TIME magazine has reported on smash hit vegan documentary What the Health – outlining the science it says the movie got right – and wrong.
The article, by Alexandra Sifferlin, is titled What You Should Know About the Pro-Vegan Netflix Film What the Health.
Describing it as ‘pro-vegan’, Sifferlin says the movie is ‘under fire from nutrition experts’.
According to the article, TIME fact-checked What the Health – and says the movie got some things right – and some wrong.
(Please note: This summary of TIME’s analysis does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Plant Based News).
Eggs = cigarettes?
On the basis of plaque build-up due to high cholesterol content in eggs, the film compares eating them with smoking, saying one egg a day has the same impact on life expectancy as smoking five cigarettes a day.
This is one claim TIME disputes.
Sifferlin writes: “That assertion is based on outdated information, and recent research suggests that the effects of eggs are nowhere near comparable to those of cigarettes.”
She quote vegan dietitian Andy Bellatti who adds: “Plant-based food can help decrease the risks for certain cancers.
“The idea that if you’re going to eat an egg you might as well smoke a Marlboro, I don’t find accurate.”
The problem with sugar
Sifferlin references what she describes as ‘several nutrition experts downplay[ing] the role of sugar in health problems and instead shift the focus to animal protein’.
Bellatti says: “I am of the belief that there are many issues with the American diet, and we can say that one of the issues is the high intake of added sugar.
“I was dismayed that people were saying sugar is not the problem.”
(Plant-based physician Dr. Neal Barnard explains here how new research shows animal protein plays a huge role in type 2 diabetes).
Meat and cancer
According to Sifferlin: “Andersen, co-director of the film, rightly points out that processed meat was declared a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a World Health Organization group, in 2015.
“IARC did find a link between eating processed meat and a higher risk for colorectal cancer.
“However, in contrast to the film, IARC did not suggest that eating processed meat is on par with smoking cigarettes.”
She writes that IARC says eating processed meat and smoking bear different levels of risk. She adds that the World Health Organization [WHO] says 34,000 global cancer deaths per year can be attributed to diets high in processed meat, by contrast, around 1 million can be attributed to tobacco smoking.
In addition, Sifferlin disputes the film’s assertion that higher dairy intake is linked to cancer.
The good stuff
Sifferlin’s analysis of the film is not entirely negative, and she says the film gets some things right.
She writes: “What the Health underlines several aspects of the American food system that are often criticized, including the amount of antibiotics used in agriculture, which is linked to growing health issues like antibiotic resistance.
“The documentary also highlights the financial relationships between food industry companies and national public health groups.
“Andersen points out that companies like Kraft, Dannon, Oscar Mayer and more— which sell processed foods high in fat, sodium or sugar like mac and cheese, hot dogs and flavored yogurt—are sponsors of the American Diabetes Association, and may have a financial stake in diet recommendations by health groups.”
She says that these conflicts of interest have been around some time – and the big companies can have too much say when it comes to the Government forming dietary guidelines.
Bellatti concludes: “It’s important for Americans to know that many health organizations receive funding from companies and trade groups that are not in line with health and how that affects recommendations.”