four continents as well as his lab and graduate students.
Campbell, you may have guessed, has been fighting the status quo for decades, but in the beginning he did use his wits as well as his technical prowess to survive. He talks in detail about what goes on behind the scenes as he’s participated in or led government committees charged with determining public health policy and it’s pretty juicy at times. The China Study was billed as the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and it probably still remains that. Since the mostly rural Chinese ate mostly plant protein and no dairy, they provided excellent data on the role of nutrition in regards to our health. The very large and long study resulted in the graphs you’ll see where the laziest Chinese are compared to the typical Americans and still they had the health advantage.
The China Study goes on from that study and its findings to many others conducted in America that were flawed for many reasons, such as not being much different or at all different from the typical American diet, and some conducted by American doctors who did studies using diets very similar to Campbell’s with their patients. Caldwell Esselstyn and John McDougall are a couple of them and I’ve read great books by both. I read Campbell’s more recent books, Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition and The Low-Carb Fraud, but while he consistently advocates a whole foods, plant-based diet as consistent as all the findings from studies he conducted on protein in the lab and with human or animal subjects,
I learned much that was fascinating. In the final Appendix of this big book I was still learning, in particular that Vitamin D will only help us fight diseases if a certain D metabolite is able to be called out of storage to the kidney and that requires a non-acidic environment that plant eaters enjoy. I guarantee that this brilliant biochemist will change the way you think about nutrition and your diet.
To paraphrase Campbell: our health comes down to three things – breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can stay healthy eating lots of plant protein in its natural form. Check it out!