T Nation

The China Study

I have just started reading this book by Campbell and Campbell. It is based on scientific research regarding protein intake and it’s effects on the activity of cercinogens in the body. I may not necessarily agree with everything in this book, but it does have some great information.

Has any one else read this book? What did you think? I would also be interested to hear what some of the nutrition experts here have to say…

I am almost through with the book.

The information will definitely make you take notice. This was touched on briefly in another thread. In particular, the main claim is that animal protein, and not plant protein, promotes cancer. More specifically, after the process by which a chemical carcinogen initiates cancerous change, a diet high in animal protein causes promotion, and consequently progression.

According to the book, studies used mice who were fed either 20% of daily calories from protein (specifically, casein) or 5% of daily calories from casein. The group of mice were treated with a very potent carcinogen known as aflatoxin, derived from mold which grows on peanuts.

100% of the experimental group animals (those with 20% of their daily calorie intake coming from casein) developed liver cancer.

0% of the animals who derived 5% of their daily calories from casein developed liver cancer.

Mice fed diets which supplied 20% of the calories from SOY PROTEIN or WHEAT PROTEIN showed very little foci development (early liver cancer stage.)

This is indeed baffling. They did not test any other proteins besides casein.
The exact mechanism was briefly touched on but it was not thoroughly explained for my liking. Basically all it said was that high animal protein intake upregulated a complex of enzymatic machinery known as Multi Function Oxidase, I believe. As a result of the high protein intake, for whatever reason, this enzyme system becomes highly active. This enzyme system is responsible for taking a procarcinogen, like aflatoxin, and modifying it in the body, resulting in a much more reactive carcinogen which can then go on to form complexes with DNA called adducts. This is, in effect, the cellular damage which ultimate results in malignant change over time.

They also experimented with mice infected with Hepatitis B virus, which normally greatly increases the chance of liver cancer.

Diets of 22% calories coming from casein resulted in intense liver cancer development, while less was observed at 14% and none was observed for 6%. High intakes of animal protein turned on the viral gene of HBV causing cancer.

I’m almost done with the book, but not quite finished. I would definitely like to discuss this is more detail.

Why were there no other animal proteins tested?

What is it specifically about animal protein that could actually cause this? Other than the amino acrid contents of proteins, with individual amounts of amino acids varying by protein to protein, what else could there be? Is there something “else” in animal protein other than the amino acids which causes this?

I gotta go now. Good topic though. I’ll be checking back in later.

Not too long ago I received an e-mail from my Dad that summarized some facts that Johns Hopkins had about cancer, and one of those things was that cancer cells thrive in a highly acidic environment. Animal protein, I believe, is highly acidic. I imagine some of this can be countered by eating lots of alkalizing vegetables, no? Still, really startling stuff though.

possibly an amino acid lacking from soy or wheat proteins, that promotes oxidant damage?

or an amino acid present in soy and wheat in higher ratios that promotes anti-oxidant protection?

i’ll go with the first theory

[quote]joeymotts wrote:
Not too long ago I received an e-mail from my Dad that summarized some facts that Johns Hopkins had about cancer, and one of those things was that cancer cells thrive in a highly acidic environment. Animal protein, I believe, is highly acidic. I imagine some of this can be countered by eating lots of alkalizing vegetables, no? Still, really startling stuff though. [/quote]

I think they cause the acidic environment and not necessarily thrive in it. They are hypoxic and hypercapnic(high CO2) causes acidic conditions.

UH OH, does this mean i should stop ingesting 1x my bodyweight in protein / day?

[quote]consumer wrote:
possibly an amino acid lacking from soy or wheat proteins, that promotes oxidant damage?

or an amino acid present in soy and wheat in higher ratios that promotes anti-oxidant protection?

i’ll go with the first theory[/quote]
Are any of the other “non-standard” amino acids, some of which may be present in animal proteins and not plants, responsible for the enzymatic upregulation? They did not enter the specific biochemistry of this in the book, and that puzzles me.

I wouldn’t imagine the tertiary structure of proteins would matter seeing as how they’ll all be broken down into the constituent amino acids anyways.

It would have been interesting had multiple sources of animal protein been used. One theory I had revolved around the use of casein - I could not have imagined mice having EVER been exposed to casein through means other than human intervention. Perhaps casein’s effect in mice is mice-specific?

