Hazard of the Westernised Asian Diet

Mmm. Delicious spring rolls. Chop Suey. Chow Mein. Stir fry on noodles. I’m getting carried away.

Excuse me while I drool.

The thing is, the Asian diet which westerners drool over at our local Chinese takeaway spot doesn’t resemble any of the food the healthy people of rural China eat.

Perhaps we reckon that if it’s prepared by real Asian people, it must be healthy.

But as Safefood says so eloquently:

Traditional Asian diets are low in fat and high in fruit, vegetables and fibre. However, these traditional meals have been adapted to suit Western palates and, in doing so, different ingredients in different quantities are added, possibly increasing their fat and salt content.

For sure, the fat and salt content is definitely increased, and the taste enhanced by the MSG Chinese fast food is notorious for. To boot, most Chinese food takeaways consist primarily of fried foods.

Enter The China Study

The China Study by Colin Campbell and Thomas Campbell is considered the most comprehensive nutritional study ever conducted. It was conducted over a period of 20 years, to show alarming truths about the foods we are eating, and their implication on our health.

In the study, it was found that the average calorie intake of Chinese people was 30% higher than the average American’s diet.

And yet, Americans have an obesity problem which China doesn’t.That’s because the traditional Asian diet is very, very different to the Chinese takeaways we know.

Chinese Holistic Health Exercises says that the typical Asian diet is rather bland and consists of:

  • Cooked vegetables
  • Rice
  • Noodles
  • Fruits
  • Very small amounts of meat

While westerners base their main meals on meat, the traditional Chinese way is to base meals on vegetables, rice and/or noodles. To spice it up, and improve digestion, garlic, ginger and chili are used.

Most Asian diets do not consist of dairy, and ingest low amounts when they do.

While Bo Cheng’s Takeaways down the road may use the same ingredients the rural Chinese consume regularly (bar fruit), what gets added to make it all more palatable for our spoilt westernised taste buds is what’s the problem.

Ingredients added to westernised Chinese takeaways

  • MSG
  • BHA
  • Oils that become carcinogenic once heated
  • High fructose corn syrup

Why restaurants and fast food outlets love MSG

Monosodium glutamate (better known as MSG), is used in the food industry to intensify the meaty, savoury taste of food.

Wikipedia states that it is particularly popular in westernised Korean, Japanese and Chinese food.

Mercola explains that MSG doesn’t have much taste, but when it’s eaten, the taste buds are tricked into thinking the food tastes better than what it actually does, and if feels as if you are eating more protein. Clever.

One Green Planet says that because MSG is so cheap, the food industry can get away with using poor quality food, because the MSG hides the lack of quality. It also interferes with appetite suppression, which explains why you may be left feeling ravenously hungry after eating a Chinese meal!

You can understand why MSG is a popular ingredient in restaurants and fast food outlets.

Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon and author of “Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills”, explains that MSG is an excitotoxin, meaning that it stirs your cells into a frenzy to the point of damage or death, essentially causing brain damage to some degree.

It can trigger or worsen certain disabilities and diseases. ADHD is one such disability that can be sparked by MSG – this removes some of the mystery around this condition, and why our kids seem to be more and more prone to it – because our diets are more prone to MSG today more than ever before.

Many other devastating effects are linked to the regular intake of MSG:

  • Eye damage
  • Depression
  • Fatigue and disorientation
  • Headaches
  • Obesity

BHA in westernized Asian food

BHA (the full name is butylated hydroxyanisole) is a synthetic antioxidant. It has many uses, but one of them is as a food preservative to slow down the rate at which fats go rancid. The US National Institutes of Health reports that BHA may be detrimental to the circulatory system.

Although the FDA allows the use of BHA in food, when it was tested on animals, it caused cancer in the fore stomach and CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) states that if an ingredient causes cancer in three different species, then the United States Department of Health and Human Services classifies it as a carcinogen.

BHA caused cancer in rats, hamsters and mice. So…to eat or not to eat? Your choice.

Oils that become carcinogenic

Any oil that is heated above a certain temperature, excluding coconut oil and palm fruit oil, becomes carcinogenic – even the richly beneficial olive oil.

I highly doubt any fast foods including Asian fast foods, are ever prepared with coconut oil or palm fruit oil because they are way more expensive than the cheap mass produced oil. Anyway, why bother using an expensive oil when you can mask the cheap and nasty with MSG, another cheap and nasty?

If you consume heated oils on a regular basis, stand in line for the possibility of developing cancer.

High fructose corn syrup

According to Joyce Chen Foods, duck sauce and soy sauce often contain high fructose corn syrup. I’m pretty sure most of the sauces contain either high fructose corn syrup or sugar, both of which are detrimental to the body.

In the words of Dr. Hyman:

Sugar in any form causes obesity and disease when consumed in pharmacologic doses. Cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup are indeed both harmful when consumed in pharmacologic doses of 140 pounds per person per year.

When one 20 ounce HFCS sweetened soda, sports drink, ortea has 17 teaspoons of sugar (and the average teenager often consumes two drinks a day) we are conducting a largely uncontrolled experiment on the human species.

