I belong to a book club with registered dietitian nutritionists from the San Jose, California area. We recently gathered to discuss the China Study, by T. Colin Campbell. In spite of the fact that this book is almost 10 years old, it continues to be discussed among consumers and health professionals.
Here are a few of the main ideas from the book:
Our group strongly agreed with a few principles in the book: that eating more whole and unprocessed foods and plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables and beans will improve the health of most Americans. We also agreed that you can’t look at nutrients in isolation, that the overall pattern of food choices and diets over time are what matter.
Finally, and perhaps one of the most significant flaws of the book, is that the recommendations are so extreme. Diets that remove entire food groups have the potential for unintended consequences of under-consuming essential nutrients. Bringing food choices into better alignment with the Dietary Guidelines is a preferred approach—specifically eating more under-consumed foods such as vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, beans, lean meats and fish while also reducing the consumption of refined grains, fats and sugars. These changes will go a long way toward promoting health.
While we found this book interesting, our club members are sticking with a more balanced approach to nutrition. Just as important, we equipped each other with talking points to use when someone—friend, neighbor, relative, client or colleague—asks questions about the China Study. It is important for consumers to understand the basis for Campbell’s flawed conclusions and the potential negative consequences of following diets that omit whole food groups.
Maureen Bligh, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
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