The China Study Diet and 8-Week Fitness Challenge – Part 1

I’ve written on a number of occasions here at WorkSaveLive how having knowledge about a certain subject matter is worthless unless you decide to utilize and implement the information for the good of yourself, your family, and others around you.

The China Study by T Colin Campbell header

To be flat out honest, for a long time on the subject matter of diet, health, and nutrition, I didn’t follow my own advice.

However, after months of gathering knowledge from sources such as the movie Food, Inc., the book The China StudyThe China Study book, and other movies such as Forks Over Knives, and Fat Sick & Nearly Dead, the proof and factual evidence about the reality of eating meat and animal-based products can no longer go ignored and has resulted in ‘The China Study Diet and Fitness Challenge’.

The China Study by T. Colin Campbell

While I’ve heard of numerous diet fads and success that some people have with them, I’ve never been convinced that they made sense and were actually healthy for you. I mean seriously, anybody can lose weight if they starve themselves. Even after watching the movie Food, Inc. and discovering the horrifying reality of how meat, corn, soybeans, and grains in the United States are altered from their original forms for the sake of mass production, it didn’t convince me to change my personal eating habits and overall diet.

However, after being turned onto The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, the overwhelming amount of factual evidence provided in the study made me finally realize that neglecting my diet and not taking responsibility for my health was something we could no longer continue to do.

A Brief Summation of The China Study

While I loved the book because I’m a fact-driven and numbers-based person (hence the reason I’m a financial advisor and run a financial blog), The China Study is not a book that everybody would be interested in reading.

T. Colin Campbell takes dozens of pages to explain his authority, the organizations he’s worked with, and all of the various studies over the last 30-40 years that went into his assertion in The China Study.

In The China Study he delves into the scientific relationships between protein, Afltatoxin, enzymes, and the effect that protein intake has on cancer initiation. T. Colin Campbell then explains a study involving various tests he performed on rodents that revealed the effects of giving one group of rodents a diet with 20% animal-based protein and another group a 5% animal-based protein diet.

In that study T. Colin Campbell revealed that it was possible to INITIATE and STOP cancer cell growth by simply altering the amount of protein the rats had in their daily diet. It was noted that the rats eating a 20% protein diet would not stay as active on their running wheel and would nap and sleep for longer periods. Whereas the rats with a 5% protein diet would run for much longer intervals and not succumb to the “fat rat syndrome” caused by the animal-based protein.

Taking the knowledge from this initial study, Dr. Campbell then was involved in a larger project that studied the diet, diseases, and cancer of people in China. After years of research and studies in China, Dr. Campbell then came to the conclusion that part of the reason people living in the U.S. have much higher cancer rates than those living in China was merely due to diet (particularly the intake of animal-based protein).

The chart below illustrates the average daily diet in China and the U.S. by an individual weighing 143 lbs:

China Study Diet vs US Diet image

As you can clearly see, the diet of the Chinese involves taking in far more calories per day however a FAR less amount of fat. They take in greater amounts of fiber and still a healthy amount of protein despite the fact that it comes from plant-based sources and not the animal protein that fills many Americans’ diet.

Other fascinating charts I found throughout the study are the ones that showed the correlation between animal protein intake and rates of cancer throughout the world:

Colon Cancer vs Meat Consumption graph
China Study diet image1
Fat Intake and Breast Cancer graph
Heart disease and china study chart

So, while The China Study may be a bit dry for most people, the ultimate conclusion of the study is that the intake of animal-based protein has a “statistically significant association” with a myriad of diseases and cancer. Furthermore, having high amounts of protein in your diet will increase the growth rate of cancer cells, and reversely, you can reduce and sometimes STOP the growth of cancer cells by having less animal-based protein in your diet.

Who is T. Colin Campbell?

Dr. Campbell grew up in a dairy farm (yes, ironic…and he addresses that and his initial animal-protein bias in The China Study). He studied veterinary science at Georgia and went on to graduate from Cornell after getting a M.S. in nutrition and biochemistry.

Upon graduation he served as a research associate at MIT and then worked 10 years in the Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition at Virginia Tech where they were responsible for a 10-year study in the Philippines investigating the high prevalence of liver cancer.

After his work at Virginia Tech, T. Colin Campbell started a laboratory program which would study the role of nutrition (particularly protein) in the development of cancer. This program was funded for 27 years by the likes of National Institute of Health, the American Cancer Society, and the American Institute for Cancer Research and ultimately the information would be revealed in his national bestselling book, The China Study.

Our 8-Week China Study Diet & Fitness Challenge

I’m not here to tell anybody to change their diet and become vegan or vegetarian and go as far as the China Study suggests; all we’re doing is running a little science experiment on ourselves and we’ll see how the results turn out. Of course I realize that we need longer than 8 weeks to make long-lasting changes to our health but this is a start.

Here are the guidelines for our China Study Diet and nutrition challenge:

1. Eat meat only once a week – no, this is not suggested as a part of the China Study, however I believe it will be nearly impossible to eliminate meat completely from our diet (for now).

