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Rest in Peace, China Study

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I know this was all over the blogosphere yesterday but I think it’s important enough for a repost.

One thing I can count on every time I write an article extolling the health benefits of animal products is someone sending me an email or posting a comment like this:

I think you’re absolutely wrong. You should read: The China Study, by Dr. T. Collin Campbell.

Sorry to be contrary, but T. Colin Campbell’s “The China Study” should put this issue to rest. Please consider the information presented there. The methodology is impressive.

Campbell recommends a vegan diet–no animal based food at all. He claims that population studies demonstrate that vegan populations do not suffer from the high incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer that we in the West do with our diets heavy on animal protein.

 

In fact, those are direct quotes from comments that have been left on my blog over the past year. I can’t even show you some of the emails people have sent because the language might offend you.

Usually I direct those folks to Chris Masterjohn’s excellent critique of the China Study. Now, however, I’ll be sending them over to read Denise Minger’s freshly published China Study smackdown.

Here’s the introduction:

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.

Denise got hold of the raw study data and took it apart with a fine-toothed comb. And what she found is that the claims Campbell made in his China Study book are not supported by the data. She also found important data points Campbell never bothered to mention in the book because they didn’t support his vegan agenda.

For example, Campbell conveniently fails to mention the county of Tuoli in China. The folks in Tuoli ate 45% of their diet as fat, 134 grams of animal protein each day (twice as much as the average American), and rarely ate vegetables or other plant foods. Yet, according to the China Study data, they were extremely healthy with low rates of cancer and heart disease; healthier, in fact, than many of the counties that were nearly vegan.

This is just one of many cases of the selective citation and data cherry picking Campbell employs in the China Study. Denise’s critique masterfully reveals the danger of drawing conclusions from epidemiological studies, which can only show correlations between variables – not causal relationships. Campbell should be well aware of this. After all, in his book he rails against the nutritional bias rampant in the scientific community. Yet nowhere is such bias more evident than in Campbell’s own interpretation of the China Study data.

Denise concludes:

Ultimately, I believe Campbell was influenced by his own expectations about animal protein and disease, leading him to seek out specific correlations in the China Study data (and elsewhere) to confirm his predictions.

Campbell’s response to previous critics of the China Study has been something to the effect of: “I’m a trained scientist. Therefore you should believe me and not my critics.” That is a weak argument – to put it mildly. You don’t need six years of graduate school to learn to think critically. Nor does having a lot of letters after your name make you immune to biased thinking or intellectual blindness. A lot of smart, educated people believed the cholesterol hypothesis for decades. But that never made it true.

You can read more – and I mean a lot more – over at Denise’s blog. I recommend starting with her article China Study: Fact or Fallacy? For many of you, it will be more than enough. But if you’re interested in this stuff, she has written several other articles worth reading.

There are also reviews of Denise’s article at Free the Animal, Whole Health Source, Robb Wolf and PaNu. If you don’t have time to read Denise’s article, read Dr. Harris’s review at PaNu. It’s the next best thing.

Rest in peace, China Study.

P.S. You might also want to check out this debate between T. Colin Campbell and Loren Cordain on human protein requirements. Notice that Cordain’s articles contain 164 citations of research studies. How many references do Campbell’s articles contain? Zero. And Campbell’s typical “I’m more educated than the other guy” won’t fly here. Dr. Cordain has some serious chops.

402 Comments

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  1. I couldn’t agree more with you, Chris. You can’t reason with a faithful, no matter what the religion is.
    @ Tuoli: What a convenient explanation by Dr. Campbell to nullify any data or “black swans” that does not agree with his point of view. Does he do the same for the other counties?  He should instead make public his methodology so we can compare his results and methods with Denise Minger’s. It’s surprising that that Denise is held to a higher degree of scrutiny and standard than Dr. Campbell.
    China study is just epidemiology, and epidemiology cannot prove cause and effect. China study is only at best a hypothesis that animal food causes disease. As shown by Denise, it is cherry picking at it’s best and lots of leap of logic. Like casein cause cancer => animal proteins cause cancer.
     

  2. Maybe it would be good to look at the raw data yourself. Here is what happened with the Tuoli:

    “[M]eat consumption for one of the counties, Tuoli, was clearly not accurate on the 3 days that the data were being collected. On those days, they were essentially eating as if it were a feast to impress the survey team but on the question of frequency of consumption over the course of a year, it was very different.”
    -Dr. Campbell (http://tynan.net/chinastudyresponse)
     
    They only collected data for 3 days…and they were feasting to show off to the westerners. I wonder why Denise looked over this part? And if she wants to make herself credible I hope she is working to submit a peer review of her study to publish.

    • Ah, yes. Data collection. Interesting that you’d bring up possible inconsistencies with the Tuoli without mentioning the many other cases in the China Study where data collection was also questionable or inconsistent. That is one of the major reasons we can’t draw conclusions from epidemiological studies, as Daniel pointed out. Campbell should know this. It’s one of the first things taught in Research Methodology 101. But somehow even experienced researchers seem to forget it – especially when amnesia is expedient.

      And as long as we’re talking about population based studies, what of the several traditional cultures around the world (i.e. Masai, Inuit, etc.) whose diets are composed almost entirely of animal products – and who eat little, if any, plant food? If Campbell were right, these would be among the unhealthiest people in the world. But these populations are relatively free of the modern diseases killing us today. That suggests animal products are not the culprit.

