THE CHINA STUDY, book review

by Dr. Lawrence Wilson

© October 2014, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.



All information in this article is for educational purposes only.  It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.


The China Study (2006) caused quite a stir, at least among those interested in vegetarian diets.  This book is often cited by proponents of vegetarian diets as being a definitive study and guide to the superiority of vegetarianism.  However, upon careful review of this book, it is no such thing.  I hope my vegetarian colleagues will be open-minded in reading this article.


Things I liked about The China Study.  The author of the China Study rightly points out some advantages of vegetarian diets.  They tend to be higher in fiber, and sometimes higher in fresh fruits and vegetables.  They also tend to be higher in some vitamins, such as vitamin C and E.

I also agree that red meat is high in iron, and it is best for most people not to eat it more than about twice a week.  Also, some people eat too much animal fat, found in meats and dairy products.  However, very low fat diets have problems, as well, which is not pointed out in the book.




The author of the China Study does not balance the positive information about vegetarian diets with most of the disadvantages and serious problems that we find associated with them.  Here are just a few:


High in copper.  This may not seem to be important, but it is critically important today when most people are already extremely toxic with copper. 


Low in zinc. This is also a very serious and almost universal nutritional imbalance already, and vegetarian diets tend to make it much worse.  The main foods that contain zinc are meats.


Too high in carbohydrates.  This applies especially to vegan diets that do not contain eggs or dairy products.  The remaining foods available are mainly high in carbohydrates, such as grains and beans.  Most people already eat too many of these foods, so they become even more imbalanced and malnourished, even if the quality of the food is excellent.


Low in protein.  This is not necessary, but often occurs with vegetarian and especially vegan diets.  There are simply many fewer protein foods to choose from, so people tend to live on more pasta, bread, grains, fruits, and other non-protein foods.


Poor quality proteins.  Most vegetarian proteins do not seem to nourish the body nearly as well as does meat, eggs, and possibly raw dairy products.  Most vegetarians, however, exist on more soy protein, nuts and seeds, and some protein from grains.  This is not as good for one’s health and causes low phosphorus readings on hair tests, telling us that these proteins do not rebuild the body as well.


Very low in the essential sulfur-bearing compounds such as taurine, cysteine, carnitine and methionine.  This is a very serious problem with vegetarian diets, perhaps one of the worst.  These amino acids are essential for liver detoxification of the heavy metals and of all toxic chemicals as well.  No matter how clean the diet, without them the body cannot remove toxins as well, and this shortens the lifespan in all cases, in my experience.


Extremely low in vitamin D.  This is another critical problem today.  Most vitamin D comes from fish oils, and perhaps a little from organic, raw dairy products, though not enough for most people.  The sun, meanwhile, is not providing enough vitamin D, even if you sit in it all day long.


Extremely low in omega-3 fatty acids.  This is another critical deficiency, although this can be corrected by adding at least two tablespoons of ground flax seed to the diet every day.


Often low in B-complex vitamins.  Many people obtain the bulk of their B-complex vitamins from meats, which are rich sources, along with eggs.  This problem with vegetarian diets is quite harmful and makes them particularly unsuitable for most people today, especially those of the white or Caucasian race.

The Oriental race, such as the Chinese and Japanese, seem to need less B-complex and zinc, for which reason they have been vegetarian-oriented people for thousands of years.

The author of the China Study bases a lot of his work on a study in China.  However, comparing the needs of Chinese peasants to those of Americans is incorrect due to racial differences mentioned above.  This is a serious flaw in the China Study, in my view.

A much better book on this subject is by Weston Price, DDS, titled Nutrition And Physical Degeneration.  He investigated not one race, but all races on planet earth.  He found that meat-eating produced far better health, especially inter-generationally, something that Dr. Campbell did not investigate at all, but a most important subject and a subtle one.  In other words, even if you feel better on a vegetarian regimen, how will your grandchildren fare on this diet?  The answer was, not well at all.

Dr. Price found that vegetarian diets lead to more birth defects, for example.  This should not be surprising because zinc, for example, is critical to prevent birth defects, and is very deficient today in the Western world, in particular, in the soils and in the food supply.  Low zinc impairs what is called genetic transcription, which is the production of all body proteins and enzymes from our genes.  When this occurs, birth defects increase.


Vegetarians make their bodies too yin. Yin and yang are qualities of matter, including the human body.  The concept is of primary importance in Chinese medicine, and important as well in nutritional balancing science because it is a true concept.  Yin roughly means cold, more watery and expanded.  Yang roughly refers to more heat, more contracted and more dry.

Most bodies are very yin today, and require a more yang type of diet.  The foods that are most yang are meat and eggs, followed by the whole grains and cooked vegetables.  This is a major reason why cooked vegetables are emphasized in nutritional balancing science.

Raw foods, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and especially fruits are more yin, so they are much less desirable foods for this reason.  Yin imbalance is a serious problem today, discussed in a separate article on this website entitled Yin Disease.  Yin and yang are discussed in several article on this website as well.


Very low in etheric energy. This is a much more subtle problem with all vegetarian diets.  It has to do with a subtle form of energy that is found in some foods, but not others. 

