China Study Problems of Interpretation

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The China study was an observational study that collected a massive amount of information about diet and health in 65 different rural regions of China. It's been popularized by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who has argued that the study shows that plant foods are generally superior to animal foods for health, and even a small amount of animal food is harmful. Campbell's book has been at the center of the strict vegetarian (vegan) movement since its publication.

Richard from Free the Animal just passed on some information that many of you may find interesting. A woman named Denise Minger recently published a series of posts on the China study. She looked up the raw data and applied statistics to it. It's the most thorough review of the data I've seen so far. She raises some points about Campbell's interpretation of the data that are frankly disturbing. As I like to say, the problem is usually not in the data-- it's in the interpretation.

One of the things Minger points out is that wheat intake had a massive correlation with coronary heart disease-- one of the strongest correlations the investigators found. Is that because wheat causes CHD, or is it because wheat eating regions tend to be further North and thus have worse vitamin D status? I don't know, but it's an interesting observation nevertheless. Check out Denise Minger's posts... if you have the stamina:

The China Study: Fact or Fallacy

Also, see posts on the China study by Richard Nikoley, Chris Masterjohn and Anthony Colpo:

T. Colin Campbell's the China Study
The Truth About the China Study
The China Study: More Vegan Nonsense

And my previous post on the association between wheat intake and obesity in China:

Wheat in China