‘What the Health’ review: Health claims backed by no solid evidence

what-the-health

Is eating meat killing you? That’s what you may think after watching the popular new movie “What the Health” (WTH) on Netflix.

WTH portrays itself as a documentary by film maker Kip Anderson, who sets out in his trusty blue van from San Francisco to answer questions about a healthy diet. Since Anderson is already a vegan whose previous movie, Cowspiracy, argued that cows drive the destruction of the planet, we’re pretty sure where he’s going to end up.

Sure enough, despite his effort to appear shocked and surprised at his “discoveries” along the way, he concludes that not only is a plant-based diet best for health, but also that animal foods cause death and disease to all people who eat them.

cowspiracy_quoteLet’s give Anderson some credit: his film is so unrelentingly terrifying and convincing that by the end, one wants to jump right on his vegan bandwagon and cease forever from eating cheese, which one person in the film calls “coagulated cow pus” or the “pure garbage” of “dead, decaying animal flesh,” which are Anderson’s terms for meat.

The film makes 37 health claims, and for this review, I investigated every single one. (WTH also makes a myriad of claims about contaminants and issues of environmental impact, but these are outside my field of expertise, so I looked only at the claims on health.)

A few notes

Before diving into these claims, however, I’m going to make a few comments on the film’s tactics, go over a housekeeping point, and do a quick background primer on the science.

First, I’m no expert in movies, but this looks an awful lot like a horror flick to me, with scenes of Anderson driving ominously through shadowy tunnels or all alone in an unlit room, googling mysteries on his computer. Interviews are lit seemingly from a single bulb, as if talking to a mafia informant, and ominous music pulses in the background, creating an omniscient feeling of dread.

wth-2The danger lurking everywhere is, of course, animal foods, which, via toxins, chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, steroids, pesticides, mad-cow disease, bacteria, pus-filled flesh, or an endless array of chronic disease-causing powers are apparently bound to kill us.

Scary videos of pregnant women (the most vulnerable!) with needles poking into their bellies are intermingled with revolting images of fatty, pulsating bodily tissues pierced by scalpels or incised by surgical devices. We see animations of a happily pregnant mother or innocent child drinking milk aglow in neon orange to signify its hidden dangers and then see that neon color suffuse their unaware bodies — if they only knew! “Choose your poison,” says one of the film’s experts, referring to the various ways that animal foods kill. “It’s a question of whether you want to be shot or hung.”

According to Anderson, the reason that we don’t know about these dangers is that the meat, dairy and egg industries are like “Big Tobacco,” the ultimate bad corporate actor that famously used underhanded tactics to cover up the dangers of a harmful product. Casting the animal-food industries in this role has been a successful tactic employed by vegetarian groups ever since the 1970s, but WTH takes this effort into hyper-drive.

wth-5Hot dogs in the mouths of children are transformed into fat, smoking cigars, and a nutritional “Fact Sheet” on eggs is re-imagined as a handout on the health benefits of cigarettes. “An egg a day is like smoking five cigarettes,” asserts Michael Greger, MD, the film’s most prominent expert. By my count, the film employs Big Tobacco or tobacco products as an analogy for the meat, dairy or egg industries along with their products at least a dozen times.

The film also suggests our health problems are in part due to the excessive influence of Big Food and Big Pharma on our trusted public health institutions, such as the American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association (AHA). Here, I agree, although the film should have fleshed out the picture: WTH cites funding only from meat and dairy companies when in fact the full range of food industries are in on this game.1

Such donations make it hard for these associations to recommend healthy diets (e.g., the AHA puts its “healthy check mark” on sugar-laden cereals) or even advise people to choose better nutrition over drugs and medical devices. I’m also pleased to agree with another WTH point, made repeatedly throughout the film (in the scariest possible way), namely that these diseases take a huge toll on the health and wealth of our nations. Indeed they do.

Now, the housekeeping point. I come to this film with an obvious bias, since I’ve written a book, The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet. The book’s central argument is that saturated fats and cholesterol have been unfairly maligned and are not, after all, bad for health.

Therefore, I don’t buy the film’s idea that animal foods are unhealthful based on these reasons (For a complete run-down on these arguments, read my book or for a brief overview, this recent piece in Medscape or this piece I wrote in the Wall Street Journal). Still, the film presents other arguments against animal foods, and I’m open to these.

