Have you wondered about the claims in What the Health documentary? The 2017 film addresses the environmental effects of the meat and dairy industry. Studies show about 0.5% of the world is vegan, while 8% is vegetarian, vegan, or flexitarian (mostly plant-based). The film goes beyond claiming that meat and dairy are unhealthy. It instead argues that there’s a conspiracy that includes the meat, dairy, and drug companies, and health organizations. The film argues that the so-called Standard American Diet (SAD) is the main cause of many severe health conditions. It is a loaded claim since some health experts argue the problem is issues like antibiotic injections given to cows raised for beef or grains replacing grass.
Health has received praise and criticism. For example, some reviewers have claimed that the facts have been misused to support the documentary’s claims. For example, most health experts agree that consuming lots of processed meat, white sugar, and refined grains are unhealthy. However, it’s important to site studies and statistics correctly in terms of accuracy and context. These are arguably key features of good journalism, even in the post-truth era, when facts are often twisted and misused.
What The Health Documentary
It is a 2017 documentary film that argues many of today’s severe health conditions are linked to the meat/dairy industries. The main function of the documentary is to support a plant-based diet. A major criticism of the film is that many facts are half-truths, incorrect, or misused to support the movie’s pro-vegan goal.
Another argument of the document is that there’s a conspiracy that involves top food, health, and drug companies that’s making people sick. Fun Fact: The USA’s healthcare costs were over $3.5 trillion in 2018, while the figure possibly increased last year.
Another argument the film makes is that the effects of the meat/dairy industry on the environment justify a vegan diet that ditches all meat, eggs, and dairy. This is a common argument of vegans that people should avoid all animal products to factors like the carbon footprint they produce.
There’s no question that ranches and dairy farms can cause a lot of negative effects on the environment. They include the effects on trees, grass, soil, air, and so on. However, plant-growing farms can also cause negative effects on the environment. This explains why it’s been argued that the documentary’s makers cherry-picked studies and facts.
Yet another major claim the movie makes is that there’s been a cover-up that involves various meat, dairy, drug, and health industries/organizations.
The movie goes beyond claiming that consuming lots of meat and dairy is unhealthy. It claims that various industries have teamed up to prevent the public from learning the truth about various issues.
Conspiracy theories have become quite widespread in today’s world. The main problem isn’t related directly to the conspiracies themselves. It’s very difficult to claim that certain groups and people are working together to achieve a certain agenda. In this case, the argument is that food companies and big pharma are making/keeping people sick to boost profits.
What the Health Document: Claims vs. Science
The 2017 documentary has received mixed reviews and barely received a Fresh average rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The main criticism was the documentary-maker’s cherry-picked studies and facts to support a pro-vegan agenda.
However, it’s important to check how well the film stacks up to scientific studies and facts. Here are some of the claims from the documentary:
1. Chicken is as unhealthy as processed meat
Poultry is “real food” while processed meat. No question eating chicken served at a fast-food restaurant isn’t the healthiest food you can eat. However, it’s still not as unhealthy as a can of Spam. The key when picking meat products is going with options like organic and grass-fed.
2. One daily serving of meat (50g) causes colon cancer risk to increase by 18%.
This is a very misleading figure that’s stated in the movie. The average risk is 5%, which includes people who do and don’t eat meat. The 18% is related to the 5% figure so it means the spike is about 1% instead of 18%.
The figure makes it a lot iffier about whether or not people should ditch meat. One X-factor to consider is the type of meat you’re eating. There’s a big difference between eating 50g of fried bacon and 50g of grilled salmon.
3. Diet causes a greater health risk versus smoking
This is somewhat true since everyone eats but fewer people smoke. It could be argued that the number of people who get sick from unhealthy food is lower than people who smoke.
For example, the CDC reports that 14% of the US population smokes (2017). The figure has generally been declining in past decades so there are even fewer people smoking in the US than in the past.
What the Health Documentary Claims
1. Diet and obesity are major health issues
This is true. Several factors can lead to obesity including a sedentary lifestyle. However, diet is certainly one of the major factors. If you eat a lot of saturated fat, refined grains, and white sugar you’re quite likely to become obese.
2. Eating one daily egg is equal to smoking 5 cigarettes
This is 100% true. Eggs are complete proteins and high in other nutrients like healthy fat, vitamins, and minerals. The main time you should limit eggs is if you have high total/bad cholesterol. In that case, you could still go with egg whites, which are much lower in cholesterol versus the yolks.
3. Plant-based diets can help control blood sugar levels
Various studies show that this is true. Vegan diets can also help to reduce arteries’ plaque buildup and reverse heart disease. However, it’s also possible to lower blood sugar levels by ditching/reducing certain foods like processed meats, white sugar, starchy vegetables, and sugary fruits.
4. Diet causes heart disease
It can cause heart disease, but it’s one of several factors. Others include obesity, no/little exercise, alcohol, and smoking. So it’s important to watch your diet to reduce the risk of heart disease. There are also other factors.
5. Processed meat is as unhealthy as smoking
The World Health Organization (WHO) has indeed reported that processed meat is cancer-causing. There’s no question that you should ditch all processed meat or eat it once in a blue moon. That’s true even if bacon and pork rinds are Keto-friendly.
However, it’s worth noting that 100+ toxic chemicals are produced when lighting up a cigarette. Smoking is linked to several health issues related to the lungs, heart, mouth, stomach, liver, kidneys, and so on, which wasn’t stressed in the health documentary.