Back with a Bang

Ok I think it’s about time I get my sh*t together and start blogging again. I had to take a break for the epic amount of blogging I was doing! Haha ye right. But I had to take a break from something. I just took on a bit much and had to look to take a break from a few things. Ye, ye I am going to roll out a paragraph full of excuses so if you aren’t interested in my busy life please skip on ahead to the topic for today- The China Study by Doctor T. Colin Campbell. I had the privilege to attend a seminar hosted by Dr Campbell in the Alexander Hotel in Dublin last week and I wanted to share my thoughts with you guys.

Oh also I have an official announcement! After much research and thought I have signed up for a nutrition course! I start in September! So so sossssoooooooo excited! Watch this space!

BUT FIRST- my obligatory moan about how much life sucks sometimes; so basically as it turns out a 9-5:30 job is not confined to those hours. I have found myself doing a lot of extra hours and even managed to work 3 weekends in a row (ye May was a great month) for which I am now permanently scarred! But anyway on top of that I have been dealing with a lot outside of work, namely my poor horse has faced early retirement due to a leg injury. This year has been rough and full of bad luck. First my back was killing me so I had to hold back on horse riding and then the minute I felt ok, the horse took a turn and suddenly went lame. After going back and forth for a month, an MRI confirmed she had torn her deep digital flexor tendon (ye try say that 10 times as fast as you can) for the second time. This set me back 8 months and countless €€€ two years ago and even then the solution was not a permanent fix. So given Flow’s age (12) and the fact that any treatment would not be a permanent fix, I decided to leave her be and go down the route of putting her in foal. In the meantime I travelled to the UK and with a lot of luck found a gelding to bring me into the new year (Maybe I will finally make the RDS!).  So this has been going on for two months now….I am so so extremely lucky to have parents who support my hobby because I don’t know what I would do if I gave up riding. It is my stress relief and escape route and I hope to keep it up for a while yet, although work commitments are creating a serious challenge at present. I can’t help but feel so sorry for Flow however as I can tell she knows something is up, she is confused why I am not following our routine. And of course she is bored. So I am hoping if she goes in foal, she will have a renewed focus and purpose. In the meantime, we both enjoy a good stroll in the evenings in search of some grass…..making the most of it in this nice weather.

Ok so now to the China Study. The twins from The Happy Pear organised a great presentation last Wednesday with Doctor T.Campbell who touched on a number of topics including cancer, 7 lessons, Dairy, micronutrients, heart disease and diet.

To summarise the talk (I took quite rough notes so I apologise if I don’t have exact names for certain studies!)

  1. Professor Campbell gave an introduction and overview on how the China Study came about

He had initially become involved in setting up a programme tackle malnutrition by providing high quality protein to malnourished children in the 1960s, based on the idea that protein was the single most important nutrient. However, he soon noted that those who consumed the most were more predisposed to cancer. He conducted a study to test this and realised that increasing levels of protein turn on cancer:

       Lesson 1: Nutrition controls cancer growth

2. In 1980s he became interested in seeing if cancer is a result from nutrition or genetics. From his research he concluded that everything starts with genes but the macro environment controls what happens to these genes.

Lesson 2- Nutrition controls genes

3. He then went on to critisice the pharmaceutical/medical industry (I agree with this!) and their ideas that a single chemical can intercept an enzyme and attack a certain disease. He was trying to look for a single mechanism but realising that genes initiate cancer but nutrient imbalance actually promotes it i.e. there is no such thing as a single mechanism.

Lesson 3- Nutrients act not by one but by countless mechanisms, as a symphony

4. Further research into the link between cancer and protein led Campbell to distinguish that experimental protein casein did in fact increase cancer development whereas soy and wheat protein did not increase cancer development, even @20% of diet calories.

Lesson 4- Casein is the most relevant carcinogen ever identified.

Lesson 5- Nutrients of animal based foods are different to nutrients of plant based dichotomy

5. Continuing with his research on the relationship of protein and early cancer, Campbell identified a dose response i.e. that the cancer does not develop until one consumes about 10% of their calories from protein. He explained that in the 1940s it was identified that humans need to get 4-5% of their calories from protein to match the mean amount lost daily. This has been reviewed 14 times since and the RDA threshold is 9/10% today. In theory, 98% of people eat enough protein. However, the belief is that the RDA is the minimum amount needed and so many tend to eat more (NB protein is not only found in meat)-I don’t agree with his pov here at all about RDAs. The RDA is definitely the minimum amount and nowhere near the optimal amount. This definitely applies to nutrients, vitamins, minerals so I don’t see why it would be different for protein.

Campbell believes that by consuming only whole plants, we get enough protein and that when we add animal food we go above the threshold of 10% AND also cut down on plants (i.e. because we replace this space on our plates with meat).

He then compared Plants and animals with the following table:

  Plants Animals
Antioxidants Only 0
Complex carbohydrate Only 0
Vitamins Only 0
Fat 9-11% 15-20%
Protein 9-11% 15-20%


This led Campbell to the China Study.

Initially there was a study done on China & Breast Cancer 1973-75- why cancer so common in some places and not in others.

Based on his animal research (testing rats), Campbell wanted to link human cancers in a localised and clustered geography and so came the china study, the largest study of its kind with 367 variables, 10,000 correlations and investigations of patterns.

Lesson 6- Whole foods plant based nutritional effect is broad

6. Campbell then presented another 27 year study of seriously ill heart patients by a guy called Esselstyn. They followed an all plant based diet. During the 8 years prior to the study, these patients suffered 49 coronary events between them. During the 12 years of the study they suffered 0 events and still none with only 5 having died since (27 years on) due to age and other factors. The conclusion was that when you treat heart patients in this way, they recover quickly.

