The China Study
|Author||T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and Thomas M. Campbell II, M.D.|
|Pages||417 (first edition)|
|Followed by||Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition (2013)|
The China Study is a book by T. Colin Campbell, Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, and his son Thomas M. Campbell II, a physician. It was first published in the United States in January 2005 and had sold over one million copies as of October 2013, making it one of America's best-selling books about nutrition.
The China Study examines the link between the consumption of animal products (including dairy) and chronic illnesses such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and bowel cancer. The authors conclude that people who eat a predominantly whole-food, plant-based diet—avoiding animal products as a main source of nutrition, including beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, and milk, and reducing their intake of processed foods and refined carbohydrates—will escape, reduce, or reverse the development of numerous diseases. They write that "eating foods that contain any cholesterol above 0 mg is unhealthy".
The book recommends sunshine exposure or dietary supplements to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D, and supplements of vitamin B12 in case of complete avoidance of animal products. It criticizes low-carb diets, such as the Atkins diet, which include restrictions on the percentage of calories derived from carbohydrates The authors are critical of reductionist approaches to the study of nutrition, whereby certain nutrients are blamed for disease, as opposed to studying patterns of nutrition and the interactions between nutrients.
The book is loosely based on the China–Cornell–Oxford Project, a 20-year study—described by The New York Times as "the Grand Prix of epidemiology"—conducted by the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, Cornell University, and the University of Oxford. T. Colin Campbell was one of the study's directors. It looked at mortality rates from cancer and other chronic diseases from 1973–75 in 65 counties in China; the data was correlated with 1983–84 dietary surveys and blood work from 100 people in each county. The research was conducted in those countries because they had genetically similar populations that tended, over generations, to live and eat in the same way in the same place. The study concluded that counties with a high consumption of animal-based foods in 1983–84 were more likely to have had higher death rates from "Western" diseases as of 1973–75, while the opposite was true for counties that ate more plant-based foods.
Background to the China–Cornell–Oxford Project
The China–Cornell–Oxford Project—the "China-Oxford-Cornell Study on Dietary, Lifestyle and Disease Mortality Characteristics in 65 Rural Chinese Counties," referred to in the book as "the China Study"—was a comprehensive study of dietary and lifestyle factors associated with disease mortality in China. The study compared the health consequences of diets rich in animal-based foods to diets rich in plant-based foods among people who were genetically similar.
The idea for the study began in 1980–81 during discussions between T. Colin Campbell at Cornell and Chen Junshi, Deputy Director of Institute of Nutrition and Food Hygiene at the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. They were later joined by Richard Peto of the University of Oxford—Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology as of 2012—and Li Junyao of the China Cancer Institute.
In 1983 two villages were chosen at random in each of 65 rural counties in China, and 50 families were chosen at random in each village. The dietary habits of one adult member of each family were examined—half male, half female—and the results compared to the death rates in those counties from around 48 forms of cancers and other diseases during 1973–75.
Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, said in his documentary The Last Heart Attack in 2011 that The China Study had changed the way people all over the world eat. Former American President Bill Clinton became a supporter when he adopted a vegan diet after a heart attack.
Wilfred Niels Arnold, professor of biochemistry at the University of Kansas Medical Center, reviewed the book in Leonardo in 2005: "[T]he authors anticipate resistant and hostile sources, sail on with escalating enthusiasm, and furnish a working hypothesis that is valuable. In fact, the surprising data are difficult to interpret in any other way."
In a written debate with Campbell in 2008, nutritionist Loren Cordain argued that "the fundamental logic underlying Campbell's hypothesis (that low [animal] protein diets improve human health) is untenable and inconsistent with the evolution of our own species." Campbell argued that "diet–disease associations observed in contemporary times are far more meaningful than what might have occurred during evolutionary times—at least since the last 2.5 million years or so.".
