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The China Study: Food for Thought

The China StudyLast month I read The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. I had been putting it off for some time, partially because I had been afraid of what I would learn. Working within health and wellness, however, I knew I’d be doing myself, as well as my readers a disservice if I didn’t push my “fears” aside, and crack the book.

The China Study has been acclaimed my countless scientists, doctors, and experts in health and nutrition for its comprehensive look at nutrition and its impact on our health. The premise of the book is that western disease (read: cancer, diabetes – both Type I and II, obesity, autoimmune disease including arthritis, and even mental illness such as Alzheimer‘s), is prevalent in societies that consume large amounts of animal protein, with the worst offender being dairy – casein protein. More specifically, if an individual is genetically predisposed to get any of these diseases, their risk for getting them increases with the level of animal protein in their diet. On the other hand, those individuals who consume whole, plant-based diets are less likely to fall victim to these diseases. Why? It is about gene expression.

Many people will argue that they have bad genes, that they are genetically predisposed to get these diseases. However, gene expression is what causes the disease to manifest itself. And the China Study argues that animal protein increases the likelihood of gene expression. For someone who has always loved animal protein, including cheese and meat, this was a hard pill to swallow, but the research presented in Dr. Campbell’s work is beyond convincing. What’s more, Dr. Campbell admits that he too, who grew up on a dairy farm eating animal protein throughout most of his life, never imagined that the food he was used to eating was such a problem.

Although the book is called The China Study, the research goes far beyond Asia. Studies around the subject of animal protein’s impact on gene expression have been done all over the world, including right here in the United States. Dr. Campbell argues that the secret to solving and “curing” much of western disease doesn’t lie in a drug or science, it lies in nutrition. Food is Medicine.

I’ve been slowly moving my diet from full omnivore to vegetarian over the last year. Now, I’m starting to focus mostly on a whole, plant-based diet. My theory is: what harm is there in doing this? Why wouldn’t I try to decrease my risk for disease? I love fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes and grains, so why not eat more of them and less of the foods that may put me at risk? Whether or not you completely believe the research presented in the China Study, we all know that there is indisputable evidence that plant based foods positively impact our health.

Because I think that The China Study and its message is so important, I’m going to probably write about this in the upcoming weeks, delving into various aspects I think are worthy of your time in reading.

Have you read the China Study? What are your thoughts on the subject?

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  • So…. you’re saying that I need to not eat a cup of yogurt every single day? I mean, I moved to Switzerland. How am I supposed to realistically cut down on the dairy?!?

    I have not read this book, but the findings seem reasonable to me. The Alzheimer’s result surprises me, but on cancer and diabetes, I suppose this would be the expected value. I’ve greatly reduced the amount of meat I eat, but easing up on the milk and cheese will be a tough challenge. But it sounds like it’s worth the effort.

    • Brett

      I can’t begin to tell you. My husband, who you know, has totally overhauled his eating habits. He says he feels MUCH better than he ever has before. Turns out his focus is better, his digestive tract is smoother, and the list goes on. I’ve fallen in love with making almond milk, and I’ve now been replacing chicken with beans. It isn’t really so difficult, once you commit. At LEAST you aren’t in Argentina anymore where red meat is the thing. But yes, the yogurt should probably be more of a treat 🙂 I started having coconut ice cream too…which is quite delicious 🙂

  • Jessica

    Thanks Brett for summarizing The China Study, I’ve owned the book for many years now and also avoided reading it for fear of the changes it would compel me to take. Is there any comment on the quality of meats that are consumed (organic, farm raised, etc) and what about fish protein? Your idea of reducing exposure (i can’t bear to go totally vegetarian) is a great compromise.

    • Brett

      Believe it or not, he states that the exposure we fear around pesticides and other so-called “carcinogens” is actually less of a threat than animal protein. The animal protein is what triggers the carcinogens to become active, while plant-based foods will suppress them. As far as fish protein, he states that it should be “minimized” as opposed to “avoided” as with poultry, dairy, meat, and eggs.

  • Florence

    Yes! Thank you for bringing this out in the open! I have not read this book but have seen much litterature on the subject and am convinced. Our western society eats way too much meat and is gorged with dairy products, mostly with the push of economic lobbies.

    I also live in Switzerland and even though cows are one of the national symbols, one can find large varieties of products (milks, cheeses, etc) which are not of animal source, in any supermarket.

    My husband is still not really buying into this, and I being the person who cooks for the house, I compromise : red meat once a week (alternate with poultry), fish once a week, lots of veggies, nuts, dried fruits, whole grains. For my daughter (6 this year) she can eat some yogurt, but I vary the type of milk (cow, goat, almond, etc). Cheese is available but in small quantities. I was really put off last week when she told me a woman from “Swiss Milk” has come to the school to talk about the super benfits of milk (cow milk only of course)! I did tell the teacher I found that unappropriate. Urgh!

  • Brett

    Ah yes…Marketing, government and corporation agendas. All of these hinder our ability to help our societies be the best they can be. Pretty ironic when you think about it. I personally am hopeful that more and more people are becoming more and more aware…which will ultimately drive the change. There are a lot of great small movements that are growing and that is going to definitely impact the future.

  • Scott

    Read the book last year at the recommendation of a friend, who went vegan after reading it. He quit all of his cholesterol and blood pressure medicines shortly afterwards. The evidence on dairy caseins was so compelling I gave up cow’s milk and ice cream, along with eliminating beef. My wife and two sons switched with me to a 75% vegetarian diet. We actually love eating this way, after a short adjustment. And I feel better and lost a few pounds, too. If you’re on the fence, take the advice of the book and just try eating vegan for one month.