7. Campbell then moved to explain the direct correlation between skimmed milk and prostate cancer. He highlighted that cows milk consumption increases the IGF-1 hormone which stimulates growth of cancer cells. He also highlighted some important facts on how increased calcium intake also increased osteoporosis rates and how increased consumption of protein increased hip fracture rates (this is really interesting to note! And I also referred to the importance of the correct calcium:magnesium ratio and the role magnesium plays in bone health in this post). Campbell rightly discussed how odd it is that there is so much hostility towards these facts as evidence exists as far back as 1940s…..again this shows the power of the dairy industry and the media to control what we eat. In his research he discovered that soy lowers cholesterol whereas cow’s milk was the most consistent dietary cause of prostate cancer. He also saw that dairy and parkinsons were linked (referred to 3 studies), dairy and MS.

8. Campbell then touched on an important point- treating illness using a whole food plant based diet does not get support by the medical industry. i.e. diet can’t be used to treat disease. In fact stating this or promoting this can get a person in legal trouble (this is insane by the way in my opinion). He rightly stated that most diseases are prevented, suspended and/or cured by a whole food diet- that it is quick acting, vital and has NO KNOWN SIDE EFFECTS


Lesson 7- Nutritional therapy > drug therapy


Bonus lesson 8- Hippocrates had it right centuries ago “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

 Q&A followed

To be honest I went in quite sceptical…..I had heard about Professor T.Campbell’s work and I had also heard about its flaws but never taken the time to do my research. Although I had hoped to read and try get both sides of the story before the talk, in the end I didn’t get time. Many of the things Campbell said I would agree with; dangers of milk, importance of fruit and veg, how diet can cure/revers/prevent disease and illness. However, I am not a vegetarian/vegan nor do I really believe in this way of eating. I would never challenge a vegetarian on this but from general reading (and this probably deserves a post in itself) it is near impossible to get all the vitamins/nutrients/minerals/antioxidants the body requires by not eating meat. It is hard enough to get these items at all anymore from diet alone give the mineral depletion of soil, spraying of chemicals, gmo’s, mass production etc. What’s more is that it is also very hard to realise when you are nutrient deficient because deficiencies can take 5-7 years to become noticeable. In general, any vegetarians I know, rely and really overdo starchy carbohydrates and have little idea about nutrients, minerals and vitamins. This may be only by coincidence, but I have also been coming across blogs and speaking to people who got very sick eating a vegetarian/vegan diet. But hey that’s only my opinion

In my opinion, it’s quite simple. I believe in eating whole foods and feeding our bodies what they were designed to eat. Keyword being designed. Hence why I also believe in eating meat and fish. To be specific, I believe in eating organic, grass-fed meat and wild fish where possible. We are lucky in Ireland that cattle are still grass-fed/fed a better diet than the madness going on in America. Chickens on the other hand never get to eat their natural diet but again they get better food in Ireland than what happens in the US (I would refer you to some eye opening documentaries like Food Inc). A chicken’s natural diet includes worms and bugs mainly so I try to buy pasture raised chicken. And yes I wont deny that I still buy farmed fish and average quality meat, chicken, bacon etc…but I still cannot imagine not eating meat at all. However, I don’t in any way promote eating only lean meat. It is so vital to eat oily fish and organ meat to get those vital vitamins and fats and that’s what people (myself included) really struggle with. At the risk of boring you all to death let me refer you to this presentation– I have listened to it 2/3 times now and I just think Barry Groves presents a great argument on why humans should eat a high fat diet. Seriously take an hour out of your day and watch this. I certainly learnt something. He talks through what our ancestors ate with reference to evidence drawn from ancient cave drawings, the bible and other historical literature as well as describing briefly how our perception of health and reliance on starchy carbohydrates has come about.

I know I waffle about paleo a lot but in the end humans are all different and paleo is just a great starting template. Some cultures get most of their calories from vegetables and fruit while others eat more protein.  I have adapted the diet and worked out what works/doesn’t work for me. Through paleo I figured out what I am intolerant to, what healthy really feels like, what having energy feels like, what sleeping properly feels like etc etc. But everyone is different and needs to adapt the diet to suit them. Some people like to include some dairy, some crossfitters eat rice or follow the primal diet which allows for certain dairy products, some choose to include fermented grains (the Weston A Price foundation promotes grains if properly sourced and prepared).

And so although I agree with some of Campbell’s ideas, I also disagree with others and judging by the criticisms of the China study, I agree that in many ways the study is flawed. However, it is still the largest study of its kind and Campbell was very brave to release the raw data and allow people to analyse it and try to figure out how to interpret this data. I am not a professional so I can only take what other blogs write and choose to agree/disagree with them but I think the critics put forward good arguments like this insanely long post.

And so naturally I had to find some rebuttals and see what the critics say:

Here is a link to a page full of resources

And another page full of resources that will most certainly keep you busy if you are interested.

This lovely lady first dispelled the study’s link between meat and cancer. She then took on fish and Professor T. Campbell even felt compelled to write a rebuttal to her post here.

At the risk of making this post too long (I like a good unstructured rant!) and not having sufficient qualification to argue my point I will end this post by saying I thoroughly enjoyed the talk. I learned a few new things and I confirmed a few of my own beliefs, which may not align to that of Dr. Campbell but which works for me. Despite this, I think his points are valid and it is important that people follow him and spread his word because god knows his ideas of a healthy diet are much much closer to being on the right track than what we see and read in today’s magazines.

Anywho my bed is calling. I promise I have returned with a bang and will kick up the posts on this blog. It’s gonna be greeeeeaaattttt!

Good night virtual friends! 🙂

Categories: Paleo, Paleo Rants, random, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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