Friday, May 18, 2007

The China Study Weighs In on Cancer & Calories Too

My friend, Dr. Hugo Rodier, recommended that I read The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health last year. I've finally gotten to it, and it's well worth reading.

Authors T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II, a father and son research team, report on the most "comprehensive study of diet, lifestyle, and disease ever done with humans in the history of biomedical research."

The China Study was arranged through Cornell University; where Dr. Campbell holds a professor emeritus position in Nutritional Biochemistry; Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, with the Chinese Government contributing 600 person years to the effort.

The study was funded for 27 years, with most of the funding coming from the NIH, the American Cancer Society, and the American Institute for Cancer Research, not exactly new age evangelists.

The findings are quite remarkable, with, for example: 8,000 statistically significant associations between various dietary factors and disease.

And, the authors make a strong case, counter to popular Western thinking, that high protein diets can be dangerous to health. They found over and over that low-protein diets warded off cancer and the highest-protein diets were correlated to the most cancer! They authors write:

"What we found was shocking Low-protein diets inhibited the initiation of cancer by aflatoxin, regardless of how much of this carcinogen was administered to these animals. After cancer initiation was completed, low-protein diets also dramatically blocked subsequent cancer growth. In other words, the cancer-producing effects of this highly-carcinogenic chemical were rendered insignificant by a low-protein diet. In fact, dietary protein proved to be so powerful in its effect that we could turn on and turn off cancer growth simply by changing the level consumed."

Did you take time to re-read that last sentence? I sure did. The next line seems directly from Dr. Rodier's anti-dairy pitch:

"We found that not all proteins had this effect. What protein consistently and strongly promoted cancer? Casein, which makes up 87% of cow's milk protein, promoted all stages of the cancer process."

Plant proteins are far safer than animal proteins, and dairy proteins are stinkers if this 27-year study with millions of dollars of investment and peer reviews is to be believed. With the new protein powder we're developing, I was always biased toward rice protein but this study makes me doubly glad I didn't formulate with whey protein!

The book cites a New York Times article, which called the Campbells' study the "Grand Prix of Epidemiology," and that moniker does not seem like hyperbole when you become familiar with the now famous China Study.

I would recommend buying a copy of the book but here's a link to the 1990 NYT article: Huge Study of Diets Indicts Fats and Meat for quick reference.

Meanwhile, since it's beach season again, I thought the section on calorie consumption was particularly interesting. The study showed that per kilogram of body weight, even the least active Chinese ate 30% more calories than average Americans.

The research conclusions indicated that when we consume more fat and protein, we retain more calories than we need, with fewer calories being converted into body heat. High fat, high protein diets cause our bodies to become more efficient, while low fat, low protein diets help our bodies burn calories -- with more abandon, or "less efficiently," you might say.

Hmmm. As someone who reached middle age with an "it won't happen to me" attitude about extra inches around the middle (and then "it happened"), I'm interested in being more conscientious in my (our) own diets and evangelizing Dr. Rodier's simple diet rules -- way more veggies and nuts and legumes, much less meat, ditch the dairy, and go raw and organic as often as possible!

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