The China Study bites the dust
Before undertaking our first Healthy Mind Fit Body podcast, I went to the bookstore to familiarize myself with all the latest trendy diets, and for any that I didn’t understand, I did research on Google to find out more.
Several books that I checked out were recommending a vegan diet, and a few of them referenced the China Study (by T. Collin Campbell) as proof that we all should be eating vegan. One book I read by Dr. Joel Fuhrman called “Eat to Live”, gave what appeared to be a credible review of the study, and Fuhrman used it as the basis to the recommendations in his book.
(I incidentally at that time also had someone email me and tell me I was killing myself with meat and that I should read the China Study to find out how I should be eating!)
So I googled it. I came across a few sites praising the China Study as the gospel truth, not to be questioned and a revolutionary study in nutrition. But the most well researched site I came across was this one: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-8e.shtml
This page correctly points out that:
–Level of aggregation of the study data yields, at most, 65 observations (data points) for analysis. This was enough for me to throw out the whole thing, but there’s much more!
–The China Study report lists only 6 statistically significant correlations between meat-eating and disease mortality. Further, 4 of the correlations are negative. The tiny numbers are alarming, or rather, embarrassing to the author’s conclusion.
And then there are these logical fallacies:
–Lack of actual income data for the survey participants is a serious flaw. It makes adjustment of the data for the effect of income less reliable
–Attempts to use the China Study to prove that all omnivore diets are bad
So after reading this article, I was ready throw out the China Study as anything but an attempt to generate a hypothesis rather than prove one.
But if that weren’t bad enough, there is now a much deeper look at the China Study (by someone who read every page of the actual study, not just Campbell’s book) on this blog by Denise Minger: http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/
What we find here is:
Point #1: “…when we actually track down the direct correlation between animal protein and cancer, there is no statistically significant positive trend. None. Looking directly at animal protein intake, we have the following correlations with cancers:
Penis cancer: -16
Rectal cancer: -12
Bladder cancer: -9
Colorectal cancer: -8
Cervix cancer: -4
Colon cancer: -3
Liver cancer: -3
Oesophageal cancer: +2
Brain cancer: +5
Breast cancer: +12”
No proof of a cancer-meat link here!
Point #2: “But what about plant protein? Since plant protein correlates negatively with plasma cholesterol, does that mean plant protein correlates with lower cancer risk? Let’s take a look at the cancer correlations with “plant protein intake”:
Nasopharyngeal cancer: -40**
Brain cancer: -15
Liver cancer: -14
Penis cancer: -4
Bladder cancer: -3
Breast cancer: +1
Stomach cancer: +10
Rectal cancer: +12
Cervix cancer: +12
Colon cancer: +13
Oesophageal cancer +18
Colorectal cancer: +19”
More of a link to cancer with plants than animals!!!
Point #3: “In these high-risk areas for liver cancer, total animal food intake has a correlation with liver cancer of… dun dun dun… +1.
That’s it. One. We rarely get a perfect statistical zero in the real world, but this is pretty doggone close to neutral. Broken up into different types of animal food rather than total consumption, we have the following correlations:
* Meat correlates at -7 with liver cancer in high-risk counties
* Fish correlates at +11
* Eggs correlate at -29
* Dairy correlates at -19”
Point #4: “Basically, Campbell’s implication that green vegetables are associated with less cardiovascular disease is misleading. More accurately, certain geographical regions have strong correlations with cardiovascular disease (or lack thereof), and year-round green vegetable consumption is simply an indicator of geography. Since only frequency and not actual quantity of greens seems protective of heart disease and stroke, it’s safe to say that greens probably aren’t the true protective factor.”
More flaws in the author’s conclusions from data gathered.
The great points Denise made in her blog post go on and on, and go to show that my initial inclination to throw out the China Study was the right one.
She goes on to say:
“Why does Campbell indict animal foods in cardiovascular disease (correlation of +1 for animal protein and -11 for fish protein), yet fail to mention that wheat flour has a correlation of +67 with heart attacks and coronary heart disease, and plant protein correlates at +25 with these conditions?
Speaking of wheat, why doesn’t Campbell also note the astronomical correlations wheat flour has with various diseases: +46 with cervix cancer, +54 with hypertensive heart disease, +47 with stroke, +41 with diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs, and the aforementioned +67 with myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease? (None of these correlations appear to be tangled with any risk-heightening variables, either.)”
Bingo. Carbohydrate and grain intake and its affects on health are not even considered!
T. Collin Campbell’s conclusion to his book was that animal products are deleterious to our health, and that we should be eating plant-based foods instead. Unfortunately, he not only did not prove this, but has lead many people to believing in more nonsense that if followed, will have negative consequences on their health in the long term.
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