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Debunked – The China Study

By Mikhaila

I’m going to keep this EXTREMELY brief, and very simplified. If it’s too simplified for people’s liking let me know, but I don’t want to bog people down with information. Comment with thoughts, suggestions, other studies you’d like to know about, or more areas to read about the china study.

What is The China Study?

When discussing an all meat diet, I’ve heard The China Study brought up numerous times. I wouldn’t say all of the science in it is bad, but the author makes conclusions you can’t make, generalizes, and leads readers to the WRONG conclusion.

The China Study: Revised and Expanded Edition: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term HealthThe China Study is actually a book written about a number of “studies”. Dr. T. Cloin Campbell of Cornell University and some of his colleagues studied the diet hundreds of thousands of people in China. They ended up publishing that animal protein contributed to a plethora of disease. This was a gross inaccuracy on his part for the reasons listed below, and contributed to God knows how much suffering.

Where did it go wrong?

  • Campbell links “animal protein” to cancer and autoimmune disorder’s. The studies in the book linking “animal protein” to disease, are done based on casein (a protein in cow’s milk). He generalizes and instead of being clear “casein causes…..” he writes that “animal protein causes….” This is wrong. Casein and meat are NOT the same AT ALL. He discusses casein causing Type 1 diabetes but doesn’t talk about gluten’s role in Type 1 diabetes, or fructose’s role in insulin resistance, or sugars role for that matter. The main mistake he makes, that caused God knows how much suffering, is lumping casein and meat together.
  • Campbell doesn’t look into carb consumption or sugar consumption. He omitted information in order to get the result he wanted. This book could easily have been just as popular if he didn’t omit key information, and was specific that he was talking about casein (not animal protein in general).
  • He suggests limiting cholesterol food to ZERO. We’re slowly finding out that cholesterol actually isn’t bad for you, and suggesting people eat zero of it is ridiculous. We need cholesterol to form our steroid hormones, process vitamin D, and form cell membranes.

Where did it go right?

Casein is linked to cancer and autoimmune disorders. I suggest avoiding dairy almost as much as I suggest avoiding gluten. But lumping dairy in with meat is a huge mistake. They are not the same.

What we can take away from it:

Be careful what you read. Most studies on diet are done badly and lead people to the wrong conclusions. Casein (dairy) should be avoided.

Further reading on The China Study:

Chris Kresser wrote a blog post about it, and it’s really worth reading. It covers way more than this oversimplified post.

Some readers have mentioned Michael Greger and nutritionfacts.org. This is one of the (many) reasons I think that doctor is a crook. He’s looking for anything that supports what he believes instead of looking for the truth. Compare what he writes to what Chris Kresser writes about The China Study and see for yourself. He lists The China Study as some of the evidence of plant-based diet without actually looking into the science behind it.

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  1. If you want to read a really great debunking of the China Study from several years ago, check out Denise Minger’s blog. She got a book deal out of it and wrote “Death by Food Pyramid”. Dr Campbell also got really upset about her blog and I believe they got into a big argument on Amazon in his book review section. Funny thing is she was an English major in college at the time she debunked it. Campbell was pissed! It was some great internet drama back in the day.

  2. It’s unfortunate the vegan gurus, and their devotees, keep spreading pseudoscience..If that was not enough, they are always, trolling on youtube, insulting people who eat meat.

    1. I’m skeptical about people who have vegan in their username. Seems like they identify with it too much. I mean they would have to risk sacrifice their persona if they were to be critical about the vegan diet(/life style).

    2. Using your system of logic, can we not say that we must sacrifice our current persona/frame of reference regardless of if we are vegan or a meat eater/omnivore? This is the continual process of death and rebirth of what we know in relation to new information that presents itself. If we use that same logical process in regards to an omnivore, we can say that one risks sacrificing their persona around cultural norms of eating meat. An example would be the cultural ties one has to meat. It surely is quite a transition to make these kinds of changes(Thanksgiving, Christmas, social gatherings, etc.). I suffered from an auto-immune disease for years until I switched to a whole food plant based diet. It can be very easy to focus our attention on the extremities of what the media portrays (in this case group identity such as veganism) instead of conducting a throughout examination of both the opinions, ideas, and scientific literature behind both sides to create a well rounded, minimally unbiased opinion. I would highly advise that you give a vegan diet a try; more specifically a whole food plant based diet. If you end up doing so, make sure to take a vitamin b-12 supplement daily. Sometimes our direct experience with something can trump all the controversy. You ultimately have nothing to lose and you might find life altering benefits out of it as I did. 🙂

    3. I wouldn’t call myself a vegan or an omnivore because I don’t identify myself based on my diet. I would say that I’m on a vegan/omnivorous diet. Feels wrong to say that I AM something instead och DOING something when eating a vegan diet is just something you DO.

    4. Hi Matthew Pickering
      1) Mikhaila comment was about people who put the word ‘vegan’ in their username, and this appears to publicly declare an emotional identification with a diet/lifestyle/morality. Looks like virtue signalling to me. That is all Mikhaila said, and I agree with her statement, but you seem to have reacted to her statement, and not thought about it.
      2)You advice to Mikhaila that she give the vegan diet a ‘try’ tells me you have not read, or understood, Mikhaila’s blog at all. If you were to read what she has spent so much time researching and writing about, you would realize how inappropriate your advice is. Mikhaila writes this blog based on her bodies experience of the food she eats, and her research is an attempt to understand what happens to her body when she eats certain foods. Please go to the first post, and read from there.

    5. Ooops! I am sorry. I misread the name. My apologies, I intended no offence.

    6. I will add that I saw tremendous progress on a ketogenic diet but the symptoms did not fully go away until a transitioned to a whole food low fat plant based diet oil free.

  3. You are correct. Nutrition information from a vegan is worthless. They became vegans because they did not believe in using animals for food. No problem with that. But then they have to justify being a vegan (and convert people to their vegan religion) by making up stuff like cholesterol will kill you.

    I actually met T. Colin Campbell recently. I guess he is “healthy,” but he is gaunt and looks like he has one foot in the grave.

  4. Hi Mikhaila,

    My wife has sever health complications specifically relating to diet (we’re still getting to the bottom of it). She is much more tolerant of less fatty meats like chicken and game than beef and pork (lamb is out of the question). Is this a common thing for people with dietary problems? Are less fatty meats more easily tolerated, generally?

    We have tried the GAPS diet (its a real doozy) which is basically bone broth from either beef bones or chicken bones for a week straight and that was very hard on her. We shan’t be repeating that experience. The SCD diet was better, but still not ideal.

    1. Hi StuanM.
      If fatty meat is a problem, it might be because we are not used to digesting fat. I found it helpful to take a Lipase (fat digesting enzyme) until my own enzymes could get up and running. Beef bones are better for broth I think, especially if you’ve cracked them to expose the marrow, or the marrow is already exposed. Chicken bones(especially chicken feet) are OK, but not as good as beef bones(marrow and knuckles), oxtail, good info here also https://www.sott.net/article/232028-Traditional-Bone-Broth-in-Modern-Health-and-Disease

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