on 24 January 2008
The primary theme of this book is that animal based proteins affect the rate of cancer in any given population. He does also consider other things such as fiber, and has important findings in this area, but overall, the animal protein was the most startling.
In the introduction he explains how he worked in the Philippines when he was on the faculty at Virginia Tech. Their goal was to improve childhood malnutrition by making sure the children were getting as much protein as possible, in particular animal based protein. But, this led to a startling discovery, the children that consumed the most protein were also the most likely to develop liver cancer!
He then found a study from India, saying in essence, the same thing. They had fed two groups of rats a cancer causing agent, but one group was given 20% protein while the other was given only 5%. 100% of the rats fed a diet of 20% protein developed liver cancer, while none of the rats on the 5% diet developed cancer.
My initial thought was "What about vegetarians?" But many of them consume a large amount of animal based proteins in the form of milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs, which are all on his "avoid" list.
This blew away everything he had been taught about nutrition. He eventually goes on to study the subject in the laboratory for 27 years funded by sources such as the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, and the American Institute for Cancer Research.
His research showed that they could virtually turn on and off cancer growth by changing the level of protein consumed. This was a shocking discovery to say the least, one that eventually ends him up on a watch list funded by those who profit from the sale of animal protein.
There were other interesting insights, such as peanuts are often contaminated with a fungus produced toxin called aflatoxin (AF). AF is said to be the most potent chemical carcinogen. Carcinogen simply means that the item has been found to cause cancer. He went on to get a grant to study the subject and found that peanut butter would have levels of AF as high as 300% above what was considered safe. Whereas the cocktail peanuts level of AF was within acceptable parameters. The conclusion was, the good peanuts were being sorted out at the factor to go in the jars of nuts, and the worst and moldiest nuts were made into peanut butter.
There is of course political intrigue, because whenever you shake a financial tree like the meat producers, watch out what falls on your head. I felt like he handled this difficult aspect of his career with dignity, and didn't become a "Everybody's out to get me!" person. Instead, he continued on with his important research.
It is a somewhat heavy read but provides many insights into today's illnesses of affluence.
The central message of this extraordinary book is: consume whole foods in the context of a plant-based diet. If you do you will greatly decrease the likelihood that you will die prematurely from the "diseases of affluence" that ravage our society, including cancer, heart failure and diabetes.
This is a diet that makes eminent sense and is in accord with what we may surmise was the natural diet of our ancestors in the prehistory before the rise of agriculture and animal husbandry. Campbell shows through intensive and wide-ranging studies, in particular through evidence from the "China Study: the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted," that it is a diet that will prevent and even reverse disease.
Campbell is no pie-in-the-sky visionary or nutritional quack with a bogus agenda, nor is he an animal rights activist trying to find justification for his concerns. He is a bonafide mainstream scientist with forty years of experience who is currently Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. Furthermore, he grew up on a farm, and prior to his learning about the effect diet can have on human health, he ate a more or less traditional American diet heavy on the meat, milk, fat, refined sugars and starches.
I have been reading books on nutrition and diet for decades. I have seen food fads come and go, and I have seen the rise of the supersize in which McDonald's and other large corporations have seduced us into eating not only foods that are bad for us, but lured us into eating (and drinking) them in large quantities. As a result we have become among the fattest people on the planet with something like two-thirds of the population overweight and one-third obese. (p. 135) Part of this is due to lack of exercise, but a significant part is due to eating too much. But Campbell believes that it isn't just how much we are eating, it is what we are eating. He maintains that eating exclusively from a whole foods, plant-based diet and maintaining an otherwise healthy lifestyle, we can eat as much as we like and not only keep trim but avoid the terrible diseases of affluence that haunt our society.
What is different about Campbell's book is first the enormous about of scientific evidence he presents, and second the idea that eating not just fats and overly processed foods is bad for you, but that eating too much protein, especially animal protein, is correlated with the scourges of diabetes, cancer and heart failure. Animal protein consumption in conjunction with various carcinogens in the environment causes cancer, to put it bluntly, is his message. This surprising finding is supported by Campbell's discovery that the effect of the carcinogen aflatoxin is almost completely negated when a low protein diet is followed. In particular, his research targets casein, protein from cow's milk, as contributing to the formation of cancerous tumors. He believes that consuming diary products on a regular basis is dangerous to your health.
