Wednesday, 2 May 2007

The China Study

This week I'm reading The China Study - Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II. From the book jacket: "For more than forty years, Dr. T. Colin Campbell has been at the forefront of nutrition research. His legacy, the China Study, is the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted...."

This book is very much about the link between our diet and our health and sheds some light on misheld beliefs on what constitutes a healthy diet. As I am only just getting into the book, I can only give early impressions. Well, I'm hooked. There's facts supported by scientific evidence along with charts and bar graphs and statistics, but it is all given in an easy to understand voice.

My curiosity is piqued. The correlation between diets of the affluent and the diseases they are afflicted with is very interesting. Of particular note is the widespread notion of eating protein - and what is considered quality protein has been animal sources of protein. Curiously there are findings linking diseases specifically to the high consumption of animal protein (say, 20% of your diet being said protein). Now this interests me greatly as I have been weight training for a few years and the literature for this predominantly supports the notion that the only way to get really fit and build muscle is by consuming animal protein.

When I first started weight training and learning about the nutrition aspect of getting fit and healthy, I followed the recommendations. I ate water packed tuna, chicken breasts, salmon and lean cuts of beef as my main protein sources. However, over the past 3 years I have become vegetarian. Not over a moral position, but from a health perspective. I am dissatisfied with some of the animal husbandry practices that are a part of factory farms and after finding out the inside story of slaughterhouses... well, quite frankly, it put me off eating meat. Too risky, in my opinion. Interesting to discover, was that my body was okay with not eating meat. No cravings or feeling deprived etc. No loss of health and vitality. The one hang-up I've had in the back of my mind concerned how removing meat from my diet was - would this negatively impact my ability to build and mantain muscle. My concern of not getting enough protein was because that's the downside I've heard and read concerning going vegetarian (from those who obviously were not vegetarian themselves - perhaps they had a bias?). I never stopped to think about whether this makes much sense. Then I started considering the fact that the planet has many herbivores. So, if they don't eat meat obviously they should be small, weak and poorly muscled in comparison to the species that do eat meat due to the fact that plant protein is "poor quality". Funny. That's not what I've noticed growing up on the farm. Hmmmm. Well, anyways, back to the current book I'm reading. This Doctor has many years researching and studying in his experience and from his own studies and those of others he shows that it is actually not in a person's best health interest to consume the copious amounts of animal protein. This is not just the man's opinion. There are numerous studies that support this. Anyways, I'm enjoying the read and learning so much that I just had to tell you.


Nicola said...

Sounds like a great book, Katherine! That "meat builds muscle" myth is well and truly busted when you look at vegan animals in the wild. Does an elephant have muscles? Duh!

Heather said...

That is a great book. J suggested it to me and I enjoyed it. What you said reminds me about a bit in Walden where Thoreau talks about this farmer who is saying that you need meat to be strong but meanwhile he is walking along behind his ox who is pulling a plow all day (and obviously does not eat meat.) Thoreau's idea is that if you want to be as healthy as an ox you should eat like an ox - don't eat the ox. ;-)