China Study Shows Diet-Disease Connection

Human Ecology Forum, Fall 1994 | Go to article overview

China Study Shows Diet-Disease Connection


T. Colin Campbell, Chen Junshi, and their colleagues gathered information on the nutritional, metabolic, hormonal, environmental, reproductive, demographic, and socioeconomic characteristics of 6,500 individuals living in counties in rural and suburban China. Medical histories were also evaluated for the potential role of viral and other disease exposure in the development of cancer. In addition, the overall effects of diet, including attained adult height, were examined.

The massive data set has yielded about 100,000 correlations so far--and only 2 percent of the data have been analyzed.

Included among the findings are the following:

* Fat intake in China ranged from 6 percent to 24 percent of calories, versus an average of about 35 percent in the United States.

* The total protein consumed as animal protein in China was only 11 percent, whereas in the United States it was 69 percent.

* Mean intakes of dietary fiber by county in China were as high as 77 grams a day; Western dietary guidelines call for an increase from the current 10 to 12 grams a day to 25 to 35 grams a day. The average Chinese intake was three times higher than that in the United States.

* Iron intake and blood iron levels were high among Chinese, who mostly consume plant-based foods, despite diets abundant in fiber; poor iron absorption has long been thought to result from fiber-rich diets. The supposedly poorly absorbed nonheme iron found in foods of plant origin was more than compensated for by high total intake of iron, along with the consumption of fruit-derived nutrients that favor iron absorption, such as ascorbic acid and citric acid.

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