Finally, a note on science. WTH, on its website, provides many links to data for its claims, so I’ve come up with a grading system. WTH cites the following types of evidence:

Epidemiology

Most of the claims in the film come from epidemiological studies. These are fundamentally limited in that they can only show associations and cannot establish causation. Therefore, this data is really meant only to generate hypotheses and can only rarely ‘prove’ them.2 Among the many problems with epidemiological studies are:

  1. The extreme unreliability of “food frequency questionnaires,” which depend upon people accurately remembering what they ate over the last 6 or 12 months.3
  2. The impossibility of fully adjusting for confounding variables. For instance, how does one adjust for the fact that heavy red-meat eaters are obviously people who’ve ignored their doctors’ orders about meat (since nearly all doctors now advise patients to cut down on red meat), and thus, these people are also probably ignoring “healthy living” advice in many other ways. They probably smoke more and fail to visit the doctor regularly or attend cultural events—all factors linked to poorer health outcomes and none of which epidemiologists can ever properly measure or adjust for.4 Moreover, researchers don’t actually know to what extent various foods like sugar or high-fructose corn-syrup cause disease, so they cannot even begin to adjust for those; And that is just the beginning of the discussion on problems in confounding.
  3. Epidemiologists cross-calculate hundreds of food and lifestyle variables against death rates from different ailments, resulting a huge number of associations. Just as a matter of probability, some of the positive results will be spurious. Statistical adjustments can be made to avoid this problem, but the Harvard epidemiologists, whose papers are principally cited by WTH, rarely make such adjustments.5

Thus, for all these reasons and more, scientists in most fields (except nutrition) agree that small associations—with “risk ratios” of less than 2 — are not reliable.6

Epidemiological studies with ratios <2 will therefore be coded in red.

(Note that a risk ratio is completely separate from those scary “relative change” numbers that articles report. An article might say: “meat increases the chances of breast cancer 68%!” Yet this number is exaggerated and often meaningless, as explained here.)

Clinical trials

This is a more rigorous kind of evidence that can show cause and effect.7 I will grade trials roughly according to the following criteria: Was it randomized? Did it have a control group? Was it sizeable? Was it on a relevant population? Did enough people finish the trial to make it meaningful? Do its results support the claim?

Clinical trials that fail to meet most of these standards will be coded in red.

Clinical trials that might support the claim will be coded in green.

Non-conclusive evidence

These include either studies that do not support the claim or evidence that is highly preliminary, such as papers speculating on possible hypotheses, case studies on 1-2 people, or test-tube studies on cell cultures. These represent the most preliminary types of research and cannot be considered conclusive evidence. All these non-conclusive studies will be coded in red.

Newspaper, magazine articles, and blog posts

Because these are not peer reviewed, they can’t be considered as rigorous sources of evidence, although some publications are better than others. Articles by biased sources (e.g., vegan diet doctors) will be coded in red, because they have both commercial and intellectual conflicts of interest. Mainstream media outlets that fact check their articles are more reliable, though still not a source of peer reviewed science, so they will be coded in yellow.

To review:

  • Items in red cannot be considered support for the claim.
  • Items in yellow are weak support for the claim.
  • Items in green support the claim.

And… drumroll… here’s the evidence:8

What the health table

In sum, 96% of the data do not support the claims made in this film. The film does not cite a single rigorous randomized controlled trial on humans supporting its arguments. Instead WTH presents a great deal of weak epidemiological data, case studies on one or two people, or other inconclusive evidence. Some of the studies cited actually conclude the opposite of what is claimed.

Moreover, the majority of “papers” turn out to be posts by vegan diet doctors — mainly Michael Greger and Neal Barnard. Both of these men are passionate animal welfare activists,9 so one can never know if they are seeking truth about a healthy diet or have started from the premise that they’d like to end all domestication of animals and proceed to cherry pick the science back from there.

Given the weak-to-non existent data presented in the film, the latter seems to be a pretty good possibility. In fact, WTH, based on zero sound science, is quite likely a piece of animal-welfare advocacy masquerading as a public health film.

For a comprehensive list of every WTH health claim, and the exact support, see this PDF document.

the-wth-claims-picture

In conclusion

The film’s defenders might say that better studies are buried in all those posts by vegan diet doctors, but any researcher knows to cite primary sources rather than secondary ones. Where’s the science? It appears not to exist.

And we can assume that if the science has been so distorted and misrepresented for the claims on health, probably the same has been done for claims on other issues, on environmental impact, toxins, antibiotics, hormones, the evolution of humans, etc.

If this is the best evidence that a vegan diet can promote good health, then I’m not convinced. I’m more skeptical, even, based on a few solid observations:

  1. No human population in the history of civilization has ever been recorded surviving on a vegan diet.
  2. The vegan diet is nutritionally insufficient, lacking not only vitamin B12 but deficient in heme iron and folate (meaning that we should refer to it always as a “vegan diet plus supplements”).
  3. A near-vegan diet, in rigorous clinical trials, invariably causes HDL-cholesterol to drop and sometimes raises triglycerides, which are both signs of worsening heart attack risk; Over the last 30 years, as rates of obesity and diabetes have risen sharply in the U.S., the consumption of animal foods has declined steeply: whole milk is down 79%; red meat by 28% and beef by 35%; eggs are down by 13% and animal fats are down by 27%.10 Meanwhile, consumption of fruits is up by 35% and vegetables by 20%. All trends therefore point towards Americans shifting from an animal-based diet to a plant-based one, and this data contradict the idea that a continued shift towards plant-based foods will promote health.
  4. There’s the entire Indian subcontinent, where beef is not eaten by the large majority of people, which has seen diabetes explode over the past decade.

