As you can probably tell from her tweets, ANALYST is a big Oprah fan. If you recall, it was an Oprah episode that helped launch the Cellulite Investigation in the first place. O was going through her Kathy Freston-inspired vegan phase at the time, and as a devout Oprah-ite, ANALYST poured over the relevant books searching for hidden clues to the cellulite mystery. Quantum Wellness. The Blue Zones. Skinny Bitch… But it’s T. Colin Campbell’s, The China Study, which is proving to be the new Bible of the vegan movement.
The China Study is often referred to as “the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted” (but probably just because that’s what it says on the front cover). Campbell is a professor of nutrition at Cornell University and one of the directors of The China Project, a study that compared the diet, lifestyle, and disease characteristics of populations in 65 rural counties in China during the 1970s and 1980s. Following his extensive research in China, Campbell concluded that the diseases of civilization are caused by diet, in particular, the increased amounts of animal protein that usually accompany westernization.
Campbell started forming his hypothesis about animal protein for the China Project during an earlier study in the Philippines where he was working to fight childhood malnutrition. In the Philippines, researchers noticed that children who consumed large amounts of peanut butter were developing a certain form of liver cancer. They hypothesized that a fungus on the peanuts caused the peanut butter to contain high amounts of aflatoxin, a known carcinogen. (They also discovered that peanut companies were sorting out the best peanuts for their canned nuts while reserving the moldiest ones for their kid-friendly peanut butter products).
It seemed like an open and shut case, but Campbell took these findings a step further. During his time in the Philippines, he heard about a study conducted in India where rats that consumed a high protein diet had a 100 percent rate of liver cancer when exposed to aflatoxin, but the rats that were fed a low protein diet had a 0 percent rate of liver cancer, even though they were exposed to the same level of aflatoxin. Comparing these findings to what he observed in the Philippines, Campbell noted that children who ate more peanut butter were the same children who lived in the affluent cities; not only did they eat more peanut butter, but they ate more animal protein, as well.
Dr. Campbell reproduced these findings in his own clinical research and concluded that aflatoxin might initiate cancer growth, but it’s the animal protein that promotes it along. This hypothesis laid the groundwork for the China Study where he attempted to validate his theory on a human population. Gathering information through blood tests, urine samples, and questionnaires from 6500 Chinese participants, Dr. Campbell’s team verified that their subjects easily divided into two natural groups; the affluent group consumed higher amounts of animal protein and suffered from cancer, heart disease, and diabetes while the people in the poorer regions consumed small amounts of animal protein and were relatively free from these conditions.
All of this sounds like pretty convincing evidence as to the merits of a plant-based diet, which is probably why The New York Times calls The China Study “the grand prix of epidemiology.” In fact, it’s hard to come across a reformed omnivore who doesn’t point to Campbell’s book as a motivating factor in his/her vegan adventure. Kathy Freston relies heavily on his work, as does the dynamic Skinny Bitch duo. Freston’s latest article in the Huffington Post published earlier this week quotes Campbell’s assertion that switching to a vegan diet will prevent cancer or even reverse it. That’s a potent legacy for a hypothesis that started with a few jars of moldy peanut butter.
In the midst of the mounting vegan frenzy, ANALYST can’t help but wonder what those wealthy Filipino kids were really eating with their carcinogen-laced peanut butter. Was it milk and hamburgers, as Dr. Campbell would have us assume, or white bread and jelly? What’s your guess? Does it matter?
*This post is a part of Fight Back Friday hosted by Food Renegade. Check out her site for more great info about the Real Food revolution!
Thanks for stopping by The Cellulite Investigation. Things are a little quite around here at the moment. I’m taking an extended break as I get married and settle into married life and a new home. Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon!