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An Honest Review of “What the Health”

what the health

The intention of this post is not to bash someone trying to make the world a healthier place. As a whole, I completely agree that we and our environment would be better off if we ate less factory farmed meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. That does not make it OK to demonize a certain macronutrient (in this case fat) using scare tactics and over-stated “research.”

I understand the filmmakers intention: convince the world to eat less meat. This isn’t Kip Anderson’s first rodeo. In Cowspiracy, he suddenly discovers that consuming animal products is bad for the environment. He attempts to contact organizations like GreenPeace and the Sierra Club about why they are not showcasing this fact on their websites, gets denied for interviews, then “finds out” that these organizations are backed by processed animal foods companies and agribusiness.

Does the plot line seem a little familiar? If you haven’t seen What the Health, it’s more of the same. Kip wakes up one day to find that eating meat is bad for his health, randomly calls the American Diabetes Association hotline to ask why they post recipes with red meat on their website, and does a Google search to find that they are backed by companies like Dannon. Did he really expect the guy on the phone to be able to answer his nutrition questions? The film then goes on to interview experts that claim that sugar and carbs are not detrimental to health but fat is the devil.

I have no idea why the filmmakers decided to turn it into a fat vs. sugar argument and argue that sugar does not cause diabetes and carbohydrates do not make you fat. Anyone who has taken a basic carbohydrates or lipid metabolism class could debate their “experts” on these claims. My jaw dropped when one of the physicians was explaining how you get diabetes from eating dietary fat.A low fat diet is not the magic answer, just like a low carb diet is not the magic answer, regardless of what the question is. Another expert talked about how terrible eggs are for you because of their cholesterol content. We’ve known for decades now that dietary cholesterol has no effect on cholesterol markers in the blood. This is outdated science that these guys are just regurgitating and using to conveniently back their claims. When someone says “I found one study that says that…” that’s a huge red flag.Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 10.13.51 PM

The reason why nutrition is such a hotly debated topic is because there is no one-size-fits all answer. There is no perfect diet. One person may thrive on a high fat, ketogenic diet while another may feel their best eating vegan. Your genetics plays a huge role in what your specific nutrient needs are.

I can’t overstate that I am totally in favor of the main points What the Health is trying to make. Eat more plants. Our government has too many ties with the pharmaceutical and ag industry. The FDA/USDA make biased dietary recommendations based on the funding they receive. But honestly, when is the last time you’ve actually looked at a government website to determine what you should have for your next meal?

And Kip, did you really just wake up one day and realize that bacon cheeseburgers weren’t good for you? The problem is, everyone already knows this. We know that cheeseburgers aren’t good for our health or the environment and we know that our government is taking money from companies like Coke and Pfizer. People with diabetes eat red meat and drink Diet Coke anyway. Doctors are going to keep prescribing meds instead of dealing with the underlying causes of the patients issues. Organizations like the American Diabetes Association are not going to ask every American with diabetes to go vegan, just like I’m not going to ask every client that walks in my office to go vegan. When people are ready to change, they will change. If they come to me asking for help to eat more plant-based, I’m all for it, but I’m not going to shove what I might think is “a perfect diet” down anyone’s throat.

Don’t get caught up in the business of fear-mongering when it comes to food. Do your best to fuel your body. Don’t get caught up in what your best friend is doing, the latest Oprah diet, or picking one nutrient to demonize or cut out. Remember a few years ago when Fed Up came out and everyone went on sugar detoxes?

