LESSONS FROM CHINA 99
point, the popular diet authors and I agree. For example, you could eat
a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet by exclusively eating the following
foods: pasta made from refined flour, baked potato chips, soda, sugary
cereals and low-fat candy bars. Eating this way is a bad idea. You will
not derive the health benefits of a plant-based diet eating these foods. In
experimental research, the health benefits of a high-carbohydrate diet
come from eating the complex carbohydrates found in whole grains,
fruits and vegetables. Eat an apple, a zucchini or a plate of brown rice
topped with beans and other vegetables.
THE CHINA STUDY WEIGHS IN
With regard to weight loss, there are some surprising findings from the
China Study that shed light on the weight loss debate. When we started
the China Study, I thought that China had the opposite problem from
that of the U.S. I had heard that China could not feed itself, that it was
prone to famines and that there was not enough food for people to at-
tain their full adult height. Very simply, there were not enough calories
to go around. Although China has, during the last fifty years, had its
share of nutritional problems, we were to learn that these views on calo-
rie intake were dead wrong.
We wanted to compare the calorie consumption in China and
America, but there was a catch. Chinese are more physically active than
Americans, especially in rural areas, where manual labor is the norm. To
compare an extremely active laborer with an average American would
be misleading. It would be like comparing the amount of energy con-
sumed by a manual laborer at hard work with the amount of energy
consumed by an accountant. The vast difference in calorie intake sure
to exist between these individuals would tell us nothing of value and
only confirm that the manual laborer is more active.
To overcome this problem, we ranked the Chinese into five groups
according to their levels of physical activity. After figuring out the calo-
rie intakes of the least active Chinese, the equivalent of office workers,
we then compared their calorie intake with the average American. What
we found was astonishing.
Average calorie intake, per kilogram of body weight, was 30% higher
among the least active Chinese than among average Americans. Yet,
body weight was 20% lower (Chart 4.11). How can it be that even the
least active Chinese consume more calories yet have no overweight
problems? What is their secret?