Does Eating Meat Cause Cancer… The China Study…

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Dr. Justin Marchegiani

I get questions about the China study all of the time!  Is meat bad?  Will meat cause cancer?  Why do you recommend so much meat in your diet?

One of the main sources referencing that meat is bad comes from the work of T. Colin Campbell and the China study.

We have the China study and the China study book  and just to keep it clear, the book and the study are two different things.

So first things first, Colin Campbell’s early research, he extrapolated that protein causes cancer by various rat studies. What he found was that when protein levels where at twenty percent (cancer genes were turned on in these rats) rats will get cancer.

Then next, when they decreased the protein down to five percent, these rats would no longer get cancer. So he assumed, what we’re seeing is cancer levels at twenty percent is going to turn cancer genes on. Cancer levels at five percent actually turn them off.

Well and the problem is he was giving these rats casein protein, casein’s found in dairy, but in dairy, there’s an anti-cancer protein known as whey. So normally, we are exposed to these in nature we get both the same time. The anticancer effects of whey would offset the cancer effects of casein.

So in nature, we are never exposed to casein by itself.  So the experiment set up does not carry over into real life.

I agree with Campbell, I’m not a big fan of casein protein. I think it can be very inflammatory and gut irritating. It’s why if I were to recommend any dairy at all it would be raw unpasteurized dairy, where you’re getting the enzymes and you’re getting all of the protein in their healthy form along with whey. In general, I agree with him.

My biggest beef, pun intended, is you can’t extrapolate that casein causes cancer at a specific level above 5% protein in the diet, therefore any meat is interchangeable with the findings.

Now we’re not even differentiating the quality of meat and protein sources, is it organic, is it grass-fed, is it anti-biotic free, hormone free, was it free range and fed GMO food?  There’s so many variables and factors, and for him to say that animal protein causes cancer he is just throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

There are many different variables that can effect the nutrient levels of the food.  How about the different kinds of animal protein like grass-fed organic beef, how about lamb, beef, eggs, poultry, and fish, and to go and say that because the study with the casein and the rats show this, we’re going to extrapolate that all cancer is caused by these proteins is just preposterous.

The next research that Campbell did were different epidemiological studies.

Campbell conducted different surveys through regions throughout China to the local villagers. Based on his data, he came up with a conclusion that animal products cause cancer based on this epidemiological research.

First thing’s first, epidemiological research can only build a hypothesis. Once you have a hypothesis you now can create a clinical trial to test that hypothesis. You do this so you can control for specific variable such as food quality, you can blind and double-blind the study, as well as randomize the various control groups to factor out the placebo effect.

What Campbell has done is drawn conclusions from an epidemiological study. If you ask anyone in a scientific field they will tell you epidemiological research can only create a hypothesis, which then can provide you with further ideas to create clinical trials to finally test this hypothesis. You can't go backwards and draw conclusion from a hypothesis, it has to be tested first.

Denise Minger did a great job on this, so feel free check out her article at She did 40 to 50 page Summary breaking down the in's and out's of Campbell's research.   One of the interesting correlation she found in the statistics was grains were shown to be pro-cancer.  So cutting out grains, and I suspect refined carbohydrates an added sugar as well seem to be an excellent strategy to decrease your risk of cancer.  Remember cancer cells food of choice is glucose (blood sugar).

We also need to differentiate the kinds of meat we are talking about; Organic, grass fed, pesticide free, chemicals free, hormone free. What’s the quality, we have to differentiate.  How an animal eats and what toxins the animal is exposed to make a big difference to the animals overall health. When an animal is healthier it’s going to produce healthier food. You cannot extract health from and unhealthy animal.

I do not support feedlot, industrially farmed GMO fed animals. I stand with other vegans and vegetarians in support of abolishing these type of farming practices. It's unsustainable, they're bad for the animals they are bad for us and they are bad for the earth.

So it’s important that we give our animals as much love, health, air, as good as a life as possible and one bad day. That’s part of the circle of life and then we take their energy and nutrients, and we use it to rebuild ourselves.

One day, we’ll lie down for a slumber and our body will go back into the ground. That’s the circle of life.

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