Having worked in the fitness arena for many years, I know that the world of nutrition research and diet "manuals" is a tricky and treacherous place. Are eggs ultimately good or bad? Should we eat low fat products or stick with the originals? How much protein should we be eating? Can sugar substitutes lead to cancer? And the list goes on...
After slogging through hours of reading research material in The China Study, I got to the "meat" of it and enjoyed the second third very much. This book is so laden with reference materials and footnotes that the last third is just appendixes, etc.
In a very small and inadequate nutshell: After studying the effects of Casein (the protein found in cows milk) and it's startling effect on children in the Philippines, Dr. Campbell embarks on the largest population study ever completed with the help of the Chinese government. There are chapters on animal proteins (both meat and casein) and their correlations between cancer, heart disease, diabetes, MS, etc. etc. Then you get a few chapters on how the food industry, pharmaceutical companies and government organizations are jam-packed with lobby groups and "councils". All of which are corrupted by money and a desire to maintain the status quo - at the expense of our collective health. "Be a vegan" is the message - loud and clear. I found the chapter on The Harvard Nurses Study fascinating.
This book has the tone you would expect from a 70 year old Cornell University scientist who has spent the last 20 years ringing the fire bell from the church tower over a town of deaf people. He's been belittled by the medical community who rely on drugs and surgery to solve our problems, the National Dairy and Meat Councils who have much to lose in light of his studies, and our government "health organizations". After sitting on the boards and writing policy for most of them - once his research lead to veganism - he was kindly asked to leave, thank you.
He's not selling anything, he doesn't have a website or any products, there is no diet plan except "eat plants, not meat" and "take a B12 supplement monthly and step into the sunshine occasionally." He has a number of impressive Doctors in his court along with a convincing amount of research (that took me FOREVER to read).
After wrapping it up, I spent about an hour reading criticisms of his work on the Internet. There isn't as much as I expected for such a controversial book but I found a few reviews and articles that called legitimacy of The China Study itself into question. You can easily google those yourself if you're interested. However, even several of the reviewers who criticized the book still stated that "reading this book will change the way you eat forever". I know that I probably won't drink milk any time soon or buy into the "Got Milk" campaign no matter how hot David Beckham is in the ads. If I had kids, I would be terrified of the school lunch program and the 165 million dollar advertising budget that the National Dairy Council slates for our schools each year. How do you fight that?
In the grand scheme of books on vegetarianism, you've got three options:
1. The Animal Cruelty books (in my mind, this includes the PETA videos I can't bring myself to watch AND the Sarah McLaughlin mini-cruelty-infomercial. Q: have you ever reached for the remote faster than when you hear the first notes of Arms of the Angels?)
2. The Industrial Farming/Environmental/Government books (Food, Inc., Omnivore's Dilemma, Fast Food Nation)
3. The Health Benefits-Scare-The-Crap-Out-You Books.
The China Study fits squarely in #3. A great read if you're open to it!