It’s also false that WTH is the movie that “health organizations don’t’ want you to see!” as it claims, since the president of the American College of Cardiology, interviewed in the film, expresses adamant support of the vegan diet, and the expert committee for the U.S. Dietary Guidelines in 2015 proposed eliminating meat from the list of “healthy foods.”

Thus, these two major public health institutions would presumably be happy for you to see this film. In fact, the plant-based diet has proponents in many high places, including the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, which produces many of the weak epidemiological associations cited in the movie. Claiming to be a Michael-Moore style underdog therefore appears merely to be one of the film’s rhetorical tricks.

Finally: I’d like to comment on this film as act of journalism. In WTH, Anderson’s role as a ‘reporter’ fails to meet any normal standards of the field. Not only does he hop a barbed-wire fence in what appears to be an act of illegal trespassing onto a hog farm in North Carolina, he also conducts a series of interviews that just made me laugh.

wth-1Any journalist knows that if you want some information from, say, the American Cancer Institute, American Heart Association, or American Dietetics Association, as Anderson does, you call the media relations department and ask to be put in touch with the appropriate expert. Anderson doesn’t seem to know this, or so he feigns, and thus instead asks his questions of operators answering the phones or — amusingly — a security guard manning a lobby desk.

Zounds! “Yet again… more questions no one can answer,” intones Anderson. Yep, because these people have been hired to be operators and security guards, Mr. Anderson, not scientific experts. In the film, Anderson portrays these encounters as a series of “gotchya” moments in which he’s being stonewalled, but really, it’s nothing but illusion.

And that’s the whole film: scary images, compelling language, and the illusion of certainty and data, when in fact, there is none. Go ahead and eat your eggs, dairy and meat, folks, because there’s no sound evidence to show that these traditional, whole foods are bad for health.


Nina Teicholz

Vegetarian low carb

While there may be no definite scientific health reason for everyone to go vegetarian or vegan, it can still certainly be a fine personal choice for many people.

Here at Diet Doctor we try to make low carb simple, and here are our top low-carb vegetarian recipes:

Why the fear of meat?

Where does the fear of meat come from originally? Learn more in our interview with Nina Teicholz:

Can Red Meat Kill You? – Nina Teicholz

 

Popular health movies

Nina Teicholz

  1. Equally, many industries benefit from the government’s “Check Off” programs. Pro-plant advocates like to cite the influence of the meat, dairy, and egg programs, but such programs also exist for soybean, wheat, avocados, potatoes, mushrooms, etc., all of which presumably have the same types of marketing efforts. WTH is again selecting presenting the evidence here.

  2. Epidemiological associations must be very strong to suggest causation.

    The classic example is the association between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer, when the “relative risk” was very high: pack-a-day smokers had 10-to 35 times greater risk than non-smokers. Compare that to the 1.17 relative risk in cancer for the highest and lowest quintiles of red meat eaters. That number for processed red meat is 1.18.

  3. For more on this, see this paper by Edward Archer, Ph.D. or read this excellent piece by journalist Christie Aschwanden. I also cover this in my book, pp. 262-263.

  4. Gary Taubes wrote a great post on this here.

  5. For more on this issue and how Walter Willett, a top Harvard epidemiologist, responded to accusations from statisticians on these issues, read my book, pp. 261-266. A recent post on Harvard and “p-hacking” is here.

  6. A similar measure of association, called a “hazards ratio,” is worth consideration if it is lower than .5 or larger than 2. If the hazard ratio is too close to 1, this means that the strength of association is nearly zero.

  7. The best trials are both randomized and controlled. In such trial, a researcher takes a group of subjects and randomly splits them into two equal groups. One gets a special diet while the other group receives a “control” diet. To be “well controlled,” each group must get the same intervention—i.e., the same amount of counseling, doctors’ visits, free food, and overall attention—in order to avoid the improvement that is inevitably seen in a patient just by virtue of receiving attention from a health professional. Because it turns out that most of us will watch what we eat a little more carefully if we know that someone is looking over our shoulder.

  8. Note: I’m not claiming that all these numbers are perfect. No doubt there is a mistake or two in here, as inevitably happens when reviewing a lot of data. Defenders of the vegan diet will likely use an error and dismiss the entire piece as “error ridden,” but whether I’ve counted every post correctly is dwarfed by the overwhelming amount of weak, biased and inconclusive data cited in WTH to make claims that are unjustifiable by any measure.

