Whole Foods CEO John Mackey says T. Colin Campbell’s book, The China Study, is one of the most important books on nutrition ever written.
John Mackey | Jan/Feb 2009 issue
T. Colin Campbell grew up on a dairy farm and raised farm animals for much of his adult life. Yet at the culmination of a long and distinguished career, this gentle maverick in his 70s publicly advocates a vegan diet, believing it to be optimal for the prevention—and reversal—of the diseases of affluence rampant in the West, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. According to Campbell, nothing will contribute more to a healthy life than a diet based on plants and whole or natural foods.
Campbell, professor emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University, was project director of the China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project, a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. Campbell’s research began in India, where he studied liver cancer. When he concluded that affluent families contracted cancer more easily than poor families, he began research into diet, working initially with rats. The results showed that rats fed more than 5 percent animal protein contracted cancer, while those fed less remained healthy. Campbell confirmed these results in China as part of the China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project, through which hundreds of thousands of people were studied. Poor people in the rural areas whose diet mostly consisted of plants, rice, tofu and a maximum of 10 percent animal protein were much less likely to develop cancer or heart disease than people in cities who ate more animal protein.
The result of that work is The China Study, published in 2005. Written by Campbell along with his youngest son, and based on data collected during the decades-long project, the book lays out the scientific, nutritional and public health evidence for a plant-based whole foods diet—including what Campbell sees as its considerable advantages for the environment. Ideally, fish or meat shouldn’t account for more than 5 to 10 percent of our total diets, he says.
I believe The China Study is the most important book on health, diet and nutrition ever written. Its impact will only grow over time and it will ultimately improve the health and longevity of tens of millions of people around the world.