“You need to know the truth about food and why eating the right way can save your life.”
– Dr. T. Colin Campbell, PhD
Over the years, I’ve been on many popular diets – Weight Watchers, Atkins, Stillman, South Beach, and Advocare, to name a few. My principal focus has been weight management with a secondary interest in my overall health. I’ve also done my part to prop up the supplements industry. But when I happened upon Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health last Fall, I experienced a seismic shift in how I view my food choices.
Dr. Campbell is a Professor Emeritus of Cornell University and a leading expert on the relationship between diet and disease. Having grown up on a dairy farm, he focused his early scientific investigation on finding ways to improve the quantity and quality of animal protein for human consumption. Yet his research consistently demonstrated a direct and powerful correlation between cancer and diets rich in animal protein.
The China Study lays out Dr. Campbell’s trail of evidence along with the scientific arguments to support a low protein, whole foods, plant based diet. According to Dr. Campbell, low protein diets reduce the risk of cancer by:
- Decreasing enzyme activity that produces the toxins that can transform normal DNA into cancerous DNA
- Reducing the toxin’s capacity to permeate cell walls and mutate the cell’s DNA
- Lowering the growth rate of mutated cells
- Thwarting the development of cell clusters that grow into tumors
In one study, animal test subjects were exposed to a high level of carcinogens while fed a low protein diet (5% of calories). Their counterparts were exposed to a low level of carcinogens while fed a high protein diet (20% of calories). The high-protein subjects developed more tumors! Furthermore, tumor growth could be turned on and off by varying the amount of animal-based protein in the diet. In short, nutrition had more to do with cancer promotion than exposure to cancer-producing material.
Studies conducted with plant based protein demonstrated that these sources did not produce cancerous cell clusters even at higher rates of consumption. Admittedly, plant-based protein is not absorbed as efficiently as animal protein. Yet Dr. Campbell argues that greater efficiency does not equal greater health. The slow and steady synthesis of plant protein provides the human body what it needs to sustain itself while minimizing the risk of life-threatening disease.
Dr. Campbell’s research also includes evidence from large-scale epidemiological studies. In fact, the book gets its name from a study that examined the diets, lifestyles, and disease characteristics of 6,500 people in 65 Chinese counties. Jointly funded by Cornell University, the University of Oxford, and the Chinese government, it confirmed that communities adhering to plant based diets had far fewer incidents of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic (and deadly) diseases than those that consumed a diet rich in animal protein.
As I read through the book, I was particularly disheartened by research that drew a correlation between cow milk consumption and bone health. Given the risk of developing osteoporosis with aging, I’d always prided myself on the amount of dairy I’d included in my diet. In fact, bone health was my excuse for eating lots of ice cream! But according to Dr. Campbell, dairy products elevate the acidity in my blood stream. The body corrects the imbalance by leaching calcium from my bones to neutralize the acid. Yikes!
When I finished the book, I encouraged my husband to read it. Within a couple of weeks, we converted to a predominantly whole food plant based diet. I’m working through a handful of vegan cookbooks to develop my culinary skills and figure out what we like to eat.
I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Dr. Campbell’s book or check it out from your library to get the full story. If you don’t have time to read the book, you can catch a glimpse of Dr. Campbell’s work in the documentary Forks Over Knives, available on streaming Netflix as of this writing. It’s very well done and just may change your life.
For more information, check out the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.