Human milk contains more whey, but does it also contain human casein? How long have humans been drinking cow’s milk? If cow’s milk protein, casein, so drastically increases the rate of mutagenic transformation, how could this have been maintained selection? Has it simply been a case of nonexposure to carcinogens, rendering the effects of casein obsolete until now, where we are inundated with many suspected carcinogens daily?

I think more studies should be done, using whey, beef, fish, etc. In addition, the book discusses children in the Phillipines, some as young as 4, requiring surgery for liver cancer. Why? Because, according to the book, the affluent children, who subsisted on a diet containing lots of animal protein, also were eating peanut butter which had been made with moldy peanuts, resulting in large exposure to aflatoxin.

Remember, its not the protein itself. The animal protein is upregulating enzymatic machinery which creates very harmful carcinogens from an initial exposure to a procarcinogen (in the study, aflatoxin.)

So carcinogen exposure + high animal protein intake = much, much greater risk of cancer development, according to the book.

so can we assume that the mice on low protein also had some veg, could it not be lack of veg rather than too much meat?

Since mice are known to be one of Mother Nature’s most viscous hunters, I am sure that their systems tolerate copious amounts of ANIMAL protein quite well and therefore the results of this test should be construed as fact. (Not saying that there is not a grain of truth to it, just perhaps that these were the wrong animals by which to model the theory.)

[quote]legend wrote:
so can we assume that the mice on low protein also had some veg, could it not be lack of veg rather than too much meat?[/quote]

No. Although it doesn’t explicitly state this in the book, I would assume that 80% of diet for each mice group was the same, because well, it would have to be in order to be a valid study. What differed was the remaining 20%.

One group received that entire 20% from casein, while the other group received 5% of their remainder calories from casein. The remaining 15% came from a starch and glucose solution. It should be noted that these conditions were for the animals being treated with aflatoxin and not the later study done using Hepatitis B Virus.

Also, keep in mind the mice weren’t eating “meat.” Their diets were supplying protein in the form of casein from cow’s milk.

In addition, mice fed diets with the maximal level of aflatoxin, while eating low levels of animal protein, experienced much MUCH less foci response than animals who were fed LOW levels of aflatoxin but consumed high levels of animal protein. These results indicate low levels of animal protein exert of protective effect.

The rest of the book goes on to talk about the actual China study, a massive epidemiological study among a huge number of rural areas in China. The purpose of the study was to determine lifestyle and most notably diet effects on the health of the people.

The concensus of the book was that low income, rural areas who ate a mostly plant based diet had far less of most “Western Diseases” such as cancer, heart disease, etc, than did the more affluent regioons which ate the most animal protein.

It then goes on to espouse more and more the benefits of a vegetarian diet, even citing examples of how heart disease was not only halted, but reversed.

One of the main tenets throughout is again that animal protien itself is more dangerous and leads to more disease than even cholesterol and fat content in diet.

aye i’m sure mice would naturally encounter loads of casein…as they regularly run dairy farms

where was this published? The national Enquirer?

what a stupid test

what the book doesn’t say is that in the China study, they then died from different diseases, such as thyroid cancers, a diet different from western diets means you die from different diseases.

Be good to see Berardi’s take on all this

Good point, and its a question I’ve been wondering myself all along. You would have they would have tested other animal proteins as well.

I’m hoping that the book is not simply a well-referenced, well thought out correlational trap in order to further the vegan agenda, although that would be comforting, because a lot of the information in there is indeed disconcerting, especially that of which is related to the healthcare industry.

The study using aflatoxin in this book was a repeat of a study done in India using similar methods. Campbell, one of the authors and researchers, was so shocked at the 100 to 0 score found in India that he conducted his own experiments on aflatoxin induced liver cancer and protein levels.

Here are the studies:

Original Indian Study
Madhava TV, and Gopalan C. “The effect of dietary protein on carcinogenesis of aflatoxin.” Arch.Path 85 (1968): 133-137

Campbell’s Studies
Mgbodile MUK, and Campbell TC. “Effect of protein deprivation of male weanling rats on the kinetics of hepatic microsomal enzyme activity.” J.Nutr. 103 (1972): 53-60.