      Denise made several important points in her analysis about how the data were collected, but more importantly, how they were interpreted (and which data were left out of the analysis entirely). I haven’t seen one critique of Denise’s work that addresses her points directly. Until that happens, you can’t expect us to take any of it seriously.

      And I’d be careful about making the argument that we should ignore her analysis because it isn’t peer reviewed. Because then we might ask you to start showing us well-designed, peer-reviewed trials proving that animal products are harmful and that a plant-based diet is beneficial.

        • Chris,

          Thanks for the post and all the time you have put in on this – Would consider taking the time to answer a few more questions?

          Do you have an additional response to Tuoli and Mike – looks like you stopped replying when it was really getting interesting.

          Tuoli
          – Do you have anymore to say on this other then the whole study could be inconsistent?
          – Is there a meat eating research study that can compare with the size, duration and scope of the china study (I keep reading research only to find out it is based on a short duration and/or sample size)?

          Mike’s Post
          – Inuits and Masa have numerous health problems?

          Additional
          – Is there any research to show if you had to and if were educated like yourself could you live as healthy as a meat eater (again, under the premiss that you really knew what you were doing)?

          – On the subject of no evidence for cancer fighting and being a Vegan would you mind watching this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30gEiweaAVQ
          – Is there a meat eating comparison to these facts?

      • Chris,

        I agree with you that the Inuit and Maasai do not have many of the “affluent diseases” that we have. Personally, I believe that is due to a ton of processed food and simply excess amounts of calories and weight.

        However, it is true that of all of the primitive populations in the world, the Masai and the Inuit are the LEAST healthy.

        “Inuit Greenlanders, who historically have had limited access to fruits and vegetables, have the worst longevity statistics in North America. Research from the past and present shows that they die on the average about 10 years younger and have a higher rate of cancer than the overall Canadian population.

        Similar statistics are available for the high meat-consuming Maasai in Kenya. They eat a diet high in wild hunted meats and have the worst life expectancy in the modern world. Life expectancy is 45 years for women and 42 years for men. African researchers report that, historically, Maasai rarely lived beyond age 60. Adult mortality figures on the Kenyan Maasai show that they have a 50% chance of dying before the age of 59.2”

        http://www.who.int/countries/ken/en/

        It makes sense that the human body will find nutrients in any situation, which is why the Inuit can receive all of their essential vitamins from a meat and fat based diet. But that does not mean that it is optimal.

  3. Sue called it on the 30 Bananas bit.  Too funny.
     
    “you can’t fight faith with facts.”
    I would argue that’s the only way to fight it.  Sadly, you can’t fight the faithful with facts.  Or rather, you can’t get them to observe.

    • Ah, it was inevitable. Unfortunately, none of those critiques you linked hold water. Denise’s analysis was impeccable, as many working physicians and researchers in the field have attested to. “Robert” makes so substantive criticism about her work other than to say it should be peer reviewed. By his own admission, he hasn’t “checked her math”.

      This is all so predictable. It’s just human nature. People will go to great lengths to defend their worldview, regardless of what the evidence shows. I’ve said it a million times before: “you can’t fight faith with facts.”

  4. Mysterious absence of China Study pushers on the comments of this post…

    They’re all posting somewhere over at 30 Banananas!

  5. @ Todd
    I came across someone on a nutrition forum who was trying a meat only diet, they had only been on it a few months and seemed to be enjoying themselves and feeling good. You’d have to get plenty of organ meat into you though I’d say.
    If it were me and I had to choose, I’d go for meat, as far as i know vitamin C is one of the only nutrients you can’t get from meat and if you’re low carb enough you need very little anyway so I’d say you’d fare better a bit longer. You wouldn’t last long if you weren’t eating any real protein.

    http://foodfloraandfelines.blogspot.com/

  6. @nick
    what is healthier meat or vegtables?


    Well, I would say look at evidence and you tell me.  I don’t think a case can be made that one is healthier than the other.  Both provide many of the same nutrients, but both also provide many things the other cannot.  Completely eliminating one or the other will eventually lead to problems as most hardcore vegans find out after a while.  I’ve yet to meet someone who has eaten nothing but meat for more than a couple weeks at a time so I can’t speak to that.

  7. Sounds suspiciously like the same “methodology” used by one Ancel Keys – which started us down this whole low-fat highway to unhealth.

  8. Uggh I have to admit I used to be a big fan of the china study back in my vegetarian days (before I knoew better basically). No I look at it and wonder how I could have been so easily won by some sensationalist writing, but as a veggie I like Campbell himself saw what I wanted to see. Been primal for about 4 months now after a over a decade of vegetarianism and often veganism and I feel fantastic! No more IBS for me yay!
    Denise is such an inspiration, what a talented woman, I wish I had a fraction of her abilities 🙁

    http://foodfloraandfelines.blogspot.com/

  9. to Nick: I found the video on youtube “Is Meat Always Acidifying?” to be very insightful.
     
     

  10. I have not studied or even read the China report I really do not have to I am in the best shape of my life since I stopped eating meat,dairy and WHeat!  I eat mainly raw fruit,vegtables nuts and seeds.  That is what is good for me.  I do not have an agenda but it does not take a study by a vegan or the meat and dairy industry to see who is the fatest and unhealthy people and what they eat;  Sugar and wheat yes but to counter that what is healthier meat or vegtables?
    Each person is different but the higher the acid producing food the higher the chance of cancer and  heart disease which re the 2 hihgest rates of death in the US.  Which foods are high in acid and which are high in Alkaline no sudy or industry can hide the facts!

