The China Study by T. Colin Campbell & Thomas M. Campbell

campbelltc-chinastudyThis book is a detailed study of nutrition containing some shocking assertions about what the common Western diet is doing to our health. What separates it from the mass of “fad diet” books is that it is attempting to identify the natural diet of the human species, and it makes a compelling case that this is plants, not animals.

The unusual title of the volume comes from a medical study in China that sought to account for the the high incidence of cancer among affluent people, compared to a low incidence among the poor. After extensive study, differences in diet were the prime suspect. Affluent people had a far greater intake of meat.

You’ve probably heard the argument against vegetarianism that goes “Where are you going to get your protein?” The book blasts this misconception, asserting that we get all the protein we need from plants. It goes as far as saying that the cause of our health problems is an overabundance of protein from animal food sources. The arguments are detailed and appear sound, but since I’m not a scientist, I have to be a little cautious. Sometimes what we don’t know from the opposing corner can change what we think we know about an issue.

That said, I did personally make the move to a diet that is 95% vegan, from a diet where I was eating red meat five days per week. I did this less because of the technical arguments in this book, and more because of a simple observation: no animal is fundamentally confused about its own nature (including its diet). Humans do not have the elogated fangs of a predator, nor the short intestine that digests animal protein quickly, and we have a natural aversion to gore. What comes naturally to the lion does not come naturally to the human. We have to go through an elaborate cooking ritual just to make the meat safe, and we take no pleasure in even handling uncooked meat. This is telling us something about our natural dietary inclinations. We’re plant eaters.

The reason I am 95% vegan and not 100% is because of a lack of interesting vegan options in supermarkets and restaurants. So occasionally I will indulge in meat, usually fish or chicken. I’m just not hardcore enough to go the full 100%. But I can tell you that having a high plant low meat intake has been very beneficial to my health. Food passes through my system much more cleanly and easily than ever. I used to have the impression that vegans were scrawny people who lacked physical strength and stamina, but that’s not the case at all. That’s what happens if you don’t eat enough food. But on a vegan diet, you can satisfy your appetite wholeheartedly with big meals, and not run the same risks of weight gain because there’s far less fat in the diet.

Whatever an expert may think of a book like The China Study, what is undeniable is that rates of obesity, heart disease, and cancer are far higher today than they were several decades ago. And food is the main factor in this. The bottom line is that something’s got to change. The first step is to educate ourselves about what our eating habits are doing to us.

I highly recommend this book for anyone considering a change in diet.