  9. Michael Greger “proudly serve[d] as the public health director for the Humane Society of the United States” until 2016, according to his website.

    Neal Barnard has long been linked to animal-rights groups and activities, such as noted here, here, here, here, and here.

  10. Jeanine Bentley. U.S. Trends in Food Availability and a Dietary Assessment of Loss- Adjusted Food Availability, 1970-2014, EIB-166, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, January 2017.

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121 comments

  1. Lori Miller
    1. Neal Barnard, one of the vegan doctors whose posts were used as evidence for the claims, falsely attributed statements to paleoanthropologist Dr. Richard Leakey in his book The Power of your Plate. See http://relievemypain.blogspot.com/2013/05/paleo-vegetarianism.html and http://relievemypain.blogspot.com/2013/05/richard-leakey-meat-was-sub....

    2. In the table on total number of health claims and documents, I come up with 78 documents, not 85. Am I footing it incorrectly?

    Reply: #2
  2. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    2. I get 85 when adding them up?
    Reply: #8
  3. Pam Holt
    It is irresponsible to try and make people feel good about eating carcasses when it is so detrimental to health and the environment. There are so many compassionate and delicious alternatives.
    Replies: #7, #24, #35
  4. Maria Barron
    I must say though not eating meat or dairy my arthritis has improved, you are all bias and quite frankly anyone can find the right information that supports what they want to eat. I am in excellent health for 58 female and I get enough nutrition, you or anyone else mention superfoods like spirulina the perfect food more protein and calcium than both meat or dairy. They call it "green blood". I think the way meat and dairy is processed in this country is a crying shame, from Food.inc to forks over knives. I learned enough to know the American diet is the worse diet in the world. You are what you eat, thats for sure. As for Cancer, we already have a cure and treatment, its called CBD oil, but the American cancer association pushes radiation and chemotherapy which killed my father, it is a conspiracy with doctors/pharmaceuticals/ sponsor's. Shame on you America
  5. Maria Barron
    I must say though not eating meat or dairy my arthritis has improved, you are all bias and quite frankly anyone can find the right information that supports what they want to eat. I am in excellent health for 58 female and I get enough nutrition, you anyone else mention superfoods like spirulina the perfect food more protein and calcium than both meat or dairy. They call it "green blood". I think the way meat and dairy is processed in this country is a crying shame, from Food.inc to forks over knives. I learned enough to know the American diet is the worse diet in the world. You are what you eat, thats for sure. As for Cancer, we already have a cure and treatment, its called CBD oil, but the American cancer association pushes radiation and chemotherapy which killed my father, it is a conspiracy with doctors/pharmaceuticals/ sponsor's. Shame on you America
  6. Maria Barron
    I must say though not eating meat or dairy my arthritis has improved, you are all bias and quite frankly anyone can find the right information that supports what they want to eat. I am in excellent health for 58 female and I get enough nutrition, you haven't mention superfoods like "spirulina" the perfect food more protein and calcium than both meat or dairy. They call it "green blood". I think the way meat and dairy is processed in this country is a crying shame, from Food.inc to forks over knives. I learned enough to know the American diet is the worse diet in the world. You are what you eat, thats for sure. As for Cancer, we already have a cure and treatment, its called CBD oil, but the American cancer association pushes radiation and chemotherapy which killed my father, it is a conspiracy with doctors/pharmaceuticals/ sponsor's. Shame on you America
    Reply: #81
  7. Maria Barron
    I agree, it is no more a secret how lethargic one feels after eating an American diet, burger and fries or steak and potatoe, heavy bloated and need to sleep. Its harmful to your body to eat like this everyday. There are so many great foods to make without weighing you down, I am a great vegetarian and vegan baker/cook, self-taught, I came from a meat eating family and they all have health problems and they eat processed foods & dairy with this diet comes alcohol intake..but thats a whole other area...
    Reply: #56
  8. Harry
    I felt increasingly annoyed with every passing minute watching this movie while the veganism "experts" made their wild claims. For example one guy vehemently argued against consuming animal protein with the argument that human breast milk contained among the least protein of any mammal, and this is the stuff nature wants our babies to eat as the perfect food template! But newsflash, human breast milk contains about 25% saturated fat, and a few minutes earlier he and his fellow experts made it sound like saturated fat was the worst thing ever instantly clogging your arteries. Which one is it, healthy or unhealthy, you can't have both. Sure, a lot of people could benefit from eating more fresh vegetables in their diet instead of processed foods, but don't make it sound like there is no other healthy eating lifestyle besides veganism.
    Reply: #58
  9. Amanda
    Too bad there are numerous studies showing just how bad meat and dairy are but you go ahead and eat to your heart's content. Lol.
  10. fatisyourfriend
    @Amanda you need to cite these studies you talk of otherwise you have no ground to stand on.
    This published study reviewed and analysed past clinical trials and found no link between red meat consumption and cardiovascular disease: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161219202034.htm
  11. Jonny
    Awesome work Nina. I do not like when people attack the vegan lifestyle with bad science or poor arguments, but your post was devoid of all of that. Fantastic read - thank you so much for writing this!
  12. Christine
    I told everyone about lchf... loved it. But I didn't fully control my diabetes and lingering health issues until I went vegan... and it has been fast. So strange. WtH also addresses animal agriculture. That cant be ignored. I can eat 2 bananas. Half a melon and a bowl of rice and beans... numbers the same or slightly lower by about 10 points. There are a growing group of vegans type 1 diabetics living on almost only fruit. With low insulin use and very normal for them numbers. Study all sides of the issue.
  13. Rodrigo

