So…I’ve had a lot of folks ask me for my thoughts on the Netflix documentary film “What The Health.” I’ll be honest, I drug my feet in doing this as these postmortems tend to be fairly painful, but the requests for some commentary has reached a bit of a fever pitch, so, here it is, with my usual preambles and caveats.
Some of my hesitation in digging into this is also that I’m just not sure if it matters. People generally make their decisions early and are seldom swayed by any future information. But, like that uplifting story about the person who throws starfish back into the ocean, if it matters to you, helps even a few people make better sense of all this, then it was likely worth it. Another not insignificant slice of my hesitation is that this is going to get me on the radar of the cranky (read crazy) vegan folks. One of the people featured in the movie did prison time for harassment and was the founder of an animal rights group that is known to have done everything from physical intimidation of people they disagree with, to firebombing houses of employees of the same.
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but people are fucking crazy these days, so again, stoking the ire of the religiously militant vegans is not really an appealing thing to do. No one reading or commenting on this will have the degree of scrutiny and crosshairs (real or metaphorical) brought to bare on them that I will. I don’t want a big outpouring of emotion about this but I would appreciate some understanding that “you” get to read this, “I” get to deal with the aftermath of writing it.
I started this off attempting to be as professional as I could be, similar to this piece that I did.
In that piece I managed to largely keep it together until near the end of the presentation when I felt like the whole thing was a sham and I was just being messed with. With “What The Health” I did not make it very far before I came metaphorically unstitched and my professionalism fled me. I apologize in advance for that, this review would likely be taken more seriously if I’d managed to maintain a more clinical tone…but yea, even though I strive to have the emotional complexity of a Vulcan, I too can get squirrley at times. Some of the claims and tactics employed in the movie are just…well, I’ll let you decide what they are.
What I did-My Process man
I watched the movie and provided a time index for the various portions that I felt were particularly important to comment on. The time refers to the duration of the movie remaining. There are some things that I know I missed as there are sections of the movie in which claims are made in a rapid fire fashion and it would have made this already long piece literally 5x longer. Despite this I think you will notice that a lot IS covered and the way the “facts” are handled is remarkable. In some cases I just provide a name and time index, in other cases I dig into quite a lot of detail.
I introduce people as they appear and upon their first appearance I will generally mention a bit about their background and I also go out of my way to mention if they are vegan or not. Almost NO ONE featured in this film is not vegan. There is zero attempt to seek out contradictory views, this is a monochrome of political, nutritional and ecological ideology. That said, the film is remarkably well done and the folks producing it have spent a lot of time thinking about how to address the common counterpoints and concerns raised around the material they present. Without further ado, here is my review of “What The Health.”
First Spark Media– A film company focusing on activist related projects. Most of the material they have produced to date is vegan/animal liberation in nature.
1:31:23 Dr. Robert Ratner American Diabetes Assoc- Provides a long list of diabetes related problems. Asked what the relationship is between diet and diabetes. Response “I’m not going to get into that.” This section pops up later in the film.
Executive Producer: Joaquin Phoenix- Vegan, Filmmaker, Actor, Activist.
Directors Kip Andersen, Keegan Kuhn- Kip and Keegan produced an earlier film “Cowspiracy” which apparently had some input/backing from Leonardo DiCaprio. Both Kip and Keegan are Vegan.
1:30:06 Kip relates a story of his “previous hypochondriac past” Made a point that he diligently followed all the major health org’s recs.
1:29:33 Kip shares ABC news report: “New information, meat causes cancer”
Soundbite: “Processed meat is clearly linked to an increase in cancer”. No mention of absolute vs relative risk. “Just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.” 1:29:22 This all made the circuit a few years ago and was pretty soundly debunked. The takeaway from the “research” was that if one consumes processed meats, everyday, for one’s whole life, the absolute risk for developing say, colon cancer was estimated to be 6%. The background risk for colon cancer is 5%. Now, I talk about the massive limitations of the type of study mentioned here a bit later (not sure we can trust ANY element of these types of studies), but what biassed researchers, and the media do is then look at the change in relative risk. The difference between 5 and 6 percent is clearly 1 percent. But 1 is 20% of 5. So, this get’s reported as a “20% increase in cancer risk.” One need not be a statistician to see how shady this type of information handling is. The next photo provides a concise breakdown of relative vs. absolute risk. I do not know who put this together originally, but it’s outstanding.
