The China Study was a 20 year research study completed by Dr. Campbell from Cornell University in partnership with Oxford University and China. The China Study was an epidemiologic survey of diet and health conducted in 65 villages throughout China. It has been touted as “the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted" by some. The findings were published in a book, "The China Study", authored by Dr. Campbell, who asserts that we could prevent or cure most disease (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, bone, kidney, eye and other diseases) by eating a whole foods plant-based diet, reducing our protein intake, and avoiding meat and dairy products entirely. The book was then used as the basis for the documentary "Forks over Knives".
A quote from Dr. Campbell from an interview after the book was released:
"The idea is that we should be consuming whole foods... We should not be relying on the idea that nutrient supplementation is the way to get nutrition, because it’s not. I’m talking about whole, plant-based foods. The effect it produces is broad for treatment and prevention of a wide variety of ailments, from cancer to heart disease to diabetes"
I have to admit, I haven't read the book personally, so I don't know specifics regarding research methods, statistics, etc. But in doing some research, it looks like his book as drawn a lot of applause, and also a lot of criticism. The main thing that people take issue with from his research was cutting out dairy and meat completely. In my lack of awareness about the book and research, I did some digging... I found the experts.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) publishes many recommendations regarding nutrition and cancer prevention. If you haven't looked at AICR's website yet, you should! They also have a website specifically addressing foods that fight cancer, which lists foods and how they impact your health. However, it is important to remember that no single food or food component can protect you against cancer alone, however strong evidence does show that a diet consisting of a variety of plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans helps lower risk for many cancers.
Their most recent report, published a few days ago, asserts that 3 out of 5 cases of endometrial cancer could be prevented through healthy nutrition, physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. “Many women are not aware of the strong link between obesity and cancer, which is particularly strong for endometrial cancer,” she said, “however, it is good news that many cases could be prevented every year by maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active" (Elisa Bandera, MD, PhD, AICR Panel member).
AICR's top 10 recommendations to prevent cancer are:
- Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
- Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.
- Avoid sugary drinks (diet and regular sodas). Limit consumption of energy-dense foods.
- Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.
- Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.
- If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 1 per day for women (2 for men).
- Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt.
- Don't use supplements to protect against cancer.
- * It is best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods.
- * After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.
The AICR does address the China Study and Dr. Campbell's research directly, stating that diet is only a piece of the puzzle. They agree with Dr. Campbell that the link between excess body fat and cancer is convincing, and that the obesity epidemic now raging through our society "will result in millions of cancers in the future unless something this changed".
The AICR goes on to recommend getting 1/3 of your daily food intake from healthy protein sources. Remember, protein does NOT necessary equal meat. Protein can be found in beans, rice, grains, nuts, legumes, fish, poultry, eggs, and low-fat dairy. They also recommend limiting red meats, processed meats (like some sandwich meats, hotdogs, and smoked/cured meats) to no more than 2 times per week.
What's the bottom line? We need protein to survive - to build muscle, regenerate tissues, to heal, to function. But in the American culture we tend to be rather protein-obsessed (how many people have seen ads for protein shakes? or tried them?) Get your protein from a wide variety of BOTH plant-based and animal-based sources.
Again, if you haven't checked out the American Institute on Cancer Research website yet, I would highly recommend it!