    Hmmm. I made a spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Svhr8ch7QMbZYVLkSQLg2HC59s8nS...

    Your spreadsheet is wrong.

    'Posts by vegan diet doctors & other vegan proponents' equals 31. This *includes* but is not limited to the 18 posts by Michael Greger and the 6 posts by Neal Barnard (18 + 6 = 24). Lastly, this *does not include* the 5 'Posts from other websites' (which should be clear by the indentation used).

    So: 13 + 3 + 23 + 31 + 5 + 10 = 85

    Reply: #16
  14. Albany
    Well done Nina, another great critique using facts - not fantasy and undue bias! If the film were correct it makes me wonder how the human race survived for 200,000 years on a mainly meat diet...? I have no objection to people choosing a vegan or any other diet and I feel very strongly that animals should be reared humanely. No vegan response has mentioned the big food farming practices of crops creating dust bowls and spraying that not only poisons the crops but contaminates the earth but hey ho! It looks like the film is relying on scare tactics not science... I've had enough of that for the last 40 years with the dietary recommendations! Thanks Nina.
  15. Lori Miller
    Thanks. But the other seven posts that are part of the subtotal should have a row. They're not accounted for in the table in the original post, unlike the posts by Barnard & Greger.
  16. Vic
    How about these peer reviewed studies Dietdoc? - https://badassu.net/100-scientific-reasons-to-not-eat-meat/
    Reply: #23
  17. Krysten
    If you ask most vegetarians and/or vegans, they'll tell you they don't eat animal products because of ethical choices. I am one of them. I'm the only vegetarian (I'm lacto-ovo but I restrict my dairy intake) in my family and one of the few of my friends and I don't judge anyone for eating meat. There has been so much information over the last few years from recent studies and research about diets that incorporate more animal products and what the medical and nutritional community is doing with this information. With that said, I personally think the standard American diet consumes more meat and dairy than necessary. Also, the way factory farming has become the norm in our country is apalling. I appreciate all of the farms who are coming forward and changing their ways in the raising and treatment of their livestock and I hope this trend will continue. And, there absolutely has to be adjustments to what corporations can and can't do in regards to our food (case and point the egg industry going after Hampton Creek). I think the common factor in plant based and diets like LCHF is eating whole foods and cutting out the crap. You can look at studies like The China Study, which is one of the largest studies conducted about the benefits of a plant based diet, and they have similar results as to what is being seen now with diets like LCHF. Ultimately, both types of diets have their benefits. I will however disagree with Nina about deficiencies. I have higher iron levels now than I did when I ate meat. Obviously, everyone is different but just because you don't eat meat doesn't mean you'll be prone to being deficient in certain areas. Eat meat, don't eat meat. That's a personal decision. What I think needs to happen is the benefits that occur from both types of diets need to be explored so a common ground can be found so there isn't as much back and forth. All it does is cause more confusion for the people who are trying to make better decisions for themselves. I really appreciate Nina's review (I haven't seen "WTH" yet but I have watched "Cowspiracy") and I wish all reviews of an opposing opinion could be like this.
    Reply: #38
  18. Brana
    Are you kidding me? More and more people are ill nowdays and it's due to their diet. People are dying. The vegan doctors have been on plant based diets for many years and they are healthy. There is enough evidence from patients on the show that proves changing their diet helped their health. More evidence in last years documentary "Eating you alive".It's true, we are what we eat. I gave up milk, 2 years ago, refined sugar a year ago and all dairy products and 2 months ago meat. Amazing energy. My candida never returned. And I feel better now then 10 years ago. It is not in interest of health professionals to advise on nutrition, as no one would buy any drugs.
    Replies: #25, #27
  19. Joan
    I guess you can't criticise veganism without having a horde of angry vegans coming at you with pitchforks. For comparison, I can't imagine myself going to a vegan website, searching for blogs I don't agree about and telling them that they shouldn't eat dead, decaying vegetables that will ferment in their colon and kill them with diabetes. I mean, I understand you're activists, but come on, you're grown up too.

