Book Review: The China Study

The China Study, written by scientist T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and his son, Thomas M. Campbell II, presents research and studies on the relationship between the consumption of animal products (both meat and dairy) and chronic illnesses including heart disease, several types of cancer, diabetes, and auto-immune diseases.

Colin Campbell grew up on a farm and began his career in nutrition with a pro-animal protein bias. Like most people, he was taught that meat and dairy were an important part of daily meals. It was during his research in the Philippines that his opinion started to change. He participated in studies and experiments which lead him to conclude that people who eat a whole foods, plant-based diet and avoid eating animal products can reduce or in some cases even reverse the development of chronic diseases.

One of the diseases that Colin addresses in the book is the number one killer in the United States, cardiovascular disease. Despite the continual advancements in medicine and technology, he states “it seems that we simply have gotten slightly better at postponing death from heart disease, but we have done nothing to stop the rate at which our hearts become diseased.” He goes on to speak about high costs of heart surgeries on the health care system and the high risks and poor results that patients face. As with the other illnesses discussed in his book, Colin prescribes a whole foods, plant-based diet to both prevent and treat heart disease.

This book as it presents a lot of information that the average person has likely never heard or never taken seriously before. Most of us are so set in our beliefs on food and nutrition (myself included) and don’t stop to question what we were taught as a child. You may find the book repetitive (annoyingly so) and that Colin is constantly harping about a whole foods, plant-based diet. He does defend himself by saying …

“If I have a conversation with someone about a single study showing the protective effect of fruits and vegetables on heart disease, they may agree that it’s all very nice for fruits and vegetables, but they will probably still go home to meatloaf and gravy … If I keep talking and go through this process not only for heart disease, but obesity, Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, it’s quite possible that people may never eat meatloaf and gravy again.”

Another point I found interesting, since as soon as you tell someone you don’t eat animal products they undoubtedly ask if you are taking supplements, is that Colin talks about how you can get all the nutrients your body needs front plant-based food (except B-12). All you have to do is eat a variety of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit! He further says that “isolating nutrients and trying to get benefits equal to those of whole foods reveals an ignorance of how nutrition operates in the body.”

Everyone one should give this book a read if only to realize that maybe … just maybe … we should be critical of all information we are presented about nutrition.


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