Looking to the East For Cellulite Answers: The China Study by T. Colin Campbell

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!

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Emily says:

ugh. the china study annoys me to no end, and I haven't even read it, lol! I cannot believe howmany doctors publicly encourage moms to feed their kid low fat and even vegan! its appaling and dangerous in my (not so humble) opinion! the very famous Dr. Bill Sears, authorof The Baby Book, now has this whole"l.e.a.n. kids" campaign that tells parents to feed kids low fat but at the same time advertizes the Drs own line of omega3 supplements. i find that ironic, as lots of food high in good fats (my def. of good fats is non-industrial/man-made/engineered fatslike yucky transfats and canola oil) are also high in omega 3s, such as grass fed beef! then there is dr. jay gordon, a pediatrician who is pro-attachment parenting and breastfeeding but says on hisown website that he thinks butter is horrible for everyone and that no one needs meat or milk.


But Emily, how do you really feel about the China Study? 😉

There's actually a lot of great info in Campbell's book (a topic for another post altogether).  Even though I didn't end up going the vegan route after reading it, I can understand why a lot of people do.  He lays out study after study showing how things like pasteurized milk and factory-farmed meats are bad for you, plus he provides a valuable insider's perspective on how nutrition policy is set in the government.  But you're right, it is a shame that the low fat dogma is still so entrenched.  I'm hoping that the rising interest in veganism might be a good thing for the Real Food movement in the long run, even though it seems they are diametrically opposed at times.


Did Emily's comment about healthy fats like butter catch your attention? Don't be the last one to find out about The Big Fat Secret Surrounding Cellulite !!

hippygirl says:

I hope you do a post about the good information in Campbell's book because I find it interesting, but not enough to read it myself. haha. I was a vegetarian for a few years, but now I am eating meat again. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one is that low protein and fat/higher carb just does not work for MY body and that eating some faux meat with 22 ingredients that come from who knows where doesn't make sense when there are deer and pastured cows/hogs/chickens all around us.

I can't see how animal protein in and of itself would cause cancer, but maybe that is something he explains more in the book? It seems to me that it would be the "bad" fats in factory-farmed meat that would be the problem. But, what the hell do I know? 🙂


Okay, hippygirl. I'm on it! I already returned the book to the library but luckily, I took written notes (yes, ANALYST is a a bit of a type A, she's the first to admit). The China Study isn't nearly as fun to read as the Skinny Bitch books, so I can see why you'd prefer the cliffs notes version. I will do my best!

vegard says:

I've been vegan for ten years (a late bloomer, started at 50) but only read Campbell's book this past week (the animal experimentation is a real downer but he's got some good stuff in it). I went vegan for ethical reasons, but it's been comforting to also discover, through his book and others before him, that plant-based is best. Considering how badly the health care bill is turning out, better to stay healthy and far away from doctors and drugs.

Rosy says:


Please read into Dr Price, and Dr Pottenger. They could very well save your health, and not Dr Campbell.


Thanks for your comment, Vegard. That's interesting that you switched to a vegan diet at 50. Have you met a lot of other vegans in that age group? I know it's getting really popular with the younger demographic but I haven't heard of too many people switching later in life -not that 50 (or 60) is that old! It's the new 40, right? 🙂

It would be interesting to hear your opinion on the books that Rosy mentioned, especially Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price. I know Campbell said he thought it was a significant book, but I don't know how he reconciles it with his own research. They both conducted the same kind of studies but came up with such divergent conclusions.

Jen says:

A good read is "The Vegetarian Myth" by Lierre Keith. First 14 pages can be read here:


Thanks, Jen. It's the first time I've heard of Leirre's book, but I do like her latest blog post, ending with the quotable line:

"So come and get me, Mr. Fed Man. My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my dairy products."

I know how she feels, now that Whole Foods stopped selling fresh milk in Florida. Fortunately, I'm visiting family in PA right now so I haven't had to go without.

Liz says:

The only reason why im not eating animals is cuz the way they treat them in factory farms. Its very cruel even “free range” eggs. They just let them out for few min or hrs. & thats it. Its really heartbreaking seeing & knowing all that.

Jennifer says:

Hey there! I have not read the China Study myself, but I do know there are a TON of health benefits from eating a plant-based diet that can be backed up by peer-reviewed articles. Dr. Michael Greger has a fantastic website that compiles and explains many of them in quick, easy-to-digest videos here: http://www.nutritionfacts.org


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