Day 37: The China Study

An Introduction and Critique of The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D

Welcome to Day 37!

Today we share with you some hard-won and important perspectives on The China Study, a book which for many of us in the Vegan community has been held up as a harbinger of a 100% plant-based approach to heath and well-being.

As you can see below and at right, as a 100% Raw/Live Vegan for 6 years, I heavily advocated the The China Study as the penultimate study demonstrating the validity of the plant-based imperative.

I used to start this page with: “Today we share with you one of the most important people in the field of nutritional research, an advocate for all of us, and an authentic human being, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. I (David) morphed a picture of Shaft from the 70s with Campbell because I consider him in the world of nutrition to be someone who has really kicked ass, as you will see.”


The China Study author suggests that based on clinical and field research of humans and animals going back many years we can conclusively say that eating animal products causes heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, arthritis, overweight… you name it. We should leave animal products behind forever and never look back. The China Study was authored by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. Here are his credentials:

For more than 40 years, T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. has been at the forefront of nutrition research. His legacy, The China Study, is the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted. Dr. Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University and Project Director of the China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project. The study was the culmination of a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine.

Dr. Campbell received his master’s degree and Ph.D. from Cornell, and served as a Research Associate at MIT. He spent 10 years on the faculty of Virginia Tech’s Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition before returning to the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell in 1975 where he presently holds his Endowed Chair (now Emeritus).

“My Ph.D. research at Cornell was devoted to finding better ways to make cows and sheep grow faster. I was attempting to improve on our ability to produce animal protein, the cornerstone of what I was told was ‘good nutrition.’”

His principal scientific interests, which began with his graduate training in the late 1950s, has been on the effects of nutritional status on long term health, particularly on the cause of cancer. He has conducted original research both in laboratory experiments and in large-scale human studies; has received more than 70 grant-years of peer-reviewed research funding, mostly from the National Institute of Health, and has served on several grant review panels of multiple funding agencies, lectured extensively, and has authored more than 300 research papers.

What Do I Think Now?

In the years since making the video at right, I have leaped another Stage in my dietary evolution. In fact, many in the Raw/Live Vegan movement have done so. This will be discussed at length when we look at The Spectrum of Diet, but in short, leaping a stage means integrating previous states, and moving to a level of care, concern, and understanding that includes and transcends what went before.

This stage-jumping, or including and transcending – in a healthy way – means that a person looks back at previous stages of their development (in a particular domain) a PARTIAL TRUTHS.

Such has been my updated perspective on plant-based nutrition, and the work of T. Colin Campbell in The China Study. Campbell is hitting on some important partial truths about how important a plant-based diet can be for healing.

He has also made some serious errors in his study approach and methodology through omissions, oversights, and misrepresentation of the data due to a fundamental grip on his rock-solid belief that a 100% plant-based diet is best for everyone in every place, circumstance, and lifestyle for all time.

His rigid adherence to this belief has skewed his research, and placed it squarely in the partial trutharena in some very obvious ways, which we will cover today.

Let me be clear: I revere Campbell for his dedication to improving the health of people worldwide, and finding intelligent solutions to our major health crises.

I also see the plant-based approach to be incredibly important, but I also view adherence to a 100% plant-based diet to be limited in its efficacy long term.

100% Plant-Based is a Stage of Nutritional Development, and a very, very important one that can achieve benefits from for months and years.

That is said from someone who has a Masters Degree in Vegan/Live Food Nutrition (myself, David Rainoshek), taught courses, and wrote a book with Dr. Gabriel Cousens, M.D. (one of the world’s pre-eminent plant-based physicians) on a Live/Vegan approach to reversing Diabetes (There is a Cure for Diabetes).

Enjoy considering the files today.

If you have never read The China Study, my suggestion is to download and read the file below, “The China Study: A Straight Introduction” first, and watch Dr. Campbell’s presentation.

Then come back later and review the critiques – which there are many. From there, you will have what you need to develop a very whole and integrated perspective around the book The China Study by T. Colin Campbell.

To your excellent health and knowledge! See you in The Green Room!


Tim Ferriss on The China Study. At SXSW in Austin, TX (2011)

Theme Music: “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who.

