I was at a cocktail party recently when I heard two young women talking about the documentary, “What the Health?”. As you know, I try to stay on top of articles and media about health and wellness and felt out of the loop for not being aware of this film. What particularly caught my attention was the discussion they were having, based on the film, that sugar is NOT bad for you and in fact all of our health woes come from animal based products.
WHOA NELLIE! HOLD ON A MINUTE!
Although I had not seen the film at the time, of course I told them that I had to respectfully disagree. This information was totally contrary to any current literature I have come across.
Dutifully, I came home and watched the film. I found it to be full of misinformation, misleading health claims and misstatements about research results.
If you haven’t seen it – don’t bother. If you have seen it, please try to forget most of what you saw.
Below is a bullet point synopsis of what the film claims and what research actually shows. For more detailed information, I will provide articles and research references at the end of this blog.
Claim: Sugar is not the culprit in chronic disease, animal products are.
Truth: Sugar promotes insulin resistance which leads to inflammation which is the cornerstone of chronic disease.
Takeaway: Sugar and refined carbohydrates cause inflammation and lead to multiple chronic diseases including cancer.
Claim: Eating one egg has the same detrimental health effect as smoking five cigarettes a day.
Truth: The claim in the film is based on dioxin content in eggs. Dioxins are environmental pollutants that accumulate in all living things. The reason they are more prevalent in fatty foods such as meat, chicken, pork and fish is because of pollutants in water and soil that, when ingested, are stored in fat. The further up the food chain the animal is, as well as the more fat in the animal’s system, the more likely it will have higher dioxin levels. The reason this is SO prevalent in the food we eat in this country, is due to the herbicide and pesticide laden grains fed to animals in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
Takeaway: It’s not the egg that is the problem. It is the hen that is housed in a CAFO and the on-going practice of spraying crops with pesticides, herbicides and use of Round-Up-Ready seeds. NOTE: Rice grown in dioxin heavy paddies have been a source of dioxin toxicity in some communities. Sushi eaters be aware.
Claim: People are eating too much protein and can get all the protein necessary for health in broccoli and rice.
Truth: (sigh) Really? It is absolutely true that one can get an adequate amount of protein and essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) from plant based sources. And, in many cases these sources are more healthful and offer more overall nutrition than animal based protein including: fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, it is not as easy as rice and broccoli. Vegetarianism and especially veganism require diligent effort at every meal throughout the day, every day, to get the right balance of amino acids and nutrients. Also, in order to get adequate amounts of protein on a plant based diet, one has to eat really large quantities of food as well as a wide variety of vegetable sources. To think that adequate plant based nutrition can come from one or two foods is simplification to the point of causing harm.
Takeaway: A predominately plant-based diet has many health benefits. However, getting enough protein in your diet takes effort and planning. NOTE: Getting back to the dioxin argument, a plant based diet from conventionally grown crops is loaded with chemicals as well. Choose organic whenever possible to avoid ingesting toxic chemicals.
“What the Health” A More Important Message
The most important points, I believe, that were made in this film deal with the dangers of CAFOs to our food, our health, and our environment – not to mention the karma associated with the cruelty to animals.
Below is a bullet point list of the dangers of CAFOs:
- Animals in CAFOs are fed grains that are heavily laden with pesticides and herbicides. These chemicals are toxic and are stored, primarily in the animal’s fatty tissue.
- Animals in CAFOs live in crowded, inhumane conditions. Because of this they must be fed antibiotics to prevent disease. These antibiotics are also passed along the food chain and are a source of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are complicating treatment in infectious disease.
- The chemicals that are not stored in the animal’s body are passed into the feces and urine. Dumping this waste material wreaks havoc with the environment, often causing the annihilation of complete ecosystems.
- Pork is the only meat that IS NOT farmed organically. Pigs produce 10 times the amount of feces as humans. The feces are toxic. Often this “by-product” of pig CAFOs is used as fertilizer, causing detrimental health effects such as asthma and cancer to those live nearby and inhale the fumes. These people are also three times more likely to become infected with MRSA.
My Personal Viewpoint
Our health is directly impacted by our food choices, because of that we have to be mindful of what we put in our bodies. Personally, I feel that CAFOs are a blight on our personal health, the health of those who work or live near CAFOs and on the environment. For that reason, I opted for vegetarianism years ago.
It’s important to recognize however, that our bodies need specific nutrients for optimal health. It’s extremely challenging to get those nutrients in a completely plant based diet. My own journey with orthopedic injuries and with aging has led me to include some animal based protein in my diet in order to heal injuries and maintain lean body mass.
That said, whether you choose complete veganism, vegetarianism, or a healthy balance of plant and animal products, the most important thing to consider is WHERE the food is coming from. How was is grown? How does consuming this product affect the environment? What about the people living nearby or working in the industry? How can my food choices both improve my health and contribute to global restoration?
Every BODY is different. We have different nutritional needs based on our age, current state of health, genetic tendencies and injury. It’s careless to suggest a one-size-fits-all approach to diet.
In my book, “From Overwhelmed to Inspired”, I ask the reader to focus on how you feel. This is especially important when it comes to food. Start eating clean, unprocessed organic food and begin to notice how you feel. When you tune in to what your body is telling you, you will be better able to make the choices that are just right for you, at any given stage along your life’s journey.
Until next time,
- What the Health Review: Top 3 Misses of the Vegan Documentary
- ‘What the Health’ — Where This Vegan PR Film Went Wrong
- Diet Study Suggests It's Carbs, Not Fats, That Are Bad for You
- Relationship between Added Sugars Consumption and Chronic Disease Risk Factors: Current Understanding
- Eating too much added sugar doesn't just expand our waistlines
- Glycemic index, glycemic load, and chronic disease risk
- Prescription for Trouble: Using Antibiotics to Fatten Livestock