    All in all, I have the same beef with vegans than I do with religion: although I completely respect their individual choice, I can't stand the attitude of being shoved self-defined righteousness. No, vegans do NOT have a higher moral standard. They just believe they do. And nobody likes being preached by someone with a moral superiority complex.

    Concerning What the Health, it is just a demonstration of (very) bad journalism trying to "debunk" things using manipulation, pseudoscience and fear-mongering. That's the biggest failure: if his point was really solid, Kip wouldn't need any of those tactics. He would just make his point using good science, instead of depicting himself as a sort of Fox Mulder unfolding a conspiracy that doesn't exist.

    Replies: #57, #84, #100
  20. Robert Sutherland
    Where is your citation on near vegan diets causing a drop in HDL? And you have a vested interest in promoting animal based food. This review is nothing short of laughable, zero credibility.
  21. Gail
    There is so much common ground between the vegan diets and the LCHF diets that it is a shame there seems to be so much time trying to discredit alternative healthy lifestyles. I wish the vegan practitioners would be honest and admit they are motivated by animal welfare and are promoting a 'healthy diet without animal products' rather than 'the healthiest diet per se'.
    The common ground is in terms of 'not eating processed food' and vastly reducing sugar consumption and not eating the mix of carbs and fats that does indeed seem to be unhealthy in the SAD or the NHS Eatwell plate.
    The LCHF diet has been proved by hundreds of thousands of people to assist in losing weight and reversing diabetes. The vegan diet also makes these claims though it is perfectly possible to eat unhealthily and gain weight on a vegan diet (chips/french fries are vegan, many sweets are vegan but eating nothing but chips and sweets isn't healthy). It is not the veganism per se but a version of the vegan diet that promotes lots of green veg and unprocessed food (just like the healthy LCHF diet does!)
    Some people cannot tolerate dairy and so a vegan diet may be better for them but for others the high carb content of the vegan diet is a problem. I have a carb intolerance - if I eat anything with carbs I get an immediate reaction and coughing fit - so for me the vegan diet is not healthy but the LCHF diet is.
    Factory farming is of course not good but nor is the mega agri-businesses that spray pesticides and damage land and watercourses even though they may be producing grain or crops for vegans to eat.
    Time for us all to agree that there is more than one way to a healthy diet and start pointing out the health benefits of both ways, rather than trying to scare people into a single way of eating as the vegan propaganda films like this one tend to do.
  22. Guilherme Carregosa da Costa
    Are you kidding, right? Do you understand at least a little about Scientific Methodology?
    Where, in that blog post you mentioned, are the relevant studies?
    Epidemiological studies doesn't count. In some cases they are using in vitro studies to support their claims.
    So funny... lol
    Try again honey.
  23. John
    Yes, you did understand what it was about.
    Please, you may go without meat, but it is equally bad to force people on a vegan killer diet when they do not want to.
    Do as you like, but leave the rest of us alone.
  24. John
    You were probably allergic to those foods.
    But do not force others to eat a vegan killer diet.
    Let then decide whats good for them.
  25. J. Krin
    Look around. People are fat. I am fat. Big pharma is big for a reason: We address symptoms not the causes or prevention. There's no money in it. As many editors-in-chief of prestigious journals say: today's "science" is created and cooked up by vested interest groups. Coconut oil is bad says study sponsored by Canola people. Money is the "truth" in science. Experiment. Take charge of your own health. Try veggie-based diet for a month and see if you feel better, lose weight, have more energy. If not, eat more hotdogs. Simple. First-person reality is the only reality that counts.
  26. EvaB
    "People are dying." Wow, what a groundbreaking statement! D-)
  27. Lori Miller
    If veganism is such a great diet, why are vegan doctors and researchers such frauds? See https://deniseminger.com/the-china-study/, and http://relievemypain.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-low-carb-fraud-review.html, http://relievemypain.blogspot.com/2013/05/paleo-vegetarianism.html.

    While saving the planet and caring about livestock is great, taking care of yourself is your first order of business. There are a lot of people who cannot live on a starchy vegan diet and cannot afford pasture-raised or wild animal products. (BTW, if eating a bunch of starchy or sugary food doesn't raise your blood sugar, you are not, by definition, a diabetic. Diabetes is a disease of carbohydrate intolerance.)

    Veganism is a religion with an origin myth (humans are natural vegetarians/vegans), purification rites, taboos, plenty of proselytizing, and in some cases attacking apostates (see http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2010/03/15/vegan-nut-jobs-atta..., https://www.racked.com/2014/7/10/7587289/vegan-blogger-receives-death..., http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/calif-vegan-restaurant-owner.... It's not based on science. It's not based on reality, which is value-neutral.

