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Book Summary – The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and The Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-term Health

The China Study - Book summary

In many affluent societies, there’s an alarming rise in the rate of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. This book presents extensive scientific evidence that diet and nutrition can prevent, control and even reverse a wide range of such diseases. In this free version of The China Study summary, you’ll get an overview of the key findings from various research studies, implications and recommendations for health and nutrition.

What is The China Study About?

In 1983, T. Colin Campbell was one of the lead scientists of the China–Cornell–Oxford Project, a collaboration between Cornell University, the University of Oxford, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. This was the most comprehensive study ever undertaken to explore the relationship between nutrition and disease, widely known as “The China Study”. This study, combined with lab research findings, showed the risks of a diet high in animal protein, and the benefits of a whole-foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet. The findings were shared in the 1st edition of this book in 2005. This 2nd edition was published in 2016 with updates and new evidence on the benefits of a WFPB diet.

An Escalating Health Crisis

The USA spends more money per capita on healthcare than any other country, yet Americans have some of the worst disease rates in the world. 2/3 of Americans are overweight, 1/3 of Americans are killed by heart diseases, 1 out of 11 Americans has diabetes, and the American Cancer Society estimates that a typical American male or female has a 47% or 35% chance of getting cancer in his/her lifetime.

Healthcare costs are exploding, both in absolute amounts and as a proportion of disposable income. Errors and adverse effects from medication and surgery also contribute to some 225,400 deaths a year.

Campbell shares numerous statistics in his book to show the worrying rate of growth in both diseases and healthcare costs. It’s time to acknowledge that drugs and surgery are not a sustainable solution to our health crisis.The good news is, there’s a relatively simple solution to this crisis: by changing what we eat, we can prevent and even reverse a wide range of chronic diseases. The bad news is, we’re surrounded by lots of misinformation about health and nutrition. That’s why we may hear one day that olive oil is good for us and the next day that it is bad. Or, we may be told one day that eggs are a great source of protein and the next day that an egg a day can kill us.

In our full 15-page version of The China Study summary, you’ll learn (i) why much of the public information about health and nutrition is skewed and misleading (ii) why scientific research tends to be biased toward certain commercial interests and (iii) why/how scientific data can be over-simplified or taken out of context to create confusion and misinformation.

Nutrition and Disease


3 stages of cancer growth

Basically, cancer progresses in 3 stages:

Initiation. This is the process where chemicals called carcinogens are absorbed by the body and permanently change certain cells to create a potential for cancer. Carcinogens come mainly from industrial processes and partly from nature (e.g. aflatoxin in food). This process is like planting a seed.
Promotion. This is when the cancer cells grow, like how a seedling sprouts over time under the right conditions.
Progression. This is when the cancer cells spread, like how weeds spread in your garden. Cancer cells grow and spread when there are more promoters (to feed cancer growth) than anti-promoters (to slow cancer growth).

Lab research findings

Essentially, cancer initiation is less critical than cancer promotion. Most of us will have some carcinogens in our body. Whether they develop into cancer cells and spread depend on the conditions in our body, which is influenced by diet and nutrition. Lab research findings involving animals found that:

• Nutrition played a bigger role than carcinogens in controlling cancer promotion, and there’s a strong link between protein and cancer. Animals that were fed high levels of animal protein had high rates of tumor development and growth, while animals that were fed low consumption of animal protein had low rates of tumor development and growth even if they were given much higher doses of carcinogens.
• Plant-protein didn’t promote cancer growth in the same way as animal-protein, even when consumed at higher levels.


Findings from The China Study and other studies

How far do the animal lab experiments reflect real-life human experiences? The China Study helps to answer this question. In 1983, 6,500 adults were randomly selected from 65 rural counties in China. Over 20 years, researchers tracked how these people ate, lived and died, to examine 367 variables in health and disease. Two distinct groups of disease were found across different areas:
Diseases of affluence (e.g. cancer, diabetes, coronary heart disease) come from nutritional excess. These are similar to the “Western diseases” found in America.
Diseases of poverty (e.g. pneumonia, parasitic disease, rheumatic heart disease) come from nutritional lack and poor sanitation.

