I recently picked up a book titled ” The China Study”, which was published in 2006. After having read it from cover to cover, I was flabbergasted – to say the least – and hope anyone who reads this post will read it as well. It’s an eye opener.
During the past two to three decades, we have acquired substantial evidence that most chronic diseases in America can be partially attributed to bad nutrition. Expert government panels have said it, the surgeon general has said it and academic scientists have said it. More people die because of the way they eat than by tobacco use, accidents or any other lifestyle or environmental factor. We know that the incidence of obesity and diabetes is skyrocketing and that the Americas’ health is slipping away, and we know what is to blame: diet. So shouldn’t the government be leading us to better nutrition? There is nothing better the government could do that would prevent more pain and suffering in the country than telling Americans unequivocally to east least animal products, less highly-refined plant products and more whole, plant-based foods. It is a message soundly based on the breadth and depth of scientific evidence, and the government could make this clear, as it did wit cigarettes. Cigarettes kill, and so do these bad foods. But instead of doing this, the government is saying that animal products, dairy and meat, refined sugar and fat in your diet are good for you.
The government is turning a blind eye to the evidence as well as to the millions of Americans who suffer from nutrition-related illness. The covenant of trust between the U.S. government and the American citizen has been broken. The Untied States government is not only failing to put out our fires, it is actively fanning the flames.
Dietary Ranges: The Latest Assault
The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB), as part of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences, has the responsibility every five years or so to review and update the recommended consumption of individual nutrients. The FNB has been making nutrient recommendations since 1943 when it was established a plan for the U.S. Armed Forces wherein it recommended daily allowances (RDAs) for each individual nutrient.
In the most recent FNB report, published in 2002, nutrient recommendations are presented as rangers instead of single numbers, as was the practice until 2002. For good health, we are now advised to consume 45% to 65% of our calories as carbohydrates. There are ranges for fat and protein as well.
A few quotes from the news release announcing this massive 900+ page report say it all. Here is the first sentence in the news release.
To meet the body’s daily energy and nutritional needs while minimizing risk for chronic disease, adults should get should get 45% to 65% of their calories from carbohydrates, 20% to 35% from fat and 10% to 35% from protein …
Further on, we find:
… added sugars should comprise no more that the 25% of total calories consumed … added sugars are those incorporated into foods and beverages during production and major sources include candy, soft drinks, fruit drinks, pastries and other sweets.
Let’s take a closer look. What are these recommendations really saying? Remember, the news release starts off by stating the report’s objective of “minimizing the risk for chronic disease.” This report says that we can consume a diet contaning up to 35% of calories as fat; this is up from the 30% limit of previous reports. It also recommends that we can consume up to 35% of calories as protein; this number is far higher that the suggestion of any other responsible authority.
The last recommendations puts the frosting on the cake, so to speak. We can consume up to 25% of calories as added sugars. Remember, sugars are the most refined type of carbohydrates. In effect, although the report advises that we need a minimum of 45% calories as carbohydrates, more than half of this amount (i.e., 25%) can be the sugars present in candies, soft drinks and pastries. The critical assumption of this report is this: the American diet is not only the best there is, , but you should now feel free to eat an even richer diet and still be confident that you are “minimizing risk for chronic disease.” Forget any words of caution you may find in this report – with such a range of possibilites, virtually any diet can be advocated as minimizing disease risk.
You may have trouble getting your mind around what these figures mean in everyday terms, so I have prepared the following menu plan that supplies nutrients in accordance with these guidelines.
Chart 16.1 – Sample Menu That Fits Into The Acceptable Nutrient Ranges
Breakfast 1 cup Froot Loops
1 cup skim milk
1 package M&M milk chocolate candies
Fiber and vitamin supplements
Lunch Grilled cheddar cheeseburger
Dinner 3 slices pepperoni pizza, 1-160z. soda
1 serving Archway sugar cookies
Chart 16.2 – Nutrient Profile Of Sample Menu And Report Recommedations
Nutrient Sample Menu Content Recommended
Total Calories 1800 Varies by height/weight
Protein (% of total calories) 18% 10-35%
Fat (% of total calories) 31% 20-35%
Carbohydrates (% of total calories) 51% 45-65%
Sugars in Sweets, or Added Sugars 23% Up to 25% (% of total calories)
I’m not kidding – This disastrous menu plan fits the recommendations of the report and is supposedly consistent with “minimizing chronic disease.”
What’s amazing is that I could put together a variety of menus, all drenched in animal foods and added sugars, that conform to the recommended daily allowances. At this point in the book, I don’t need to you that when we eat a diet like this day in and day out, we will be not just marching , but sprinting into the arms of chronic disease. In sad fact, this is what a large portion o f our population already does.
Perhaps the most shocking figure is the upper limit on protein intake. Relative to total calorie intake, only 5-6% dietary protein is required to replace the protein regularly excreted by the the body (as amino acids). About 9-10% protein, however, is the amount that has been recommended for the past 50 years to be assured that most people at least get their 5-6% “requirement.” This 9-10% recommendation is equivalent to the well-known recommended daily allowance, or RDA.
Almost all Americans exceed this 9-105 recommendation; we consume protein within the range of about 11-21%, within an average of about 15-16%. The relatively few people consuming more than 21% protein mostly are those who “pump iron,” recently joined by those on high-protein diets.
It is extremely puzzling that these new government-sponsored 2002 FNB recommendation now say that we should be able to consume protein up to the extraordinary level of 35% as means of minimizing chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. This is an unbelievable travesty, considering the scientific evidence. The evidence presented in this book shows that increasing dietary protein within the range of about 10-20% is associated with a broad array of health problems, especially when most of the protein is from animal sources.
Furthermore, the FNB panel had the audacity to say that this 10-35% recommendation range is the same as previous reports. Their press release clearly states, “protein intake recommendations are the same as previous reports.” I know of no report that has even remotely suggested a level as high as this.
When I initially saw this protein recommendation, I honestly though that it was a printing error. I know several of the people on the panel who wrote this report and decided to give them a ring. The first panel member, a long-time acquaintance, said this was the first time he had even heard about the 35% protein limit! He suggested that this protein recommendation might have been drafted in the last days of preparing the report. He also told me that there was little discussion of the evidence on protein, for or against a high consumption level, although he recollected there being some pro-Atkins sympathy on the committee. He had not worked in the protein area, so he did not know the literature. In any event, this important recommendation slipped through the panel without much notice and made the first sentence of the FNB release!
The second panel member, a long-time friend and colleague, was a subcommittee chair during the latter part of the panel’s existence. He is not a nutritional scientist and also was surprised to hear my concerns about the upper limit for protein. He did not recall much discussion on the topic either. When I reminded him of some of the evidence linking high-animal protein diets to chronic disease, he initially was a little defensive. But with a little mor persistence on my part about the evidence, he finally said, “Colin, you know that I really don’t know anything about nutrition.” How, the, was he a member – let alone the char – of this important subcommittee? And it gets worse. The chair of the standing committee on the evaluation of these recommendations left the panel shortly before its completion for a senior executive position in a very large food company – a company that will salivate over these new recommendations.
All of the above comes The China Study – except for my brief introduction.
Thank the author – T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II – for all of their work – and I hope that you get this book and read it word by word.
Wishing all of you the best of health.