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What The Health?

Before you settle in to watch What the Health—the new Netflix documentary, you might want to put your pork rinds, or vegan buttered popcorn down and read this instead.

It doesn’t matter where you land on the vegan-carnivore spectrum, the film’s sweeping dietary claims are simply not scientifically sound. It’s propaganda, not science. And while its tug-on-the-heartstrings sentiments are nice, the film does little more than to misguide people to fulfill their agenda.

Here are 7 of the claims that bothered me most:

  1. Meat is as dangerous as cigarettes

To prove this, researchers tested fast food products for carcinogens. And low and behold, every single fast food chicken sample came back with carcinogens.

GASP! You mean to tell us that fast food meat isn’t healthy? But we were so sure that Chicken McNuggets® were the healthiest little delights in the world.

Listen, What the Health, we all know that fast food “meat” is of the poorest quality imaginable—it’s notorious for being packed with chemicals and preservatives and who knows what else. This isn’t news to anybody. What is a shock though, is that you used this narrow research to make the bold-faced claim that meat is as dangerous as cigarettes. “Meat” is not one single solitary item. Meat encompasses a huge variety of products—all different in nature and in quality. A frozen hot dog from the gas station, for instance, from animals raised in unsanitary and crowded conditions is not the same as sustainably raised, antibiotic- and pesticide-free grass fed steak, right?

I fully agree that fast food meat is as dangerous as cigarettes. But that wasn’t the claim. And that I take issue with. Give us a little credit. We know the difference. Don’t try to lump all meat together to scare us and push your agenda.

  1. Fat causes diabetes, not sugar

This one’s a doozy.

The physician in the movie, Dr. Neil Barnard, claims that diabetes isn’t caused by eating a high-carbohydrate diet, but by a buildup of fat in the blood—and that fat causes insulin resistance, not sugar.


Research has consistently proven that not only do high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets not cause insulin resistance, they actually reverse diabetes.

  1. Sugar is harmless

I WISH! I’d be packing my cheeks with skittles like a squirrel stockpiling for winter.

I don’t think I even need to say this, but I will, just in case someone actually believes these shenanigans. Sugar-laden, high-carbohydrate diets are known to cause a whole slew of serious problems in the body.

Sugar is a major inflammatory, putting our bodies in a constant state of stress and vulnerability. It weakens on our immune system. It wreaks havoc on our hormones, making testosterone plummet and cortisol and estrogen spike. It contributes to heart disease.

Oh yeah, it’s also more addictive that cocaine. Next claim please.

  1. Carbohydrate overload does not cause disease


The proof is in the pudding on this one. The sugary American pudding.

All you have to do is open your eyes and take a look around. The U.S. is a prime example of how carbohydrate overload absolutely does cause disease. Take your pick: type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancer—all linked to sugary, refined high-carbohydrate diets.

  1. Eating one egg is equal to smoking five cigarettes

Why not have a western omelet with a side of sausage and just call it a pack?


A little thing called research has shown that eating eggs decreases the likelihood of diabetes. Higher egg consumption has never been linked to coronary heart disease or stroke. And, egg yolks contain healthy fat, protein, and nutrients like choline, which is crucial to many biological processes.

But, like meat, all eggs aren’t created equally. Pasture raised eggs contain two and a half times the omega-3 fatty acids and twice as much vitamin E as eggs from traditional cage-raised hens. They’re also rich in vitamins B and K. So yeah. Not that much like cigarettes at all.

  1. Meat production is bad for the animals and environment

No. Factory farms are bad for the animals and the environment. It’s true, they are terrible. But, like the carcinogenic fast food chicken claim, saying meat production in general is bad is only looking at part of the story.

Organically raised, grass-fed animals have a lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratio than conventionally raised meat. This means lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. They also have fewer harmful toxins from hormones and antibiotics.

And, animals and plants also have a symbiotic relationship. Plants need animals to feed their soil—without them, we’d be using harmful fertilizers that disrupt our delicate ecosystem.

  1. Humans aren’t built to eat meat

Interesting. Because our digestive systems prove otherwise.

Our digestive tract lacks the enzymes and digestive structures of an herbivore, but our intestines are longer than typical of a carnivore. This indicates that we can break down quick energy food like plants, and the longer breakdown of animal proteins and fats. And, since we can’t neutralize phytic acid the way herbivores can, we can’t absorb all the iron, zinc, and calcium available in grains and legumes. It should also be noted that protein, vitamin K, and omega-3 fatty acids—all of which are critical to our health—are much more readily found in animal sources.

Pretty black and white claims, right? Pretty hard to get behind them, when you do a little research, too.

If you’re vegan and you’re making healthy choices on a daily basis and you’re feeling strong, more power to you. I didn’t write this article to try and persuade you to eat meat. No matter what kind of “vore” you most identify with—herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore—my plea is this: Be mindful of where your food comes from. Be mindful of the animals, the soil, the environment, your health. And most importantly, be mindful of how your body works and the way different foods fuel you.

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Best in Health

Dr Emily Kiberd