The foods with the highest amounts of this type of energy are meats, eggs and whole grains, in that order.  The foods with the least of this type of important energy are fruits, nuts, seeds and raw vegetables.

Cooking food actually increases its etheric energy.  This is discussed in an article entitled Macrobiotics on this website.  Note that I do not recommend a standard macrobiotic diet, which is too high in grains and does not include nearly enough cooked vegetables.

The etheric energy content of a food has a lot to do with yin and yang, above, although it is more than this.  Unfortunately, vegetarian foods tend to be extremely low in this energy.  What occurs is that the sodium/potassium ratio tends to invert as a result, as it causes a type of electrical imbalance in the body.

It is well-known that meat-eaters tend to have more vitality, in general, and meat-eating populations tend to live longer, on average, for this reason, along with the reasons given above.




The China Study contains a number of factual errors.  I will point out just a few of the more glaring ones that must make one question the author’s overall competence:


Š            “…simple carbohydrates are found in foods like white bread… crackers and chips made with white flour” (p. 98).  These are examples of complex carbohydrates.  Simple carbohydrates are sugars and fruit.

Š           “Most Americans consume voluminous amounts of simple, refined carbohydrates and paltry amounts of complex carbohydrates.  For example, in 1996, 42% of Americans ate cakes, cookies, pastries or pies on any given day, while only 10% ate dark green vegetables. (p. 98).  First, cakes, cookies and pies often contain plenty of complex carbohydrates such as wheat flour.  Americans do not eat a paltry amount of them.  Most people eat far too many complex carbohydrates.  Secondly, dark green vegetables such as kale, Swiss chard and spinach do not contain much complex carbohydrates at all, if they contain any.  The author is completely wrong on both counts.

Š           “There are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants” (p. 213).  This is so obviously incorrect that I am surprised it is in the book.  I have mentioned above a few of the many nutrients that are much easier to get from meats such as zinc, some B-complex vitamins, some essential amino acids and others.

Š           Vitamin D deficiency is caused by eating dairy products and too much animal protein. (Appendix starting on p. 361).  This is not supported scientifically anywhere that I know of.

Š           About vitamin D - This “vitamin” is not a nutrient that we need to consume.  Our body can make all that we need simply by being in sunlight fifteen to thirty minutes every couple of days.(p. 179).  This ignores all the newer research on vitamin D that shows that sunlight is not sufficient, even if one spends a few hours daily in the sunshine.

Š           “Nutrition that is truly beneficial for one chronic disease will support health across the board (p. 237). This is not true.  Very often, a food or other substance that is helpful for one malady can cause imbalance or harm in other ways. 

Š             “The recommendations coming from the published literature are so simple that I can state them in one sentence: eat a whole-food, plant-based diet, while minimizing the consumption of refined foods, added salt and added fats” (p. 242).  This is completely incorrect, since there are literally millions of pages of scientific literature that come to different conclusions.  If he were right, all doctors would recommend his diet and they certainly do not because plenty of evidence supports the idea of a mixed diet as best.

Š           “Vitamin supplements are not a panacea for good health”. (P. 228).  If by this statement the author means that just living on vitamin pills is not enough, he is correct, of course.  However, if he means that using supplements cannot help build health, he is completely wrong.  We find nutritional supplements are necessary today because the food supply is depleted, and supplements can help balance body chemistry and can do much more, as well, when used properly.

Š           “Nutrition can substantially control the adverse effects of noxious chemicals”. (p. 235) This is not correct.  It can help a little, but the statement is absolutely wrong.  One must avoid all toxic exposures as much as possible, and one must detoxify the body with supplements and other methods such as saunas or one will not remove most toxic chemicals and toxic metals.  Food alone, in my extensive experience, will not do it.

Š           “Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence.  All parts are interconnected.” (p. 238)  I wish it were that easy.  Especially on a vegetarian diet, it does not create health in any area that I have noticed with my clients and many other doctors have found the same thing.  One must also live a healthful lifestyle, detoxify the body, and perhaps do other therapies such as chiropractic, body work and others to reach more areas of life.  The author backtracks and states that exercise is also important, but does not want to endorse all kinds of other holistic methods.  So he is obviously confused, himself.




Another problem with The China Study is very little discussion of making wise food choices, whether among vegetables or meats.  There is also little or no discussion of toxic metals, detoxification, metabolic types, retracing, pesticides, insecticides, drinking water as a health factor and other factors that are major parts of today’s nutrition picture.  Instead, the author just focuses on vegetarianism, and with no balance at all.

For these reasons, I found the China Study a very disappointing and deceptive book from a scientific and clinical perspective.  I hope that readers will look at the book critically, and not just be taken in by its excellent and persuasive writing style.




If you are vegetarian and want to remain a vegetarian after reading this article, you can still benefit greatly from a nutritional balancing program.  In fact, vegetarians can do very well on nutritional balancing programs.

The program must be modified because several supplements contain animal quality products such as the glandular products.  These are excellent, but can be eliminated.  The food choices are limited, but this can be accommodated as well.  So there is no problem in following a nutritional balancing program as a vegetarian, and we work with many very successfully.


For a much more complete article on vegetarianism, read Vegetarianism on this website.



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