animal products

The China Study: Fact or Fallacy?

Disclaimer: This blog post covers only a fraction of what’s wrong with “The China Study.” In the years since I wrote it, I’ve added a number of additional articles expanding on this critique and covering a great deal of new material. Please read my Forks Over Knives review for more information on what’s wrong with the conclusions drawn from Campbell’s casein/aflatoxin research, and if you’d rather look at peer-reviewed research than the words of some random internet blogger, see my collection of scientific papers based on the China Study data that contradict the claims in Campbell’s book. I’ve also responded to Campbell’s reply to my critique with a much longer, more formal analysis than the one on this page, which you can read here.

When I first started analyzing the original China Study data, I had no intention of writing up an actual critique of Campbell’s much-lauded book. I’m a data junkie. Numbers, along with strawberries and Audrey Hepburn films, make me a very happy girl. I mainly wanted to see for myself how closely Campbell’s claims aligned with the data he drew from—if only to satisfy my own curiosity.

But after spending a solid month and a half reading, graphing, sticky-noting, and passing out at 3 AM from studious exhaustion upon my copy of the raw China Study data, I’ve decided it’s time to voice all my criticisms. And there are many.

First, let me put out some fires before they have a chance to ignite:

  1. I don’t work for the meat or dairy industry. Nor do I have a fat-walleted roommate, best friend, parent, child, love interest, or highly prodigious cat who works for the meat or dairy industry who paid me off to debunk Campbell.
  2. Due to food sensitivities, I don’t consume dairy myself, nor do I have any personal reason to promote it as a health food.
  3. I was a vegetarian/vegan for over a decade and have nothing but respect for those who choose a plant-based diet, even though I am no longer vegan. My goal, with the “The China Study” analysis and elsewhere, is to figure out the truth about nutrition and health without the interference of biases and dogma. I have no agenda to promote.

As I mentioned, I’m airing my criticisms here; this won’t be a China Study love fest, or even a typical balanced review with pros and cons. Campbell actually raises a  number of points I wholeheartedly agree with—particularly in the “Why Haven’t You Heard This?” section of his book, where he exposes the reality behind Big Pharma and the science industry at large. I admire Campbell’s philosophy towards nutritional research and echo his sentiments about the dangers of scientific reductionism. However, the internet is already flooded with rave reviews of this book, and I’m not interested in adding redundant praise. My intent is to highlight the weaknesses of “The China Study” and the potential errors in Campbell’s interpretation of the original data.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: My response to Campbell’s reply, as well as to some common reader questions, can be found in the following post: My Response to Campbell. Please read this for clarification regarding univariate correlations and flaws in Campbell’s analytical methods.)

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A Closer Look at the China Study: Eggs and Disease

Ah, eggs: Incredible and edible, as the commercial goes. A quintessential staple of American breakfasts, loaded with protein, packed with cholesterol. Bodybuilders chug ’em down en masse, and raw foodists sometimes experiment with them—but could they raise your risk of disease, as T. Colin Campbell claims all animal foods do? Let’s take a look at the original China Study data and find out. (more…)

Exciting Update: Analyzing the China Study

Alright, folks: the hiatus is over. Time to get back into the bloggin’ swing of things!

To kick it off, I want to unveil a special project I have in the works. Some of you are no doubt familiar with the China Study by T. Colin Campbell—a book that has, since its publication in 2005, become wildly popular among vegans and raw foodists as the “final word” linking animal foods and disease. While the book has many strengths, I’ve always been skeptical of its conclusions, and woefully curious about the data Campbell used to decide animal products are universally harmful.

Lo and behold, my knowledge-thirst is quenched! It turns out the entire raw data set is available online for anyone with a bit of spare time (and some knowledge of stats) to analyze:

China Study Data at Oxford University

Not only that, but—after months of searching—I’ve finally managed to get my paws on the original China study book: “Diet, Life-style and Mortality in China,” which is an uninterpreted, 894-page collection of all the correlations the China study data uncovered. Venturing lightyears beyond the effects of just animal protein, this book connects the dots between consumption of specific foods, nutrient status, lifestyle factors, diet habits, and chronic diseases. You can look up fruit consumption, for instance, and see what diseases it correlates with or seems to protect against.  The book is an absolute jackpot of information. And it’s mine, all mine, until July 3rd (when the inter-library loan expires and I have to return it—shucky darns!).

With the data now at my fingertips, I’m researching and analyzing like a maniac. And although I initially started this project out of personal curiosity, what it’s uncovering has been so completely shocking that I’ve decided to post everything I find here on my blog. My next few entries will have some awesome data for you.

But you have to wait, because it’s not in presentable form yet. Oh, the suspense! 🙂

In the meantime, I’ll just say that the findings reaffirm what I’ve suspected for a while: Campbell’s “China Study” book is a spectacular example of how you can cherry-pick data to create a trend that isn’t there. And also, wheat may be one of the most toxic things you could ever put in your mouth. More on that later.

Stay tuned.