All told, this is without doubt the best book on nutrition, diet, and health that I have ever read, and believe me, I've read a few over the years. The arguments presented, over and above the very persuasive evidence, are compelling. One of the things I like to do when evaluating opposing views on what is good for human beings is to ask myself how was it in the prehistory? What sort of diet did humans become adapted to over the millennia? It was only about 10,000 years ago that animal husbandry began; in other words, it's only been about 10,000 years since any people have depended on milk as a food. Furthermore, although prehistoric humans were hunters and scavengers, it is clear that the bulk of their diet came from gathering plant sources. Even when they did slay an animal, that animal's flesh was lean, not fatty. This is not to say that prehistoric humans did not eat animal flesh. They did. In some cultures (the Inuit for example) animal flesh was the mainstay of the diet. But they are exceptions. Furthermore, the deleterious effects of a diet containing significant amounts of animal products would not have affected prehistoric peoples much since few lived long lives. Today most people (in the Western world at least) will live into their sixties, seventies and eighties. How free from pain and discomfort and how active and healthful they will be for how long will depend to some large measure on what they eat. This is Dr. Campbell's message.
Another, more sinister message is contained in "Part IV: Why Haven't You Heard This Before?" It is here that Campbell chastises the medical profession, the scientific establishment and the government for being in the pocket of the various corporate interests. He shows how we have been indoctrinated by the diary, meat, poultry and drug industries into eating an unhealthy diet and attempting to treat the symptoms of the chronic diseases of affluence caused in part by that diet with ineffective and expensive drugs and invasive and dangerous treatments. He shows how under the Bush administration the recommended daily allowances (RDAs) from the government's Food and Nutrition Board have been revised so that increased amounts of fatty, highly processed, sugared and protein-stuffed foods are now more okay than ever. (See pages 306-314 for the appalling details.)
Why is this happening? Because corporate vested interests have hoodwinked the medical profession and taken control of the government agencies and have bought off the politicians. Campbell writes: "...[W]hen it comes to health, government is not for the people; it is for the food industry and the pharmaceutical industry at the expense of the people." (p. 318) He adds, "The whole system is paid for by the drug industry, from education to research. The drug industry has bought the minds of the medical profession." (p. 332) He concludes (in italics): "The health damage that results from doctors' ignorance of nutrition is astounding." (p. 329)
--Dennis Littrell, author of "The World Is Not as We Think It Is"
on 26 July 2012
Having spent the last 70 odd years as an avid carnivore, I read the China study and have changed to a vegan diet.
The result has been a very significant reduction in my blood pressure, I have been trying to reduce it for several years without success. Another great result for the China Study!
on 24 September 2013
Just some random comments as there are so many reviews already...
I read this book after being recommended it by a friend. I was born and raised on a 'health farm' where all the food was home grown and organic. I therefore already knew a great deal on this subject. However I was interested to read more data and to see what other stats had come out of the China Study. In a way I was a bit disappointed as I already knew about the Gerson Therapy which had been around since the 1920's. The Gerson Therapy advocates low protein, along with vegetable juices and lots of fruit and vegetables, and coffee enemas to eradicate cancer.
I felt the same information was recycled over and over in every chapter. Interesting information, but repetitive.
It was refreshing to have someone tackle Reductionism V Holism. (which he talks more about in his follow up book - 'Whole') It's not the Pectin, it's the apple. It's not the beta carotine, it's the carrot. There are so many nutrients we are unaware of that for pectin to do it's magic we need to eat the (organic) apple, not take a pill that will probably not work anyway as it needs all the other micro nutrients in the apple to make it work.
I would like to see more information about fish. On one of the charts showing heart attacks I noticed (as I was already aware) that Japan and France were at the low end of the chart, with the USA and Australia at the top end. We all know the Japanese eat a lot of fish, and the French are not exactly vegan. So why then? Tell us please. I assume it is the type of food they are eating, freshly prepared with no simple carbs. I also wanted to know more about other proteins. Casein, casein, casein!!! There was a nod to soy, but what about whey? What about all the other proteins? What about the infamous rotten mottled teeth the chinese have? And their tendency to have thinning hair?? Were there studies on fish protein in China, or Tofu? Or does tofu count as a plant based protein.
I suit vegan. I can do it. But I do think some people thrive on a certain amount of meat. But the meat needs to be organic. I think if the world went back to 'Sunday Roast' and just ate meat on a sunday, and fancy sweet deserts at xmas and birthdays, then stuck to a wholefood plant based diet the remainder of the time we would all be a lot healthier.
I also read that the gut is the 'second brain'. The gut actually makes more serotonin than is made in the brain. Eating junk food destroys the serotonin which then can have an impact on health and mood. Eating a wholefood diet introduces the prebiotics that make probiotics - hence the great lift in mood when starting a wholefood diet. Certainly happened to me!!
on 1 December 2007
Since reading this book I have gained a good understanding of why we should not eat things such as: Dairy, Modified Fats, Refined Foods,
and Red meat.