The book was reviewed by Harriet Hall, a physician and skeptic who writes about alternative medicine, in a blog entry posted on the Science-Based Medicine website in 2009. Hall argued that the book had references which do not support directly the claims made by the authors. She also stated that the book does not explain the exceptions to his data—for example that "stomach cancer rates are higher in China than elsewhere in the world".
- The book itself says it was first published in January 1995, but Amazon says December 11, 2004; see The China Study (first edition, hardback), ISBN 978-1932100389, publication date December 11, 2004, amazon.com.
- Parker-Pope, Tara. "Nutrition Advice From the China Study", The New York Times, January 7, 2011. Bittman, Mark. "Tough Week for Meatless Monday", The New York Times, June 29, 2011. For over one million copies sold, "The China Study", the chinastudy.com, archived October 18, 2013.
- Sherwell, Philip. "Bill Clinton's new diet: nothing but beans, vegetables and fruit to combat heart disease", The Daily Telegraph, October 3, 2010.
- Campbell and Campbell 2005, p. 132.
- Campbell and Campbell 2005, pp. 232, 242, 361ff.
- Campbell and Campbell 2005, pp. 95–96.
- Scrinis, Gyorgy. Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice, Columbia University Press, 2013, p. 16.
- That the book is "loosely based" on this project, see Scrinis 2013, p. 182. Brody, Jane E. "Huge Study Of Diet Indicts Fat And Meat", The New York Times, May 8, 1990 (hereafter Brody (New York Times) 1990), p. 1. Campbell, T. Colin; Chen Junshi; and Parpia, Bandoo. "Diet, lifestyle, and the etiology of coronary artery disease: the Cornell China Study", The American Journal of Cardiology, 82(10), supplement 2, November 1998, pp. 18–21.
- "China-Cornell-Oxford Project", Cornell University, accessed March 31, 2012. "Geographic study of mortality, biochemistry, diet and lifestyle in rural China" Archived September 11, 2010, at the Wayback Machine., Clinical Trial Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit, University of Oxford, accessed March 31, 2012. "Chinese ecological studies Archived July 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., Clinical Trial Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit, University of Oxford, accessed March 31, 2012. Campbell, T. Colin, et al. China: From Diseases of Poverty to Diseases of Affluence. Policy implications of the Epidemiological Transition", Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 27(2), 1992, pp. 133–144 (courtesy link). "Switch to Western diet may bring Western-type diseases", Cornell Chronicle, June 28, 2001.
- Brody (New York Times) 1990.
- Gupta, Sanjay. "Gupta: Becoming heart attack proof", CNN, 25 August 2011.
- Sherwell, Philip. "Bill Clinton's new diet: nothing but beans, vegetables and fruit to combat heart disease", The Daily Telegraph, October 3, 2010. Martin, David S. "From omnivore to vegan: The dietary education of Bill Clinton" (video), CNN, August 18, 2011.
- Arnold, Wilfred Niels. "The China Study", Leonardo, accessed August 29, 2011.
- Cordain, Loren and Campbell, T. Colin. "The Protein Debate", Performance Menu: Journal of Nutrition & Athletic Excellence, 2008, accessed August 28, 2011.
- Hope, Harriet (2009-04-09). "The China Study".
- Yang, Ling (2006-01-07). "Incidence and mortality of gastric cancer in China". World Journal of Gastroenterology. 12 (1): 17–20. doi:10.3748/wjg.v12.i1.17. ISSN 1007-9327. PMC 4077485
. PMID 16440411.
- Campbell, T. Colin. "The China Study", The Huffington Post, June 28, 2008.
- Nestle, Marion. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. University of California Press, 2007. The author curates a personal blog about her book's themes at http://www.foodpolitics.com.
- Nutrition Health Review. "The China study—what it means: an interview with T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.", September 22, 2004.
- Scrinis, Gyorgy. "On the Ideology of Nutritionism", Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, 8(1), Winter 2008, pp. 39–48.
- Naked Food Magazine, quarterly magazine detailing a plant-based diet, with recipes. Website: NakedFoodMagazine.com