WHAT THE HEALTH DOCUMENTARY: Bad Science Gets Worse

You cannot reason people out of a position that they did not reason themselves into.
— Ben Goldacre, Bad Science
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*disclaimer: this will be a biased response due to the fact I'm an advocate of the paleo/keto movement. But, considering the documentary was the most one-sided affair I've ever laid my eyes on, this should be cool. If you are a vegan (and have watched the film) read the entire thing before coming to any conclusions and attacking me with raw kale. 

FINALLY, finaIly...after much deliberation and avoidance, I have watched the not-so critically acclaimed (from the standpoint of ACTUAL scientists and researches -- but, to average tart at home, it seems to have a high rating according to google) documentary, What The Health.

I have been asked by a number of people, what my thoughts were on the doc, and my response simply was that I heard the controversy surrounding it and was skeptical from the get-go. I did, however, read many reviews about the documentary from legends in the health and wellness scene (Rob Wolff, Dave Asprey, Mark Sisson etc.) and not to my surprise, they absolutely tore it to shreds.

Give Me The Goof Stuff Josh...

The documentary seems, even from the standpoint of a paleo/keto guy like myself, VERY convincing. Right from the start a strong sense of 'what the actual fuck is this shit' dawned over me. My mother at the end even snarkly commented with, "I could easy go back to being vegan after watching this.."

I will include snippets from two of the blog posts I read, in which highly respected people gave their opinions. The first being Robb Wolf -- paleo legend and real-food activist that has changed the lives of thousands.

The push for decentralized, grass centric processes is in direct opposition to the CAFO meat production just about anyone can hate. But, if a healthy, not-so-nasty alternative (pastured meat) were to gain traction (which it has) that could pose a problem for the folks who approach veganism as a religion.
— Robb Wolf

The second, for good measure, is from Virginia Messina, MPH, RD. She is a vegan health professional that writes for Vegan.com.

“The film also employs an obvious double standard. It points to conflicts of interest among national non-profit organizations without acknowledging that most of the doctors interviewed in the film also have conflicts of interest. Some are animal rights activists and some have built their reputations and livelihoods around vegan nutrition. While that is certainly not reason to discredit everything they say, bias is bias and objectivity cuts both ways. These doctors should be held to the same level of scrutiny as the organizations taking money from the food industry.”
— Virginia Messina

I've tried to keep this as precise as possible -- granted it was a challenge to do so.

Here We Go:

  • Majority, if not all, the individuals, "experts" and practitioners are vegan...this is already a major red flag. If you are going to make a credible documentary it's imperative that you get an opposing point of view.
  • Many of the facts mentioned are either extremely anecdotal or made up considering they don't provide the exact studies -- also, when mentioning risk, there is no clear indication of absolute vs relative risk (this is huge...and completely flawed if the average person, who isn't a statistician, is making judgements based on "facts").
  • Speaking of studies -- in the beginning of the documentary, they show a mother cooking up some yummy eggs and serving it to her kids. Oh wait...did I forget mentions there are cigarettes in the pan and a soundbite mentioning a study (which was debunked years ago) saying that eating one egg a day is the equivalent of smoking five cigarettes (when I heard this it was a struggle to carry on watching).
  • "I wish What the Health had stuck to these kinds of observations and supported them with an informed discussion of the evidence. Instead, it cherry-picked the research, misinterpreted and over-stated the data, highlighted dubious stories of miraculous healing, and focused on faulty observations about nutrition science.” -- Virginia
  • Kip Andersen, one of the directors and main storyteller in the documentary, looks like the biggest knob to start off with. Anyway, my judgemental views aside, he makes utterly ridiculous claims without substantial backing or evidence. But...by far. My favourite part about this majestic individual, was when he would call the receptionists of the WHO or AHA and cite studies and claims, and then go onto ask them 'why they would provide unreliable information on their websites.' SERIOUSLY. DO YOU THINK THE RECEPTIONIST CAN ANSWER THAT QUESTION? Do you really believe the receptionist can cite a study and confirm that for you, Kip? 
  • "The first people answering the phone can’t respond to his questions about diet and health. I’m not sure why he finds this surprising. They are administrative assistants, not health professionals." -- Virginia
  • Dr. Neal Barnard (PCRM-Vegan) -- man this guy got on my tits. He believes that diabetes is not caused by sugar or a high carb diet -- it's caused by an accumulation of fat in the blood. YES. WE KNOW THIS. BUT HOW DOES FAT ACCUMULATE IN THE BLOOD? THROUGH EXCESS TRIGLYCERIDE FORMULATION FROM REFINED-CARBOHYDRATES.
  • "Low carb diets have consistently proven to reverse insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes better than high-carb, low fat approaches. There IS a “plant-based” low carb approach which works well…this gets no airplay." -- Robb
  • "The filmmakers also run into trouble when they try to decipher individual studies. For example, they mistakenly assert that the World Health Organization’s analysis of processed meat and cancer risk is based on 800 studies. But this was a meta-analysis which means it began by identifying potentially relevant studies through a keyword search. In this case, it found 800 of them. But only seven of the studies actually qualified for and were included in the meta-analysis. So their conclusions are based on seven studies, not 800 – a big difference, and a big blunder by the filmmakers." -- Virginia
  • Kip mentions that the the organisations like the American Heart Association (which I dutifully doubt anything that come out of their mouths anyway) is getting money from dairy famers and the meat industry while completely leaving out the fact they are ALSO receiving funding from the wheat and corn industry.

