Vegetarianism was and still is being touted as a healthy lifestyle. Are the reported benefits supported by scientific studies? And is vegetarianism good for everyone? The strongest supporter of a diet devoid of animal protein is T. Colin Campbell whose 2006 book “The China Study” is based on a very large epidemiologic study of diet and health in China. Campbell concluded that dietary animal protein is responsible for many health problems including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and particularly cancer.
Other scientists and physicians are not convinced. Reviews by Anthony Colpo, Chris Masterjohn, Michael Eades, and Denise Minger take a critical look at “The China Study”. First, it’s not really a study; it’s a discussion of observations and statistical analyses of correlations between diet and health, not a controlled study testing them. A closer look at the data in the book reveals, for example, that plant protein is more strongly correlated to cancer than is animal protein, and that animal fat is actually linked to reduced cancer mortality. Campbell failed to report that in his rat studies in India, the low protein animals died much earlier (of other causes), while the high protein animals lived longer, eventually developing cancer. These reviews point out many other flaws in the book’s conclusions.
Two nutritional physicians, Dr. Joseph Mercola and Dr. Michael Eades, found that many of their patients’ health suffered, rather than improved, on a vegetarian diet. Dr. Mercola developed a Nutritional Typing system which divides people into three groups according to their need for protein vs. vegetables. He argues that about one third of the population will do well on a vegetarian diet while another third will do poorly. So, if you belong to the “vegetable” group you may thrive on a vegan diet, but don’t impose your diet on others who may belong to the “meat” group!
This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.