PJ's Fitness Blog

A blog about a fitter you. Come find out what is on the cutting edge of fitness science and be a part of the ongoing conversation.

The China Study Review

First of all, the book titled, ” The China Study” written by Dr. Campbell is an observational study. Even though the author is a doctor and should have known better, he made the blunder of a layperson by assuming causation from observational correlations. His claim on the cover, “The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted” is outright fraud. This is not science in any form.

If I have already offended you with these statements, then you have an agenda to protect and can stop reading now, so you don’t get any more upset. If you want to learn more about how science really works however, and some new facts about our physiology, then read on.

Even the newest rookie scientist will tell you that all you can do with data from observational studies is use them to form hypotheses that can then be tested in well designed, randomized, controlled trials.  Then and only then, if the study results show it, can you even begin to consider talking about causation. If you need clarification on this subject, check out this video. It’s awesome and hilarious: www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1RXvBveht0.

Observational studies aren’t facts. They are observations, which are open to interpretation and therefore, human error based on bias, mistakes, etc. When you have some cold hard facts however, you can draw more accurate conclusions.

I’m not claiming perfect science here. I’m just offering better “bad science” than Dr. Campbell gives you. The facts I cite below are also observational, so I’m using the same “science” that Dr. Campbell has used in order to compare apples to apples.

Since there have been no well designed studies on meat eaters and vegetable eaters to date, we have to make inferences from observation, as flawed as that is. This however, opens things up for error and mistranslation of data like Dr. Keyes did in the 1960’s, starting the whole low fat revolution that, in my opinion, was one of the biggest disservices to society in modern history. Not only is the low fat philosophy flawed and downright wrong, it has made our nation fatter instead of thinner, but this topic is for another post…

Here are 7 quick facts. Feel free to draw your own conclusions:

1.) Our ancestors were hunter gatherers. This means that they were mostly meat eaters, since the agricultural revolution hadn’t happened yet.

2.) Fossil evidence shows that our ancestors dealt with cancer about as often as they flew airplanes.

3.) Cancer and other diseases like diabetes have only reared their ugly heads since the industrial revolution began, less than a couple hundred years ago. These diseases (as well as obesity) have grown at the same rates as our food processing technology has advanced (thanks to the industrial revolution).

4.) Our genes haven’t changed since those of our ancestors found in fossil records.

5.) Modern hunter gatherer societies are also virtually cancer free. They don’t even know what diabetes is. Obese hunter gatherers do not exist. Even traditional Eskimos who eat blubber all day, average about 11% body fat.

6.) Modern hunter gatherer societies get more than 80% of their calories from animal products. Traditional tribes like the Inuit get over 95% or their calories from animal products.

7.) Modern vegan societies (i.e. Hindus) are not cancer free. Vegans also get diabetes and have plenty of obese members of their society. The only exception is the extremely small segment of strict, hard-core, 100% “raw” vegans who eat organic produce only. They are typically very lean and free from diabetes, obesity and cancer. Some people, like my good friend Tim Van Orden, can thrive on this diet (as long as certain vitamin supplements are consumed), but most people find it too difficult to sustain and/or just don’t feel well on it.

Now some people take issue when I use our ancestors as an example of good health. They typically say, “Hey wait a minute – our ancestors had a average life span of about 40 years.” Yep, that’s true and with a little context, you will easily understand why. The main problem with the age calculations of our ancestors is that their infant mortality rates were factored into their lifespan averages and since they didn’t have access to fancy hospitals that are pretty darn good at saving weak babies and salvaging tough births, about a third of their babies didn’t make it. Mom’s often died during childbirth as well (and they were making babies at a pretty young age back then).

Another problem is that our ancestors didn’t have access to fancy first aid kits and trained paramedics on the other side of a telephone call, so when they fell down a hill chasing their dinner and banged their head hard enough, or even got a pesky little compound fracture, they died.  Oh, and also keep in mind that they weren’t just the chaser of food. They were also being chased by bigger food, and they didn’t have a .357 magnum to defend themselves.

Now take all that (plus more that I won’t go into due to the interest of keeping this short due onnaccounta our limited attention spans thanks to modern television) and average it together and you’ve got a life expectancy of about 40 years old. There were indeed lots of very old people back then and those fogeys were extremely healthy and sturdy as evidenced from the fossil records.

My diet is about half vegetable and half animal by calories. I love veggies, so I eat lots of them. I also prefer them raw because of the taste and health benefits. I make sure they are organic and when possible, locally grown. The meat I eat is always wild, or grass fed, or free range organic. I also eat fun foods using organic ingredients like this pudding recipe: http://youtu.be/AIWs9zG-Rks (to make it vegan by the way, just use a vegan protein powder). I even eat bread! Check this recipe out: http://youtu.be/Msw6XlSv4hA

If I ate modern processed foods and conventional animal products however, I’d probably get cancer and diabetes pretty quickly. I’d get fat really fast too. As it is now however, I’m sure that I will stay cancer free, diabetes free, will continue to have normal blood pressure, healthy cholesterol levels and will maintain my current body fat in the single digits until a ripe, sturdy old age.

Personally, I do not believe God created us to be vegans. Our tooth structure and intestinal design suggests otherwise. He even gave us specific instructions on how to prepare and cook meat in the Old Testament. He also promised His chosen people a land “Flowing with milk and honey.” In the New Testament, He personally served fish and bread to thousands and even created wine out of water. I don’t believe He would encourage such foods if they were unhealthy in any way or would cause disease, but back then of course, everything was organic, locally grown, unprocessed and there was no damage to the ecosystem associated with growing and raising food. Since then we have really screwed things up.

Lastly, I want to make it abundantly clear that I fully support anyone who is vegan for religious, environmental, moral or ethical reasons. They have some really good points too. Those who do it purely for health reasons however, should to re-examine the evidence.