Extreme viewpoints entertain, not educate
I finally got around to watching the Netflix documentary What the Health.
Bottom line on top: This film is too extreme and manipulative to be a good source of information.
In short, the filmmakers cherry pick statistics and use fear mongering to promote their hypothesis that veganism is the only healthy lifestyle choice. That is a gross oversimplification of a complex and hard-to-study topic—nutrition.
What the real experts say about What the Health
I looked to some of my favorite evidence-based sources to help me digest what I viewed.
Last year Harriet Hall, MD, over at Science-Based Medicine, wrote:
The consensus of scientists, doctors, and dietitians is that a vegan diet can be a healthy diet but is not the only healthy diet. We as a society should eat more plant foods, but we needn’t entirely reject all animal foods. A healthy diet can include eggs, milk, cheese, fish, shellfish, some red meat, and even a small amount of processed meats. There’s certainly no clear-cut evidence that would persuade us that everyone should completely forgo animal-based foods. We needn’t give up eggs, or bacon, or an occasional steak. There are risks to almost everything we do (even carcinogens in a vegan diet!), and many of us would rather accept a small hypothetical risk than give up the foods we love. Pending better evidence, I think “moderation in all things” is a very reasonable approach.
Over on YouTube, Doctor Mike (Mikhail Varshavski D.O.) discusses the show with a Facebook audience.
Doctor Mike called the film a “missed opportunity” because it failed to offer balanced nutritional advice. As a family practice doctor, Doctor Mike understands that poor lifestyle choices usually lead to poor health. But he found the tone of the film too sensational to be helpful, and didn’t agree that veganism is the only healthy diet option.
Lastly, for a little bit of snark, I watched ZDoggMD’s review. I loved the moment when he realized, “Steve-O, comdedian, film and TV host of Jackass, is giving us dietary advice!”
Veganism is okay, but so is an omnivore diet
If you want to watch a great food documentary on Netflix check out these two that are based on books by the best-selling author, Michael Pollan.
Pollan, also the author of An Omnivore’s Dilemma, offers this simple eating advice: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
His books focus not only on delicious foods, but also the culture of eating. He encourages us to take a more active role in our meals by growing and preparing food ourselves, rather than eating so many highly-processed foods, and make mealtimes an opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends.
After all, healthy relationships can be as much a part of a healthy lifestyle as our diets.