My reaction to "What the Health"
The documentary "What the Health" which appears on Netflix has been getting a lot of attention over the past few weeks. Upon watching the documentary, a lot of thoughts flood my mind. Its clear from the first few minutes that the aim is to paint a picture of conspiracy. The narrator/creator talks about the risks of diabetes and heart disease having a clear link to eating animal products such as beef, chicken, eggs and others. He then calls several health agencies including the American Cancer Society and American Diabetes Association asking why their websites have recipes including animal products when they have a known link to deadly disease. The rest of the documentary is filled with one-sided badgering of the food industry and health organizations.
This documentary attempts to scare its viewers into healthy eating, which according to the creator, should not include animal products. I feel that the certainty in this argument presented is misleading. Some of the scientific "fact" cited in the documentary are not as cut and dry as presented. To state that animal consumption and the buildup of fat on your cells as the leading cause of diabetes is simply one theory. Another theory is that excessive insulin, produced as a result of excessive glucose (sugar/carbs) intake causes cells to become "insulin resistant" or less sensitive to insulin. This then causes your body to require more and more insulin from the pancreas until it is unable to meet the demands.
Another claim in this documentary which was misleading was that your body will simply store excess sugar as glycogen or dispose of it. This is incorrect, as the body stores excess glucose in muscle cells as glycogen until it meets its max capacity. The body then begins storing excess sugar as fat. So actually, excess sugar does lead to fat build-up in the body.
While I don't agree with many of the claims stated as fact in the documentary, I do see diet as a major cause of death in humans. In addition to diet, a sedentary lifestyle has been shown to be as big of a contributor to heart disease as smoking. Sitting is the new smoking.
So what is the solution? Simply cutting out all animal products from the diets of billions of people is not a realistic solution to the diabetes and cardiovascular disease epidemic. However, I believe that eating these foods in moderation and including regular exercise in our daily lives is attainable and necessary! What would this look like specifically?
- Cutting down our fast food intake to 1-2 meals per week would be a good place to start. I know families that eat fast food greater than 5 times per week!
- Include vegetables in at least one meal per day. You will be surprised at how much less bloated, how much more energetic and how regular your bowels will become once you make these first 2 changes!
- Start walking. If you sit for most of your day at work, make an effort to get outside and walk for 20 minutes, even a few days of the week. Make it a family activity. These changes are much easier to make when you have others doing it with you.
Don't be afraid to make changes in your life. This is life and death here. You do not want to live the last 20 years of your life in and out of the hospital because of the decisions you made during your life. Trust me, I've seen what it does to people. I've seen the regret. I've also seen 100 year olds who are healthy as can be, in large part because of their healthy lifestyle. Who doesn't want to be that 100 year old who can still walk at the park with their great-grandchildren?? I know I do!
So in summary, don't be mislead by "What the Health." The director seems to have his heart in the right place but is inappropriately blaming health organizations. Remember; everyone has an agenda, and this documentary "cherry-picks" medical studies and medical professions who fit into his picture. Don't be afraid of meat, but just remember...everything in moderation.
Please let me know if you have any questions!
Dr. Cameron Dennis, PT, DPT