Hayes JR, Mgbodile MUK, and Campbell TC. “Effect of protein deficiency on the inducibility of the hepatic microsomal drug-metabolizing enzyme system. I. Effect on substrate interaction with cytochrome P-450.” Biochem. Pharmacol. 22 (1973): 1005-1014

Hayes JR, Mgbodile MUK, and Campbell TC. “Effect of protein deficiency on the inducibility of the hepatic microsomal drug-metabolizing enzyme system. II. Effect on enzyme kinetics and electron transport chain system.” Biochem. Pharmacol. 22 (1973): 1125-1132

Hayes JR, and Campbell TC. “Effect of protein deficiency on the inducibility of the hepatic microsomal drug-metabolizing enzyme system. III. Effect of 3-methylcholanthrene induction on activity and binding kinetics.” Biochem. Pharmacol. 22 (1974): 1721-1732

Adekunle AA, Hayes JR, and Campbell TC. “Interrealationships of dietary protein level, aflatoxin B1 metabolism, and hepatic microsomal epoxide hydrase activity.” Life. Sci. 21 (1977): 1785-1792

List goes on and on.

But is there a possibility that mice simply cannot effectively metabolize something in casein which causes the upregulation of the Mixed Function Oxidase enzyme system (I had mistakingly called it Multi Function Oxidase - my bad) which results in greater enzymatic creatine of aflatoxin-metabolites leading to cancer initiation? (sweet run on sentence) Who knows, which is why more proteins should have been tested damnit.

But then again, there is the epidemiological data from The China Study which, though correlation does not equal causation, shows an extremely strong positive correlation among intake of animal protein and diseases of “affluence.”

[quote]legend wrote:

what the book doesn’t say is that in the China study, they then died from different diseases, such as thyroid cancers, a diet different from western diets means you die from different diseases.

Be good to see Berardi’s take on all this [/quote]

Really? Well, if that is true, they still outlived the mice who died of liver cancer, who, according to the book, " were dead or near death from liver tumors…and all animals administered the same level of aflatoxin but fed the low 5% protein diet were alive, active, and thrifty, with sleek hair coats at 100 weeks."

I agree though, that it would be great to hear other experts’ input, which is why I keep contributing to this thread and bumping it. Thanks, legend, for your continued interest as well.

i wonder what casein does to mice in general, without the toxins?

they need to repeat the test with typical scavenged animal protein and see.

An interesting discussion on Amazon.com regarding how misleading this book really is:

Another well-informed rebuttal:

It appears that The China Study is nothing more than lies-through-statistics to convert people to veganism.

Be strong, eat meat, and prosper.

[quote]Miserere wrote:
An interesting discussion on Amazon.com regarding how misleading this book really is:

Another well-informed rebuttal:

It appears that The China Study is nothing more than lies-through-statistics to convert people to veganism.

Be strong, eat meat, and prosper.[/quote]

MISERERE!

You da man!

Thank you! I’ve got reading to do.

[quote]Miserere wrote:
An interesting discussion on Amazon.com regarding how misleading this book really is:

Another well-informed rebuttal:

It appears that The China Study is nothing more than lies-through-statistics to convert people to veganism.

Be strong, eat meat, and prosper.[/quote]

I should have jumped in on this yesterday. I’ve seen this type of alarmist crap before. An author takes a poorly worked study, throws a bunch of other poorly worked research on top of it, then publishes it as fact, in book form. That said author then starts spreading horseshit through the interweb to drum up hysteria, which of course, sells his books. In the stock trading biz, it’s called ‘pump and dump’. This Campbell guy will more than likely be in jail soon for fraud.

DJ

Not trying to poach traffic here but we’re having a rather lengthy chat over on the PN Forums right now about the China Study.

Here’s the link:
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/members/showthread.php?t=2869&highlight=the+china+study

[quote]legend wrote:

Be good to see Berardi’s take on all this [/quote]

ask and ye shall recieve :smiley:

Not to poach traffic from JB’s site, but here’s a great article:

performancemenu.com/resources/proteinDebate.php

Loren Cordain, PhD, author of The Paleo Diet vs Dr Colin “My Theories Aren’t Backed by Science” Campbell. At the above link you can download a 33 page PDF file that consists of the following articles:

The Evolutionary Basis for the Therapeutic Effects of High Protein Diets
Loren Cordain, PhD

How Much Protein is Needed?
T. Colin Campbell, PhD

Rebuttal to: How Much Protein is Needed?
Loren Cordain, PhD

Rebuttal to: The Evolutionary Basis for the Therapeutic Effects of High Protein Diets
T. Colin Campbell, PhD