2. Limit portion sizes

3. Make a concentrated effort to avoid animal-based products – we do a good job of this already, but we’ll continue to drink our 1/2 gallon of milk, eat small amounts of cheese, and on occasion an egg or two.

4. Eat primarily plant-based and whole grain food – our meals will consist of beans and grain with vegetables and fruit being the centerpiece. If you want to follow the China Study Diet to the tee, then this is all T. Colin Campbell suggests that you eat.

5. Work out more – our goal will be to work out at least 4 times a week. This will involve 2-3 days where we’ll run (we have a 2-mile route and a 3-mile route), and a few days where we’ll stretch, do yoga, or some other minor weight lifting.

The Start of our China Study Diet

Knowing that we were going to embark on this diet challenge and post it on the blog, Toots and I donated our blood a few weeks ago for the sole purpose of finding out our cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this the cholesterol results hadn’t come in, so I’ll update that as soon as it’s available.

As for now, here are my measurements before we started the challenge.

Jason

  • Weight – 191 lbs
  • Waist – 39 1/4″
  • Blood Pressure – 99/60
  • Pulse – 73
  • Cholesterol – 204

Over the next 8 weeks I’ll update you on the progress of our ‘China Study Diet and Fitness Challenge.’ My plan is to make a post every two weeks updating the weight and waist measurement along with detailing some of the meals we had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I have modest expectations going into this personal study. We’ve eaten relatively healthy for over a year now so I find it hard to believe that I’m going to drop 5″ off my waist by having a better diet. Sure, the working out more will help but it’s difficult to stay motivated with that. Saying all of that, I do expect to see some minor changes, a drop in my cholesterol, and noticeable increases in energy level…so here goes nothing!

About the Author

By , on Jul 19, 2012
Andy Tenton
Andy is a 30-something New Yorker who turned his financial life around. He took charge of his finances, got out of debt, and is now working his way toward financial success. He is the publisher of WorkSaveLive.com.

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{24 Comments}

  1. Jake says:

    The china study has been debunked. Google it if you like statistics. Campbell uses flawed analytical methodology to come to his conclusions. Correlation doesn’t always equal causation.

    Still doesn’t hurt to eat less meat, but I wouldn’t go crazy over it.

  2. Interesting study and great experiment! I didn’t grow up on a dairy farm, but I did live in mainland China for 2 years. While I don’t doubt average Americans eat too much dairy and meat, I believe other factors come into play here based off my observations of living there. 1) Average Chinese eat fresh vegetables and veggies with every meal. 2) There is still a large agrarian % that works on farms= hard manual labor 3) City dwellers take a long walk after their evening meal 4) Naps. The city where I lived took a 1 hour nap break every afternoon. 5) MSG…hey who knows, but it could be a factor. 6) The Medical system isn’t as advanced and widespread as the US and many incidences are not reported. 7) Tea is an appetite suppressant and it’s served constantly.

    Just to be fair, Chinese kids are getting fatter in urban areas. Just Google it. Did he explain where the China study was done? Was it rural or major city?

    I’ve cut out most cheese, drink skim milk, and red meat only occasionally.

  3. Edward Antrobus says:

    My meatless meals tend to be not very healthy, and heavy on other animal products (e.g. mac & cheese with cole slaw). At the end of the day, I enjoy meat too much to give it up. My wife went vegan after watching Food, Inc. It lasted a month. Me, I got up and made myself a turkey sandwich while I was watching the movie!

    At the end of the day, I subscribe to the notion that we are omnivores with a digestive system (including teeth) designed to handle both meat and plant based foods.

  4. Very interesting statistics. I don’t have to have meat with every meal. This could make the food budget better if you try to stick to whatever is in season at the time.

  5. Best of luck to you!! I ‘m fascinated too by the different lifestyles when it comes to food choice. My style tends to be the Mediterranean diet, although I have really been limiting dairy and trying to eat less grains as well. I know paleo is hugh right now as well, which of course mean meat. I think you have to find what fits into your lifestyle best, and if it works and you see results and better health, it’s great! Good luck!

  6. Michelle says:

    I find this very interesting! I’d like to cut out more meat, but the boy refused to eat meatless meals. I have been doing better with just cooking something and adding meat to his after though.

  7. But God made cows out of steak….

    I don’t think I could totally cut out animal based protien, but cutting down to once a week would be interesting. mrs. iHB is always getting me to eat vegetarian meals (she’s not vege) but I seem to always feel a bit better afterwards. Unfortunately, I am a bit allergic for most beans, so there goes a great source of plant-base protien.

    Hope this challenge yields some awesome results. I’ll be checking in…

  8. I ate that way for a decade, and now I eat entirely the opposite: plenty of fat, plenty of vegetables, plenty of meat, and absolutely no grain — no wheat, corn, rice, potatoes or beans. I have never felt better.

  9. Eddie says:

    There are times that I want to believe that cancer is related to diet, than other times I don’t believe it as much. Its like having a smoker who lives till 100, yet never had lung cancer. Good luck with the diet, looking forward to the results.

