Saturday, January 12, 2008

What I'm Reading: The China Study (this book might save your life) (really)

I just finished reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell, after putting it off for months, as Tracy patiently waited for me to finally get around to it. We made some big life changes around diet a little more than a year ago, moving to a mostly whole foods, plant-based diet. We're not strictly vegan, but we're pretty close, and we do eat some processed foods. (I haven't completely given up ice cream or chocolate yet. ) A lot of this shift was in response to various health issues with us and our family and was affected by reading Joel Fuhrman's book Eat to Live.

However, The China Study came to us right after Eat to Live, and as soon as Tracy read it, she bought copies for everyone in our family. (She's never done that before.) After finishing the book, I can see that she did the right thing.

The basic gist of the book is that eating animal protein has serious consequences for your long-term health. The data cited in the book show dramatically that cancer, heart disease, and some auto-immune diseases (like diabetes and MS) are great influenced by your intake of animal protein. These diseases have a huge impact in the state of American health and pocketbooks. In Western society, we've managed to root out many diseases of poverty, but our health is affected by diseases of affluence. These are optional, as long as we have the information to make the proper choices. (FYI, Campbell isn't trying to sell a diet. He's an actual scientist who has learned something important and wants to share it.)

While the data in this book is exciting, the information about the role of industry in trying to squash its dissemination is disturbing. And by industry, I mean not just the food industry, but also big pharma, the medical industry, and the academy. This idea that people can have control over their own health by eating a plant-based whole foods diet threatens a great many interests of people who make a lot of money. There's definitely a play/screenplay/novel in there--Campbell reports on finding out that the National Dairy Council and the American Meat Council retained a group of scientists (spies) to keep tabs on any research projects in the U.S> likely to cause harm to their industry. Various smear campaigns were conducted against Campbell and his research. And he recounts how other well-respected researchers were cut off from hospital resources when they shifted their approach to disease control from medical to dietary means.

Big industry has been using their deep pockets to influence our culture in the deepest ways. The dairy and processed food industry provides health curricula to our elementary schools and our medical schools. Children learn from an early age that drinking milk is an important way to build strong bones (not true, you're better off getting your calcium from leafy green veggies, that don't raise your cholesterol and increase your cancer risk) and stay healthy (the opposite is true, unless you're a baby cow). Those "Got Milk" celebrity ads have really worked--I saw versions in our elementary school just last year, with students writing essays about how drinking milk was building strong bones and muscles for them.

We're brainwashed into thinking that the only way to get enough protein is to eat animal products (completely false). Heart surgeons are content to perform expensive and often ineffective bypass operations, but feel that giving patients information on the drastic positive impact of dietary changes would be too difficult. Our government and pharmaceutical industries fund billions of dollars of research looking for drugs to fight cancer, instead of trying to look at the benefits of a truly healthy diet. We rail against childhood obesity while the government puts out dietary recommendations that say it's all right for children to get as much as 40% of their calories from fat.

We want easy solutions that aren't really easy. We want to be tough about taking our chemo and showing a stiff upper lip when it comes to surgery, yet we're not tough enough to put down the chicken and pick up some brown rice and broccoli. The sheer stubborn stupidity of all is stunning to me.

Anyway, I'm ranting (isn't that what blogs are for?). Get the book, read it, and then consider making a choice.

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Great post!

I, too, have read "The China Study" and cannot recommend it highly enough.

It's a crime that such information is hidden from the general public.