The treatment effect of a plant-based diet is broad in scope, exceptionally rapid in response and often, lifesaving. It cannot be duplicated by animal-based foods, processed foods or drug therapies ~ T. Colin Campbell, PhD – author of the China study.
Many chronic diseases such as heart disease, type two diabetes, hypertension, obesity, gall stones, diverticulitis, rheumatoid arthritis and some forms of cancer have a strong link to nutrition2,3,6. In 1981, a report was published by two leading bio statistical epidemiologists, Sir Richard Doll1 and Sir Richard Peto, from the University of Oxford for the US congress on the states of cancer. The report stated that 2/3 of cancers could be prevented as well as 90% of heart diseases by lifestyle choices and diet. In 2005, a major epidemiological publication appeared on the scenes, called the China Study2. This study showed that the consumption of dietary protein from animal sources, even at a low rate, was linked to many diseases. The same associations were not observed with protein consumption from plant sources.
A summary of The China Study2 – the largest epidemiological study ever conducted:
Timeline and major studies leading to the China Study2:
- A Research program started in the early 1960s by Dr T. Collin Campbell to find an optimal way of feeding malnourished and starving children in the Philippines. The principle view at the time was that those malnourished children were not getting enough protein.
- During the Philippines study, a certain type of primary liver cancer was identified and found to be particularly dominant in children. Previously this cancer was considered as an adult only disease.
- Studies found that children getting this liver cancer were not those with the least amounts of protein, but those from wealthier families, noted to be on high animal protein diets.
- The notion of the benefits of high protein diet was brought into question.
- A large Indian study on experimental rats and the effect of aflatoxin mould known to cause liver cancer was published in 1960. Researchers were studying how aflatoxin was causing the cancer and the effect of protein on that. The Result of that study to their surprise was that the animals given the regular levels of protein (20%) of total calories got liver cancer. The animals on much lower protein never got liver cancer. These findings helped direct Dr Campbell’s research.
- In the late 1970s Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai initiated a major survey of cancer rates in China. It was a massive survey of death rates from 12 different cancer types in more than 2,400 Chinese counties. This statistical study included 880 million people (96% of Chinese citizens). This provided unprecedented data from a huge population with very similar genetics (87% of the same group – The Han people), a wide variety of diets, and with widely opposing disease rates from one community to another. This resulted in an atlas where cancers were geographically mapped.
- It was hypothesised by Dr Campbell that the differences had to be from an external factor such as the environment or diet, as China was relatively genetically homogeneous.
- The China Study followed on from this, a monumental collaboration between China and the US. A scientific assembly of Dr Campbell; Dr Chen (deputy director of the governmental health and diet research laboratory in all of China); Dr Junyao Li (one of the authors of the Chinese cancer atlas and a leading scientist in the Chinese medical academy and ministry of health); and Richard Peto (leading world epidemiologist from the University of Oxford).
- Data was collected in China from 6500 adults (ages 35-64 years) with a total 367 variables, including urine sample, individual 3-day diet sheets with food measurements, blood samples and lifestyle to name a few. Rural Chinese counties were chosen due to the stability of population and local food production.
- A database was collected at the end of this immense study that comprised more than 8000 statistically significant associations between diet, lifestyle and disease variables.
Findings from the China Study2:
- Nutrition has a very strong effect on disease.
- In rural China, 9-10% of the total calories come from protein. Of that protein, only 10% of it is animal based protein.
- The strongest association of diseases was with blood cholesterol levels. Animal based foods were linked to higher blood cholesterol. The higher the cholesterol, the more diseases began to appear.
- Animal based foods are linked to higher rates of breast cancer
- Fibre and antioxidants from plant based foods are linked to a lower risk of cancers of the digestive tract.
- Plant based diets and active lifestyles result in a healthy weight, while allowing people to keep growing and become strong.
- Plant based foods tend to decrease oestrogen levels which in turn reduce breast-cancer risk. Animal foods tend to elevate oestrogen levels and elevates breast-cancer risk.
- The highest fibre diets were associated with lower rates of colon and rectal cancer
- The closer people came to consuming an all plant-based diet, the lower their risk for chronic degenerative diseases was.
The work of Dr Esselstyn3 for the past 25 years has demonstrated the success of plant-based nutrition in arresting and reversing cardiovascular disease. Dr Esselstyn as well as many others, such as Dr Ornish5 have reported that more than 90% of people who have heart disease in advanced stages can reverse their conditions back to a medical state where the risk of a heart attack is close to zero while following a plant based dieth3,4,5. 80% of diabetes and strokes can also be prevented.
Dr Campbell and his fellow researchers found2 that experimental tumour development could be manipulated, simply by giving the experimental animals a different amount of animal based protein. They found that they could turn cancer on and off while varying the amount of animal protein the experimental rats ingested. This was consistent with the Indian scientist conclusions and the observations in the Philippines2 . These results suggested that if people with cancer switched their diet to remove animal protein, they might see some benefit. Casein (the main protein of cow’s milk) was the protein used for experimentation. Casein was found to promote the development of tumours2 . The experiment included soy protein and wheat. They were fed in the same higher levels to the experimental animals. Neither soy nor wheat proteins were able to promote the development of those tumours2 . This is where a major distinction between animal protein and plant proteins began2 .
It has been published2,5 that higher animal protein consumption, is associated with many other negative health and disease related outcomes as follows:
- Increase the likelihood of osteoporosis forming.
- Linked to Type 1 diabetes in infants.
- Increased production of growth hormone (Increase rate at which cells divide) which is associated with cancer growth.
- Increased risk of Alzheimer disease 3:1
- Associated with kidney stones.
- Cow’s milk consumption is associated with childhood allergies.
- Cow’s milk is also associated with cataract formation and rheumatoid arthritis and digestive disorders.
The movie Forks over Knives provides an informative overview of the findings of the China Study and many practical examples of how people are benefiting.
Explaining cancer growth by Dr T Campbell:
TEDx Talks on plant based nutrition:
Dr McDougall, MD:
Dr Neal Barnard, MD
- Samet, J, et al 2006. Sir Richard Doll, 1912–2005. American Journal of Epidemiology, [Online]. 164, 95-100. Available at: http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/164/1/95.full
- Campbell, T. Colin and Thomas M. Campbell II. The China Study. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, 2006.
- Esselstyn, C, et al 2014. The Nutritional Reversal of Cardiovascular Disease – Fact or Fiction? Three Case Reports . Experimental and Clinical Cardiology, [Online]. 20, 1901-1908. Available at: http://www.dresselstyn.com/Esselstyn_Three-case-reports_Exp-Clin-Cardiol-July-2014.pdf
- Esselstyn Jr, MD, CB, 2014. A way to reverse CAD? Jrnl Family Practice. , 7, 356-364.
- Dr Ornish. 2010. Undo it – Reversing Heart Disease. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.ornish.com/undo-it/.
- Phycisians Committee for Responsible Medicine. 2014. Resources for health conditions. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.pcrm.org/health/resources