Craig Payton/ Book Report: The China Study

by Craig Payton

The China Study

Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long Term Health.

Why this book?

I encountered this book 6 months or more ago and was initially skeptical of the large claims made on the cover.  I have seen so many books about diet and weight loss over the last 20 years that I have become quite jaded.  I have a friend here in Atwater who keeps himself quite busy studing various materials including this book which was recommended by his wife.  She has taken the message of this book to heart and  has made significant dietary changes on the basis of the information presented.  The material  in this book is directly related to the industry in which I have been employed for the last 20 years.

What did I learn from this book?

From the forward;

“The inescapable fact is that certain people are making an awful lot of money today selling foods that are unhealthy.  They want you to keep eating the foods they sell, even though doing so makes you fat, depletes  your vitality and shortens and degrades your life.  They want you docile, compliant and ignorant.  they do not want you informed, active and passionately alive, and they are quite willing to spend billions of dollars annually to accomplish their goals.”

The above is a bold indictment of a majority of the food business in America and the world today.  Although the primary focus of this book is Animal based vs Plant based diet the points made above are also well supported.

For example;

National Geographic kids magazine is filled with ads for Twinkies, M&M’s, Frosted Flakes, Froot loops,  Hostesss Cup Cakes, and Xtreme Jello Pudding snacks.  Across the country doctors receive a magazine published by the American Academy of Family Physicians.  A free 243 page magazine sent to all 50,000 practicing family physicians in the US which is full of full page ads for McDonalds, Dr Pepper, chocolate pudding and Oreo cookies.

This book “The China Study” is based upon the longest most comprehensive nutrition study ever conducted.  The author T. Colin Campbell has been in the forefront of research into nutrition for decades and has first hand knowledge of the origins of the data points which led to many nutritional fads over the last several decades.  His work dispells many myths.

The most important myth he dispells in a thorough and convincing manner is that which says you must eat animal protein to best sustain health and wellness.  The idea that plant based protein is not only just as effective for assembling the building blocks of the body but actually much healthier is put forth and credibly supported over and over again.  In my experience the most effective way to market your product is to convince your customer that they will literally die without it.  This is the myth of animal based protein which exists in our culture.  Dr Cambell convincingly proves the concept that not only is a whole foods plant based diet (his term though unwieldy is used over and over in an effort to accurately portray the proper approach to the diet he is promoting) marvelously healthy, but that the animal based diet is likely the proximal cause of ALL the dieseases so prevelant in the relatively affluent modern “western” cultures.

Having been involved in the natural foods and nutrition supplement industries for over 20 years I have been exposed to a wide variety of data and opinions about nutrition.  The idea of the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) is not new to me.  I have examined and rejected the vegetarian approach as a one size fits all concept that does not work for everyone.  Also, I heavily bought into the concept that all vitamin supplements are a beneficial and helpful way to augment a healthy lifestyle and perhaps even promote longevity and prevent or forestall certain disease.  The data in this book shos very clearly that the most effective way to prevent the most common diseases such as heart disease and cancer is to adopt a diet comprissed of no more than 10% of protein from animal based foods, and ideally to bring that number as close to 0% as possible.  Dr Campbell has demonstrated in peer reviewed robust and repeated research that it is possible to turn on and off cancer progression simply by adding or taking away animal proteins from the diet!  He has epidemiological data showing the prevalence of dieseases well correlated to animal product consumption across the planet.  He shows that the idea of genetics as prime cause in cancer and heart disease as a false one when considering the more direct causal connection which can be attributed to diet.  He show how populations of non western peoples will succumb to western dieseases at the same rate as westerners soon after adopting the western diet, refuting the postulated genetic protection attributed to certain populations.  These populations which have greater health and longevity such as the Japanese do not necessarily have better genetics but rather a much lower rate of animal protein consumption.  When the animal protein consumption rises with teh adoption of a more affluent, western and animal based diet, the pattern of disease common in the west is also found in those populations.

Further into the book Dr Campbell discusses solutions.  One of the conssitent roadblocks described in the book is the unwillingness of the medical establishment to accept ANY correlation between diet and disease.  Particular resistance exists when entertaining the idea of diet for the treatment of disease.  The common paradigm of drugs and surgery as the only answers are clearly clouding the perceptions of the decision makers in the medical establishement.   Dr Campbell reveals that great improvements in health have been achieved relatively quickly and easily  by adopting the ietary recommendations.  The problem is that so many of his colleagues consider such dietary ideas as impractical and radical.  The question must be asked, which is more radical, so called “extreme” dietary changes or for example open heart surgery?