    • What’s better, meat or vegetables? Um, ideally, you don’t pick. You eat them both because both contribute different benefits to your health. I’m fascinated with the online comments tonight, many of them demanding that we pick a side, with no thought to the big picture. We need a good variety of all whole foods from the traditional 4 food groups.

      • I was thinking exactly about this and as far as I am concerned we are NOT HERBIVORES and also NOT CARNIVORES either . WE ARE AND ALWAYS HAD BEEN OMNIVORES. I do eat a lot of vegetables,some fruits and nuts but also eat a lot of EGGS, FISH,SEA FOODS,BACON,CHEESE,BUTTER and all kinds of MEATS. I eat absolutely NO GRAINS of any kind, no pasta, no rice and specially NO SUGARS for over 5 years now. I eat VERY LITTLE FRUITS , specially AVOCADOS,COCONUT MEAT and BERRIES ! I also drink a lot o Coconut water straight from the Coconut fruit. I have lost 80 pounds in one year after i have removed WHEAT, GRAINS and SUGAR from my life . NO MORE FAST JUNK FOOD & SODAS either ! I have been feeling GREAT since i have decided to live a Low carb,High fat/protein way of eating. I do eat BEANS almost every day, and Potatoes,Yams,Sweet potatoes,Corn,Peas,Lentils and Yuca ,so I dont know how I would call my diet because the Paleo diet do not recomend Beans and other legumes, maybe I would call it “my style Atkins Diet “, either way i am NOT interested in DIET LABELS , so I would just call it Ray’s Diet ! I feel great on Ray’s diet so I will stick to it .Ray’s Diet is basically a WHOLE FOOD DIET ,GROUND FOODS and MEATS. NO REGRETS !

  11. High Chris,
    Excellent post.   For years I supported reduced animal protein but that changed when I found certain nutrients were lacking in my diet.   I now eat red meat at least once weekly although it is usually lamb, buffalo, wild game or grass feed & finished beef.
    I have searched for years for John Yudkin’s research works on sugar and animal protein all to no avail.  Seems some of the wonderful research accomplished in the 1950’s & 60’s has mysteriously disappeared from the public arena.  I did find significant reference to it in Linus Pauling’s “How to Live Longer and Feel Better” from the 1980’s.
    Keep tweaking the thought processes.   –  Pdazzler

  12. Yes, I do believe that some people need to eat meat. If not most people. Those are just my beliefs, but I this, is interesting, to say the least. Veganism is ok, but I do not think you can take ANY diet and say that it is the right one for every human being. Veganism is plain not healthy, for some people. The fact of the matter is that some people just cannot absorb enough nutrients from vegan diets alone.

  13. Thanks for this post!  I’m currently taking a class where I have to read The China Study and write a paper.  Oy!  You’ve given me some great sources for the paper ; ).

  14. Very interesting! I cannot tell you how many books, dvd’s, and online information I have read in the past few years trying to resolve what I believe about this subject. Ironically, while in the airport last week (returning from a MonaVie conference where at the same time Suzanne Somers was having an alternative conference and I ran into Dr. Julian Whitaker), I saw the China Study in the bookstore and “almost” bought it realizing that is one of the last books I hadn’t picked up to read but had heard so much about!
    Shame on me for straying from my own faith. 1 Timothy 4:3-5… They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
    That being said, I do believe this refers to “real, wholesome, unadulterated” food, not the garbage so readily available to us.
    Thanks for clarification once and for all!

    • you know that that verse tells you not to eat pork. cleansed by the WORD and prayer. The WORD/law states no pork should be eaten. And by the way Yahuwah said in genesis that we should eat herbs and fruits and after the fall of man HE included other plants. He never said in Genesis that we must eat meat.

    • Mysterious absence of China Study pushers on the comments of this post…

      Yes, they’ve gone awfully quiet all of a sudden.

      Don’t worry, I’m sure Campbell will publish a completely unconvincing and unsubstantiated response soon.

      • As you can see, Mr. Kresser, there are some threads this year, have you anything new to the subject? Because this Masterjohn-Minger’s “debunking” is a little bit out of fashion!

      • I don’t think Campbell would want to waste his time with you.

        And I think I should stop wasting mine.

  15. I’ve never been healthier since switching to an almost all meat/fat diet 10 months ago. I eat almost no plants, absolutely no starches or sugars and high fat. My skin is good, my colour is good, my memory is better, my sense of direction is better, I’ve lost a ton of weight, my cavities don’t hurt anymore, I have more stamina, I’m not hungry all the time, my hair and nails are strong and shiny, I don’t get pms anymore, my mood is dead stable & calm……
    Ditch the grains. Ditch the sugar. Eat the animals. and sure, do it ethically and support ethical husbandry.

    • This makes me sad. I understand the appeal of fast fixes and the lure of diets that make you drop weight within a couple of months, but you’ll be in trouble for the long-term. Dr. Atkins hid his “history of heart attack, congestive heart failure and hypertension”, you know. Good luck when you’re older.

      • I see you have fallen for the false hype on Dr. Atkins. Let me give you a little help, (just a quick and easy google search was all it took).

        “In 2000, Dr. Atkins developed cardiomyopathy, an incurable heart condition which has quite a few different causes. His was thought to be from a viral illness, and his physician stated at the time that there was no evidence that his diet contributed to the condition. His coronary arteries were reported to have been checked at that time and found to be free of blockages. “

        • Hi Stephen,

          If you dig a bit further there’s more to the story on Dr. Atkins.

