The China Study

Advice on diet and health is not hard to come by. The books flood the market places and the fads come and go: they come because we worry about these matters and they go because most of the advice on offer is utter bollocks. We get told to cut out carbs or sugars or fats or we get told to eat more carbs or sugars or fats. There are odd little snippets such as tomatoes preventing cancer or peanuts causing it that do the rounds, so that when everything is weighed up, especially us, it's hard to know what to do. Not that it matters, as the regimes in most of the health books are completely unsustainable in the long term and therefore, at best, will only make temporary changes in our ability to run up stairs or observe our private parts without a mirror. Below this cacophany of voices though, there is a constant quiet refrain of advice that all appears to be from people singing from the same song book: eat lots of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and lay off the animal fat. It's a tune which T Colin Campbell has turned the volume up on. Right round the dial to the part where there is a warning that you should turn on the decibel limiter. This is not a book to pick up if you want easy solutions to your health issues. It's not a book that you should read if you hope that a temporary diversion from your usual eating practices will knock off a couple of pounds in time for the bikini season. It's a book you might read if you are serious about your health. It's also a book you might read if you like horror stories, especially your own.

What is seriously scary about this book is that it is so impressively researched. Colin Campbell is one of America's most respected nutritional scientists and the book is based partly on the most comprehensive scientific study of the relationship of lifestyle and health ever conducted. Over a very long period, Cambell has belted out more scientific literature than you could shake a stick at, unless you were exceptionally proficient at stick shaking, but this is not a book for scientists. It is for the people who might read it and benefit from it: the inhabitants of Western countries who have adopted dietary habits which are slowly but surely killing them.

In the West we spend more on healthcare than ever, but our health statistics get steadily worse. Over centuries we have found ways to free ourselves from the diseases of poverty, and instead afflict ourselves with the diseases of excess: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and stroke. Campbell carefully and convincingly spells out the links between various dietary factors and these diseases. He explains in simple terms the mechanisms by which these diseases, particularly cancer, arise, and he suggests strategies by which these diseases might be prevented or, in some cases, reversed. It's a hopeful book but also a challenging and shocking one, for it seems that some of the orthodoxies we have lived with all our lives are demonstrably false. In particular, lots of red meat, fresh milk and protein won't make you healthy wealthy and wise. Quite the opposite, in fact.

His recommendation is for a plant based diet, as free as possible from processed simple carbohydrates. That is, he is not giving advice we haven't all heard before. His new angle is the meticulous research and the massive tidal wave of evidence collected over several decades and across many different cultures.

One of the troubles with the crowded market in nutrition literature is that people will look at this book and treat it as yet another fad du jour. It deserves better than that, as it might possibly save a few lives. Campbell's advice is that change in lifestyle needs to be radical, long term and permanent if changes in health are to follow. This is one of the things that distinguishes The China Study from most other nutrition best sellers, and is what makes it likely that most people will try to avoid it.

This is a book that I hope everyone I care about reads. The ones I don't care about? Well.... have you heard about the Atkins diet.....?


Catherine said…
Dad does not like green eggs and ham, he does not like them, Sam I am!
daharja said…
The China Study is impressive, I agree - and really worth a read.

But the one book that I can honestly say made a huge difference to my health and wellbeing is Joel Fuhrman's Eat To Live.

After trying a gazillion diets and trying to improve my health after various major health issues, which I won't go into here, it's the only book the made sense to me, because it is based on logic and common-sense, and none of those whacked out food fads.

I lost 25+ kgs over 3 years ago on changing to Fuhrman's nutritional plan, reaching a healthy weight, and have never looked back. I have kept the weight off - something really rare in the "dieting" world.

Two of my close friends also followed the plan and had similar success.

We all saw our cholesterol and blood pressure drop, various minor complains disappear (my eczema, hayfever and asthma all went, never to return), and (of all the weird things) our eyesight improved! Go figure.

Fuhrman's nutritional advice is mainly, but not exclusively, vegetarian, and pretty much gluten- and dairy-free, based on whole foods. He has worked with T Colin Campbell, who recommends Fuhrman's diet.

These days, I follow Fuhrman about 80% of the time, so I can still enjoy ordinary junky food when I want (I love my hot chips and pizza, which are definitely NOT Fuhrman-approved!). I just make his plan the bulk of my eating style most days.

Give the book a read. It's probably in the library, as it is not a new release, but if not, his other book, based on the same dietary advice (but just an update of the presentation) is called Eat For Health, and that is in the central library.
VenDr said…
Thanks for that, Daharja. So Joel Fuhrman recommends a plant based, gluten free dairy free whole food diet huh? As does Ian Gawler. As does T Colin Campbell. As does anyone of the many others with dietary advice that actually works to bring health and wholeness. I am very grateful for your advice on the book, which i will certainly have a look at. You might also like to look at Craig Hassed's The Essence Of Health. Another research based book which takes a similar line, but is broader in scope than just diet: it looks at a number of other lifestyle issues as well. I see from your blog that you are in the Cathedral choir. I'm in the cathedral from time to time. You can't miss me, I'm usually wearing a white frock, a rope and a fetching coloured scarf. I'll look out for you. Maybe we could have a chat sometime
daharja said…
Hi VenDr - You see the same recommendations again and again, don't you? Fuhrman worked for me and for my friends, so that's the best recommendation I can give.

I'll have a look at the Hassad - it sounds like a good book. Thanks for the recommendation.

Yes, I sing with Cathedral Choir - and love it :-) I'm the tall Soprano, and if I see you there in your lovely duds I'll certainly say hello.

Take care.
Val said…
Well written Kelvin! I have recommended this book to soooo.. many people.
I feel great and never hungry eating this way!
KMY said…
Hi - I'll read the China Study and Catherine's suggestion as well re Joel Fuhrman but I can't imagine either offer any more than my hero Adelle Davis who wrote in the 40s & 50s about eating right. Ann Wigmore had a lot of good to say about eating well. They both have been walking this talk since long before I was born. Simple, basic truths about what nutrition the body needs to perform optimally. But regardless of the messenger, it is terrific to see folks trying to get past the marketing and get back to real food.

In general, mankind, since the improvement in cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires. ~Benjamin Franklin
VenDr said…
You're right Kathy, Adele Davis was saying it all a very long time ago. The China Study represents the might of modern research getting in behind and proving beyond a shadow of doubt what all these people have been saying for decades.
Liz said…
What a surprise to land on your blog and see a photo of St. Clair Beach.

Just wanted to add my 2 cents on 'The China Study". I only recently discovered it and have been passing it on to family.

I have been following a completely plant based diet for 4 weeks now and my husband has followed it for the last 2 weeks. He told me today that he is feeling so much better than he did. He wasn't ill before just didn't feel well for no reason we could uncover.
I have found eating this way delicious although it does take a bit more planning and cooking.
I also have a book by Joel Fuhrman called "Fasting & Eating" which is along the same lines.
Do you go to the Vegan Cafe The Circadian Rhythm in St. Andrews Street?