The book also emphasises the benefit of eating whole foods from a plant based diet.
The book really is an excellent read and will open your eyes as to how you should consider eating to become healthier and to greatly reduce your risk from many western diseases. Since reading this book (and another book called 'Never be Sick again' by Raymond Francis and Kester Cotton) I have pretty much become a vegan, basing my diet mainly on raw whole plant based foods. Excess weight melted away and some long standing health problems are no where near as problematic.
If I could give my own one line comment to summarise the whole book it is this: Western food causes western diseases. T.Colin Campbell proves this and gives overwhelming evidence by comparing the disease rates of different communities with their diet. He also gives results of a study where he gave rats, that had tumours, different diets. Those that ate 20% milk protein all developed cancer, those that ate 6% or less didn't. He could start and stop tumour growth by starting and stopping the milk protein diet! (Another interesting read focusing on the cancer issue is, 'Life in Your Hands' by professor Jane Plant).
Who eats the most refined food, and consumes the most meat and dairy? We do in the UK, Europe and USA. Who has the most Osteoporosis, Heart disease and cancer? WE DO!!! Is there a link? Or course there is!, read this book and find out why. I am so convinced by this that in addition to my original purchase, I have since bought three additional copies to loan out to friends and relatives who have health problems and who might be willing to consider that they can actually do something to improve their situation rather than just being at the mercy of the doctors and hospitals.
Since talking about issues raised in this book; My wife and children no longer drink (dairy) milk, my parents have gone diary free, and several friends have gone pretty much vegan. Cutting out dairy alone helped excess weight to come off as we have stopped consuming all those hormones that come in it. Don't believe me?... Try it for yourself to find out.
The only thing I am disappointed about is that I didn't know about all this 20 years ago, but I am so grateful to T.Colin Campbell for sticking his neck out and publishing this controversial masterpiece. It has changed my life.
on 27 July 2008
The book recommends a diet of 100 % whole plant foods. All writers outside the food processing industry could not disagree that it is safest to eat 100% natural whole-foods ie foods which have not been industrialised (eg corn-fed beef), fractionated (eg the myriad of foods constructed from extracts of corn, wheat and soy), contaminated (with numerous chemicals) or otherwise processed (eg homogenised milk). However there is no agreement that all the foods should be plant foods.
Animal Protein (Chapter 3)
Campbell reports that if aflatoxin poisoned rats are given too much casein they develop cancer. Casein is a fractionated food, derived presumably from modern industrialised cow's milk and something that humans do and should not eat on it's own - one wonders what would have happened if the rats had been given natural whole milk with is fat, other proteins, vitamins and enzymes (if not pasteurised) etc needed for proper digestion intact ? What would have happened if there were given other fractionated foods such as fructose extracted from otherwise healthy fruit ? - diabetic symptoms ??
Though dairy foods are modern food in evolutionary terms, humans have used them successfully for thousands of years.
From these experiments on HIGH LEVELS of FRACTIONATED, DAIRY foods on RATS, and one or two other experiments which he did not describe, Campbell goes on to conclude that ALL WHOLE ANIMAL FLESH foods (fish , poultry and meat and eggs) are dangerous to HUMAN health in ANY QUANTITY. This is in spite of the evidence that hunter gatherers survived for hundreds of thousands of years eating large amounts of animal foods of all types and that even some modern civilisations have survived perfectly healthily on all animal food diets. Today, many civilisations outside the western developed world live very healthily while consuming animal foods in substantial quantities (eg Japanese, one of the healthiest nations in the world eat substantial amounts of fish).
Nutrients (Chart 11.2)
No food writer would disagree that humans need to eat nutritious foods, as natural as possible with sufficiently high levels of vitamins, minerals and other organic nutrients. Table 11.2 focuses on those nutrients which are better obtained from plant foods. However many other nutrients vital or important to human health are better obtained from animal foods because they are not available in plant foods or the amounts available in plant foods are much lower- these include vitamins B12, B2 and B3 and D, minerals such as zinc and selenium, long chain omega 3 fatty acids, carnitine, creatine, carnosine and coenzyme Q10. If one adopts a vegan diet it can be difficult or impossible to obtain all these without using dietary supplements.
Western Diet (Charts 4.7, 4.8, 8.4,14.3)
In industrialised western societies, most of the food eaten is industrialised food rather than whole food. Animals are fed unnaturally and both plant and animal foods are fractionated. The resultant processed foods are loaded with fat, refined sugar and starch and modified animal and plant proteins and are low in essential nutrients. In the above mentioned charts, the industrialised western societies have highest incidence of disease - the most obvious association is with the industrialisation of food as the amount of truly natural whole animal and plant foods eaten is rather low in these countries. Primitive societies which do not use industrialised foods seem to do better.
