People become vegan for all sorts of reasons, the main three being: for the animals (me); for the environment, and for personal health. This last one is often mocked by the omnis as they see vegetarians, never mind vegans, as being weak and ill. For some reason if a vegan falls ill it’s because of their diet. However if someone who eats seventeen bacon butties a week has a heart condition – that’s genetic.
This book studies the science of nutrition and how it relates to health. It’s not a strictly vegan book in that it does document some experiments that were carried out on mice, but it certainly advocates a plant-based diet. Now, as we know, veganism is about much more than diet. It’s a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, animal products and animal exploitation from our lives. It’s not flippant to say though that diet is central to this lifestyle. And while you can rightly argue that a vegan diet based on whole foods is the healthiest one out there, it can be an uphill battle as mainstream media, the government and the food industry all seem to be doing their best to convince us otherwise.
The China Study is not only the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted (as it says on the cover) but it’s also a look at why the information that’s been discovered isn’t more widely known. The author, T. Colin Campbell, was brought up on a dairy farm and grew up to be one of the most respected medical professionals in the world. I find this important, because all too often we are told by farmers that we simply ‘don’t understand’ farming and are their enemies. And yet here is a farm boy who ate meat, milk and eggs and when he learned of how damaging they can be, changed his diet.
The research that has gone into this book and T. Colin Campbell’s career in general is incredibly extensive. When he found that some of the top killers in the western world (including diabetes, cancer and heart disease/stroke) could not only be prevented and treated but reversed by this diet, he was askance at how governments acted. Sitting on some of the top health panels in the country, he was agressively bullied and stopped from giving out the correct nutrition information. The power that agribusiness and the food industry have over the government is, quite frankly, frightening.
There are so many conflicting messages out there surrounding diet and health that it’s very easy to get confused. In The China Study we are given comprehensive information about the thousands of studies that show a whole foods, plant based diet is by far the best one for optimum health. The China Study itself tracked the diet and health of those living in rural China who consumed mainly vegetables and had very little in the way of meat and processed food. Even allowing for many other mitigating factors including racial difference, exercise levels and environment, they showed little to no signs of the diseases that kill most of us here in the west.
There’s lots of information in this book and it’s a bit of a tome, but I found it absorbing and endlessly interesting. If anyone asks you for scientific evidence that vegan is best, give them this! (A revised and expanded addition is now available.)