Our hunter gatherer ancestors consumed the equivalent of 20 teaspoons per year, not per day. In this sense, I would agree with the corn industry that sugar is sugar.

Quantity matters.

In addition he lists these serious warning bells:

The consumption of HFCS leads to increased metabolic disturbances that drive increases in:

  • Appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Dementia, etc.

One study proved that HFCS often contains toxic amounts of mercury. Essentially, it’s poisoned.  Although no further tests have concluded anything, can poisoned sugar be natural and healthy?

What this all brings me to, is that the westernised Asian diet, aka Chinese food that is served to westernised countries, does not resemble at all, the food that real Asian people eat in rural China, where obesity is not a problem and where the top diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancer etc., are not the leading causes of death in China.

Which brings me to the next point…

Lessons from The China Study

What is The China Study

The project began in 1983 as a joint effort between Cornell University, the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and Oxford University, and included researchers from the United States, China, Britain, France and other countries.

The reason China was studied, is because the Chinese tend to spend their whole lives in one area, and throughout their whole lives, eat the same foods that are locally grown.

Their diets vary greatly from one region to another, and so do the rates of disease. China was the perfect scientific place to conduct a study of this magnitude.

What makes The China Study credible?

Well, it is the most comprehensive nutritional study ever compiled. And probably will remain the most comprehensive nutritional study ever compiled because “bad” foods have even begun to filter through into rural China, and this will impact the future health of the Chinese people who reside there.

The next reason is that unlike most studies, it examined the findings in a way that studied the whole way diet and life patterns affect our health. This is important, because while we may get excited about the findings from the benefits of one food, for instance, we would not necessarily be able to see the whole picture – perhaps on its own, the food may have benefits, but what happens when it interacts with a chemical or another food?

The China Study removed that lack of knowledge.

Some of the most interesting findings from The China Study

  • A high blood level of cholesterol was associated with many cancers.
  • Small intakes of animal products were associated with high increases in chronic degenerative diseases.
  • The more plant food in our diets, the less chance we have of suffering from cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
  • The areas near the cities showed high rates of “affluent” diseases (cancer, diabetes and heart disease). The reason for this is that the more affluent the Chinese people became, the more they began to eat diets richer in oils and animal products.
  • Even small intakes of animal products are associated with high increases of chronic degenerative diseases.
  • Even though the Chinese do not ingest any dairy, or if they do, only a very little, they appear to be at a lower risk of osteoporosis. In fact, hip fractures, for instance, only occur one-fifth as much as in westernised countries.
  • High animal protein diets result in calcium loss.
  • Calories do not make us fat. The people in rural China consume about 270 more calories per day than Americans and do not have an obesity problem. This is due to the food they eat.
  • The lower the intake of Vitamin C and beta carotene (by way of food, not supplements), the higher the rate of esophageal and stomach cancer.
  • Antioxidants are protective when eaten in whole foods but not helpful in a supplement form.
  • While the blood cholesterol level for China is between 70 and 170, for the US its 170 – 290!
  • The total fat intake per day for China is between 6 and 24, but in the US its 30 – 46.
  • Seventeen times as many American men die of heart disease than Chinese men.
  • All animal protein raises cholesterol levels, even lean meats.
  • Too much iron from meat may increase your risk for heart attack.
  • Breast cancer is linked to meat consumption and dairy.
  • Although DNA may predispose you to certain diseases, you are mostly able to control whether it will ever lead to disease, by the choice of your diet and lifestyle.
  • The Chinese eat three times more fibre than Westerners.
  • Too much alcohol can lead to liver cancer.
  • Stomach cancer in China is associated with improperly fermented foods and the high use of salt.
  • Cancer can be stopped and healed when animal protein is replaced with plant protein.
  • Animal protein should make up only 8 – 10% of the calories in our diet.
  • Men who eat a diet high in soybeans and peas are less likely to develop prostate cancer.
  • Red meat, mayonnaise and butter are linked to prostate cancer.
  • One in every 100,000 men in China had prostate cancer while Chinese-American men had a rate 19 times as high. This is because when Chinese men moved to America and started eating a westernised diet, they became prone to the same diseases as all Americans because of their lifestyle choices.

Lessons you can take home

Don’t eat Chinese fast food. Ironic isn’t it?


Start with baby steps; one thing at a time. We have been programmed by what we are used to eating and if you change everything all at once, you are doomed for failure.

So aim slowly, to do this:

  • Besides the actual fatty plant-based food you eat, like avocado, olives and corn on the cob, use little or no added fats or oils.
  • Cut out completely, or decrease the amount of animal proteins of any kind.
  • Increase the amount of foods you eat with fibre.
  • Eat a variety and generous amount of plant-based food, all from different parts of the plant – roots, stems, leaves, flowers, seeds and fruit. This will give you the nutrients your body needs to thrive.
  • Be very selective with the supplements you wish to use.

In conclusion, the Asian diet is indeed one of the healthiest ones to emulate.

But definitely not of the Bo Cheng Chinese Takeaways down the road variety.

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