From an ecological point of view it would be nice to believe that one could survive on an entirely vegan whole-food diet - however this seems to be very risky as it defies the whole history of human development for hundreds of thousands of years. The biggest risk to human health seems to be the industrialisation of food production rather than consumption of natural animal food. Four out of five stars are given because it could be optimum for 80 % of food to be whole plant food with 20% whole animal food (fish from the sea, true free range poultry and eggs, grass fed red meat and even some milk and butter, not margarine).
on 23 December 2006
This is a very good book full of very useful, well researched information. A big volume dealing with extensive study of the way nutrition influences our health and longevity. It should be read by anyone who desires to be healthy, especially by all the followers of the many fad diets (Atkins, SouthBeach, low fat, low carb, you name it...)
China Study also unveils behind-the-scene manipulation of big food business with no regard for consumer health. The authors make a big step forward in honest consumer education, as their integrity and scientific approach is beyond any doubt. Another no-hype volume with down-to-earth, commonsense approach to health and longevity is "Can We Live 150 Year?" I strongly recommend both books for everyone. Get them, and keep them for later reference. Don't miss it.
on 23 June 2012
I will keep this as brief as possible,as there are many detailed reviews of this book already on here. All I can add is from my own personal experience,I am in the U.K.and had what I thought was a fairly good, well balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg, but after reading The China Study I decided to give it a try and move to a whole foods plant based diet, within weeks it reduced my long term high blood pressure to normal perimeters,something medication has been unable to do over the past two years! I was not overweight but I have shed around 7 pounds, I also have far more energy, get up and go overall, I just feel healthier and happier. I was sceptical but have to say I am so pleased with my new life eating this way....thanks for such an enlightening publication, I only wish I have found it sooner, it really has changed my and many of my friends and family's life for the better.
on 12 February 2006
The China Study, contributes to a new scientific understanding of health, which is comparable with the historic 19th Century understanding of infectious diseases. Dr T. Colin Campbell is an eminent scientist with a long career in both the laboratory and in epidemiology, and provides a valuable read for both the public and the professional. Nutritional science was and often, as far as the public is concerned, still is, highly misleading. Epidemiology increasingly suggests there is something drastically wrong with our ‘advanced’ eating patterns. To paraphrase the old Beatles’ song, things are not getting better all the time. Colorectal cancer, for example, is common in all advanced countries. The Czech Republic with a death rate of 34 per 100,000 males compares with Bangladesh, which has 0.63 per 100,000 males.
In fact, T.C.C tells us, most cancers are preventable by different nutrition. Most heart disease (and all the related conditions of arterial disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension) is also preventable, mostly by different nutrition. It is most definitely not “all in our genes”. We are not just looking at death rates; think of the massive burdens of long years of disability and crippling expensive medical intervention. Look at the early development of atheroma in the arteries of our apparently ‘healthy’ young people.Dr Campbell is not the only one to quote some of this evidence. Recent advances in ultrasound examination of arteries by leading-edge medical science teams are exceptionally revealing and important (check out Science Update at Berwick Heart Support). Much arterial disease is reversible by a combination of different nutrition, exercise, smoking cessation and better social relationships.
Not all the evidence is in, but given the evidence that changed him, there is sufficient to change us. Quote from the book; “I started at the opposite end of the spectrum: as a meat-loving diary farmer in my personal life, and an ‘establishment’ scientist in my professional life.” Whatever the areas of study that still require more evidence, do not wait, buy this book and begin to do it. I started 17 years ago after a heart attack. My health gain was enormous.
on 16 July 2013
This book should be compulsory for everyone, simple as that.
It provides a clear guideline and reasoning in a very confusing field, where you hear completely contradictory opinions day by day as for what you can eat and what not. The book's main claim is that a "whole food, plant-based diet" does not only prevent our typical Western diseases (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune diseases, obesity etc) but is even able the treat them when they are present. This claim is MASSIVELY supported by scientific evidence. I found the proof so compelling and even shocking sometimes, that even before I finished reading the book, I already knew that I would make that switch... It's been 1 month now that I am vegan, and I am sure as hell that I will never look back again.
I hate the word "vegan", by the way, because it gives the false impression that someone lives on cabbage and carrots and weird food of little variety. It's completely rubbish. Once you learn the tricks of how to "veganize" your normal, ordinary foods (use chia gel instead of eggs, homemade nut milk instead of cow milk, vegan cheese instead of cheddar etc.), you'll see that you can prepare basically any food you want to. I can't encourage enough my friends to pay a little attention, and take the effort to change a few details, because the benefits are huge.