The book examines the relationship between the consumption of animal products and illness such as cancers of the breast, prostate, and large bowel, diabetes, coronary heart disease, obesity, autoimmune disease, osteoporosis, degenerative brain disease, and macular degeneration. The "China study" referred to in the title is the China Project, a "survey of death rates for twelve different kinds of cancer for more than 2,400 counties and 880 million (96%) of their citizens" conducted jointly by Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine over the course of twenty years.
The authors do not solely present the findings of a single study conducted in China. They also introduce a large number of previous but less-exhaustive scientific studies which have correlated animal-based diets with disease. The authors provide a historical context and show consistency between the China Study findings and peer-reviewed scientific studies with regards to the view that both animal fat and animal protein (such as casein in bovine milk) are strongly linked to diseases such as heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes. They also examine past studies which have found no apparent link. The authors warn readers that their findings are certain to be controversial because they stand to impact the interests of many in the meat and dairy industries as well as the medical community.
The book advocates a whole foods, plant-based diet (a type of vegan diet which also restricts refined carbohydrates and highly processed foods) as a means to minimize and/or reverse the development of chronic disease.
The book claims that the thermic effect of carbohydrate is greater than that of protein. However, it is generally accepted that the opposite is true.Quotes
“The results of these, and many other studies, showed nutrition to be far more important in controlling cancer promotion than the dose of the initiating carcinogen…Nutrients from animal-based foods increased tumor development while nutrients from plant-based foods decreased tumor development.”
- "A major review on diet and cancer, prepared for the U.S. Congress in 1981 estimated that genetics only determines about 2 – 3% of the total cancer risk.” “Genes function only by being activated, or expressed, and nutrition plays a critical role in determining which genes, good and bad, are expressed.”
- “Several studies have now shown, in both experimental animals and in humans, that consuming animal-based protein increases blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fat and dietary cholesterol also raise blood cholesterol, although these nutrients are not as effective at doing this as is animal protein. In contrast, plant-based foods contain no cholesterol and, in various other ways, help to decrease the amount of cholesterol made by the body.”
- “As blood cholesterol levels in rural China rose in certain counties the incidence of “Western” diseases also increased. What made this so surprising was that Chinese levels were far lower than we had expected. The average level of blood cholesterol was only 127 mg/dl, which is almost 100 points less than the American average (215 mg/dl). ...Some counties had average levels as low as 94 mg/dl. …For two groups of about twenty-five women in the inner part of China, average blood cholesterol was at the amazingly low level of 80 mg/dl.”
- "[In China] lower blood cholesterol levels are linked to lower rates of heart disease, cancer and other ‘Western’ diseases, even at levels far below those considered ‘safe’ in the ‘West’. As blood cholesterol levels decreased from 170 mg/dl to 90 mg/dl, cancers of the liver, rectum, colon, male lung, female lung, breast, childhood leukemia, adult leukemia, childhood brain, stomach and esophagus decreased.”
- “The findings from the China Study indicate that the lower the percentage of animal-based foods that are consumed, the greater the health benefits—even when that percentage declines from 10% to 0% of calories. So it’s not unreasonable to assume that the optimum percentage of animal-based products is zero, at least for anyone with a predisposition for a degenerative disease.”
- "[Consumption of animal protein and fats leads to] early age of menarche” (11 years old in the U.S. versus 17 on average in a sample of 130 Chinese villages), and also “leads to higher levels of blood hormones such as estrogen. These hormone levels remain high throughout the reproductive years if consumption of diet rich in animal-based food is maintained. Under these conditions, age of menopause is deferred by three to four years…thus extending the reproductive life...[An] increase in years of reproductive life is associated with increased breast cancer risk.”
- “In the China Study, we assessed antioxidant status by recording the intakes of vitamin C and beta-carotene and measuring the blood levels of vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids. Among these antioxidant biomarkers, vitamin C provided the most impressive evidence.” “The most significant vitamin C association with cancer was its relationship with the number of cancer-prone families in each area. When levels of vitamin C in the blood were low, these families were more likely to have a high incidence of cancer.” “Cancer rates were five to eight times higher for areas where fruit intake was lowest. The same vitamin C effect existing for these cancers also existed for coronary heart disease, hypertensive heart disease and stroke.” “…The triumph of health lies not in the individual nutrients, but in the whole foods that contain those nutrients: plant-based foods. In a bowl of spinach salad, for example, we have fiber, antioxidants, and countless other nutrients that are orchestrating a wondrous symphony of health as they work in concert within our bodies.”
- “The colors of fruits and vegetables are derived from a variety of chemicals called antioxidants. These chemicals are almost exclusively found in plants.”
- “Using dietary means alone…after just three weeks, the Type 1 diabetic patients were able to lower their insulin medication by an average of 40%. Their blood sugar profiles improved dramatically. Just as importantly, their cholesterol levels dropped by 30%.” "[In other studies,] of the twenty-five Type 2 patients, twenty-four were able to discontinue their insulin medication...of forty patients on medication at the start of the program, thirty-four were able to discontinue all medication after only twenty-six days.”
- “Overweight subjects were told to eat as much as they wanted of foods that were mostly low-fat, whole food and plant-based. In three weeks these people lost an average of seventeen pounds. [Weight loss found in other] published results for still more intervention studies using a low-fat, whole foods, mostly plant-based diet: About two to five pounds after twelve days. About ten pounds lost in three week. Sixteen pounds over twelve weeks. Twenty-four pounds lost after one year.”
- “Much less likely to occur if the diet includes too many refined carbohydrates. Sweets, pastries, and pasta won’t do it. …One of the main reasons I usually refer to the optimal diet as a whole foods, plant-based diet.”
- "One can feasibly add more than ten years to average life expectancy with improved quality of life."