The China Study and the Vegetarian Diet
By Santokh Singh Khalsa, D. C.
I have been a vegetarian for over 37 years and I thought that I pretty much knew most, if not all, there was to know about diet and health. This book, The China Study, completely blew me away. That is why I wanted to summarize its main conclusions and recommend it.
The China Study was conducted by T. Colin Campbell, PhD., of Cornell University, who has been a nutritional researcher for over 50 years. He grew up on a farm with a diet that was very high in animal fat and protein. He was trained in an academic culture in which the necessity for high amounts of animal protein was a sacred cow, if you will forgive my pun. But several observations in his research turned him around and he started doing research with cultures that had very little animal protein compared to the standard American diet.
Unlike the United States, people in China eat a varied diet depending on the region they live in. They also don’t move around as much as we do in the United States, so most people have been eating and living in the same location their whole lives. As a result, the disease statistics for China also vary greatly. One area will be several times higher in occurrence of heart disease, and another area will be much higher in cancer. This made it a perfect “laboratory” for evaluating the effect that diet had on health and disease.
The China Study looked at the diet and health of 6500 people in 65 different regions. They evaluated blood tests, urine tests, dietary questionnaires, health histories, and direct measurements of diet. This massive study ended up with more than 8000 statistically significant associations between lifestyle, diet and disease.
The most significant finding was that the more animal protein in a person’s diet (meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs and dairy) the higher the risk to heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and obesity that this person would have. It was also significant that this risk was measurable even at much lower levels of consumption. We all know that the Chinese eat much less animal protein than Americans. But even at the lower levels, a significant difference was found between people eating animal protein a couple times a week versus once or not at all.
Another important difference that was clear was the incidence of osteoporosis. In the United States this occurs at epidemic levels and in China it is almost unknown. The average amount of calcium that is consumed in the US is over 1000 milligrams a day, mostly from animal sources like dairy. The average amount of calcium consumed in China is less than 500 milligrams, mostly from plant sources. Again it is seen that one of the sacred cows of western nutrition—dairy is an essential source of calcium for strong bones—is completely false and actually leads to weaker bones. In another study, the incidence of hip fractures in the elderly was compared to the percentage of animal protein in the diet. Countries that had very low levels of animal protein consumption, had the lowest percentage of hip fractures, and countries like the United States and Europe with the highest levels of animal protein consumption had the highest percentage of hip fractures.
Dr. Campbell’s final recommendation is as follows:
“One of the most fortunate findings from the mountain of nutritional research I’ve encountered is that good food and good health is simple. The biology of the relationship of food and health is exceptionally complex, but the message is still simple. The recommendations coming from the published literature are so simple that I can state them in one sentence: Eat a whole foods, plant-based diet, while minimizing the consumption of refined foods, added salt and added fats.”
My next blog will be about the specific energetic effects that animal products have on your chakras and meditative mind.
Santokh Singh Khalsa, D.C., chiropractor, healer, yogi, master yoga teacher, has been teaching beginners how to start and maintain a regular daily yoga practice for over 30 years. He founded the Awareness Center in Pasadena, CA in 1975 and is a master teacher for Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Level I and II.