This question was posed about my China Study Fallacy blog post.
Q. It’s true correlation doesn’t equal causation. however aren’t all of the POSSIBLE CONFOUNDING factors you mention already accounted for in the study because it was all done in china? you mention the dichtomy in groups of people who ate animal protein and did not was rural verse urban, it’s been a few years since i read the book, but i don’t believe that was the csae. this survey type study was done before china was westernized so the big idea of the study is that all of the factors you mentioned will largely hold steady over populations, these were all still traditional diets, all the same types of populations and habits, all in china, and the main difference is intake in animal protein.
compare what we have here, a strong correlation based on a massive and suggestive study… with the weston price book which i have not read, but sounds like a much more anecdotel type of book…
i agree the china study isn’t rigorous proof of anything, but really is it fair, or helpful to expect that? i don’t know what conclusion to draw but i don’t think you are justified in dismissing the china study so easily.
A. Here is the problem. I dismiss the China Study so easily because Dr. Campbell, while he is a highly published researcher, has become a zealot against protein. Not because there is real, actual evidence, but because it was his hypothesis and he will do what it takes to make the data fit his hypothesis.
I compare it to Ancel Keys and the Seven (or Six) Country Study. The data of all 22 countries that were available did not fit his hypothesis, so he chose the 7 countries where the data did fit. Campbell chooses to ignore data from all over the world perfectly refuting his “data”. Like I mentioned in the post, there are civilizations all over the world who have eaten an inordinate amount of animal protein and yet have little to no incidence of degenerative diseases. Again I refer you to the Masai and the Inuit. While they could probably use more vegetables in their diet, they are not dying are enormous rates of heart disease from all their animal protein.
These diseases only became truly apparent when traditional diets were abandoned for a more Western diet. This has been observed all over the world. Look at the research on the Tokelau Islanders. When sugar, refined flour and the like replaced foods that had been eaten for thousands of years only then did modern degenerative diseases enter the population. The human species in one form or another has been eating animal protein for over 2 million years.
As many, and I mean many, other people have noted about The China Study, Dr. Campbell simply makes leaps of logic that do not follow.
Campbell points to research showing that high intakes of straight casein caused cancer in rats. What he doesn’t point out is the research that shows that high intakes of whey protein (the other protein in dairy) greatly reduced incidence of tumor formation. Since whey and casein come packaged together, I don’t know if it makes perfectly logical sense to just state that all animal protein is deadly. I guess since the actual health benefits, and potential for whey to decrease cancer incidence (which requires more research) does not fit his hypothesis, it is not worth mentioning.
The point is that taking some direct research on huge intakes of casein, which do not reflect real-world intake not only due to amount but also since casein usually comes packaged with whey, and large scale observational research in one country and trying to extrapolate that data into a one-size-fits-all recommendation for all people is ridiculous. The cause of cancer and degenerative diseases is multi-factorial and attempting to lay the blame solely on animal protein takes the focus off the real problems. Just like trying to blame heart disease solely on cholesterol (and saturated fat) has not actually decreased incidence of heart disease, it has just taken focus off the real potential causes of the disease.
I won’t even get into the fact that he states that people should take vitamin B-12 supplements because his all-vegetable diet unfortunately does not contain any! Plants simply do not contain B-12 unless you make sauerkraut or natto. If the human species is meant to live on plants alone, how exactly did we survive all this time without some B-12 supplements kicking around? Just some food for thought.
The major problem with the book is that it does not even stay true to the study on which it was based. When looking at the actual data provided by the study, intakes of animal protein, fish protein, meat intake, saturated fat and fat calories were negatively associated overall mortality! Meaning they decreased mortality risk! Though to be fair it was not statistically significant, it certainly did not raise risk. Eggs statistically decreased risk of overall mortality by 43%! Total protein intake had a 29% negative association with all-cause mortality. More food for thought I guess.
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