If you watch this documentary and walk away with the knowledge that you need to eat less meat and dairy, great. If that translates into you preparing more meals at home, eating more greens, and thinking more about how your food lands on your plate, then the filmmakers did their job. But don’t think that cutting out fat is the answer. Foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil are extremely nutritious foods that fuel your body and send a satisfaction signal to your brain. Without fat, you won’t feel satisfied, especially by piling on more carbs.

what the health review

 

  • Florbela Monteiro

    It’s hard to communicate certain ideas to people who lack discrimination. With sugar and fat for instance, there is only one word of each to mean good and bad sugar and fat. I wish someoneone would coin diffrent words so that information didn’t get distorted.
    The speakers in the documentary NEVER say that ALL sugar and fat are harmful. Only the processed, refined sugar and the saturated fat/trans-fat are so. NATURALLY OCURRING SUGARS in fruits, vegetables, maple syrup, agave etc, and NATURALLY OCCURING FATS such as in avocados, nuts and seeds.
    If you care enough for your patients, you should be ‘shoving down’ their throats the truth of a diet who can keep them healthy and long living. But perhaps first you should clean up your act , lead by example and change to a plant based diet, feel its benefits and then you’ll have the wisdom and passion to make a real difference. ‘Physian, heal thyself’! I would add EDUCATE YOURSELF.
    The saddest thing of all is to see doctor and nutritionists die of preventable diseases themselves due to stubborn, diehard, obsolete cultural eating traditions.
    I hope to have made a difference.

    • admin

      I feel like you didn’t read what I wrote at all and you did not look into my food philosophy before commenting, you just copy and pasted some random words.

    • Rick

      “NATURALLY OCCURING FATS such as in avocados, nuts and seeds are healthy.”

      I’m curious as to why you didn’t put animal fats in that list? That would be naturally occurring as well. How well did Steve Jobs vegan diet do for him? People die. You will die. Most likely of cancer. The very thing you think you won’t die from because of your diet. Natural is better than processed. Everyone knows this. Eating meat doesn’t give you heart disease. This is outdated knowledge. The only argument I can see a vegan having that’s valid is that eating living things that have central nervous systems causes them pain when we kill them and it makes us feel bad about it because most of us don’t want to cause other living things pain (although it is interesting how our minds don’t look at plants as living things. anything that grows is alive)

      The days of vegans thinking they don’t get heart disease just isn’t true. A very good lecture from a vegan explaining this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7KeRwdIH04

      • Florbela Monteiro

        Animal fat is naturally ocurring for carnivorous animals and that only if they are bred in the wild away from hormones, antibiotics etc. Carnivorous animals in the wild die of old age not of degenerative diseases because they follow the natural diet they were design to eat.
        Human were design frugivorous, to pick the fruits from the tree or pluck plants from the ground and eat them raw.
        To be vegan isn’t a guaranty not to catch diseases. But a raw, wholefood, organic diet is a passport to a long, optimum life, and dying naturally as the apple that falls ripe, not rotten, from the tree.
        For information and inspiration watch on youtube. Fullyraw Kristina n other of the kind.
        I wish you wisdom and long healthy life.
        Bella

        • Rick

          “Animal fat is naturally ocurring for carnivorous animals and that only if they are bred in the wild away from hormones, antibiotics etc.”

          So you’re fine with eating deer I assume? Also, grass fed cows is natural animal fat as that’s what cows would do in the wild. Because they have a fence around them doesn’t change that.

          “Human were design frugivorous”

          No living thing is “designed”. Evolution shapes them and homosapian’s have been eating meat long enough that it’s shaped our evolution. This is why the vegan diet requires supplementation to be healthy. Do you think any eating pattern that requires supplementation is healthy? This would also say that eating oats of any kind is unhealthy as there is nothing natural about them and we haven’t been doing it long enough to evolve for it to be considered “healthy”.

          • Daniel

            In a perfect world, a vegan diet would not require Vitamin B12 supplements. Animals don’t make Vitamin B12, it’s made by bacteria. Even many cows are supplemented. Most people who are B12 deficient are not vegan. Vegan by itself also doesn’t tell much. Fried potatoes are vegan but extremely unhealthy. Isolated soy protein is also just as bad. A whole foods oil free vegan diet has also been proven to completely reverse heart disease.

      • Mike Quinoa

        “The days of vegans thinking they don’t get heart disease just isn’t true. A very good lecture from a vegan explaining this.”

        If you actually watched the video, the good doctor explains that vegans are essentially heart attack-proof with a couple of small dietary tweaks.