  28. J. Krin
    Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I'm slowly getting off meat, and I can tell you, I feel fantastic!"
  29. Nan B
    Visitors to this site may want to take a look at studies from Loma Linda University. Loma Linda University was founded and is run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The church promotes a healthy lifestyle that includes an ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet and exercise of the body, mind and spirit. Residents of the town of Loma Linda have some of the longest lives in the country, if not the world. Here's just two articles to get your reading and research started:

    http://www.isciencetimes.com/articles/5326/20130604/vegetarians-live-...

    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-goldberg-loma-linda-health...

    Replies: #39, #43
  30. Georgia Ede MD
    Brava, Nina Teicholz! Thank you for debunking these unfounded claims.

    Some studies do demonstrate apparent health benefits for vegan or vegetarian diets compared to omnivorous diets, but every single one I am aware of suffers from the same tragic flaw: they don't simply remove animal foods from the diet. More than one variable is changed--typically they remove most of the saturated fat, processed foods, and MOST importantly--they remove most of the refined carbohydrate as well. Many of them add exercise and include stress reduction elements as well. Therefore, even when results look promising, we have no idea whether the removal of animal foods had anything to do with the apparent benefits. What we need are studies comparing a whole foods omnivorous diet with a whole foods plant-based diet, but as far as I know, those studies have not yet been conducted.

    As for the "scariest" theories out there about red meat and health:

    Red meat does not cause cancer, even though the World Health Organization proclaimed to the planet last year that it does. For those interested, I dissected the (very strange) WHO report here:

    http://www.diagnosisdiet.com/meat-and-cancer/

    The carnitine/TMAO theory of red meat and heart disease is also ludicrous:

    http://www.diagnosisdiet.com/red-meat-and-heart-disease/

  31. Lily
    I'll add that for people who feel better after giving up animal products, It's impossible to know if their symptoms improved because they have a sensitivity to certain foods, or if those foods were pasteurized, filled with other preservatives, hormone injected, over consumed, animals feed improper feed, etc. It's comparing apples to oranges. Ex: if someone ate moderate amounts of fresh dairy from their own animals that they know were grass fed, healthy, humanely raised, unpasteurized, etc., and then gave it up and felt better, my guess would still be they have a dairy sensitivity which they could then have tested, rather than saying all people should avoid all dairy always.
    Most studies don't account for quality when damning animal products.
    Reply: #59
  32. 1 comment removed
  33. Luis Rivera
    Meat eater, for healthy living. Brain didn't develop by eating greens.
  34. Max Pilkington
    Whilst most of the studies cited in the film are epidemiological in nature, please could you provide citations to *ANY* studies (epidemiological or otherwise) showing a positive association between increased animal product consumption and IMPROVED health?

    PLEASE, IF ANYONE KNOWS OF ANY SUCH STUDIES PLEASE LINK THEM HERE. I am genuinely interested to read them.

    Wholefood, plant-based is the only diet which has been shown (by randomized control trial) to prevent and reverse coronary heart disease [1], the #1 killer in America.

    This finding alone should encourage us to follow plant-centered eating plans.

    (And no, I am not a vegan.)

    [1] Ornish, Dean, et al. "Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease?: The Lifestyle Heart Trial." The Lancet 336.8708 (1990): 129-133.

    Reply: #50
  35. Jenn
    Here's the thing, you have to have A LOT of money to fund studies. The lack of peer reviewed studies about certain topics are lacking because the big corporations with money do not want to spend money on studies that will harm their business. Even these peer reviewed studies can be biased because of where the funding comes from since you do not have to share all the information collected from a study. Personally, I would take personal experiences over what some study tells me. If I treated issues I have had with big pharma drugs, I would still be sick. Instead, I changed my diet and was able to reverse my autoimmune conditions. No, I'm not vegan but if being vegan was able to change my life, I would choose veganism over pills any day.
  36. Karen
    Nina specifically says:
    "The vegan diet is nutritionally insufficient, lacking not only vitamin B12 but deficient in heme iron and folate (meaning that we should refer to it always as a “vegan diet plus supplements”)."
    You are not a vegan by your own words. There is worlds of nutritional difference between a vegan (no animal products at all including honey) and a lacto-ovo vegetarian. Eggs themselves are an amazing powerhouse of nutrients.
    Agree that I wish all conversations could be as nice as this one about this subject.
  37. Karen
    Again - lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet is NOT vegan. Big difference.
  38. Tara Prasad
    "There’s the entire Indian subcontinent, where beef is not eaten by the large majority of people, which has seen diabetes explode over the past decade." - I don't see how is this even a valid argument since majority of people in Indian subcontinent don't follow a plant based diet.

