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Victory Garden Initiative

A Summary of The China Study (from Judaism and Vegetarianism)

The China Project differs from other scientific studies in several important ways:
  1. It utilizes the most comprehensive database on the multiple causes of disease ever compiled; the Chinese government provided background data on eighty million Chinese people.
  2. It examines relationships between health and diet in a holistic way, by considering ways in which complete diets and other lifestyle patterns affect health. By contrast, most contemporary studies focus on relationships between single nutrients or foods and single diseases.
  3. China provided a "natural (living) laboratory" for the study of nutrition and disease that is unmatched anywhere else in the world; while people in most of the world's countries frequently change their places of residence, and eat foods from many different regions of the world, most Chinese live their entire lives in one area, and eat the same kinds of locally grown food throughout their lives. Yet, diets (and disease rates) vary sharply from one area to another.

The China Project has received much critical acclaim. Jane Brody, nutrition editor of the New York Times, has called it "the grand prix" of epidemiology, and has hailed its "tantalizing findings" from "the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease." The East West Journal has called the study "one of the most rigorous and conclusive [studies] in the history of health research," one that has "unprecedented authority."

Here are some of the "tantalizing findings" that can (and should) have a global impact:
  1. The Chinese diet, composed primarily of rice and other grains, vegetables, and legumes, such as soy products, is far healthier than the standard American diet. While Americans get an average of thirty-seven percent of their calories from fat, Chinese get an average of 14.5 percent, with a range of about six percent to twenty-four percent. The Chinese get only ten percent of their protein from animal sources, while Americans get seventy percent. One result of the healthier Chinese diets is that the range of cholesterol levels in China vary from seventy mg to 170 mg, while in the United States, the average cholesterol level is over 200.
  2. In China, regions in which people eat the most animal products have the highest rates of heart disease, cancer, and other degenerative diseases. In many cases, the differences are extremely large; for example, in one part of China where people eat more meat, the rate of esophageal cancer for men is 435 times greater than the rate for men in another region, and twenty times as many women in one county with high meat consumption suffer from breast cancer as women in another county where meat consumption is much lower.
  3. Degenerative diseases are associated with high levels of blood cholesterol and urea nitrogen (what is left over after the metabolism of protein in the body), and both of these factors increase as people eat more meat, dairy products, and eggs.
  4. The more a diet is composed of foods of plant origin, the better. Even small increases in the amount of animal products (meat, eggs, and dairy products) consumed result in significant increases in chronic degenerative diseases.
  5. Because cholesterol levels in the United States are almost double those in China, heart disease deaths among American men occur seventeen times more often, per thousand men, than for Chinese men. Also, Chinese at the lower end of the cholesterol range have significantly less cancer and heart disease than those at the upper end.
  6. Deaths from breast cancer are linked to five factors associated with diets high in animal-based foods: high intakes of dietary fat, high levels of blood cholesterol, high amounts of estrogen, high levels of blood testosterone, and early age at first menstruation. The Chinese's plant-based diets give them benefits in each of these areas. For example, Chinese girls reach menstruation when they are fifteen to nineteen years of age, significantly later than the ten to fourteen years of age for most American girls.
  7. Chinese eat very few dairy products, and low levels of calcium-rich foods; yet they get far less osteoporosis than Westerners. For example, hip fractures per thousand people in China are only one-fifth of what they are in the West. (The reason is that excessive animal protein causes calcium to be excreted from the body.)
  8. While the Chinese eat an average of almost 300 calories per day more than Westerners do, they are generally thinner. Dr. Campbell believes that in a very low-fat diet, a higher percentage of calories may be burned up rather than stored as fat.
  9. The amount of animal protein in the diet correlates well with overall cancer rates, Hence, dietary protein may be a bigger health problem than dietary fat. Thus a shift from red meat to fish and chicken is generally not helpful since, while dietary fat is reduced, dietary animal protein is not.