          On Dr. Atkin’s death certificate his medical history included myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure and hypertension. One of the major risk factors to the cardiomyopathy you referred to is long-term high blood pressure, something Dr. Atkins was diagnosed with. (http://goo.gl/NYZYf)

          Additionally, when Dr. Atkins died he was 6’ tall and 258 pounds. I doubt this would be considered a picture of fitness for anyone, short or long term. (http://goo.gl/o5mXy)

          Yes the Atkins diet works, you lose weight. But does any logical person really believe cutting out the carbs from fruits and vegetables and replacing it with blue cheese smothered onto a steak is a viable long term solution for sustainable health? The Atkins diet is simply a short term way of justifying bad habits, it will catch up with you eventually – just like it did for Dr. Atkins.

    • And now, six years after “ethically” eating animals, which you killed yourself, I hope, what does your health look like?

      • Wait, what’s “unethical” about eating animals? Animals eat animals. That’s the way the world works. You are free to choose not to eat them, but that doesn’t make the opposite choice unethical. Unsustainable maybe, but not unethical.

        Do your ethics say that we should mass-euthanize all carnivorous species to protect the more herbivorous ones?

        • Hello again Jason,

          The difference between the animals you’re referring to and humans is necessity. Only 20% of animals are carnivorous, that kill other animals for food and are designed for it. Humans do not require animal flesh so it’s a choice. Ethics would ask us to minimize the amount of suffering, which choosing to eat meat clearly does not. So yes, I’m afraid it’s unethical.

          For instance, dolphins are also known to engage in rape in the wild. http://goo.gl/JEpSC You mentioned “Animals eat animals. That’s the way the world works.” I doubt you would say what a rapist does is ok because dolphins do it.

          I find it interesting that a big part of the reason people are able to justify putting animals through deplorable conditions just for our own gluttony is because they think humans are superior to other animals on this planet. Whether this is conscious or subconscious, this superiority generally comes into play.

          So we can’t have it both ways without being hypocrites. They’re either inferior to us and we shouldn’t mimic their behavior or we value their existence and look to them for guidance for what we should be doing. Even if it’s the latter, I’d argue the animals we eat would encourage us not to eat them as it’s not a necessity and may even be at the root of most major diseases.

          And of course we shouldn’t ‘mass-euthanize’ all carnivores as you put it. We also shouldn’t ‘mass-euthanize’ all the herbivores we’re currently raising for food in factory farms.

          • i would argue that it is putting men above animals to not acknowledge that we are, in fact, animals.

  16. I couldn’t agree more, and I’ve said as much on the blog several times.

    Nevertheless, in China the evidence still shows that eating meat (regardless of where it comes from) is not unhealthy and that the strongest correlation between a dietary variable and disease was not meat, but wheat.

    • A PhD cancer epidemiologist responded to Minger’s research. As she seems more qualified than I am I would like to refer you to her response. (http://goo.gl/eawSsf)

      In summary your echoing her claim that wheat is the real evil suffers from the flaw of single variable analysis. Unless regression analysis is performed to address confounding variables Minger is really only completing the first step of the analysis.

      Might I add that Minger is a 26 year old with an undergraduate degree in English. This hardly qualifies her to critique the work of an 80 year old with masters in nutrition and biochemistry and Ph.D.’s in biochemistry, nutrition, and microbiology from Cornell University. Not to mention she is an internet blogger who’s work has not been published or peer reviewed.

      • All I see here are appeals to authority, there isn’t much refutation at all in that other than pointing out one ecological fallacy and stating that it was crude without any backing – So I guess we’ll just say that she used the ‘fallacy fallacy.’

        Maybe if she actually gave a comprehensive review of it, that link might be worth some time, but unfortunately as is, it isn’t.

        • Hi Denis,

          I provided the first link as it’s more of a quick overview for those who don’t have the time to read Dr. Campbell’s full response. If you found it too high level – I encourage you to read his official response. (http://goo.gl/93N2)

          He highlights plenty of reasons why Minger’s (And Kresser’s) conclusions are misleading. For example, Minger did not first consider the biological plausibility of their claims. They also failed to perform regression (multivariate) analysis taking into account confounding factors. Simply stating one variable moved when another variable moved is not sufficient to make a conclusion. (As is the case with the wheat claim)

          As for your ‘Appeal to Authority’ point – if you’re a student of fallacies I encourage you to take into consideration the ‘Argument from Fallacy.’ Just because someone raises a point that can be tied to a fallacy doesn’t mean that person’s point is invalid. There’s enough fallacies out there that most arguments can be tied to at least one.

          More specifically, stating Dr. Campbell’s experience and qualifications is not an important factor is a bit myopic. The same is true when evaluating the comments from the PhD cancer epidemiologist referenced in my previous post. When compared to Minger’s complete lack of qualifications or experience she doesn’t really belong in the same discussion.

          I look forward to hearing what you think of Campbell’s response.

          • If Dr. Campbell’s credentials and experience were as significant as you seem to think they are, then the scientific community as a whole would be advising us to stop eating meat. His research would be on the front page of the newspapers. Every mainstream health organization would be citing him.

            Why aren’t they?

            Because he hasn’t proven anything. When and if anyone has, we will know about it. And not via a mass market diet book.

            He is just one guy out of many thousands with comparable qualifications, with all sorts of different opinions on the subject of optimum diet and research to back up those opinions. None of the research is definitive. It all conflicts with other research. You can find “proof” to match any opinion held by anyone. And you can also find lots of people who will tell you that all their health problems went away when they started eating x and/or stopped eating y, whatever x and y are. In short, you can believe whatever you want to believe and find things to reinforce your beliefs.

