Written by T. Colin Campbell
Benbella books- 2005
The China Study describes a monumental survey of diet and death rates from a variety of diseases in both, China, the developing world and the western world, and explores its significance and implications for nutrition and health.
In looking at the typical America, we find that we are spending far more, per capita on health care than any other society in the world, and yet Americans fall prey to numerous diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart failure at a rate greater than societies that spend far less. Nearly half of all Americans have health problems that requires them to take a prescription medicine every week. Why is the western world and especially America so disease prone if it spends more for healthcare than any other society? Could it be that diet and nutrition have a far greater role than is currently being admitted by the medical establishment?
The main contention of the book is that societies that ate the most animal based foods got the most chronic diseases and societies that ate the most plant based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic diseases. As protein is an important part of the diet, the study found that not all proteins are created equal. For example, casein, which makes up 87% of cow’s milk protein, promotes all stages of the cancer process as does animal protein in the form of meat. Plant protein on the other hand is the safest of all proteins to consume, and does not promote the same cancer effects as do meats and dairy. The study looks at statistics, for example, according to the American Heart Association over 60 million Americans suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. The AHA recommends that people lower fat consumption, but does not make the distinction between good fats such as flaxseed or fish oil versus bad fats such as meat and dairy. The most dramatic recent finding is that heart disease can be prevented and even reversed by a healthy diet, yet the medical establishment reluctantly accepts that nutrition is able to prevent heart disease, and strongly denies nutrition’s ability to reverse such a disease.
Science sees animal protein as “high quality” because it mostly has the right amounts of each of the needed amino acids, and can be used very efficiently. Plant proteins on the other hand are seen as “low quality” protein as they may be lacking in one or more of the essential amino acids. However, greatest efficiency of protein absorption does not equal to greatest health. There is now a mountain of compelling research showing that “low quality” plant protein, which allows for slow but steady synthesis of new proteins, is the healthiest type of protein. In addition, eating a variety of plant proteins as found in vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds can provide the body all of the amino acids and therefore not require the need for animal protein.
The book finds that societies with the lowest animal protein consumption usually do not suffer the same diseases of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and autoimmune diseases as in societies that consume great amounts of animal protein. These societies suffered more from infectious diseases and conditions of nature and were overall healthier otherwise. The study also showed that low protein diets also reduced cancer tumors by prohibiting their growth, in other words, low protein intake dramatically decreased tumor initiation. Research has shown that for the most part, cancer does not occur unless we consume foods that promote and nurture tumor development. The study has positively correlated high protein consumption, especially animal protein, with a high incidence of our typical western diseases. That begs the question as to whether we can control disease through nutrition? Studies published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute confirmed that nutrients from animal based foods increased tumor development, while nutrients from plant based foods decreased tumor development.
Studies done on both rats and humans have shown that high protein consumption, in excess of the amount needed for growth, promotes cancer. High protein consumption is seen as a diet with approximately 15-20% of calories coming from protein, whereas low protein consumption of 5-10% of daily calories did not promote cancer. That translates into 50-60 grams of protein for a low protein diet versus 70-100 grams of protein for a high protein diet. The problem now becomes that as developing populations accumulate wealth, their eating habits change and more people die from “rich” diseases of affluence than “poor” diseases of poverty. Plant based diets, in addition to their better quality of protein also provide valuable fiber. Fiber has been shown to help prevent colon cancer and also helps with lowering blood cholesterol.
Overall, the book shows that there is a mountain of scientific evidence that proves that the healthiest diet one can possibly consume is a high-carbohydrate diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. One has to make sure, however, that the carbohydrates consumed are from beans and whole grains as opposed to refined and processed carbohydrates. In summation, the same diet that is good for the prevention of cancer is also good for the prevention of heart disease, as well as obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s, and a diet low in animal protein and dairy consumption can benefit anyone, regardless of genes or personal dispositions.