The China Study
Back in the ‘70s I was pretty certain there were two things causing our western diseases: excess consumption of processed foods and animal products. For almost forty years I have been a proponent of eating whole foods and eating lower on the food chain. But I really did not have a very strong body of evidence to back up my assertions.
T. Colin Campbell (along with his son) has come to the rescue with the delivery of this “bible” on healthy nutrition in 2006. He is as heretical as those who dared challenge the earth was flat and as revolutionary to the science of nutrition as Copernicus was demonstrating that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around.
This book was misnamed in my opinion. I had heard about “The China Study” many times and passed it off as some boring scholarly work that looked at the Chinese. Of course, had I read the bi-lines, I may have been slightly more intrigued. “The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted,” reads the headline. “Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health,’ reads the bi-line. (Thanks Mary, for dropping this book in my lap.)
This is not just one study. This is a lifetime of research, a compendium of information of the links between diets and health. The research is backed by 35 pages of footnote references. All of it leads to one general conclusion:
Eating a whole foods, plant-based diet will reduce the probability of acquiring the ravages of western disease. In the section of “Eating Right”, Campbell claims from all this research that eating a whole foods, plant-based diet will help you:
In Campbell’s early research years, he stumbled on an interesting correlation between aflatoxin and cancer and discovered that by lowering the amount of animal protein in the diet, the cancer could be turned off. Many years of lab research bore this out in rats and mice. Using epidemiological research he continued to see the correlation over and over again. The China Study itself represents the largest human population study ever.
Now you may be thinking that you could never slog through all this research. It is written in a easy to understand format and not presented as a research paper. It is rather a synopsis of a large body of work including that of many other researches and the convergence of the same conclusions. He reviews the work of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s research on cardiac disease prevention and reversal with a similar dietary approach and Dr. John McDougall’s dietary approach to disease prevention.
So you may be wondering why we have not heard much about it? Campbell spends part IV of the book precisely answering this question. Using much of his own experience and that of others working in science, medicine, and government, he shows the system at it’s ugliest. Industry and medicine do not have your best health options as a priority. It is what makes money is what is most important. But the politics of comfort, power and ego all come into play. Reading this last section may upset you, but you will certainly understand why we have not moved forward in health in this country. And unfortunately the rest of the world wants to be like us.
If you care about your health and that of your family, read this book.
More information about The China Study at http://www.thechinastudy.com/about.html
Click here to purchase your copy.
Last Updated (Saturday, 17 July 2010 19:37)
Howard F. Lyman with Glen Merzer
Last Updated (Friday, 25 June 2010 13:07)
Being in the business of helping to change the human diet, I figured Michael Pollan’s book was a must read. I have to say I was not disappointed.
Pollan takes a journalistic adventure into reviewing the source of four different meals; a traditional trip to McDonalds, a meal made from Whole Foods, a meal built from a new/traditional pastoral farm and a hunter/gatherer experience.
The McDonalds meal tracks back to our industrial corn complex that asserts a vision of high efficiency and productivity at the cost of the long term impacts of soil fertility, real costs of nutrition, health and pollution. To read this section, will have almost any reader questioning whether they should continue to eat any industrial product again…which unfortunately is most of the food on the shelf. Anyone who has not explored the source of the food they eat, should at the very least read this section of the book.
Looking at the organic and alternative food systems, Pollan addresses some of the issues of sustainability and complexity to whether we really get ahead with the alternatives. The food tastes better and is probably better for you but what is the real cost. Industrial organics may only be one step better and have their own detractors such as energy cost and dependence on industrial culture.
A look at an alternative farm in the east, Michael spends time learning how one farmer blends all the aspects of building food on healthy grass and making it sustainable through innovation and careful care of the land. A great idea, but probably not very reproducible due to the high degree of complexity to run the operation. And it still begs the question of the ethics of eating animals.
The last meal, perhaps his most satisfying is one that he gathers and hunts for himself.
Michael Pollan raises very important questions about our ever changing and evolving food system in our culture and points to the anxiety raised trying to understand what to eat and how to eat. By his own admission, this is a book more about the pleasures of eating and not the solutions to feeding a hungry world. But it is a great start for the curious human who wants to venture into understanding more about where their food comes from.
But Pollan's over all conclusion is: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Great advise for our planet today.
If you want to skip reading the book. Watch the movie "Food, Inc." It is pretty much the same message.
Available here: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
Last Updated (Friday, 25 June 2010 12:59)