            So tell us, why exactly is it that you have decided he is the one person with all the answers? Because he has a PhD and published research? Sorry, not good enough. PhDs and published research are a dime a dozen. If you’re going to rely on reputation and credentials to guide you, then you should be relying on the consensus in the field, not one person. Especially one person who doesn’t seem to be taken very seriously by his peers.

            Dr. Campbell claims he used sophisticated statistical tools to analyze his data. If he made his claims in a scientific journal, we wouldn’t need Denise to challenge him; his peers would have done it. He would have had to describe those methods in detail so that they could be reviewed, validated and reproduced by others. Still waiting for that – and personal attacks on Denise are no substitute.

            • Hi Denise,

              Thank you for your response.

              I’m afraid I don’t follow your logic that Dr. Campbell’s research is invalidated because it’s not being acted on by the public or that it’s not being put on the front page of newspapers.

              For example let’s look at smoking. There’s been research pointing to cancer and cigarettes being linked since the late 1940’s. (http://goo.gl/8BRI6F) It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the percent of people who smoke started to drop in any noticeable way. (http://goo.gl/J3ZuA0) I suspect diet changes will take much longer to transpire, as it doesn’t effect people in the general vicinity in the same way smoking does.

              The lack of action with cigarrettes isn’t because the research was wrong. It was because the tobacco industry had a lot of reason to keep the misinformation going as long as possible. Well meaning doctors even continued to promote smoking for decades after the findings started to come out. Why? Corporate profits were at stake, people don’t like to change and, most of all, people don’t like to admit when they’re wrong. Plus, if people really cared about their health 20%+ of the population wouldn’t still be smoking. So no, inaction is not sufficient grounds to claim the research is flawed.

              I agree the area of diet can be quite gray with countless studies on both sides. However in my experience there is enough data to indicate animal products do more harm than good. For me one of the most convincing individual pieces of evidence is the World Health statistics. These show that as the amount of animal products and processed foods is reduced, the rate of diease (Heart disease and cancer, etc) drops right along with it. (http://goo.gl/1tBAv1)

              The reason I brought up Dr. Campbell’s qualifications is because they are relevant to this discussion. No, I’m not comparing him to other PhD’s who have done research. I’m comparing him to someone who majored in English, is in her 20’s and completely unqualified in the field who is challenging his research.

              Qualifications aren’t the sole piece of data that should be evaluated, but it’s a pretty good starting point. And if this isn’t enough, Dr. Campbell’s response is more than sufficient to nullify her claims. (As well as Chris’s) (http://goo.gl/93N2)

              Also the China Study itself is one chapter out of 18, all of which reference different bodies of evidence. (And yes, peer reviewed ones) The fact that people are more intent on discrediting Dr. Campbell’s research rather than citing their own more compelling research (Supporting that eating animals is necessary for optimum nutrition) speaks volumes.

              Best of of luck in your search for a healthy diet.

          • Jeremy,

            Minger explains why she doesn’t do multivariate analysis- because Campbell didn’t. Your criticism of HER is actually a criticism of HIS work.

            Campbell’s colleagues also went through the data and came to the same conclusion as Minger, and disagree with Campbell. Her lack of credentials does not mean her statistical analysis is wrong.

            http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/71/3/850.full

      • Oh, lord, Jeremy – this is the dregs you have to scrape to find a scientist backing up Dr. Campbell – an ANONYMOUS person on “Vegsource” whose credential is that she calls herself “a real PhD cancer epidemiologist”, who didn’t even read the book?

        • Hi Denise,

          There’s no reason to bring the lord into this 😉

          So do you disagree with the content of the response or just the source? Since you are solely attacking the source I have to question whether there’s anything in the content you can find fault with.

          I can’t help but be reminded when you said earlier:

          Denise B (AUGUST 15, 2014 AT 1:58 PM)
          “…and personal attacks on Denise are no substitute.”

          So are we allowing evaluation of the source or not? You seem to be against looking at Denise Minger’s credentials (Because there are none), but then when a PhD cancer epidemiologist comes into the mix all of a sudden you want to question the source because you haven’t read their full bio.

          Regardless, Campbell’s response is more than adequate to address Minger (And Kresser’s) concerns: http://goo.gl/93N2 (After intro)

          • An anonymous person has no credentials. I’m a Nobel Prize-winning microbiologist. Are you going to take that seriously?

            More importantly, what content? There is no content. She doesn’t say anything. Correlation is not causation? This kind of data requires sophisticated statistical analysis? Yes, we all know that already. How do these platitudes address a single one of the detailed and specific points Denise made?

            The ONLY thing she says is, trust me – I know what I’m talking about and Denise doesn’t. Even if she gave us her name and professional affiliations, that’s not a serious rebuttal; without them, it’s completely worthless.

            There are no end of people out there, including Dr. Campbell himself, eager to tell us how ignorant Denise is. Where is one person willing to refute her points?

            Here’s some intelligent discussion.

            http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-china-study-revisited/

            • Hi Denise,

              Since you’re clearly not satisfied with the first source, why don’t you read Dr. Campbell’s response? He quite clearly explains that Minger is only completing the first step and that multivariate regression analysis, confounding factors, biological plausibility, etc cannot be skipped. (As Minger did) All she did was perform univariate analysis and run with it.

