Although the so-called “China Study” forms the basis for the conclusions in this book, the book goes well beyond that one extensive study. The China Study is about the connection between what we eat and what diseases we get, more specifically about how animal protein can actually trigger disease. The subtitle does not overstate the case when it refers to the book’s research as having “startling implications”.
Campbell has been on the forefront of thought and research about nutrition since the start of his career. He grew up in a farm family, where he learned that meat and more meat is good for everyone and where drinking milk was a way of life, which makes his position in this book all the more remarkable.
In spite of Campbell’s long-held beliefs in animal protein he kept his eyes and mind open when studying nutrition. Early in his career he discovered some studies that challenged his beliefs and instead of concluding, as did others, that there must have been mistakes in the studies, he himself conducted study after study and was then able to link animal-food diets with cancer, heart disease, and a large number of other diseases. When he naively brought his discoveries to the institutions where he worked, hoping for the go-ahead to do more and to get the word out, he was quietly shoved aside.
This book, therefore, goes beyond telling us the results, telling us to eat a whole-foods plant-based diet to avoid or help stabilize heart disease, diabetes, cancer, auto-immune diseases, and more. In it we find the proof, as definitive as it can be. We read of many studies, conducted by many different organizations, all concluding that diets consisting of more than 10% animal protein is bad for health. Not just bad for heart or diabetes patients, but bad for everyone.
Not only do these studies provide overwhelming proof of the connection between animal protein and health, some of them actually explain why. Campbell describes the specific mechanism that causes our bodies to use animal proteins in a way that can harm us.
Campbell also explains the political and medical climate. We’ve heard it before and here it is again: Industry controls government institutions as well as educational and medical institutions. Industry has the money and uses it wisely to change results and recommendations, to water down any suggestion that the standard American diet is not what it should be. Thus the government recommendations for healthy eating continue to recommend tiny changes rather than the radical shift that would really make a difference.
It isn’t a weight-loss book, but if you follow it and you have a weight problem your problem could be solved. As I am fat myself I know there are other forces that make it very difficult for us, cravings that are far stronger than unfat people have ever felt, and bodily mechanisms that sabotage our efforts. There is no doubt, in any case, that following this “diet” – which is a simple list of what to eat and what not, without any portion sizes (just “eat as much as you want” and “eat less” recommendations) – will make anyone healthier. And those of us who are fat are statistically going to be not as fat as we would be if we ate animal proteins.
The claims made in this book are radical. Make no mistake. If followed, the American diet would make a huge swing and animal agriculture would be on its way out. Yet it isn’t nearly as difficult to follow these recommendations as many think. One of the primary reasons doctors don’t like to ask their patients to make radical changes is that they believe their patients will give up, that it will be too hard. But based on my own experience as well as some cited in the book, going in the plant direction opens up whole worlds that meat-eaters rarely explore. Instead of reducing our choices, this change increases them. It is also a way to never be hungry again. Diets that make people hungry may seem good for the soul but they aren’t good for the body.
For those of us who are already vegan or wanting to be, this book makes it easier. Whenever I look at a piece of cheese or carton of ice cream I think about these studies. I want my diet to be good for animals, and I’m an animal too.