China Study cheat sheet: 10 things you need to know
The China Study is one of those weighty, groundbreaking books that is perhaps more talked about than actually read.
We understand why: At 417 pages, with lots of nutrition facts and stats, it’s a lot to digest.
So we read it cover-to-cover for you, taking notes along the way. Understanding the book’s thesis has incredible implications for your health—like meat and dairy are way worse for you than you or your doctor could have known.
Here is your 10-step cheat sheet to everything in The China Study you need to know, plus a summary.
And if you’ve read it yourself, please add to our Cliff’s Notes in the Comments section below!
Summary: What is The China Study? It’s the largest comprehensive study of human nutrition ever conducted. It was launched via a partnership between Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine. The groundbreaking results from the study (and other influential nutrition research) recommend the best diet for long-term health.
1. American health statistics are scary. You may feel fit as a fiddle, but the country is unwell. Almost a third of adults over 20 are obese; one out of thirteen people have diabetes; and heart disease kills one out of every three Americans. We also pay more for our health care than any other country, and we don’t have better health to show for it.
2. Animal protein promotes the growth of cancer. The book author T. Colin Campbell, PhD., grew up on a dairy farm, so he regularly enjoyed a wholesome glass of milk. Not anymore. In multiple, peer-reviewed animal studies, researchers discovered that they could actually turn the growth of cancer cells on and off by raising and lowering doses of casein, the main protein found in cow’s milk.
3. Pesticides are gross, but none switch on cancer like poor nutrition. The food you eat affects the way your cells interact with carcinogens, making them more or less dangerous. “The results of these, and many other studies, showed nutrition to be far more important in controlling cancer promotion than the dose of the initiating carcinogen.”
4. The study findings are bulletproof. After years of controversial lab results on animals, the researchers had to see how they played out in humans. The study they created included 367 variables, 65 counties in China, and 6,500 adults (who completed questionnaires, blood tests, etc.). “When we were done, we had more than 8,000 statistically significant associations between lifestyle, diet, and disease variables.” In other words, there’s no arguing with the findings, Meat Council of America. Sorry.
5. The results are simple: Eat plants for health. “People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest.”
6. Heart disease can be reversed through nutrition. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., a physician and researcher at the best cardiac center in the country, The Cleveland Clinic, treated 18 patients with established coronary disease with a whole foods, plant-based diet. Not only did the intervention stop the progression of the disease, but 70 percent of the patients saw an opening of their clogged arteries. Dr. Dean Ornish, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, completed a similar study with consistent results.
7. Carbs are not the enemy. Highly-processed, refined carbohydrates are bad for you. But plant foods are full of healthy carbs. Research shows that diets like the Atkins or South Beach can actually cause dangerous side effects. While they may result in short-term weight loss, you’ll be sacrificing long-term health.
8. Plants are powerful. It’s not just cancer and heart disease that respond to a whole foods, plant-based diet. It may also help protect you from diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases, bone, kidney, eye, and brain diseases.
9. You don’t have to tailor your diet for specific health benefits. Eating healthy can seem segmented—broccoli will prevent breast cancer, carrots are good for eyes, did you get enough vitamin C today? “Nutrition that is truly beneficial for one chronic disease will support health across the board.”
10. Plants do it better. “There are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants.” Protein (YES, PROTEIN!), fiber, vitamins, minerals—you name it, they’ve got it, and the health benefits. —Lisa Elaine Held