The China Study: A Formal Analysis and Response

Woefully belated. Endnoted up the wazoo. Marked lack of cutesy.

Click here for the HTML version, or head straight to the PDF:

“The China Study”: A Formal Analysis and Response

(Updated noon-ish PST on August 3rd with typo corrections)

If you haven’t done so yet, also read Campbell’s first response and Campbell’s second response, which this is in reply to.

I’ll see what I can do about getting this set up in blog-post form, but I really don’t have the mental capacity to work on it right now. Sorry. In the meantime, here’s the table of contents so you know what you’re getting yourself into:


SECTION 1: Reiteration and Expansion of Criticisms

  1. Linkage of animal protein with cancer by way of cholesterol
  2. Misleading association of breast cancer with lipid intake and lipid intake with animal protein
  3. Supposition that plasma cholesterol increases liver cancer risk
  4. Misrepresentation of heart-protective effects of green vegetables, and the three-variable linkage between animal protein, apolipoprotein B, and cardiovascular disease
  5. Biased use of unadjusted univariate correlations to confer protective benefits of plant foods but not with animal foods
  6. Use of a three-variable chain to connect animal foods with “Western” diseases
  7. Unexplored role of blood glucose, insulin, and disease
  8. Dismissing relevant variables
  9. Errors in the extrapolation of casein to all animal protein

SECTION 2: Biological Models and Cited Papers

  1. Breast cancer
  2. Liver cancer
  3. Energy utilization
  4. Affluent-poverty diseases
  5. Summary

SECTION 3: Response to Points Raised by Campbell

  1. Wheat: confounded variable or legitimate concern?
  2. Selection of univariate correlations and confirmation bias
  3. Tuoli county and erroneous data
  4. Whole-food, plant-based diets versus whole-food diets with animal products
  5. Conclusion

And before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, listen up: Every time I employed a univariate correlation, it was because Campbell had done so first, under the same circumstances. Every. Time.

Also, this is sort of a pre-final version, and there may be typos (please point them out!) or orphaned punctuation (ditto). If I make any changes, I’ll post the updated version with a note.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend a very, very long time not staring at the computer screen, catching up on a couple weeks’ worth of sleep, and hopefully regrowing the little chunks of my soul that died while writing this. Adieu!


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  3. Thank you very much for your great critique. I had started reading the China Study, but found myself doubting the reliability of findings that come from 65 data points with >360 independent variables. Your critique provided a very good analysis of the weaknesses of these conclusions in light of so limited data and has saved me some time :)

  4. Some credentials of the writer would be nice. Personally, I am in the medical field and would love to hear what level of expertise you draw your conclusions from.

  5. Oh no!
    Very academic, which is to say absolute point-counterpoint (circular) analysis.
    I actually didn’t read more than a few lines. It is the thought style that bull-dozed me.
    The Nearings are the best evidence of the clean whole foods lifestyle, but like The Blue Zones phenomena of centenarians, there was a strong physical aspect to their lives, too.

  6. I appreciated your rebuttal. Beware of people with solutions to any question that are fanatic whether dressed in the clothing of science or faith.

    modus omnibus rebus‥optimus est habitu

  7. More light traffic over at the China Study boards on Amazon. Wow – the believers really believe the shit out of that thing. There’s simply no swaying them.

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  10. the whole point is not whether science is correct or not. the whole point is that people eat WAY too much meat in industrialized countries. WAY too much. And all that meat eating is causing a lot of dis-ease. And we need arguments to stop people from doing this. The Cattle industry and their minions wouldn’t want you to think that the China Study is scientific. Well, if it is scientific or not doesn’t matter. What matters is the Cattle industry is destructive. And if you argue, oh, we need the cattle industry, then, that tells you to look introspectively at our own societies. Our societies are for the most part destructive. We are destroying each other and ourselves. Denise, your article is very rational. But it does absolutely nothing to stop the destruction of our societies. The destruction of our societies means the reduction of our quality of life on Earth. I’m sick of all the cow piss polluting the rivers, and the chicken abuse by KFC, and the destruction by “vegans” who think tofu is the solution, who use non-organic soy which is the cause of endless acres chopped down in the rainforest. Which brings us to Palm oil and ourangutan habitat destruction. Yes, you can eat meat. Huzzah. You can eat whatever you want. Hurrah. And while you fight for who is right, you will have achieved nothing. Because by the time you achieve your truth, and your “martyrdom”, we will be all scrambling for higher ground. No, beef won’t kill you, but we are killing ourselves by eating too much of it in more ways than one. Dr. Doug Graham rocks your world and you know it! Go raw vegans. Go banana eaters. Go dreamers who envision a better life for animals and humans. Love.

  11. I read “The China Study: Fact or Fallacy?” and was quite impressed. Have only perused “The China Study: A Formal Analysis and Response”, but I’m blown away. I’m amazed at the level of research, the level of writing and the tone of the paper (quite a bit of humility; confidence and proficiency as well). The biggest surprise is that a “non-academic” has presented legitimate concerns in a very widely accepted study, in a very respectful, non-confrontational fashion to a “scientific juggernaut” who has unwittingly become the center of a movement.

    I’m for good science and a marketplace of ideas. Dr. Campbell deserves his due, for all of his passionate work and a landmark study, but by no means is anyone (no matter how lofty the perch) immune from mistake, misjudgment, bad analysis or changes in scientific perspectives.

    It’s good to have debate, especially if it is rational and scholarly. If truth is to be found, it will be through the crucible of debate and the sharpening of thought through the arguments and ideas of “opposing” positions.

    To Denise, thank you for your hard work and the time you’ve put into this endeavor. To Dr. Campbell, thank you for taking the time to respond to an article from a “non-academic” who most (as seen on the threads) seem to consider “beneath you” and not worthy of your attention. Takes some nerve and courage to “challenge” a scientist of this caliber and it takes a lot of humility for him to actually reply in a very coherent and thoughtful fashion. Let the debate wage on, I keep learning so much as all of this unfolds.

    To all involved, thanks for the enlightenment.

  12. The evidence shows us what benefits and results people had after changing their diet thanks to China Study, including those who were seriously ill.

    So, the very notion of “unveiling” such a great research is worthless.
    Though, do her justice Denise is very able for publicity stunt.

    If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

    Dr Campbell found a way despite all the difficulties, he did his lifetime project.

    What did you do?

    To everybody who looks for excuses – try to do something, something useful… and don’t waste your time in vain.

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