  • Excellent summation of this woo woo film

  • johnelwood

    The film was bad for all the reasons you stated, but you yourself reduced their argument a bit too conveniently. The film makes a distinction between saturated, unsaturated, and vegetable based fats. You glossed over this in your review. The film also makes a compelling argument regarding bioaccumulation that has everything to do with animal fats.

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  • Random Facts

    McDonalds opened in 1955. In 1955 the average life expectancy was 48. Today the life expectancy is 71.5. Interesting facts… Does 62 years of Big Macs add 23.5 years to the human life span?!?!?

    • Florbela Monteiro

      Today we may live longer but sicker and it’s precisely due to the fast food pandemic.

    • Mike Quinoa

      Are you factoring in infant mortality?

  • I’m sincerely wondering about the author’s opinion about whether eating oil (specifically) causes heart disease, and eating meat, or any animal protein, causes all sorts of diseases, including cancer, heat disease, diabetes, etc. I have read basically all of the leading books on whole foods, oil free, plant-based diets. The evidence truly is compelling. The studies are extensive. And this isn’t just about dying, of course we will all die. The issues are extending life, and compressing morbidity, or the time toward the end of your life when you are sick. The Greger video explains that vegans do need to supplement, but only bc we now clean veggies and water in ways that we didn’t do before (short version). Also, if meat eaters care, the overwhelming majority of them need to supplement far more extensively, or else go without a plethora of necessary vitamins and minerals only derived from plants. But I’m truly searching, not debating. The evidence seems very compelling. Extremely so. Have you read Dr. Fuhrman, or followed Dr. Greger, or read Proteinaholic? That was page after page of studies, which he said really left no room for debate. The reversal of heart disease by removing oil was also compelling. And depressing. We have been following this way of eating for about three years. The biggest challenges are food prep, and the lack of convenience foods that fit the parameters. Also, and very important to us, I do believe that my distance running has suffered. That’s why I really wish there were some actually studies that showed another way makes sense. But I’ve read extensively, and just do not see them. It is possible to get sufficient iron and protein to fuel a very active life, but it takes a lot more planning than I probably have time to do. For the first time in my life, I truly feel stuck with food, although I enjoy plant based foods / meals. I’m also concerned about calcium. But the crap in milk / cheese / dairy is extremely concerning. So I’m not sure there are great options for eating, especially in a convenient way.

    • Mike Quinoa

      Tina, regarding your distance running, maybe look into what champion marathoner Scott Jurek eats, or the essentially plant-based running phenoms, the Tarahumara. The countries with the highest dairy intakes have the most osteoporosis, so leafy greens are a much better option.

      • Thank you Mike. I have read Scott Jurek’s book, and Rich Roll’s. They are successful, but they spend a LOT of time tweaking their meals, and rely heavily on plant-based protein powder. According to Dr. Furhman (who basically just says people shouldn’t workout as much as they do), plant-based proteins have some of the problems of animal based proteins, namely that they cause an increase in IGF-1, which is a known cancer causing agent in the body. I have also read books about the Tarahumara. I do believe they eat some animal protein. I have essentially read enough, and experimented enough, to know that you cannot run WELL without either very careful dietary planning (which wasn’t necessary while eating animal protein), or deficiencies. My personal opinion, after several years of trying plant-based eating, and a whole bunch of reading and experimenting, is that some small amount of the highest quality animal protein is probably a good addition. Dr. Furhman acknowledges that some people might “do better” with a small amount of animal protein, and I’ve found this to be true. This is caused by extra protein needs of athletes, lower bioavailability of plant-based protein in the body, and not enough B12, iron, or probably calcium (lots of reading on all three of those — an experimenting with the first two). Iron is a biggie. Yes, we can supplement with iron, but in reality, it’s hard to remember to do. And difficulty for the body to absorb unless all boxes are checked regularly. Not realistic for regular life (and worse for women and those living and running in the heat (which both cause more iron loss)– which Scott Jurek and Rich Roll were not). Also non-heme iron less readily absorbed. It’s easy to say that their are solutions but, whether they work or not for any individual, I think is a very open question. Also Matt Fitzgerald, running coach, best selling author of many books, and nutritionist (who works with many elite endurance athletes), makes clear that only a very small percentage of elite endurance athletes do not eat animal protein. Some do. But most don’t. And his theory is that studies on animal protein didn’t distinguish between “discriminating meat eaters,” who eat extra lean and/or grass fed meat, versus those who eat commercially produced, high fat, bad meat. Surely there is a difference. And I’m not sure these studies are taking those things into account. In addition to iron, protein and B12 (which are all biggies; I realize you can supplement B12 but just another thing with a lot of controversy), calcium remains a big concern. Yes, you can get from green vegetables, but not nearly, nearly enough, and heaven forbid you have a few days where you don’t / can’t eat collard greens. I don’t think there is a one-size fits all. Personally, after several years of plant-based, and trying very hard to supplement iron, B12, protein (minimal), and lately concerned about calcium, I have personally decided to add a small amount of the highest quality meat and yogurt. Not sure how much. But I most definitely CAN tell a BIG difference in my running when I eat some meat, even when doing my best to supplement, versus when I do not. That’s enough evidence for me.