1:28:47 Processed meats a Group 1 Carcinogen, just like cigarettes and Plutonium!! They then shift to some great imagery of moms cooking breakfasts of scrambled cigarettes for the kids. YUM! I get into the details of the carcinogen claims later.
1:26:30 Kip is in route to talk to an American Cancer Society Rep. When the rep understands the interview will be about diet and cancer, she cancels the interview.
1:26:00 Dr. Allan GoldHamer (Vegan), Founder TrueNorth Health Clinic-Relates statistic on poor health.
1:25:47 Dr. Joel Kahn (Vegan), Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity relates a story of poor national health, largely lifestyle related and preventable. Yep.
1:25:32 Dr. Michael Greger (Vegan) Runs nutritionfacts.org I’m not sure if there has ever been a less accurate URL vs site content in the history of the interwebz.
1:25:22 Dr. Milton Mills-Vegan
1:25:12 Dr. Michelle McMacken-Vegan- contends dietary choices trumps smoking for health. Maybe a stretch, but not too preposterous when we consider the Kitavans who smoke like chimneys, eat well and appear to suffer little if any ill effects.
1:23:54 Kip makes the point that the government blames lack of exercise and “sugary foods.” No source cited, is this really the message? The government has certainly pushed the exercise as medicine idea, in which one should not need to worry AT ALL about the food one consumes, one need only exercise more. https://therussells.crossfit.com/2016/03/24/inside-the-acsms-exercise-is-medicine/ This is a remarkable bit of cherry-picking and or telling a half truth which is a common theme throughout the movie. At a point later, it is stated that a focus on sugar has steered the story away from the real baddies, meat and animal fat. So, while the ACSM colludes to ban CrossFit (if this is news to you, read the aforementioned link) and make it largely illegal to say that diet matters (at all), we just need to exercise more, the real focus (According to Kip) is that the blame should have “always” been on meat and animal fat.
1:23:44 Dr. Neal Barnard PCRM-Vegan, “Diabetes Expert” Diabetes is not caused by high-carb diet…with an exasperated lilt. Caused by accumulation of fat in the blood, like typical meat based diet” Insulin resistance is a build-up of fat, yes…but is that the whole story? And how best to fix this? Time and again low carb diets have proven superior in this regard. Many, many people have unpacked the insulin resistance story in remarkable detail elsewhere, so I’m not going to devote a ton of space to that here. I will mention that the low carb approach has proven to be incredibly powerful in reversing insulin resistance and the related co-morbidities. BUT…despite consistent positive results on low carb approaches like Atkins, there has still been a lot of handwringing about “all that fat and animal products.” The solution? EcoAtkins. This is an attempt to eat low carb, but with largely vegan foods. If this is how someone wants to roll, that’s fine, but when studied against the original Atkins plan it was no better, and in some ways worse with regards to improving various biomarkers. This really IS an inconvenient truth, as the film completely ignores the low carb approach, even when built from “plant based” sources. Let me say that again, in a different way: Low carb diets have consistently proven to reverse insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes better than high-carb, low fat approaches. There IS a “plant base” low carb approach which works well…this gets no airplay.
1:23:00 Dr. Garth Davis- Bariatric surgeon, vegan, author of Proteinaholic. Garth is a genuinely nice guy, and although a staunch vegan, he and I have had some decent interactions over the years. That said, Garth is being presented as an expert, but the critiques on his work, specifically his book, are pretty severe. Denise Minger’s thoughts on his book.
Garth’s reply…which spends the opening salvo largely trying to discredit Denise due to “lack of credential” (that’s what we generally call a Straw Man attack) while also playing the game of somehow acknowledging her brilliance?? It’s odd. Really odd. If you notice my interaction with people I have NEVER raised the question of “qualifications.” Does the person know the material, yes or no? In this day where there is easy access to any topic, I am not only un-impressed by the Appeal To Authority, I get immediately suspicious. This is a way of shutting down the heretics without ever addressing their message or content.