              As for the source you provided, Hall referenced Minger’s statement saying that “I believe Campbell was influenced by his own expectations about animal protein and disease, leading him to seek out specific correlations in the China Study data”

              Dr. Campbell grew up on a dairy farm, he used to milk cows. Do you really think he was looking for evidence to go against his family’s business?

              And what is it exactly we need animal based foods for? If the China Study isn’t sufficient for you, there’s plenty of other data out there. http://goo.gl/1tBAv1 Why not error on the side of caution?

      • it’s funny how a 80 year old man who rarely publishes sources is considered the better scientist.

    • Have you ever stopped to consider that the animal products which they consumed were likely organic, or at least nowhere close to the meat that we eat as far as feed, antibiotics, steroids, Bovine cancer, papillomas, etc………..?

      • You’re an animal so your body makes cholesterol. I challenge you to prove that animal products cause serum cholesterol problems.

      • You can, however, get plenty of autoimmune disease and gastrointestinal diseases from wheat. Wheat is indigestible to humans. We don’t even have the enzymes to digest it.

  17. Interesting. I think it important that if one does eat meat, one should strive for the most humanely raised animal—grass fed beef for example. Cows were never meant to eat corn. ( I actually wish corn had never been invented) We buy our chicken from a local farmer who uses no hormones, antibiotics, etc. The birds are all free ranging. When we can afford beef we do get grass fed and what an amazing difference between that and the stuff you get at the grocery store. Not only the taste but the texture itself is better.
     

      • No one NEEDED to post it because, if you would have read the link to Minger’s blog, she posts it in the intro paragraph along with her formal rebuttal of his rebuttal that demolishes his arguments. Most of his arguments against her data were actually criticisms of his OWN methods, since she attempted to replicate his methods as closely as possible. Here’s her rebuttal:

        http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/08/06/final-china-study-response-html/

        Also, Campbell’s colleagues went through the same data as Campbell and disagreed with him, while agreeing with Minger.

        http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/71/3/850.full

      • the response is merely stating that
        1) you don’t understand what I wanted to say because I know better than you. (no sources are needed to prove so because I’m 80 and have a phd)

        2)you are not using the correlation variables I use therefore yours are wrong and mine are right (because I’m an 80 year old phd and that’s truth you can’t impeach)

        3)you failed to grasp the broader implications of choosing a diet (my diet), which are much more important than actually relying on unbiased fact.

    • I am not a scientist, doctor or any of the educated individudwho claim to be the authority of nutrition. But this is my personal experience. A few years ago, I was 300 lbs. I ate eggs and bacon for breakfast, soups, salads and sandwiches for lunch and fish and veg for dinner. I was fat and unhealthy and no amount of exercise changed this. I didn’t necessarily change my diet based on the China Study, but a lot of what Dr. Campbell says makes perfect sense, and mind you that The China Study was just a confirmation of other studies done by other scientists. But to me, I just used my common sense. Americans consume the most meat and dairy in the world, have the best health care but are still the most unhealthy people in the world, along with having the highest rates of cancer and osteoporosis. And everyone around me tries to avoid gluten and processed foods in favor of free range and grass fed and they’re still fat like I was and or dropping dead from CVD. The only way I was able to regain my health and become healthier than ever before was to adopt the plant based diet. And if that wasn’t enough, my father who ate grass fed beef and fish was fat and had a total cholesterol of 330 along with all the usual ie high blood pressure and so on. One day I got rid of all his meat and dairy and feed him a plant based diet and after only a few months he cut his cholesterol to a total of 133 and lost 80 lbs in the process and got off all his tons of meds, not to mention the statins which his doctor said he’d be on for life because supposedly his high cholesterol was “hereditary”. Once he got healthy, his doc pulled him off all meds and have him a print out which I had my RN friend translate and she confirmed that his “PROTEIN” levels and everything were normal, cholesterol was great, she was really glad that he got so healthy compared to how he was. So for me the evidence is clear, the elimination of animal products from the diet is the best and in my opinion the only way to optimal health as was achieved by me and my father along with the thousands of plant based dieters whom are online I talk to, among with 80 year old VEGAN bodybuilders and others who’ve been Vegan and disease free their whole lives. And as a side note I’d like to add that most of the healthiest ancient people in the world consumed wheat. Processed and adulterated is a problem yes, but everyone I know consumes wheat and has no adverse Keith issues. In contrary to your article, everyone I’ve ever known who went plant based got healthy. There are no scientific studies or health gurus needed for me to see that. Especially when when we physiologically have no need for animal products as I have learned through my diet mixed with intense exercise. I maintain my muscle and have trimmed excess fat with ease. I think recommending people consume animal products is irresponsible for two reasons, bad for human health and cruel for the animals. There is no such thing as “humane slaughter”, just the word slaughter in itself makes that apparent. And you should also remember that Dr. Campbell is not a VEGAN per se, he’s not into animal rights or other aspects of Vegan lifestyle, his work is based on his and his colleagues’ scientific observations. So I don’t see an agenda there, especially seeing as how he comes from a dairy family. I’m sure he wouldn’t bash the family profession without due process and cause. In my OPINION, I just think that people don’t like to hear that we shouldn’t eat animals, whether it’s a health argument or an animal rights one. People get rude, disrespectful and childish when we challenge long held beliefs. But the health of western countries may make Dr Campbell’s argument unnecessary as the personal and global effects of animal consumption are apparent for all to see. Thanks for reading.

      • “I think recommending people consume animal products is irresponsible for two reasons, bad for human health and cruel for the animals. There is no such thing as “humane slaughter”, just the word slaughter in itself makes that apparent.”

        just the word slaughter in itself makes that apparent.
        just the word slaughter in itself makes that apparent.
        just the word slaughter in itself makes that apparent.

