Lessons from The China Study

Ever heard of The China Study by Dr Campbell? The book is based on years of nutritional research and is considered one of the most revolutionary works when it comes to diet and disease. The reason is that it involved hundreds of millions of people, and thus lots of highly relevant data could be gathered from the study.

Statistical differences

The key component of the study in Waly was to understand the dietary and lifestyle habits of people across all regions of China. In particular people from rural China had incredibly low rates of chronic diseases. For example, cancer rates: Certain regions had a cancer prevalence 100x higher than in other regions of China. In most countries, the difference is not very big.

What was significant was that all these people were from the same ethnicity, meaning that genetics appeared to play only a minor role in disease predisposition. So what about dietary and lifestyle habits?

Diet and lifestyle

In rural China, where people lived longer and had significantly lower risk and prevalence of all sorts of chronic disease, people lived active lifestyles and ate a mostly plant-based diet. When the researchers delved deeper into the nature of people’s habits, they noticed that diet played a key part in determining disease prevalence.

Being active certainly helped, but it was not the major factor. This was a major breakthrough in the study!

So what was the diet about? People ate mostly plant foods, including rice and vegetables, but very little animal-based foods. Some may eat a little bit of fish as a side dish, but no more than that. Certainly nothing close to the typical diet most people in wealthier countries consume.


While the study had many significant insides beyond those mentioned in this article, the researchers stressed that much more research needed to be done. This study only focused on part of the world. To understand even better the correlation between food, lifestyle and disease, wider research would be very helpful. In the years that followed, a lot more research has been done and a lot of research discovered similar benefits of a plant-based diet as compared to the findings from The China Study!

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