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AICR, the China Study, and Forks Over Knives

The China Study book coverHave you heard of the China Study? Or seen the documentary Forks Over Knives?

This research is taking the country by storm. Wherever we go, friends and family members are talking about this documentary, which shows ordinary people taking greater control over their health by turning away from the traditional meat-centered American meal and adopting healthier, plant-based diets.

Why now? What’s driving this unprecedented interest? Where does this sudden desire to feel better and live healthier come from? Could it mean Americans are now ready to reverse the unhealthy trends that have sent obesity rates soaring?

Dr. T. Colin Campbell and AICR

This remarkable turn of events is one that all of us at the American Institute for Cancer Research find deeply satisfying. The China Study’s lead researcher, Dr. T. Colin Campbell (who is prominently featured in the Forks Over Knives documentary) was with AICR at our very beginning, serving as our Senior Science Advisor. In those early years, over three decades ago now, AICR was a new cancer charity striving to get out the urgent message that diet plays a role in cancer risk.

That’s a message that has since become widely accepted by the medical and scientific community throughout the world, but in those early days it was still considered a radical, “fringe” notion.

In his 2004 book, The China Study – which AICR President Marilyn Gentry calls “a moving and insightful history of the struggle, still ongoing, to understand and explain the vital connections between our health and what we eat” – Dr. Campbell highlights the resistance he and AICR braved together.

AICR provided substantial funding to Dr. Campbell’s China Project, and in the decades that followed we have published our own major reports and instituted a process to continuously update the global evidence. In one sense, the AICR/WCRF Continuous Update Project (CUP) complements the general conclusions of the China Study by identifying cause-and-effect relationships between specific foods and nutrients, physical activity, and cancer.

Like the China Study, the ongoing results of the AICR/WCRF CUP strongly support a whole-food, plant-based diet for lower risk of cancer and many other diseases. This advice has been translated into AICR’s 10 Recommendations for Cancer Prevention.

Healthy Diets Save Lives

All of us at AICR welcome the discussion sparked by the documentary Forks Over Knives, which offers an inspiring look at individuals who are making healthy everyday changes. Because when it comes to American health, the research shows one thing very clearly: We all need to eat more plants and less meat.

Diets that revolve around whole plant foods – vegetables, whole grains, fruits and beans – cut the risk of many cancers. But diet is only a piece of the puzzle. The link between excess body fat and cancer is similarly convincing, and the obesity epidemic now raging through our society and our schools will result in millions of cancers in the decades ahead, unless we take action today.

And when it comes to which actions we should take, the science is convincing. When the meat industry and processed food marketers try to tell you that “researchers continue to disagree” about which foods to choose for greater health, don’t believe them. Because it’s never been clearer that the very same healthy changes that prevent heart disease, diabetes and strokes also prevent many cancers. It’s been shown in study after study, year after year.

And yet – does this sound like you?

  • “I still make meat the focus of each meal, with some vegetables on the side.”
  • “Thanks to computers, television and long commutes, I’m sitting more than ever.”
  • “I’m heavier now than I ever have been.”
  • “I feel tired all the time.”

The Three Changes That Matter Most

So: What specific actions do you need to take today, starting at your very next meal, to put you on the road to better health – and greater protection against cancer?

  • Eat Smart: Those who choose to eat red meat should limit their intake and instead make meals that focus on whole plant foods. Processed meat like bacon, sausage, and cold cuts should be avoided. AICR offers brochures like the New American Plate, along with health aids and web content, that help you make the transition to healthier, plant-based eating. And while you’re transitioning to more plant-based meals, don’t surprised if you start noticing that you’re also starting to …
  • Weigh Less: Apart from not smoking, being at a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do to protect against many cancers. And the best way to make sure you stay at that healthy weight is to both eat a plant-based diet and …
  • Move More: Physical activity helps protect against cancer directly (by regulating hormones that could otherwise encourage cancer growth) and indirectly (by helping you keep off excess fat). Aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. As fitness improves, increase either the intensity or the length of your favorite activity.

Why are we at AICR so concerned with getting out the urgent message about lifestyle’s role in cancer risk? Because the evidence shows it could save millions of lives.

If all Americans followed this advice, the number of cancers that occur in the US would be cut by 1/3. Imagine that: That’s about 400,000 families per year that would be spared seeing a loved one touched by cancer. This is why AICR arms individuals with the information and tools they need to take these proven steps.

Find practical information for making healthy changes that will help protect you, and your family, from cancer. And learn how you can help fund the AICR research that is transforming our understanding of how to prevent, treat and survive this terrible disease.

Published on March 18, 2013

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