1:21:55 Dr. Neal Barnard- Talks about a cookie…sugar lures you in, but it’s the fat that “gets you.” Reasonably truthful, but really misses the point. Hyperpalatable foods are the issue. It’s the flavor combos at issue. No one would be fired up to eat sugar, flour, or butter in plain forms. Ok, I could nosh on a stick of butter, but mix those ingredients into a cookie? That’s pretty damn tasty. Tasty to a point there is no “off switch.” This is a remarkably unsophisticated handling of what is a highly complex process, the neuroregulation of appetite.
1:21:29 Dr. Garth Davis – “Sugar is not great, low in nutrients, but it “does not cause inflammation, can be stored as glycogen.” “The focus on sugar has taken the focus off meat, dairy, eggs, pork, turkey, chicken…” I’m not even sure how to comment on this as the science is not remotely supportive of his dismissal of sugar: Now, that is looking specifically at fructose, but table sugar is 50% fructose.
1:20:52 Related this paper: Unprocessed red and processed Meats and risk of coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes—An updated review
From the abstract: “In meta-analyses of prospective cohorts, higher risk of CHD is seen with processed meat consumption (RR per 50 g: 1.42, 95 %CI = 1.07-1.89), but a smaller increase or no risk is seen with unprocessed meat consumption. Differences in sodium content (~400 % higher in processed meat) appear to account for about two-thirds of this risk difference. In similar analyses, both unprocessed red and processed meat consumption are associated with incident diabetes, with higher risk per g of processed (RR per 50 g: 1.51, 95 %CI = 1.25-1.83) versus unprocessed (RR per 100 g: 1.19, 95 % CI = 1.04-1.37) meats.”
Let’s unpack that:
1-Prospective cohort studies were the sole source of information. What the heck is that? From our good friend Wikipedia: “A prospective cohort study is a longitudinal cohort study that follows over time a group of similar individuals (cohorts) who differ with respect to certain factors under study, to determine how these factors affect rates of a certain outcome.“
Here is a short but interesting paper that looks at the limitations of cohort studies, in this case looking at OPIUM USERS and the risk of death. Arguably, opium use and risk of death is a much simpler story to unpack relative to complex dietary interactions…I don’t think anyone would argue that point. Despite this, the study is incredibly shaky due to:
Recall bias. Did people actually report what really happened (opium consumption in this case, meat consumption in the context of the papers being cited by What The Health). Recall bias is such an issue many people have called for the abolishment of this type of stuff entirely. http://www.ejcancer.com/article/S0959-8049(06)00846-X/abstract This due in no small part to the fact one cannot assign causation, just correlation, but correlation with perhaps more noise than signal. What I mean by that is that the data being looked at may be so fraught with error (noise) that any attempt at gain insight (signal) is literally impossible. The main study cited in the film is from a food frequency questionnaire, which again, have been found to be so fraught with error that many are calling for their abandonment.
Now, it might be worth asking, why are these folks relying on a dodgy methodology (A prospective cohort study, built entirely from a food frequency questionnaire). Here is an interesting snippet from the Red meat/processed meat paper: “ Similar to most other lifestyle risk factors (e.g., smoking, physical activity, obesity, consumption of salt, dietary cholesterol, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains), the effects of meat consumption on cardiometabolic endpoints have not, to our knowledge, been investigated in any RCTs.”
Despite a complete lack of GOLD STANDARD testing (Randomized, Controlled Trials–RCT’s), public policy, bad documentaries and a never ending slew of media pieces are built from studies which are known, from the outset, to be incapable of showing causation. I cannot emphasize this enough, as the film presents this material as “proof” in the same way that a physicist would describe the properties of gravity.