Celebrated Cornell University professor T. Colin Campbell Phd, presents the overwhelming evidence showing that animal protein is one of the most potent carcinogens people are exposed to. This is the FULL 45 MINUTE talk from Dr. Campbell's appearance at the 2005 VegSource Healthy Lifestyle Expo.


Denise MInger Debunks The China Study

Chris Masterjohn - Criticism of The China Study


Today’s Downloads

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the china study : a straight introduction

This file is a “straight” intro to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, PhD’s Plant-Based advocacy book The China Study, unvarnished by outside opinion. The sustained and durable criticism of Dr. Campbell’s methodology and conclusions as presented in The China Study, you can consider for yourself in the files that follow below.

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the china study : fact or fallacy

By Denise Minger

Denise Minger Disclaimer: This post covers only a fraction of what’s wrong with “The China Study.” In the years since I wrote it, I’ve added a number of additional articles expanding on this critique and covering a great deal of new material.

Please read my Forks Over Knives review for more information on what’s wrong with the conclusions drawn from Campbell’s casein/aflatoxin research, and if you’d rather look at peer-reviewed research than the words of some random internet blogger, see my collection of scientific papers based on the China Study data that contradict the claims in Campbell’s book. I’ve also responded to Campbell’s reply to my critique with a much longer, more formal analysis than the one on this post.

When I first started analyzing the original China Study data, I had no intention of writing up an actual critique of Campbell’s much-lauded book. I’m a data junkie. Numbers, along with strawberries and Audrey Hepburn films, make me a very happy girl. I mainly wanted to see for myself how closely Campbell’s claims aligned with the data he drew from—if only to satisfy my own curiosity.

But after spending a solid month and a half reading, graphing, sticky-noting, and passing out at 3 AM from studious exhaustion upon my copy of the raw China Study data, I’ve decided it’s time to voice all my criticisms. And there are many.

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the china study : the curious case of campbell’s rats

By Chris Masterjohn

Denise Minger on “The Curious Case of Campbell’s Rats” by Chris Masterjohn:

“Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. I think most China Study skeptics (myself included) have assumed Campbell’s descriptions of his casein research were accurate, focusing instead on the errors of extrapolating it to all forms of animal protein. But it looks like *this* is the real smoking gun. “A deficiency of dietary protein was shown to increase the toxicity of aflatoxin for rats” — why was this not taken into consideration during any of his experiments?! Incredible!

The final graph (from the “Effect of High and Low Dietary Protein…” study) is particularly fascinating. Lost in the memory hole indeed!

Stunning job researching this — I think there’s little left of “The China Study” at this point besides a few glowing embers and a smattering of ashes.

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The Dark Side of the China Study

By Dr. Joseph Mercola, MD

Dr. Joseph Mercola, from the file: The very title of the book is inaccurate. It is NOT a study but a comprehensive set of observations. While this approach can be valuable, it can never prove his assertion that animal protein should be avoided, as he never TESTED that theory on real live patients… The data from Dr. Campbell’s China study was first published in the tome Diet, Life-Style and Mortality in China. It contains several thousands of statistical correlations, which Campbell insists show that animal protein intake is convincingly associated with prevalence of cancer.

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the vegetarian conspiracy and the china study

By Susan Schenck

Susan Schenck from the file: Dr. Campbell’s book is often used by vegans to prove the superiority of their diets, since lower rates of cancer and heart disease were found in those Chinese populations eating plant-based diets. But close examination of the actual China Study research data on which Dr. Campbell based his vegan conclusions paints a rather different picture, as we shall see.

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The China Study: more vegan nonsense

By Anthony Colpo

Overall, Colpo provides a skillful criticism of T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study. I part ways with Colpo only on his insulting comments about the general reader that he finishes the article with (which you can read at the end).

“Folks” aren’t too lazy if they are reading The China Study, but like me – even trained in Vegan Nutrition – most readers lack the expertise, vision, perspective, or time to dissect the truth about such a book as Campbell’s.

It is the job of certain members of the press, academia, and the public at large who have the time, perspective, and inane obsession to properly and skillfully bring new understandings on such works as The China Study. So for that, I do thank persons like Anthony Colpo for his diligent and timely work. But if you accepted The China Study at face value, don’t feel bad. This is my profession, and I wholeheartedly supported The China Study and referenced it for years until I could see otherwise. Live, learn, grow, evolve.

