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Feeding your children the healthiest diet possible is the goal of every parent but exactly what is a healthy diet? Answering that question is the reason that we at the DocSmo.com blog thought a book review of a major new book on nutrition might be helpful to parents. The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II, MD, is a cumulative work based on the findings from careers in nutritional research and medicine. A myriad of research is discussed in the book but the core conclusions are derived from a longitudinal (20 year) study called “The China Study” in which researchers from Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine collected data from 65 counties in 24 provinces in China, comparing diet, lifestyle, and disease characteristics in this huge population. (The New York Times called this data “The Grand Prix” of epidemiological studies when the results were first published in the early 1990s.) The father and son team of Drs. Campbell digest the China study data and a wealth of other scientific observations. Their main conclusion is that populations consuming the most animal-based foods are afflicted with the most chronic Western diseases. The China Study therefore advocates for a diet that consists exclusively of whole plant-based foods as well as discussing the science behind this conclusion, barriers to its introduction in the American diet, and lifestyle tips for readers ready to transition to this nutritional mindset and lifestyle.
Similar to many books on nutrition, the authors start with an overview of the problems related to childhood and adult obesity and chronic disease in the United States. This highlights the general confusion that many feel with an overwhelming amount of health and nutrition information. This book may provide a useful guide for providing better nutrition for their children. Their goal is to clarify confusion by referencing sound scientific data, instead of providing the latest sensation in rapid weight-loss. They seek to demonstrate a strong connection between eating animal protein and the high incidence of chronic disease plaguing Western societies; cancer, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. The authors continue with manageable chapters about the nutrition science and mechanisms of disease. The authors believe that the consumption of animal protein trigger breast and prostate cancers, cause obesity that is at the root of adult onset diabetes, and contributes to diseases of the heart and blood vessels. The book highlights the correlation between nutrition and disease, citing a wealth of scientific evidence.
In our opinion, the useful sections in the book are right in the middle, where the authors list eight principles of how to rethink nutrition and provide an eating guide for parents and children. Aside from eliminating all animal products and minimizing added vegetable oils such as peanut or olive oil, he encourages plants and whole grains. The authors are especially harsh on added supplements, believing that a sound diet should provide individuals with everything they need, except for a nod to vitamin D for children and adults who spend the majority of their time indoors and vitamin B12. The last third of the book discusses with the barriers to adopting this way of eating, exposing some startling realities of powerful lobbying groups and their influence on formulating government dietary recommendations.
Overall, this book highlights the important relationship between nutrition and chronic disease. If the authors are right, our health and the future health of our children depend on us adopting a plant-based diet, now. It promotes a whole-grain, plant-based diet in order to avoid chronic disease, and reverse them once they have developed. This book presents sound scientific data based on decades of biochemical research and explains the science behind the studies in a clear and manageable way. As the authors say, they take us where the data leads. To be clear, this book is not a weight-loss solution or another fad diet. It is a scholarly look at decades of research illuminating the connection between poor nutrition and incidence of chronic diseases. Despite its length and complexity, we would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in diet as it relates to your children’s long-term health. The authors believe that not only can diseases like cancer, heart disease, and adult onset diabetes be prevented in our children with a plant-based “vegan” diet, but that these diseases can be REVERSED with food after they have developed. The Dr. Campbell father/son team challenge traditional nutrition teaching which advocates a diet rich in animal based protein and dairy foods, vitamin and mineral supplements, and often diets with an imbalanced nutrient profile such as the “Atkins” diet. The authors claim that a completely plant based diet is the key to prevention of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Time will tell us if they are right. Pass the broccoli, please. We give this book 4 out of 5 DocSmo stars. Until next time.
Written collaboratively by Angela Solis and Paul Smolen M.D.