Affects of Lifestyle

Basically, the China Study found that people who ate the most plant-based foods had the least or no chronic diseases. Those who ate the most animal protein had the most heart disease, cancer and diabetes. There’s also a distinct pattern from the various research studies to show that lifestyle affects disease more than genes:
• Diseases of affluence tend to be much more prevalent in countries with rich meaty Western diets;
• In developing countries, such diseases are higher amongst those who adopt Western diets or migrate to Western countries; and
• A WFPB diet universally counters such diseases.

Disease Prevention & Real life examples

In the last decade, many doctors and practitioners have also tested various plant-based and/or low-fat, whole-foods diet on their patients. The results are overwhelming.  All sorts of chronic diseases—ranging from heart disease to cancer and diabetes —have been controlled or even reversed through nutrition. Treatments through drugs and surgery were nowhere as effective; they may address the symptoms/discomfort and delay death, but not reverse the diseases.

For example:
• Diabetes has no known medical cure. A high-fiber, high-carbs, low-fat diet was tested on diabetics on insulin shots. After 3 weeks, the Type 1 diabetics saw a 30% drop in cholesterol levels and could reduce their insulin medication by about 40%. 96% of the Type 2 diabetics could stop their insulin meditation altogether.
• Early-stage Multiple Sclerosis patients were asked to consume <20g of saturated fat a day. 34 years later, 95% of those in the low-saturated-fat diet group were still alive, compared with only 20% of those in the higher-saturated-fats group.

Our complete 15-page version of The China Study summary goes into a lot more detail on:
• The key types of nutrients and how they affect our bodies;
• The difference between plant-based foods and animal-based foods (and the impact on health/disease);
• Lab research findings to show the relationship between protein and cancer in animals, and much more.

The Guide to Good Nutrition

Nutrition is “food that promotes health”. By eating right, you can live longer, look younger, feel more energetic and avoid various diseases. In our full The China Study summary, you’ll learn about  (i) the 8 principles for eating right, and (ii) the 3 simple rules for a WFPB diet. Here’s a quick overview of what a WFPB diet entails:

Getting the Most from “The China Study”

If you’d like to get a detailed outline of the research findings and health tips findings from The China Study, do check out our full book summary bundle. This includes an infographic, a 15-page text summary, and a 28-minute audio summary.

The China Study summary - book summary bundle

The book is packed with background and detailed research findings on food, nutrition and specific diseases. Campbell also shares his personal experiences with unethical practices in various medical, academia and governmental institutions, as well as appendixes on the lab rat experiments, The China Study design and Vitamin D.

You can purchase the book here for the full details,  or check out more resources/details at The China Study website.

Keen to read more about health and longevity?  Do also check out our summaries for Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and Lifespan.

About the Authors of The China Study

The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and The Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-term Health was a collaboration between Thoman Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and Thomas M. Campbell II, MD.

Thomas Colin Campbell (born 1934) is an American biochemist who specializes in the effect of nutrition on long-term health. He is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. He obtained his Ph.D. in nutrition, biochemistry, and microbiology at Cornell. He spent most of his career researching nutrition and been an adviser and/or member with several institutions and expert panels on food, medicine and health. He is the founder of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. He has authored more than 300 research papers and 3 books.

Thomas M. Campbell II, MD is the medical director of the University of Rochester Weight Management and Lifestyle Center at Highland Hospital. He’s also the medical director of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. He’s a graduate of Cornell University and received his medical degree from the University at Buffalo School of Medicine.

The China Study Quotes

“A good diet is the most powerful weapon we have against disease and sickness.”

“Keeping body weight off successfully should be part of a long-term lifestyle…Treating weight loss as a race doesn’t work.”

“Give your body the right food and it will do the right thing.”

“Nutrition represents the combined activities of countless food substances. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

“Good nutrition and regular exercise combine to offer more health per person than the sum of each part alone.”

“Just because a person has the gene for a disease does not mean that they are destined to get the cancer.”

“The virus provides the gun, and the bad nutrition pulls the trigger.”

Click here to download The China Study summary & infographic

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