2- Nearly 2/3 of the “risk” associated with processed meats is ascribed to the sodium content. There is SOME mechanistic plausibility here, particularly in the case of CVD, as a hyperinsulinemic individual tends to disproportionately retain sodium, and a high sodium intake MIGHT exacerbate this. But interestingly, trying to lower sodium intake in these folks also tends to do almost nothing, as the problem is upstream and due primarily to insulin. Here is a great line from the abstract of that paper: “Similar to other areas in prevention, the controversy is likely to remain unresolved until large-scale definitive randomized controlled trials are conducted to determine the effect of low sodium intake (compared to moderate intake) on CVD incidence.” Seems to be a theme emerging here…Huge amounts of money and an iron-clad public healthy policy is being promulgated by “research” that is incapable of addressing causation, and that may have more signal than noise. Finally, the whole discussion of sodium is likely flawed, again from poor mechanistic understandings. I’ll be talking to the author of The Salt Fix in a future episode of the podcast, but this story looks remarkably like that we have seen for fat, animal products etc.
3-Based on the paper and the arguably flawed data, there appears to be little if any association between unprocessed meat intake and CVD, and only a modest relationship between unprocessed meat intake and type 2 diabetes. Now, I’m being pretty generous even mentioning this point as the whole paper, the whole investigative process, is built on “data” that as I said previously, likely has more error than signal. (Sorry to be redundant, but if you come away with ANYTHING I hope it’s an understanding of what is being claimed vs what this material can actually support.)
An important point to take away from all this is the What The Health documentary is building a story first that processed meat is bad (which is highly debatable, and the notion it’s “as bad as cigarettes is just preposterous). That is a monumental claim and the facts behind this claim fall flat. Which should then make one suspicious about ANY of the information shared by folks promulgating information like this. I’m working on a post to follow this that will look at the epidemiology of smoking and compare/contrast that with what happens in “nutritional science.”
1:17:41 Michael Greger Nutritionfact.org Claims “dead meat bacteria toxins” immediately damage the endothelial lining of the circulatory system. There is no doubt endotoxemia is a huge issue, an overlooked issue. But Dr. Gregor is unique in assigning this only to animal products. There is abundant literature showing processed foods, with added processed oils increase endotoxemia (which can worsen insulin resistance and CVD risk) but if you ask Dr. Gregor and his ilk for any research showing whole foods doing the same thing, you will be waiting quite a long time. The main citation Dr. Gregor provides is an in vitro (petri dish style) study: In vitro studies should not be dismissed out of hand but they absolutely CANNOT be used as in vivo (in a living body) evidence. They are at best suggestive of potential mechanisms of causation and can inform future research. I can only describe tactics like this as “ham-handed” which is ironic given Dr. Gregor’s disdain for “the other white meat.”
Here is the post Dr. Gregor has produced to support his thoughts: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dead-meat-bacteria-endotoxemia/
I agree with much of what Dr. Gregor is saying here with regards to intestinal permeability and health. I do not agree with his complete analysis of the cause (animal products) nor the best solution (a grain based vegan diet). And again, it is fascinating what is being left out of this discussion. This paper makes the mechanistic case for dense, processed carbs being the root cause for endotoxemia. Now, we can get in and debate the merits of one theory vs the other, but to completely ignore this contradictory information implies what can only be construed to be dodgy motives on the part of the filmmaker.
Worth a mention: some degree of inflammation and arterial stiffening occur after eating ANYTHING. Dr. Gregor does not mention this fairly important fact. If one reads between the lines, some kind of intermittent feeding vs grazing schedule is likely a good idea due to the inflammatory nature of just eating.
1:17:15 Dr. Michael Klaper
1:16:54 Dr. Caldwell Essltyn “It’s really quite clear that from the standpoint of cancer and CVD that animal protein plays an enormous role…” Question from Director: “is chicken better?” Dr. Essltyn’s response: “It’s a question of if you want to be shot or hung…”
Cancer rates are increasing, but due mainly to population increases and aging:
Meat consumption over time:
Total meat consumption in the US:
We seem to have largely swapped chicken for beef, and we appear to be overall below our previous historical highs in consumption. One could argue meat consumption has, over all, increased, yet cancer rates appear to be increasing largely as a factor of an aging population and an overall increase in population. That’s one part of the original claim that meat causes cancer, the other claim was that meat is at the heart of CVD. Take a look at this:
Despite a clearly sicker population with regards to obesity and type 2 diabetes, heart disease rates are declining, due mainly to decreased smoking (the smoking decrease is powerful enough to offset even the increases in diabetes, at least to some extent). If the claims about meat consumption contributing to heart disease and cancer were true we would NOT see trends like those depicted above. It is difficult to say whether Dr. Essltyn is outright lying or is just terrible at interpreting science. Either way, his claims are not supported by the evidence. I’ll have a few more thoughts on this at the end of this review.
