Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell et al

My cousin is a physician who practiced for many years in rural New Mexico and when he learned that I started writing about food, he suggested I pick up Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s The ChinaStudy. I should have known immediately how influential this book is by the waiting list at the library alone; when I first requested the book, I was number 138 in line to receive it.  Finally it came in late September and wow, was it worth the wait.

I started drafting this post when I was about half way through the book so I could note which points Dr. Campbell makes that I wanted to highlight and which statistics were especially interesting. When I finished the book, though, I realized that just quoting statistics and numbers for you wouldn’t do his work justice. What The China Study represents is not just a meta analysis of literally hundreds of nutrition studies but a revolution in how we should think about food. I’ve read many books about nutrition lately that range from discussing where our food comes from, how much energy it takes to produce it, and the impact on the environment of our diets but what Dr. Campbell does is recount evidence of how a certain diet can reverse diabetes, cancer, obesity, autoimmune diseases and so much more.

It sounds incredible, right? But the only incredible thing to me is that I didn’t know about this before reading the book. A whole-foods, plant-based diet, says Dr. Campbell, can lower cholesterol, cure heart disease and reduce heart events like angina, stroke, heart attacks, and on and on. Study after study show that cutting out animal proteins (meat as well as dairy and eggs) can drastically change your health and longevity.

I said I wasn’t going to recount statistics to you but I lied – some of them are just too important:
  • High animal fat diets are closely correlated with a high incidence of cancer
  • The whole-foods, plant-based diet is as or, in some studies, drastically more effective in preventing future heart events in heart disease sufferers than surgery and expensive medications
  • Those that follow this diet are less than half as likely to develop Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
  • A study of obese individuals found that they could lose, on average, 5.5% of their body weight after only three weeks eating as many calories as they want but only whole and plant-based foods
  • Cow milk consumption has been closely tied to multiple sclerosis incidence
And these are just the ones I remembered off the top of my head because the facts go on and on.

This is usually where, when I write book reviews, I tie back what I’ve read to eating locally. Though that can be easily done here, I’m going to leave that up to the reader because the book is so much more than that. I intend to buy copies for all my family and friends for the holidays because what Dr. Campbell has to say is just that important. No other book I’ve picked up since starting this food adventure has affected my way of thinking about what I eat more than this work so go out and get a copy (or, better yet, use your local library!).

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