        You may say that Dr. Campbell doesn’t have an agenda, but I think you just gave away yours. Oops!

        • Not sure I see your point Adrian.

          So because Derk doesn’t believe in slaughtering animals he has an ‘agenda’? By that logic people who don’t believe in murder shouldn’t serve on the jury for a murder trial because they have an ‘agenda’.

          Derk’s post was well written and a good example of the benefits of a whole food plant-based diet.

          Dr. Campbell had no reason to push this message. As Derk already stated he grew up on a dairy farm. Dr. Campbell also went to the Philippines in the mid-60’s through the early 70’s to help feed the poor. They gave them the western diet rich in meat and dairy, etc thinking it would help them. It wasn’t until the local population started developing more disease (Specifically liver cancer in children) that he started to question his own beliefs. (In addition to other research)

          Another thing – the China Study book is not just one study. There’s only one chapter devoted to the china study itself. If you take the time to read the other 17 chapters you’ll find there’s plenty of other evidence out there pointing to the same conclusion.

          There are numerous peer reviewed research findings that support that a whole food plant-based diet prevents, suspends and/or cures cancers, cardiovascular diseases, multiple sclerosis, kidney stones, osteoporosis, diabetes (Type I and II), Rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, macular degeneration, hypertension, acne, migraines, lupus, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive dysfunction + plus anecdotally erectile disfunction and pain.

          You may question the China Study itself, but when taken in conjunction with the other bodies of work available it takes a high level of confirmation bias to ignore the message.

            • Do you know any large vegan community? Argument destroyed.

              The longest living communities on this planet are either vegetarian or are eating small quantities of meat.

      • great reply. We do not need so called professionals to tell us whats good and whats not. We can see around us what kills people, the answer is plain and simple. ANIMAL PRODUCTS. Our physiology is not that of a meat eater but rather a plant/fruit eater.

        • based on what facts?

          Cellulose makes up to 90% of some plants.
          We cannot digest cellulose, Hence our physiology is not that of a plant eater.

          • Can you digest bones, or tendons? No? “physiology is not that of a meat eater.”

            Cellulose has a very important role, even if it isn’t digested.

      • As you’ve stated, your entire argument is based on your own bias. You have experienced and witnessed others give up animal products and become healthier, therefore you believe animal products have adverse effects. In my experience, I have watched my autoimmune condition slowly disappear after ADDING meat and fish into my diet. I also know plenty of vegetarians and vegans, almost all who have some form of chronic health condition or deficiency (yes, even the ones who eat no soy). Being in the autoimmune community, you become exposed to a lot of these cases. After a standard, healthy plant-based diet took away my ability to function as a normal human over time (keyword: long-term), I obviously have my own bias of thinking animal products are important for optimal health. See how our own different life experiences can lead to opposite beliefs? This is why we shouldn’t go around preaching dogmatic views of nutrition. I will emphasize that I’m not advocating for bacon or large amounts of meat, nor am I suggesting dairy be a staple. Obviously every human has a different body, a different digestive system, a different array of food allergies, etc. But when you’re eliminating the only food sources with *natural, absorbable, and substantial* amounts of B12, CoQ10, L-carnitine, and vitamin D (the most common and effective supplements used in treating autoimmune illnesses), you are putting your long-term health at risk. It can take up to 10 years before a B12 deficiency becomes apparent. Short-term effects of a plant-based diet can definitely be rewarding, and as a former vegetarian, I can attest to the addictiveness and almost cult-like obsession of being meat free. It gives the sensation of being lighter and healthier. However, I would argue it’s the elimination of processed foods, chemicals, hormones, and refined sugars that heal your body. A diet with no processed foods, an emphasis on nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits, and a couple servings of organic, grass-fed meat and fish each week is not going to promote cancer and heart disease. It will, however, provide you with the proper amount of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids to strengthen your immune system. A small amount of animal products with a plant-based emphasis: when will this dietary movement arise? Oh yeah, it has; it’s just referred to as a balanced, healthy diet. *And let’s be clear here: your mental health, including stress levels, sense of belonging, sense of community, happiness, is just as likely to cause cancer and heart disease. None of these dietary theories are even considering psychoneuroimmunilogy. Ultimately, everyone is entitled to their own diet choices. It initially felt wrong and repulsive when I started eating meat and fish, but things began falling into place once I did. It was a sacrifice I had to make for my own well-being. I strongly recommend all vegans and vegetarians get yearly micronutrient testing and pay close attention to any signs their bodies are becoming sick. I wish I had. Thank you for reading and I wish you the best.

        • Hi Aly,

          I’m glad to hear you’ve found a diet that works for you, but it’s a shame it’s required the re-incorporation of animal products.

          Out of curiosity, have you had any blood tests of your own to point to what the issue was with your plant-based diet? I completely agree with you that processed foods don’t contribute anything and should be minimized or eliminated. However I struggle to understand why you believe animal products are necessary.

          The only nutrient I’m convinced having a strong case to be supplemented for vegans is B12. This has more to do with the excessive sterilization in modern farming than the source of one’s food. My understanding is that after 50 years of age the human body can’t absorb the B12 from animals anyway and will still need to be supplemented, so vegans are just doing it a bit earlier.

