Bill Clinton has been in the news for his increased health and reduced waistline. He attributes these changes to a mostly plant-based diet, which he chose in response to his battle with heart disease. One of Clinton’s major influences was a book called The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. The China Study was an NIH funded 20 year study of the diet and health of people in China. The research concluded that a plant-based diet was associated with significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, U.S. citizens have a staggering 1700% increased risk of heart disease as compared to rural Chinese citizens. In nutrition studies a 10-20% increased risk is considered significant.
The China Study attempted to determine the causes of good health. Up until a few years ago, China had much better health than most western countries. What is sad is that in the past 25 years, as wealth has increased and the Chinese adopt a more “western” diet, their rates of diabetes, glucose intolerance and obesity are growing faster than their GDP. This trend is particularly shocking in terms of Chinese school children.
Why am I writing this? Because health care costs are skyrocketing, and that hurts both businesses and employees. We need a new approach, and so far we haven’t seen anything close to what is needed from government, or from the healthcare and insurance industries, which seem to be spending all of their time arguing about how to pay for the increased cost of health care, rather than how to promote good health and avoid getting sick in the first place.
That food is a major cause of our deteriorating health is finally receiving the attention of formal medical researchers. Last month the Lancet published several articles whose conclusions, in summary, say “The simultaneous increases in obesity in almost all countries seem to be driven mainly by changes in the global food system, which is producing more processed… and effectively marketed food than ever before.”
With U.S. healthcare expenditures surpassing 2.5 trillion dollars per year, it is time to focus on the food we consume. Instead of continuing with the “western diet” that harms our health, we should use the lessons from nutrition science to reverse our own obesity epidemic.