One important conclusion which can be drawn from the information presented in this book is about fat and cholesterol. For quite some time now it has been accepted wisdom that reducing fat is the surest way to create good health.  Fat and cholesterol were seen as the main problems.  What was being avoided was to come to the conclusion that fat and cholesterol were clear markers of consumption of animal based foods.  Animal based food consumption is so basic to the affluent westen diet that it became impossible to suggest that this could be the core problem.  A startling result of the over focus on fat as the problem is the resulting overconsumption of low fat animal based products.  The result can be an actual increase of animal based proteins in the diet.  Also this over focus on fat has led many to aboid good quality plant based fats which very likely have no risks associated with them.

At the end of the chapter “lessons from China” Dr Campbell dispells another very powerful myth.  It is widely udnerstood that in order to promote muscular growth and overall growth potential in to adulthool one must consume adequte protein.  This idea while sound is usually understood to mean the necessity of consuming animal protein.  The China study shows clearly the correlation between sufficient protein consumption and reaching full potential body heeight and size.  However this sutdy also shows that this is being achieved on a diet with <10% of protein coming from animal sources.  The association of poverty and lac of sufficient protein is clear.  Poverty and lack of sanitation contribute to insufficient protein consumption and assimilation of any kind.  It has been shown false that animal protein is nesessary for full healthy development.  While bias towards animal based food exists, there is now solid science showing it is not necessary for the very important role of generating full growth potential as well as muscular growth.  In the book the question i s asked “why is it that people in developing nations, who consume little or no animal based foods are consistently smaller than western people? “The answers provided by the data shown in the China Study is that plant based diets in poor areas of the world usually have insufficient variety, inadequate quality and quantity and are associated with poor public health conditions where childhood diseases are prevalent.  Under these conditions, growht is stunted and people do not reach their genetic potential for adult body size.  Low adult height and weight were strongly associated with areas having high mortality rates for pulmonary tuberculosisim, parasitic diseases, pneumonia, intenstinal obstruction and digestive diseases.

Campbell goes on to sum up the conclusions drawn from this research which is not limited to the China Study. “the same low animal protein, low fate diet that helps prevent obesity also allows people to reach their full growth potential while working other wonders as well.  It better regulates blood cholesterol and reduces heart disease and variety of cancers.

What are the odds that all of these associations (and many others) favoring a plant based diet are due to pure chance?  It is extremeley unlikely to say the least.  Such consistency of evidence across a broad range of associations is rare in scientific research…it demands our attention.”

In the following chapters the author goes into great detail addressing specific disease categories:

Heart Disease


Common Cancers:Breast, Prostate, large bowel (colon and rectal),

Autoimmune diseases

Bone, Kidney, Eye and Brain Diseases

In each area he points to strong correlations between each category and the benefits of a plant based whole foods diet vs. the detriments of an animal protein based diet.  Taken as a whole I find that he brings into question the whole medical system as well as a great deal of the assumptions and advice of the nutrition supplement industry, especially various fad diets and dietary tweaks which have come and gone.  He points out the studies which have never called into questio the animal based diet because they started with the assumption that it was not the problem.  When the western “low” level for cholesterol corresponds to the “high” level in the China Study population we are forced to call into quesation our assumptions.  When it comes to a low fat diet, how low is low enought when you still take 805 of your protein from animal based foods.

This book is organized into four parts;

1.  The China Study

2.  Diseases of Affluence

3.  The Good Nutrition Guide

4.  Whey haven’t you heard this before?

Again Dr Campbell is in a unique position to answer the question posed in part 4.  In my opinion  this section of the book is vitally important.  First of all he establishes his very strong credentials and history throughout the book.  With this long history he is able to provide a unique context to the various dietary tweaks which have been pursued over the last several decades.  Beyond that he is able to show how good science can be misinterpreted in the media and popular culture to draw conclusions which are not evident and even to create products which are not necessary or effective.  The chapter “Scientific Reductionism” is essential reading for anyone, such as myself who has been involved in the nutritional supplement industry.  It points out the severe limitations of looking for a single cause or single solution to complex problems.

For those who wonder if the science in this book is sound , and who wonder who to believe, the chapters “Science-The Dark Side” and “The “Science” of Industry” are essential to understand how clear scientific conclusions can be muddied when parties with and agenda exercise their power to protect a particular industry, specifically the dairy and meat lobbies.  The medical establishment which makes a tremendous amount of money on cardiac surgery, which is very lucrative compared to the dietary approach, also is shown to largely turn a blind eye to the effectivness of the nutritional approach over surgery.

I have already recommended this book to my wife and brother.  My brother has already begun to adjust his diet as have I, withing the constraints of my current life situation.  Although  I have been involved in the natural foods business directly since 1988 I have often ridiculed the strict vegetarian solution.

Leave a Reply


Copyright 2019 The Michael G. Santos Foundation