          As for small amounts of animal products not being harmful, I’m not sure what makes you believe this (Besides your personal experience). My understanding is that any amount of animal based foods increases the risk of disease (Heart disease, cancer, etc). The world health organization data supports this. (http://goo.gl/1tBAv1)

          Best of luck to your future health. I appreciate that you’ve played around with your diet enough that you want to stick with what works, but I can’t help but challenge the need for animal products to be a part of it as my understanding is that the consumption of animal products is more likely to contribute to disease, not help manage / prevent it.

          • Jeremy, you keep saying “my understanding is…” but that doesn’t make it true. The WHO data in your link doesn’t say anything about eating moderate amounts of animal products or not.

            • Hi Jason,

              Thanks for your response.

              The chart from the WHO data I provided shows that the rate of disease continues to drop as the intake of processed foods / animal products drops. (Even to levels far below ‘moderate’ by western standards)

              For instance, Thailand had just under 30% of their diet from processed / animal based foods and just over 10% of their deaths from heart disease and cancer while Laos had less than 10% of of their diet from processed / animal based foods and their heart disease / cancer risk dropped to ~5%. This trend continues from one end of the scale to the other.

              If you have an alternative way to interpret the data I’m all ears, but I can’t see how any level of processed foods or animal products can be considered helpful or even necessary, even at ‘moderate’ levels.

              • Hi Jeremy:
                Thanks for keeping the debate polite.

                1. Correlation vs causation. This graph could possibly support eating less meat in conjunction with other evidence, but it does not prove that meat is causing the illness. Other factors in those 12 countries could be causing disease. Assuming it’s the unrefined plants that are healthy, then it’s possible that eating unrefined plants together with animal products is healthier yet. The graph itself just doesn’t prove or disprove anything about animal products in the diet.

                2. Cherry-picking. Whenever I see a graph that clean I have to ask where the rest of the data is. Or maybe the WHO just doesn’t have stats on the other 90+ percent of Europe’s population? Given how doubtful that is, it’s very likely that those countries were picked to make the graph look good.

                The latter is actually a huge issue since food policy in the last 50 years has been set on the basis of “scientific” research which has since been shown to have been cherry picked. Many sources suggest Ancel Keys’ seminal “seven countries” study was pared down from 22 countries because the data from the other countries did not fit his hypothesis!

                • Hi Jason,

                  I agree no data is 100% conclusive. Especially when it comes to nutrition and linking activity A with disease B, which often transpires several years down the road.

                  You suggested that eating unrefined plant foods and animal products together could help reduce disease better than just plant-based foods. If what you suggested was taking place with the current data set I would expect a less linear relationship. In every case where the % of unrefined plant foods in the diet is increased the rate of disease decreases. This would require the reduced intake of animal-based foods and processed foods as well.

                  I agree there’s confounding factors and biological plausibility to be considered, but that’s where looking at multiple studies (Such as the China Study) helps to sharpen the picture a bit.

                  As for correlation vs. causation, I agree causation is not an easy task to prove. However, I do not believe that scientific causality should be the only factor for decisions we make. For instance, here’s an article that insists smoking does not cause lung cancer: http://goo.gl/QfTLTr

                  As for your point regarding cherry-picking, I agree and I would like to see more of the data too. If you see a more complete data set out there that would be great. For me based on the information that is provided it’s hard to ignore that processed foods and animal products seem to be killing us.

                  There’s another piece of the puzzle for why there may be so many countries left out. Thanks to increasing westernization, it’s quite difficult to find countries that aren’t consuming high levels of processed foods and animal products. If they included all of Europe for example, I would suspect there would be a lot of similarities, which wouldn’t add a lot to the discussion. (Similar diets and similar rates of disease) The purpose of the WHO data is to show what happens when processed foods and animal products are reduced.

                  Even if the data isn’t 100% conclusive, wouldn’t we want to error on the side of caution? I can’t see anyone reading the smoking article I referenced earlier and saying, “You know, this seems like quite a gray area, I think I’ll pickup smoking.” (Although I’m sure plenty already addicted may see it as an excuse to continue. Confirmation bias is a powerful force)

                  Thanks for the lively debate Jason. Regardless of where each of us falls on the topic it’s an important discussion to have. If not for our health, for the animals.

        • Just a quick reply to your very thoughtful post. Research of plant-based nutrition continues to provide insights into why plant foods can and do provide ALL nutrients needed and possible from food, with the exception of B-12. B-12 is actually not produced by animals or plants, but by bacteria in the soil. Surprisingly, B-12 is found also in banana peels.
          L-Carnitine and CoQ10 are found in plant foods, and we can acquire as much as we need of these from plants. Vitamin D supplementation is needed by everyone living in a northern climate.
          L-carnitine: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/L-carnitine
          CoQ10: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/coenzyme-Q10 – food-sources
          Vitamin D: http://nutritionfacts.org/?s=vitamin+d
          There are other nutrients many people think are lacking in a vegan diet, but there really are none. The challenge is variety of whole-food, plant based foods. You also brought up an excellent point that social support is just as important for health and well-being. Absolutely true!!!!

        • Regarding: “But when you’re eliminating the only food sources with *natural, absorbable, and substantial* amounts of B12, CoQ10, L-carnitine, and vitamin D (the most common and effective supplements used in treating autoimmune illnesses),” B12 is made by bacteria in the soil. Animals are given supplementation. CoQ10 is sythesized by the body, we do not need to ingest it. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/coenzyme-Q10. All carnitines (there are four forms) is synthesized by the body, we do not need to ingest it. Vitamin D is obtained best by exposure to sunlight. Even those eating animals will not get enough if living in a northern climate. These nutrients are not valid reasons for eating animal products.