    • Anurag Sharma

      As a distance runner, I have found my running and recovery has improved lot. I do eat more , but it is easily digested. We have daily lentils, and vegetables, chickpeas black and white. no cheese, no meat of any kind. I also make sure I am hydrated before I go to sleep, and when i wake up in the morning.

      • Well I think it might be different for women, who have lower iron stores overall. I tried everything other than iron supplementation (with which I couldn’t stay consistent). And I don’t think the protein was sufficient for recovery (at least for me), although we ate plenty of lentils, chickpeas, and all other forms of beans & veggies daily. After 3 years on a plant-based vegan diet, we have added small amounts of meat and dairy back into our eating plan, and feel much better. I do believe some runners will need to supplement both protein (via protein powder) and/or iron supplementation and probably iron testing. Not to mention paying close attention to Vit D, Omega 3, Zinc, and B12.

  • Diala K. Lashin

    Thank you! I thought the documentary is really weird and soo biased to one point of view that is not necessarily based on facts!! Fear-mongering!

  • Mauricio de Sa

    I personally find shameful that the supposedly ‘honest’ review of this movie, just like a few others mentioned, that rare trying to open the eyes of the public to the big capitalist scheme with criminal actions from governments and large corporations play with our lives, you prefer to take the easy road. Your position is basically, “yeah there are some truth to what they’re saying, but there’s no point in fighting the criminals killing people every day”. Of course there’s a film format/appeal to attract audience rather than bore people, but you spent more time criticizing the movie than showing how appalled we all should be by being manipulated by the disgusting agencies and companies, from food to pharmaceutical, stuffing their executive pockets at the expense of our children’s health. Shame on you.

    • My stance: plants are good for you. Using scare tactics to convince people of this does not work. Demonizing one nutrient (fat, sugar, etc) is not the answer. This is a respectful place to share opinions and inspire others to make healthier choices, not a place for shaming others because they have a different opinion from you.

    • Gabriela Loschi

      I agree with Mauricio. It seems that you think there`s no point to fight against these industries and just “let the people decide what they want”, as if there weren`t a HUGE lobby and money manipulating people`s mind. No, people are not free to decide because certainly this isn`t a point well discussed out there. Although I agree the documentary lacks of responsibility as well with some not real information (or half truth), and this is also not acceptable.

  • Gabriela Loschi

    “When people are ready to change, they will change” – yes, if they have the right information and the truth is that no one has the right informations about nutrition. I agree with the points confronting the documentary, I also felt this way, but I don`t agree just “let the people decide and thats it”, cause, although I agree people only will change when they want, I think theres a HUGE industry behind all this making the information difficult to reach more people. I am not a vegetarian and the documentary certainly played a whole on my information about the subject, although I don`t believe in everything its said.

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