Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Book Review: The China Study

Book Review: The China Study by Dr. Colin Campbell

I first heard about this book on ysmarko. He described how amongst youth pastors it was the most discussed book for awhile so I knew I had to read it. As I have no previous knowledge in this area this is more of a "impressions" then "review" so keep that in mind. The China Study is written by Colin Campbell, a very well known nutrition researcher. Although marketed as a book about the China Study, discussion of this landmark nutrition study (the largest ever undertaken) comprises only one chapter. In essence the book is about Campbell's research career and how he has come to the conclusion (through his and other's research) that cancer, heart disease, obesity, alzheimer's, etc. can be greatly reduced by having a better diet. So what is a better diet?

According to his research, it is one that is:
1. as low as possible in animal protein
2. as low as possible in milk
3. high in whole vegetables, fruits, and cereals

That's it. Simple.

Campbell emphasizes his Eight Principles of Food and Health:

  • -Nutrition represents the combined activities of countless food substances. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • -Vitamin supplements are not a panacea for good health.
  • -There are no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants.
  • -Genes do not determine diseases on their own. Genes function only by being activated, or expressed, and nutrition plays a critical role in determining which genes, good and bad, are expressed.
  • -Nutrition can substantially control the adverse effects of noxious chemicals.
  • -The same nutrition that prevents disease in its early stages (before diagnosis) can also halt or reverse disease in its later stages (after diagnosis).
  • -Nutrition that is truly beneficial for one chronic disease will support health across the board.
  • -Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.

What makes this book different is that the author cites good research in defense of his thesis. Although this book isn't the be all/end all for nutrition and it does leave you with many questions, I found it to be easy to read and very thought provoking. A big question I had was is it the vegetables that prevent disease, the meat protein that causes it, or both? I wonder if those who eat high plant diets (and have lower rates of disease) are more healthy because of the amount of vegetables or the lack of meat? Also, what is the interplay between cancer causing factors, nutrition, exercise, and stress on disease? Further research needs to be done.

I especially enjoyed reading about other researchers who have been able to control cancer growth and prevent heart attacks - quite inspiring. I plan to try a vegetarian or mostly vegetarian diet in February to see what it feels like. A month long challenge! I also recognize that one book on nutritition is not a proper education in nutrition and I plan to read more. It definitely "whetted" my appetite (ha, ha) for more information. Reading this book made me want to know more and improve my health. I had never really thought about nutrition being a major part of my health that but now I do. Now if only I can find the discipline to make some changes. I rate this book 4.7 ninja stars out of 5 - a must read. Even if you are the biggest meat eater in the world, what harm would it do to give this book a look? And if you've ever experimented with a vegan or vegetarian eating plan, let me know!


Anonymous said...

Have you ever given a book a 5/5 ninja stars? Which one?


Lee said...

oh I have been waiting for this review Mark - I will have to see if I can get this from the library. I have heard snipets of this research study before...I would love to find out more.

So are you doing research into vegetarian/vegan recipes throughout January in preparation for Feb? Or does the book offer that kind of guidence?

Mark said...

Jaquie: No, no book has ever got the coveted 5 ninja stars out of 5 rating. Some have been close, but as Mr. Miyagi said all so eloquently "Not. . . yet. . .

Lee: We are experimenting with vegetarian recipes in January - as well as increasing our exercise, etc. I'm not putting any pressure on Jobina to join my experiment but she is reading the book and wanting to make some changes as well. No - the book does not offer any guidance on what to eat or how. Basically it just says that it's easiest to just go "cold turkey" when it comes to meat and recommends you try it for a month to see how you feel. I am taking the author up on his challenge! Maybe you and Keith should try it as well - "the more the merrier" (or "miserly loves company!")

Lee said...

Hi Mark, I've put this on my request list at the library and I'm looking forward to reading it when it comes in. We are eating more vegetarian meals than ever before and enjoying it (taste and budget wise) and I'm interested to see how this book may challenge us.