“What the Health” & A Plant Based Diet Challenge
I’m encouraging all of us to watch “What the Health” documentary on Netflix and Vimeo as an attempt to be better informed at the sate of our food industry, our own health and the health of our community/ecosystem. Along with the “education” we can experiment and take the Plant Based Diet for a test drive and see if the claims hold truth.
I’ve watched at least half a dozen YouTube videos of debunkers and dubunkies of the “What the Health” documentary and I’ve researched for the past 2-3 weeks the articles, peer-reviewed journals/studies that both support and debunk the material presented to us. What do we do with all the data and the constant narratives that are produced both from the Vegan community and the meat lover community? I’m going to briefly address some of the points without going into too much detail. I’ll list some of the studies and links below of the material I referenced for your perusal.
We have tons of data available to us, studies galore. The problem I have with these studies is that they typically use a population that will benefit the study itself, or the material will be cherry-picked to drive the message forward to support the overall agenda. Both the vegan community and our meat industry suffer from the same lack of integrity when presenting data to the public. The main objective for both sides is to persuade us…to sell…and I’ll make a closing remark about this towards the end.
People really want to hear good news about their bad habits, and because of this behavior we are easily swayed into either direction. What I don’t agree with is the constant demonizing of fat intake and the obsession over the food/meat industry’s funding. You could tell that the promotors of “What the Health” were in attack-mode against the ADA (American Diabetes Association) and the ADA diet recommendations, boasting statistics that vegan populations generally have close to 80% less risk of diabetes and that you could essentially reverse diabetic symptoms with a plant based diet. And the President of the ADA didn’t do too much to refute these claims, instead he abdicated from the interview once diet was mentioned.
What I didn’t appreciate was these Captain Planetiers not mentioning when using a plant based diet, or pursing a vegan lifestyle, that automatically is accompanied by calorie restriction. There was NO MENTION of calories. Walter Kempner’s rice diet, consisting of feeding people rice, fruits and fruity drinks, successfully reversed diabetes including over 20% of diabetic retinopathy cases. What I found odd was there was not mention that this diet had a significant caloric restriction that came with it. The benefits resulted both from the content of the calories (rice and fruit) and the amount (total caloric intake). The president of the ADA when interviewed said “every diet works”…this is because typically you’re monitoring what you’re eating and you’re eating less than you normally do, and the result is weight loss, which has direct correlation to changes in your physiology and chemistry. So that’s that.
What Causes Insulin Resistance Video:
Dr. Neal Barnard, when interviewed in “What the Health”, mentions that our cells, when bombarded by fat (he mentions only animal fat), binds to the cells and sugar cannot pass into the cell membrane, causing insulin resistance. Boom, diabetes. I looked at the study on intramyocellular lipids and it’s compelling, but not mention of the derivation of the fat. Does it matter if it’s plant based of animal based? Hmm….
Here’s another study on low-fat vegan diet treating type 2 diabetes, however there are plenty of studies out there that say any low-fat diet, which naturally includes caloric restriction, would benefit type 2 diabetics.
What surprised me the most when watching the “What the Health” was the classification of processed meat as being a type 1 carcinogen. That was alarming, but I don’t eat deli meats or hotdogs, but the fact that the majority of our population does, especially those who financially cannot afford the more “aristocratic” meat aisle selections, makes me wonder why we even allow these kinds of food to be sold.
I grew up drinking cows milk, as a native of the Soviet Union. Eventually I gave up on dairy for a decade or so because I was “lactose intolerant”. I have tolerated milk ever since I grew out of my lactose intolerance, however the studies do show the way we pasteurize our dairy, the haphazard methods in extracting the dairy from our cows, are viable reasons for concern. The research available to us have links between dairy consumption and cancer, but it’s mostly correlational and not proven 100% just yet. It does cause inflammation, which is another subject altogether. When you look at Dairy in the USA, it is loaded with and assortment of growth factors, and gives an impetus to the manufacturing and release of growth factors from our livers. So when you look at our overfed, chronically-diseased Western population, this is an obvious problem that could exacerbate more health risks.
In the documentary Michael Greger says “You know these saturated fat studies that are trying to vindicate saturated fat…they are all just funded by the dairy industry.” Greger has a point, they are funded by dairy and egg industries, however it’s a lot more complex of a narrative than just a few studies saying that low SF diet is “better” for you. A study like this as compared to cohort studies are complex in definition and difficult to compare findings. The point I’m trying to make is that the claims about SF (saturated fat) and cholesterol mentioned in this documentary are mercurial with all of the science we have, populations and history, yet these claims seem to be reiterated time and time again with little to no regard to what evidence suggests.
The last 20 min or so of the documentary really pulls on your heart strings. They start shooting off all sorts of health claims that veganism can repair or reverse, they show transformations of folks with chronic illness and show before/after affects of turning vegan. Great television for sure and they do a make being a vegan very compelling!
I’m not a huge endorse of labels, except for car manufactures. I love me some German engineering! But when it comes to diets, I don’t like to put myself into any specific category. What’s the first thing a vegan tells you when they meet you? That they’re Vegan! From this documentary and from other I’ve seen that promote the same narrative, they all feel very “colt” like. It’s almost like Vegans are a food religion, that they are far superior compared to the rest of us. Then again, maybe they are when it comes to holistic health and their love for the planet and that can’t be bad altogether, right?.
All joking aside, I think there is room for exploration and experimentation. If we can help sustain the planet, that’s amazing also. My only wish is that these too factions, both vegans and carnivores play nice, and stop the political banter, remove the bad blood, and actually come together in a common narrative, which is to find ways to reduce the negative impact of the food industry on our ecosystem and collaborate on methodologies to promote our overall health, which will decidedly reduce our all-cause mortality rates.
Topics like this involves all sorts of shades of grey, and from studying and experiencing human behavior, it’s that we do not bode well in the grey. For us, it’s black or white, left or right, vegan or animal killer!
One thing I want to mention though…when the meat industry tags back at Vegans and their “propaganda” I want to know who’s getting rich off of broccoli? Yes, this documentary was funded by Vegans and animal activists etc…but even with that slant, no one is getting richer off of making us eat more veggies, are they? Just something to think about.
In the words of Forest Gump, “thats all I have to say about that”.
The Plant Based 10 Day Diet Challenge:
So, let’s spin this positively. Not that anything I said so far is negative, but I want us to actually try this. I’ve been eating a plant based diet for 5 weeks now. I can tell you that I feel better. I can also tell you I’ve lost 1.5 around my waist and I’m getting leaner. Now, I am in the weight room 3-5 days a week performing resistance training. I’m doing LISS cardio (low intensity steady-state) 2x a week. So not only is my diet plant based but I’m also creating a calorie deficit with exercise. I know plenty of overweight vegans out there so don’t get it twisted, going plant based does not guarantee an aesthetically appealing physique or weight loss. So with that disclaimer out the way…I challenge us to go plant based for 10 Day straight. Use my blog to comment, stay in touch, ask questions etc. I’m new to this also and I’m trying out recipes and figuring out what foods work best for me. I’ll continue to share my results with all of you and I hope you do the same. Looking forward to collaborating with you all on this challenge!
I’ll post on my Facebook Page and my Instagram starting tomorrow as the this PBDC (Plant Based Diet Challenge) goes underway.