Many vegans are split on What The Health, a documentary made by the same people who made Cowspiracy. This documentary is supposed to show, yet again, the dangers of all animal products, and goes through some pretty far lengths to exaggerate the claims to parody levels. Remember in SuperSize Me, for instance, when the vegan girl (who quit veganism now) claimed that eating fried foods made Morgan Spurlock impotent in just a month? Yeah, that’s pretty minor compared to some of the claims in this movie.
While the documentary had some good talking points, such as the rates of disease, and plenty of junk foods and saturated fat filled foods that the average American eats, as well as the evidence that dairy causes cancer, most of the rest are pretty crazy sounding. Including the idea that carbs don’t make you fat… which is complete pseudoscientific wishing on a star, instead of actual fact. It does not take very much research to learn that calories cause fat, regardless of the source.
Cigarettes and Red Meat Both Cause Cancer
Technically, this is true. Red meat causes cancer, as do cigarettes, but to compare them would be like comparing pickles to cigarettes. Red meat increases your relative risk of colorectal cancer by 18%, or from about 4.5 to 5.3% increase lifetime risk. Meanwhile, cigarettes make up 90% of all lung cancer cases and increase your risk for lung cancer by 1,200%.
Cigarette smoking also increases “cancer of the mouth and throat, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, liver, pancreas, voicebox (larynx), trachea, bronchus, kidney and renal pelvis, urinary bladder, and cervix, and causes acute myeloid leukemia.” as well as risk of heart disease, diabetes, bronchitis, asthma, and even Alzheimers. so to compare cigarette smoking to red meat consumption is misleading at worst, and ignorant at best.
But they Promote Carcinogens!
One of the main points in this documentary is where they point out the hypocrisy of places like the American Cancer Society, and the USDA. While it is true that the “healthy meals” section of these sites offering things like bacon covered shrimp is hypocritical, the idea is not common on the site. Most are recipes that include chicken and fish, and many are vegetarian and even vegan recipes.
Sugar and Heart Disease
The wonderful people in this documentary claimed that sugar has a “very small” contribution to heart disease, but evidence shows that sugar might actually be far worse than saturated fats when it comes to cardiovascular disease. T he fact that the idea of fat being bad comes from fatphobic Neal Barnard, who thinks ALL fat is deadly, is no surprise.
According to Harvard, the 25% calories from added sugars that the average American eats is related to a twice as likely risk of death from heart disease. With a similar amount of saturated fat only increased the risk by 18%.
Casomorphines cause Addiction?
I have mentioned this over, and over, and over. There is absolutely ZERO evidence that casomorphines in dairy cause addictions. Cheese is addictive due to high fat and high salt content, but so far, no evidence at all about casomorphines.
Who shows that fat is bad? Neal Barnard, a plant-based anti-fat scientist who uses his own research. Also, Dr. Esseltyn, who does the same thing. Neal Barnard is also the same person who coined the claim without evidence that casomorphines cause addiction like morphine and crack. They also quote cherry pickers like Michael Greger, whom they quote 29 times. Many of their studies are old, and a lot of their links are duplicates, blowing up their sources to almost 300 to look more backed by evidence than they do.
They have over 50 studies that are over 8 years old, many over 15 years old. Also, they have three links for the Nitrogen cycle for plants, three link for plant protein sources, and eight links about plant-based diets and heart disease risk reduction. They really only needed one, maybe two, but definitely not all these. They make them seem, to me at least, like they are trying to look smarter than they really are.
Repeat after me: Correlation =/= Causation. This is why so many people, black and white, were annoyed at the “it’s profiling” tobacco commercial. However, it is really popular to claim that anything is racist in order to not have to deal with the arguments imposed. For instance, they claim at one point that the USDA recommending milk as a food group is encouraging black people to eat “food that is unhealthy” for them, which, as the guy in the video claims, is somehow institutionalized racism.
This is based on two misconceptions. One is based on a fact: Many non-whites are lactose intolerant. That is true, but to claim as if the USDA is encouraging you to consume it despite your health is a bold faced lie. The USDA literally states:
“Calcium choices for those who do not consume dairy products include: kale leaves Calcium-fortified juices, cereals, breads, rice milk, or almond milk. Calcium-fortified foods and beverages may not provide the other nutrients found in dairy products. Check the labels. Canned fish (sardines, salmon with bones) soybeans and other soy products (tofu made with calcium sulfate, soy yogurt, tempeh), some other beans, and some leafy greens (collard and turnip greens, kale, bok choy). The amount of calcium that can be absorbed from these foods varies.”
In the first paragraph, they list Calcium Fortified Soymilk as an alternative and even claim that dairy-products that do not contain calcium are not included. So what exactly are they encouraging? Where is the institutionalized racism? They are not targeting blacks or anyone of any race, and give alternatives to people who don’t consume dairy, so this sounds more like propaganda than fact.
They also claim that just because there are many hog facilities near poor and non-white rural areas, that it is somehow there BECAUSE the area is predominantly non-white. Again, correlation does not equal causation, and if you are going to claim that the meat and dairy industries are “racist,” you are going to have to prove racism exists by more than just a casual correlation.
Interviewing a Terrorist?
Jake Conroy was one of the people interviewed here, and they tried to make him out to be a victim of a police state that jails activism. In reality, he was arrested and charged with harassment and stalking, as well as terrorism during the largest anti vivisection campaign in history. He, as well as a few of his co-conspirators, went to jail after harassing employees and the employee’s families. They doxxed the employees and posted names and addresses online, as well as much, much more.
“Employees have had their homes vandalized with spray-painted “Puppy killer” and “We’ll be back” notices. They have faced a mounting number of death threats, fire bombings and violent assaults. They’ve had their names, addresses and personal information posted on Web sites and posters, declaring them “wanted for collaboration with animal torture.””
GMO’s are horrible!?
This documentary, in a few places, adds the all encompassing GMO scare tactic. Genetic modification is not this horror story, it is not a bad tool, and it is not all the same. We have yet to find any potential harms associated with GMO’s, so to even point them out is misleading.
So much more
I can go on for so much longer about issues in this documentary, but the main premise is that they did not really focus on health at all. While they talk about the Pharmaceutical industry for a whopping 40 seconds of this over hour long documentary, they only talk about it in lines of antibiotics given to animal agriculture. They don’t talk much about exercise and our sedentary lifestyle. They only talk about smoking in the wrong way (of bacon being as bad as smoking, or eggs being as bad as smoking.)
It could have been a much better documentary if it was not for the crap that it peddles. While I understand that a well planned whole food plant-based vegan diet is one of the healthiest diets in the world, if not the healthiest, I cannot support this documentary. It is incredibly biased and does not care how many hoops it has to go through and how many facts it has to make up to make veganism look good.
Lying about the claims of veganism, like in What The Health, ultimately hurts the movement as a whole, so the less lies we can post, the better. If we can’t get people to go vegan by posting the truth, then we have to find another ethical way of doing so. Lying and misleading viewers, no matter how many people it makes vegan, is not appropriate.