“What The Health” was that about? If you’ve watched the documentary on Netflix, you may be left feeling completely dumbfounded about how Big Phood and Big Pharma could do this to Americans. You may be wondering why you were told to drink milk all your life (yuck!). You may have already turned into the vegan the documentary told you to be.
I’m here to give my opinion as a Registered Dietitian, and moreso one with a holistic standpoint, on the information presented in the documentary.
I am open-minded, I do my research, I study science-based articles, and I am here to tell you: I have mixed views on “What The Health”.
First off, I am so happy that this film stirred up this conversation -- the conversation of WHAT has happened to our food supply, why our food supply is full of cheap meat from animals that were improperly treated, and why our food supply is allowed toxic junk.
This documentary has opened the public’s minds to how general dietary advice by USDA has always been influenced by their sponsors, how many doctors are trying to keep you sick, and how most businesses, be it hospitals or big food industries, are more focused on making money off of us rather than preventing or curing illness. For that, I am so grateful this was brought to the public’s attention.
I will discuss a few of the major points that stood out to me or hit close to my heart (cough: the milk dilemma).
The claim: Animal foods contain toxins, chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, steroids, pesticides, mad-cow disease, bacteria, pus, and cause chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Veganism is promoted.
My opinion: With conventional meat, cows are fed GMO corn and soy. Also, to make matters worse, they’re often fed other cheap foods that will reduce feed costs and promote weight gain such as ice cream sprinkles, gummy worms, chocolate bars, and other candy. ¹
In regards to the information they presented about fish, it’s true. Farm-raised fish contain antibiotics, pesticides, and dioxins. They harm the environment and are treated awfully.
However, it is not necessary to give up meat entirely, as long as you’re consuming meat from the right, quality sources. Consuming a mainly plant-based diet, tons of veggies, with some animal food in the form of pasture-raised eggs, organic meat, and wild caught fish is what I recommend. These animal foods provide you with critical nutrients your body needs. Nope, you shouldn’t take Vitamin B12 in pill form your entire life.
The claim: “Diabetes is not caused by eating a high carb diet or sugar”.
My opinion: I replayed this. I was pretty much in disbelief. This claim WILL confuse people that do not understand the physiology of blood sugar regulation. Hear me out.
This is what happens when a non-diabetic consumes sugar.
Carbs, whether it’s bread, pasta, rice, fruits, vegetables, soda, or candy, turn into sugar in the bloodstream. This is called glucose.
When glucose is in the blood, insulin is secreted by the pancreas.
Insulin allows glucose to enter the cells and takes the sugar out of the blood.
This only occurs if the cells respond to insulin. If the cells are exposed to too much sugar due to a high-sugar diet, then insulin is continuously being released by the cells. The cells then become less sensitive to insulin and resist the blood sugar lowering effects of insulin. This is called insulin-resistance.
It’s like your cells have been exposed to insulin for so long, they no longer want to be bothered! This can be reversed, in type 2 diabetics, by decreasing high-sugar intake which therefore reduces high blood glucose.
With insulin resistance, it’s important to keep your blood sugar stable by consuming quality fats and proteins with carbs. Fats and protein slow down the absorption of carbs in the body meaning reduced need for insulin. Getting enough healthy fats in your diet is extremely helpful in keeping your blood sugar stable. In a randomized clinical trial⁵ patients treated with CLA (fatty acid) showed improvement in insulin sensitivity.
Carbohydrates ARE what causes spikes in blood sugar levels. This is a fact. So, for the film to make it seem that sugar is not related to the incidence of diabetes is wrong. High carb intake for so long, possibly due to the “high-carb, low-fat” diet craze, means the development of insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes. Eating a balance of protein, fat, and carbs means your blood sugar is balanced.
The claim: Milk is a hormonal fluid, dairy products have pus, milk does not build strong bones, and more.
My opinion: I agree. We are humans and we, by no means, need cow’s milk. The dairy industry did an awesome job making us believe we need to drink milk for healthier bones and strong teeth. It’s simply not true. COUNTRIES WITH THE HIGHEST RATES OF DAIRY CONSUMPTION HAVE THE HIGHEST RATES OF OSTEOPOROSIS!
When we think of the benefits of milk, most people think about the bones and teeth. We’ve been trained (mostly by Dairy Industry advertisers) to believe that drinking milk is the number one way to ensure we have strong bones and teeth. We have been told to believe milk is necessary and nutritious.
The modern cow today is bred, fed, medicated, impregnated, and manipulated for maximum milk production at a minimum cost. Factory-farmed cattle have 300 times more pathogens in their GI tract than grass-fed cows who thrive on small dairy farms-- hence, why conventional milk is pasteurized.
Corporate powers ARE behind what we believe about milk. Profit is their concern, not our health. Their marketing tactics are great, aren’t they? Students are still forced to drink milk in public schools, in order to be eligible for free or reduced lunch.
There was also lots of talk about how high-fat diets destroy you internally.
But, dietary fat is NOT making us fat. It never was. Sugar is. The low-fat diet craze backfired because ever since that began, America’s obesity epidemic skyrocketed. Fat in food does not translate to fat in our body. I know it’s hard to grasp.
In the following products: “low-fat”, “lite”, or “skinny”, fat is removed so sugar or refined carbs are added into the food to enhance taste. Also, vegetable oils or artificial sweeteners are added.
When we consume a plethora of carbs, insulin is secreted. This is a fat-storing hormone. When we cannot use carbs for energy it’s stored as glycogen and excess carbs are stored as FAT.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition hits the nail on the head as they write, “a singular focus on reduction of total and saturated fat can be counterproductive because dietary fat is typically replaced by refined carbohydrate, as has been seen over the past several decades. In this era of widespread obesity and insulin resistance, the time has come to shift the focus of the diet-heart paradigm away from restricted fat intake and toward reduced consumption of refined carbohydrates”.⁶
There are multiple types of fat and they’re not all created equal. Consuming quality fats will support your metabolism. Real, unrefined fats such as salmon, olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, avocados, nut butters, nuts and seeds are the perfect options.
We need to change the way we think about food, the way we’ve been trained to believe, marketed to believe, and taught. It’s sad, but this is true. Do not deprive yourself of fats or animal products because of this film. This film brings up excellent points, and exposes many of the businesses that are profiting off of America’s health.
Most of all, it’s important that you enjoy real, whole foods. Eat mainly plants, eat healthy fats, and eat carbs mainly in the form of fruits and veggies!
The bottom line is sugar is the culprit for many diseases including diabetes, cancer, and heart-disease. With this information, what will you do? You may feel in denial, or that you don’t have extra money to be purchasing grass-fed meat, or that this all doesn’t matter. But, it does. I urge you to take control of your health and vote with your dollars.
By carefully choosing what’s on your plate, you’re creating a healthy life for yourself where your chances of developing cancer, heart-disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, or any other nutrition-related diseases, are drastically decreased.
Don’t live in fear. There is a lot to learn about nutrition. Don’t listen to mainstream media. Don’t purchase cheap food. Put your health first. Be in charge of YOUR life.