BANOO PARPIA: Hi, my name is Banoo Parpia and I am senior research associate in the division of nutritional sciences here at Cornell University. I'm also chief coordinator of a large comprehensive international study on diet and disease known as the Cornell China-Oxford Project on Diet and Disease. And I'm here today to tell you about the study, describe the study, and talk about the findings and discuss some of the implications for our own dietary and lifestyle choices.
Most of us have been to Chinese restaurants and think we know what a typical Chinese meal is, but is this how the Chinese eat in rural China? What about the health of an average Chinese person compared to an average person in the US? Are they at the same risk for some of these diseases, like cancer and heart disease, as we are in this country? And what about the overall link between the foods that we eat and our health?
The answers to all these questions is provided by the China Project, which is a large comprehensive international study on this specific question. The study definitively characterizes the nutritional status of the rural Chinese population as well as provides us the definitive picture of the disease profile of this nation. It also broadly addresses the larger picture of diet-disease relationships and the implications for some of our own choices.
The study has received wide media coverage and a great deal of press over the years. In fact, when it first started, the New York Times referred to it as the grand prix of epidemiology in their headlines and referred to it as the most comprehensive study of its kind that had been ever done. The study has also generated over 50 peer reviewed publications in the scientific literature, as well as been covered in the popular magazines and the popular press.
In order to more fully understand the results of the study and the dietary recommendations that are emanating from this study, we need to have an overview or an understanding of the project and touch on its organizational history, the study design, look at the series of surveys that were done, the types of data collected, and examine the overall research question and hypotheses. Once we do this, we then set the context in which we can more fully understand what the findings are and look at the implications for our own dietary and lifestyle choices.
The study was initiated in 1983 and the first phase of the study is published in a monograph entitled "Diet Lifestyle and Mortality in China, A Study of the Characteristics of 65 Chinese Counties." It's co-authored by four of the principal investigators of the study, Dr. Chen Junshi, who is at the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine in Beijing, professor Colin Campbell, who is a Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of nutritional biochemistry here at Cornell University, Dr. Lee Jun Yao at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing, and Sir Richard Peto, who is the lead epidemiologist and statistician on the study at the University of Oxford in the UK.
These four individuals, the four principal investigators, were then joined by an international team of researchers and scientists. Including myself here at Cornell, Dr. Gillian Borum in the UK, and professors Wang Gong Hao, Feng Zhu Lin, Wang Guang Yao and other distinguished colleagues in Beijing in China.
Now that was the first phase of the study, this publication, this monograph that we see the title page here. The second phase of the study was a 1989 follow-up study and this is available on the internet and in an upcoming joint publication, which is a joint publication between the WHO and the World Bank. And this is in press, currently in press.
This 1989 phase of the project was designed as a follow-up to the '83 initial study, and it was primarily to document secular change. And it is based on a much more expanded, improved, and more robust study design.
Now let me say a few words about the history of the study, because that is a fascinating aspect, as well, of this study. The study was initiated in 1980 when Dr. Chen was visiting Dr. Campbell's lab here at Cornell. And they conceived the small study on the relationship between selenium and cancer.
It was at a time when there was very little interaction between China and the US, and it was also at a time when there was this idea of the link between nutrition and cancer was just beginning to gain some credibility. At the time of this discussion, Dr. Chen and Campbell became aware of this large effort in China to map disease occurrence and it was Dr. Lee Jin Yao that was doing this in China.
So they invited him to join the study and we had Richard Peto also visiting Cornell at the time, and the interactions and discussions between these four individuals then led to the design of the study and into this large series of surveys that it encompasses today.
The involvement of Taiwan in 1989 was something of a breakthrough, as well, because it was it a collaboration under the auspices of the Ministries of Health at a time when tensions, political tensions were high between Taiwan and China, and there wasn't very much interaction between the two countries. So this was an unprecedented and significant event.
So together, these two studies, the 1983 study and the 1989 follow-up study, as well as a 1993 small reliability study, then provide this vast data resource that has contributed to and will continue to contribute to our understanding of diet and disease relationships and links.
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This study room provides a general overview and introduction to the Cornell-China-Oxford project. The project is a large and comprehensive epidemiologic study designed to explore and investigate the relationship between diet and disease.
In addition to the general descriptive findings of the study, the implications of this body of research evidence for prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer are discussed.
This video is part 1 of 8 in the The China Project: Studying the Link Between Diet and Disease series.