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forks over knives documentary Critique

By Denise Minger

Welcome to my “Forks Over Knives” analysis, AKA the longest movie review you’ll ever attempt to read.

Thanks for stopping by! In case you aren’t yet convinced that I’ve made it my life’s mission to critique everything related to T. Colin Campbell, this should seal the deal.

As most of you probably know, a documentary called “Forks Over Knives” recently hit the theaters after months of private screenings. Vegans everywhere are swooning, giddy that their message is now animated, narrated, and on sale for $14.99. Proud meat-eaters are less enthused, sometimes hilariously so. The film’s producers call it a movie that “examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.” Roger Ebert calls it “a movie that could save your life.” I call it a movie that deftly blends fact and fiction, and has lots of pictures of vegetables.

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dairy - raw organic and local

By David Rainoshek, M.A.

Dr. Campbell and most other Vegan health professionals make no differentiation between Raw/Organic Dairy products and Conventional Pasteurized Industrial Dairy products… even though they are quick to differentiate accordingly for plants. This file will show that differentiation is absolutely a must… Raw Organic Grass-Raised non GMO healthy milk is a Miracle, and a Superfood.

Yes, this is a departure and what I view as an upgrade from the Vegan and Raw/Live Vegan perspective on dairy as cancer-causing, heart-disease causing, and an ecological and animal rights disaster. All those perspectives are absolutely true about Conventional Processed Industrialized Dairy. Leaving conventional industrialized dairy behind and healing from its destructive effects is entirely healthy and appropriate.

But when healing has occurred, and we are looking at long-term health and well-being from an Integrated Nutritional perspective, dairy becomes interesting again.

I know this may be hard to consider if you are still working the Plant-Based aspects of the Spectrum of Diet. But know that I have been there, as have many, many, many other eaters and professionals in the world of Plant-Based Dietetics, and we have eventually incorporated carefully selected raw organic local dairy products – often fermented and probiotic rich – into our Integrated approach.

We have been at pains to create an incredible file for you on this subject – even if this is not where you are at – save it in your file library for future reference, or for those in your life who need a dairy upgrade.

Great Books

By T. Colin Campbell

The Source of the inspiration and the controversy. Taking into account the criticisms above, this is an excellent read and a must-have for any nutrition library.

I thought it was a fascinating read the first time when I was a Raw/Live Vegan. It is even more interesting reading when you consider what was not taken into account by Dr. Campbell because he views all research through a Vegan lens/worldview.

By Keith Woodford

This groundbreaking work is the first internationally published book to examine the link between a protein in the milk we drink and a range of serious illnesses, including heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia.

These health problems are linked to a tiny protein fragment that is formed when we digest A1 beta-casein, a milk protein produced by many cows in the United States and northern European countries. Milk that contains A1 beta-casein is commonly known as A1 milk; milk that does not is called A2. All milk was once A2, until a genetic mutation occurred some thousands of years ago in some European cattle. A2 milk remains high in herds in much of Asia, Africa, and parts of Southern Europe. A1 milk is common in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe.

In Devil in the Milk, Keith Woodford brings together the evidence published in more than 100 scientific papers. He examines the population studies that look at the link between consumption of A1 milk and the incidence of heart disease and Type 1 diabetes; he explains the science that underpins the A1/A2 hypothesis; and he examines the research undertaken with animals and humans. The evidence is compelling: We should be switching to A2 milk.

A2 milk from selected cows is now marketed in parts of the U.S., and it is possible to convert a herd of cows producing A1 milk to cows producing A2 milk.

This is an amazing story, one that is not just about the health issues surrounding A1 milk, but also about how scientific evidence can be molded and withheld by vested interests, and how consumer choices are influenced by the interests of corporate business.

Media, Films, & Documentaries

Denise Minger | A Critical Presentation on The China Study

[Audio Interview] Devil in the Milk with Keith Woodford on Underground Wellness

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Keith Woodford, author of Devil in the Milk, stops by Underground Wellness Radio to discuss the link between a protein in the milk we drink and a range of serious illnesses, including heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia. Topics will include the difference between A1 and A2 milk, potential dangers of consuming A1 milk (containing A1 beta-casein), and the connection between milk and gluten.

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