    In India, even though people do not eat beef, the majority of the population eats chicken and fish. And the consumption of dairy products is also extremely high. And India is the 2nd in diabetic population after China. Veganism is almost non-existent in India.

  39. Vegan warrior
    I thought this was a joke at first. Why would anyone take advice from a journalist?? She has no qualifications whatever to talk about health and nutrition. People want their ears tickled and she's the feather for the job.
    Reply: #53
  40. Matt
    Of course people can eat and believe what they want. I'm just glad we have quality journalists (and lay scientists) like Nina and Gary that come from this with no preconceptions and just deal with the observations, science and facts.

    Great job Nina!

  41. Doug K
    If a church is promoting it, I am automatically throwing the findings right out the window.
    Reply: #47
  42. Mike
    You can't take this stuff seriously if it relies on scary music, and "demanding answers" from some random guy in the lobby. Are you sure it wasn't intended as a parody of a documentary?

    I think there are plenty of reasons to eat less meat, but they are to do with the welfare of animals and of the environment, not the health of the consumer.

  43. Jen
    I must say I am eating more meat now and feel amazing!! almost 50 and best shape of my life.... just saying...
  44. Juan
    “An egg a day is like smoking five cigarettes,” asserts Michael Greger, MD.

    Looks like I have a pack a day habit.

    Every body is different. I cannot tolerate vegetables. I cannot digest them. I get the worst heartburn imaginable. I thought I was having a heart attack the last time I ate raw vegetables. I went to a gastroenterologist and was diagnosed with gastroparesis. I doubt I have gastroparesis, but I do know I cannot handle fiber, even whole wheat anymore. I could tolerate white bread with a little discomfort. I was told to cook my veggies down until they are soft. Sorry but that is just disgusting.

    I am lactose intolerant. I have to take some pills to digest lactose. I can eat cheese because it has almost no lactose. Creams - nope. So milk is out of the question for me.

    That said I did a juice fast - approved by my doctor and promoted in the Fat Sick and Nearly Dead documentary. My cholesterol dropped, I lost about weight, was wearing smaller clothes and I was hungry all the time. The movie said I would not be hungry after two weeks, well it didn't work that way for me.

    I went LCHF have lost a good bit of weight, have more energy, less aches and pains, and my cholesterol is lower now (165) than it was when I did the juice fast (171). I have always had low HDL cholesterol and the last time it was good, about 6 months ago, I was not eating LCHF and eating way too much sugar and carbs. I'm still perplexed with that one. With the fat I am less hungry.

    Last point - I used to work with a gentleman who was a vegan, mostly because his fiancé was one. He told me that if we got rid of all the cattle and used that land for farming we could feed the world seven times over. I thought for a second and said "how about we get rid of 1/7th of the cattle farms, use that land, feed the world one time over so I can still have a reasonably priced steak?" His response "I never thought of it that way."

    I think most people, on any side of an argument can find info that supports their claims one way or another.

  45. Juan
    If you are in the USA you better find a good secular hospital as most here near where I live have "Baptist, St. Vincent's, Maryview (In honor of Jesus' mom), St. Lukes, etc..." and all are sponsored by churches.

    My previous GP was a Seventh Day Adventist. He has never eaten meat and looks a little small, but other than that he is in perfect health. Most of the people he attends church with are skinny, at least those who follow the diet and eat mostly veggies.

    While some religious teachings are suspect there is no need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Find what is good and use that. Don't dismiss something that might possibly bring a positive into your life due to a bias against church or religion.

  46. Peter
    Anthropolists have found that after our very ancient ancestors discovered fire, they switched to a meat based diet. Cooked food allowed for much more concentrated nutrition, and meat is the most concentrated nutrition of all. This allowed early humans to reduce the amount of time it took to find, prepare and eat food, from 90 percent of the day (like most other manuals) to much less. it also corresponded with enlarged brains in humans found in the fossil record. 22-25 percent of all body resources goes to supporting brain function, so this concentrated nutrition allowed early humans to make tools, move out of caves, and build cities, and eventually civilization. We now have to have meat based nutrition or we suffer severe health consequences. It is not scientifically possible to have a purely vegan based diet and stay healthy.

    I have also come to notice that you can not really have a rational argument with many vegan activists, which makes me wonder if they are suffering from diminished brain capacity from improper nutrition.

  47. Julie
    I think Hindus have it right - Beef meat production uses way, way, WAY more resources, water and energy than other animal meats and dairy herds. In purely practical terms, not eating beef is environmentally more sensible.

    If the human race could cease eating beef we could raise up to 10 x more kg's of other animal meats per 1 kg of beef. I don't eat beef at all at home as my husband is a Hindu. I don't miss it at all!

  48. Lori Miller
    Here you go: Mormons are healthier and live longer than Seventh-Day Adventists. Links are in the first comment.

    http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2009/06/26/michael-jackson/

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