“What the Health” is a documentary that follows the journey of filmmaker Kip Andersen as he explores the impact of eating animal foods on our health. The documentary claims to “expose collusion and corruption in government and big business” as it walks viewers through controversies of the meat industry and health organizations while referencing enticing studies in an attempt to push an agenda for veganism. But are the health claims valid? Do we all need to be vegan to save our health? Read on for a science-based view of the film.
KRNC stance on popular ‘What The Health’ claims
“What the Health”: Diabetes is not and never was caused by eating a high-carbohydrate diet and it’s not caused by eating sugar. The cause of diabetes is a diet that builds up the amount of fat in the blood: a typical meat-based diet.
KRNC statement: While animal-based saturated fats can play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes (T2D), we cannot downplay the role of excessive refined carbohydrates in diabetes pathology. True, T2D is not caused by sugar alone. It is a function of genetic and lifestyle factors, including being overweight or obese. A diet high in calories from fat, protein and carbohydrates (sugars) contributes to weight gain. Research does show that drinking sugary drinks is linked to overweight/obesity and T2D. Excess added sugar has also been linked to heart disease. It is recommended to consume no more than 10% of total daily calories from added sugar to help reduce disease risk.
“What the Health”: Any animal protein boosts the level of IGS-1, a cancer-promoting growth hormone.
KRNC statement: The film was correct to point out that processed meat (bacon, sausage, hot dogs and some deli meats) was declared a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organization group. Conclusions were primarily based on the evidence for colorectal cancer. Meat processing such as curing or smoking can lead to the formation of potentially cancer-causing chemicals. Contrary to the film’s statement, though, eating processed meat and smoking bear different levels of risk. Additionally, some studies have shown a positive correlation between red meat consumption and cancers, but results to date are inconsistent, and at this time, we cannot say that red meat causes cancer due to the nature of these studies. The bulk of the research focusing on other animal proteins including eggs, fish, dairy and poultry suggests that these lean animal protein foods can be a part of a healthy diet.
Due to the large volume of “What the Health” claims and the brevity of KRNC newsletters, we will address additional concerning statements in future newsletters (eggs, dioxins, antibiotics and more). Stay tuned…
KRNC criticism of ‘What the Health’
“What the Health” is a success in terms of promoting veganism, but unfortunately it relies on opinions, misleading statements and over-stated research to deliver its message and ulterior motives. Documentaries like “What the Health” often use fear-based strategies to demonstrate a point. They are often highly selective about the information they present and cherry pick health professionals they contract in an effort to push a specific agenda; this is in alignment with the definition of propaganda. The biggest criticism of the film is that a single food or food group cannot be blamed for obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases. These are complex diseases, and while diet and nutrition play an important role, they are not the only factors driving disease development.
For delicious recipes, nutrition tips, and to find cooking and nutrition classes, go to the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center website. More great info is also available at the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board.