  • "...eating hot dogs is not as dangerous as smoking. The filmmakers contend that they are equally dangerous because both are “type 1 carcinogens.” That’s not what this type of ranking means, though. It has nothing to do with the degree of risk. It’s this sort of consistent lack understanding that fuels so much of the hyperbole in the film.” -- Virginia
  • Kip goes to North Carolina to examine and over-play the effects of Nitrogen Fertilizer -- of which, majority is ACTUALLY used for crops and agriculture.

  • "Although a small amount of this is used for backyard gardening, a main portion goes towards row crops and industrial agriculture. What is somewhat humorous about the vegan agenda of this film (stop eating/using animals in any way) is that the primary option for fertilizing the corn, wheat and rice that these folks recommend will fall in petrochemical derived nitrogen fertilizers produced by the Haber process." -- Robb
  • "There is also the obligatory observation from a physician who has “never seen a patient with a protein deficiency.” This refers, of course, to an acute protein deficiency like kwashiorkor. It’s a distraction (and an irresponsible one) from the fact that some people, especially older people, get too little protein for optimal health, and that vegans may have higher protein needs than meat-eaters. This same doctor then suggests that you could get all of the protein and essential amino acids you need from 2000 calories worth of rice. This might bring you fairly close to meeting total protein needs, but it falls far short of requirements for the essential amino acid lysine. This is the kind of casual disregard for real issues in nutrition that can set vegans up to fail.”
  • The entire documentary is only providing one solution to the problem. They go on to show "miraculous" recoveries of people that went plant-based in just two-weeks. The whole agenda is super-shady and dangerous in my opinion. The amount of people I have seen go plant-based for health reasons and then go on to over-consume vegetable oil and soy products is crazy.

  • "A frustrating element to this film is that one solution and one solution only is being presented. Are all of the environmental, social and medical issues concerning? Yes, they are. But Planet of the Vegans is not the only way to address these issues, but it is the only solution offered in the film." -- Robb
  • "[Kip] highlights the meat oriented sponsors, yet somehow neglects to mention the folks who produce refined grain products who are also sponsors. The selection bias here is remarkable."
 Biologically, majority of the "experts" don't exactly look "Healthy" to me. Let me ask you something, does Dr. Milton Mills (a critical care physician shown below) look the part as a "health expert?" I'm sorry, but if you are going to make a documentary about the "health benefits" of plant-based food and mention facts like you "don't need protein from animals to get strong," at least live what you preach. I'm a firm believer in  walking the talk  -- and when I see this, the credibility factor shifts below zero. It's hypocrisy and nothing more.

Biologically, majority of the "experts" don't exactly look "Healthy" to me. Let me ask you something, does Dr. Milton Mills (a critical care physician shown below) look the part as a "health expert?" I'm sorry, but if you are going to make a documentary about the "health benefits" of plant-based food and mention facts like you "don't need protein from animals to get strong," at least live what you preach. I'm a firm believer in walking the talk -- and when I see this, the credibility factor shifts below zero. It's hypocrisy and nothing more.

Just to make it clear...this isn't a fight over veganism vs paleo vs whatever -- it's not me opposing veganism or the ideals it represents. It is a fight against BAD SCIENCE and people (like Kip) who make shady remarks on subject matters that he doesn't even fully understand. A guy who uses selective bias to back his unsteady judgements using scientists/doctors/nutritionists that are corrupt and immoral.

There were many valid points in the documentary in which I fully agreed -- like centralized and unethical farming practices. Yes, we do need more local, pasture-raised animals that are free of antibiotics and hormones (but, again, this will oppose the vegan agenda of the doc). Also, we need quality vegan products that don't contain cheap fillers like pea-protein and soy which are toxic to your body. Not to mention that many vegan products contain palm oil which is destroying the habitats of the orangutans -- just something to think about.

BUT, the fact of the matter is, the documentary was defragmented, confusing and selective — if I were an average, misinformed individual following a SAD (Standard American Diet) diet, I would feel very, very confused. 

Basically, the documentary is saying, cut out all animal products in your diet, this will solve everything from the environment to obesity. How will this save obesity might you ask? Well, according to most of the "experts," replacing fat with grains and sugar is the way to go...(if you can't tell, and were blown away by the greatness of the documentary, this is sarcasm).

Why am I so passionate about this? My mom was vegan for over 20 years...you would think she was in amazing shape...right? Well, for starters she was approaching full-blown osteoporosis and was anorexic. Since going paleo/keto and following a Bulletproof lifestyle, she has (to the surprise of the doctors) actually improved her bone-density and I think is now in the best shape of her life -- oh, and she is nearly 60, doing CrossFit and tackling life by the horns. 

I seriously implore you to read Robb's and Virginia's full reviews (links below under sources) -- they did a much better job than I did and are far more credible. 

You should also check out...

dispelling the lies

Some people are starting a fundraiser to tell truth about quality animal products and also the effects on the environment. Click on the link below to contribute if you would like an (hopefully) objective documentary to be made.

https://www.classy.org/campaign/dispelling-the-lies/c143660

sources:


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