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What the Health: Fact vs. Fiction

nutrition tips Oct 20, 2017

I am not writing this to bash anyone’s opinion or tell you that one diet is better than another. I am writing this to provide you with accurate, evidence-based information so you can make the best diet decisions that actually works for you. It frustrates me to see people use the popular documentary "What the Health" as their basis for going vegetarian or vegan. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with going vegetarian or vegan, in fact, I was a vegetarian for almost 12 years!

Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or a lover of meat and potatoes, I am going to provide you with the truth!  I'm going to explain some aspects of the video that I did agree with, and then my problems with it below.

What I DID Agree With: 

  • Eat more plants.  A plant-based diet has phenomenal impacts on overall health.  Plants are an incredible source of micronutrients, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
  • We eat too much protein.  The average Western diet’s protein needs are met and often exceed through the over-consumption of animal protein.
  • Meat is a luxury item.  Animal protein provides an array of nutrients, but it is not necessary for survival.  It is possible to live and thrive without consuming meat.  Not to mention, animal protein is one of the most expensive items in your grocery cart.
  • Food politics are a real thing.  Government and pharmaceutical companies do a play a role in our food policies, and big health organizations are supported by sponsors that may not always have consumer health as their number one priority.  After all, I’m not going to defend an organization that demonized coconut oil solely because of its saturated fat content, but in the organization’s defense, they are busy and likely don’t have time for an interview with someone who is bringing them a research article from the 1940s that has since been debunked.  

This documentary is loaded with misinformation and scare tactics that attempt to convince people that red meat is evil. 

Yes, there are studies that show red meat is likely to cause chronic disease.

The word likely is used, because there can be SO MANY confounding factors that contribute to chronic diseases, such as the quality of the meat, physical inactivity, smoking, frequent alcohol consumption, obesity, geographic region, genetics, and the list goes on.

Here’s what the documentary doesn’t tell you about meat.

  • Quality matters!  There are numerous research studies that show grass-fed cattle provide more nutrition than grain-fed cattle, wild-caught fish are superior to farmed-raised fish, and cage-free, humanely raised chickens are better for you.  Whether you view this from an animal rights standpoint or a nutrition standpoint, the consensus is humanely raised animals are best for both you and the animal. It’s a win-win!
  • This study shows a correlation between red meat consumption and cardiovascular disease, but it’s important to note there is no distinction between the processing and quality of the red meat.  Research study did distinguish between the types of red meat and cardiovascular disease.  The findings showed a correlation between processed meat and cardiovascular disease but NO correlation of red meat as a whole. Processed meat is defined as cured, salted, smoked, and canned meat like sausage, hot dogs, corned beef, beef jerky, etc.
  • Now, let’s talk cholesterol. For the majority of people, consuming dietary cholesterol will not increase your blood serum cholesterol.  The myth of dietary cholesterol increasing blood level cholesterol and its association with cardiovascular disease has been debunked by many research studies.
  • The craziest part of this documentary is the filmmaker’s take on sugar! All of the blame for chronic disease is put solely on meat consumption with no regard for sugar intake (or other lifestyle factors).  In fact, they say sugar is not a contributor to chronic disease… wait WHAT?!? Research study after research study links the consumption of sugar to breast cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • The statement made that sugar can’t be stored as fat in the body and only fat can be stored as fat is one of the many completely false claims!
  • Cherry picking the research is misleading and deceptive.  Telling the truth involves telling both sides of the story and letting the individual decide what is best for them.  I believe this documentary’s core message of animal welfare and taking care of our environment is one we should all consider, but the opportunity to convey the message was missed because the filmmakers decide to mislead and frighten the audience to get their point across instead of just telling the truth.

 Please comment below with YOUR thoughts on the movie! 

 

 

Grass Fed vs Grain Fed Beef. (n.d.). Retrieved October 4, 2017, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/grass-fed-vs-grain-fed-beef#section3

Why Dietary Cholesterol Does Not Matter. (n.d.). Retrieved October 4, 2017, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dietary-cholesterol-does-not-matter#section4

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