Some reasonable talk on the China Study

February 12, 2012 by Joshua
in Blog, Fitness, Nature

I wanted to love the China Study, a bestselling book by a scientist and doctor on nutrition. It’s gotten a lot of media attention (from the NY Times, Huffington Post, Bill Clinton, and Oprah, for example).

It’s based in science, promotes healthy eating, and does two main things — one well, one not so well. Overall, I like the book and recommend it. At the end of this post I wrap it up.

The not-so-well part

The not-so-well part started off looking great. The authors researched nutrition, found evidence for the healthiness of eating plants, unhealthiness of eating meat, and major problems with food in the U.S. I expected to learn important new things.

I thought it might make my resource list. I was hoping to find things I didn’t know, to prove myself wrong after my series on reasonable talk on eating, why I stopped eating meat, and why I don’t eat meat. The book implies scientific evidence points to eating no meat being the healthiest option for many people.

I gave it the benefit of the doubt while reading, but questions lingered. Before putting it on my resource list, it would have to stand the test of time and research. So I researched it. Just when I was about to love the book, I found people had found holes in its logic.

One impressive person researched it herself independently and wrote some meaningful criticism (mostly summarized here). She pointed out the book didn’t justify that avoiding meat created all the health benefits it claimed. Avoiding processed foods likely contributed a lot too.

Just when I was about to love the criticism, I found she couldn’t stop herself from arguing about eating habits. Man, people like telling other people what they consider right and wrong, especially about food.

The book and the online controversy following it only justify my reasonable talk on eating conclusion, (read the series for context):

Eat what you feel is right for you. The more you learn and think about food the more you’ll enjoy it. Anyone who tells you what you should or shouldn’t eat is moralizing and meddling. Eating has no right or wrong.

Why can’t people stop themselves from telling others what to do or what’s right and wrong?

The part it did well

The book described the main author’s experience challenging the accepted wisdom of the medical and food companies, institutions, and government agencies. His adventure showed how entrenched the interests of meat, dairy, sugar, and drug sellers are, to name a few.

However it started — no doubt intending to make people healthy — it makes people fat, sick, and dependent on a system that keeps charging them more and more.

It makes you reevaluate the values of this country, how much its behavior differs from what its educational system teaches its kids, and if you can do anything about it.

Wrapping it up

The book mainly promoted the healthiness of a whole-foods plant-based diet. It didn’t say you had to avoid all meat products, but promoted doing so for convenience. I like this message. It backed up a lot of that message. The part it didn’t back up didn’t invalidate that message, but opened the door for valid criticism.

You can eat meat without sacrificing health. I don’t understand why people overreach and claim things they can’t justify.

Anyway, I recommend the book but also reading the criticisms I linked above. In the end it justified my perspective in my eating series (reasonable talk, why I stopped eating meat, and why I don’t eat meat).

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