  10. Andy Hough says:

    Good luck with the diet. I’m really interested to see how it works for you. I’ve been thinking of trying a different way of eating but until I can kick my soda habit I don’t think I’ll see much results from changing my eating habits.

  11. I am very interested to hear about the differences you notice in how you feel by doing this.

    I am quite familiar with the study and I have been a vegetarian for over 2 years. I feel amazing. I have to admit I have never felt or looked so healthy in my life. I am practically vegan but there is the odd time I flex a bit on the dairy. I try not too though. At home I drink soy milk and plant based butter. If I do need cheese in a recipe I use Daiya not dairy cheese. I find now if I have dairy (say at my mom in laws) I get an upset stomach.

    Best of luck with this!!

  12. Mackenzie says:

    Good luck with this!

    I became a vegetarian about 2 months ago. Every time I ate meat, I felt sick so I just gave it up. Then I started to do some research into the vegan lifestyle. You read enough stories about slaughterhouses and how animals are treated simply for human consumption, it really opened my eyes.

    I am not quite 100% vegan yet (I’m at about 90%), but I’ve never felt better! I’ve lost weight, my skin is clear and I feel lighter somehow.

    Can’t wait to read about your progress!

  13. Jefferson says:

    Really, really interesting stuff, Andy. I am going to check out that book, for certain.

    I recently started a far different approach to improving health and triggering weight loss (using a *high protein*/low carb diet), and it will be interesting to see how our results compare.

    Altho I know that are striving for overall health and disease prevention, so those benefits may be hard to gauge.

    • I’m a low-carber and I’m actively trying to increase protein right now. I haven’t greatly investigated the link between meat and cancer (though I’m dubious – I thought The China Study [the book] had been widely debunked), but I’ve read plenty about the link between carbohydrate and heart disease/hypertension/Type II diabetes/overweight and that’s been enough to convince me to minimize grains and take my sugar intake close to zero.

  14. Interesting book. I had never heard of it. I done think I’d ever be able to have most of my diet plant and grain based.

    • Andy says:

      That’s something I never imagined I’d be able to do either, but once we extended beyond our comfort zone and began trying new/healthy recipes, we were shocked at how good most of them are. While I enjoy meat, I just can’t continue to overlook the implications it has on health. So, as I said, we’ll see how things go with this China Study diet and reassess how things are in a few months.

  15. Daisy says:

    It’s very interesting to see those numbers and how they compare. I desperately need to work out more – I’ve just become so bored with the gym and have lacked other ideas.

    • Andy says:

      Working out is a drag but it’s necessary. Having a workout partner helps a lot so maybe you can find somebody to help keep you accountable?

  16. Very interesting Andy. I hadn’t yet heard of the book; thanks for writing about it. The charts you include here surely grab one’s attention. I’m also very surprised to learn the average Chinese diet is considerably more caloric than the average American’s, despite the much lower meat and fat consumption.

    I’m definitely interesting in improving my diet. One hurdle for me is purely ignorance: I don’t have much experience with or knowledge of non-meat meals and cooking. But would be fun to learn more and experiment.

    You mention non-meat sources of protein. Do you know the chief sources? Beans? Nuts? other stuff?

    • Andy says:

      That’s pretty much right-on, Kurt. Beans will be the primary source but there are others like quinoa (8 grams of protein per cooked cup) and we’ve tried out tempeh which hasn’t been bad in the one recipe we tried it. Tempeh has 31 grams of protein in 1 cup.

      The beans we prefer the most are red beans, black beans, and garbonzo beans (or chickpeas). They are all great sources of protein.

  17. AverageJoe says:

    Fascinating study, Andy. I’m across the country from home for another two weeks, but I’d love to join your challenge when I get back. I’m training for my first ultramarathon (50k or 31 miles) and I’d like to see the affects of the new training regime coupled with less animal based proteins. (I should also note for readers that I’ve had a physical recently and my doctor is my running partner, so I don’t think I’m going off the deep end by coupling these together….). I’ll be watching intently until then.

    • Andy says:

      That’s awesome, Joe! I didn’t think anybody else would join this but I’d love to have you and see how it works for you as well!

      The crazy part about consulting doctors is that many of them aren’t extremely knowledgeable about nutrition. They carry many of the biases that most Americans have and the belief that you MUST EAT MEAT for protein. So, while consulting with your doctor before starting any diet is wise, I’m not sure how stoked they’d be to see people stop eating meat…simply from pure ignorance.

  18. Very interesting study. I too believe that cancer is related to diet. Good luck on your challenge, I am sure you’ll be much healthier when you’re finished. Do you plan to post your meal plans through out the challenge?

    • Andy says:

      Yep! Every two weeks I’ll have a post updating how things have gone and that post will include some of the recipes we’ve eaten. We did great the first week and a half but I had a hiccup last night. Our meal that we had prepared (a new one that I had hoped to put on the blog) was a disaster. So…since we eat primarily fresh food and plan out our meals we didn’t have a backup plan and I had to go eat out. Dangit!!

      Overall, I hope this isn’t just a “diet” as I see it more of a lifestyle change. We’ll see how it goes though.

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