Friday, August 6, 2010

The China Study

One of my good friends who is a senior-level executive at a major national Payer (and sometimes an industry source for this blog) recommended The China Study. It sounded like an odd title for a book on health and nutrition so I was eager to find out what it said.

The book is authored by T. Colin Campbell, who has spent his career in science. This book isn't an opinion piece, it's a fact-based reporting of the correlation of several lifestyle factors on health outcomes. The book criticizes the "scientific reductionism"--the practice that assigns outcomes to single variables rather than considering the systemic nature of influencing factors.

The author shows, for example, how the presence of carcinogens themselves do not lead to as many cancers as carcinogens in combination with complex proteins (such as found in non-plant sources like red meat). The China Study itself is the analysis of relationship between diet and disease for about 100 communities in China that were relatively isolated and with differing diets and disease outcomes. This provides a snapshot of the effect of varying amounts of diet components in a manner that was not possible before.

The conclusion I have drawn from this research is that there's a large unexplored theme of modifying diets to improve patient outcomes. Much of the debate in Healthcare revolves around insurance, Healthcare IT, cost-reduction, technology innovations. So little time is devoted to the source: the foods we eat and the lifestyles we lead.

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