1:16:13 Neal Barnard: “Heterocyclic amines are clear cut carcinogens and they can form when meat is cooked or heated.” True, but high temp cooking of ANYTHING produces a variety of potentially carcinogenic substances. Cooking at lower temps reduces all of these processes, and marinades with antioxidants dramatically reduces HCA formation https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10068-011-0022-9
But wait, there is more.
Remember that study I mentioned above that looked at In vitro (not in vivo) effects? It appears the microbiome bioconverts substances such as HCA’s to largely benign substances. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25707896 From the paper: “In conclusion, even if one would assume that 100% of the daily amount of PhIP ingested by a human being is converted into PhIP-M1 in the colon, this concentration most probably would not lead to cytotoxicity and/or carcinogenicity in the colorectal mucosa.” Some of the confusion in this arena stems from clear cytotoxicity and mutagenicity in animals fed HCA’s. What might be a problem with this? Yes, animals are not people, but more specifically, animals do not eat cooked food. Humans do, and have for perhaps 500 thousand years. Possibly longer. Famed evolutionary biologist Richard Wrangam makes the case in his book that humans are neither carnivore, herbivore or even omnivore, but rather “cookivore.” Give the book a read as this thing is turning into a monster and I do not have time to unpack all the details there, but I will make the point that if the medical and research community had even a bit of influence by the Ancestral Health/Evolutionary Medicine model, much of this goofy research and blind alleys would have never happened. http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/06/invention-of-cooking-drove-evolution-of-the-human-species-new-book-argues/
The take away form all this is despite the boogeyman Dr. Barnard tries to create with regards to HCA’s, he ignores entirely that there are mitigating steps one can take when prepping food, and those mitigating steps may in fact not matter all that much when one considers that these substances are largely inactivated by the action of the gut flora. NOW…I can make a case that if the gut flora is disturbed, if the gut is unhealthy, this could be a problem, but that’s a topic for another day. One final note: Barnard really goes after chicken as the main culprit in the HCA story. He cites research which I was unable to find or verify, but I do know this: people are eating, on average, more chicken than previously. The agenda here appears to be to tackle that shift and shut it down. Interestingly, I’d like to see folks eat much less chicken, but this is due to sustainability issues, not health.
1:15:03 Kip mentions a study (does not provide it) that eating one egg per day was equivalent to smoking 5 cigarettes. I can’t actually unpack this one as there is no citation for this claim, which spurred me to search “Research citations What The Health.” The best I can find is this, which is not remotely up to snuff for a works cited: http://www.whatthehealthfilm.com/facts/ Again, these are remarkable claims, with at best paltry support.
1:14:31 Michael Greger “You know these saturated fat studies that are trying to vindicate saturated fat…they are all just funded by the dairy industry.” He has a point, some of these studies are indeed funded by the dairy or egg industry…but the story is a bit more complex than that. This just replays the tape on all the old Ancel keys stuff, not the least of which was the recent unearthing of research data that was “forgotten.” The research looked at mental patients fed two diets: One high and one low in saturated fat. The low saturated fat diet was enriched with corn oil…cholesterol levels were consistently lower in the low SF group, but cardiac death and all cause mortality were WORSE. This is a remarkable study in that we’d never get this past an ethical review board today AND it was close to metabolic ward standards. The rigor of a study like this as compared to cohort studies is difficult to properly describe. They are not on the same planet. The point being, the claims about saturated fat and cholesterol made in this movie are highly inconsistent with the best science we have, populations and history, yet these claims are regurgitated again and again with no regard for what the facts actually support. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/records-found-in-dusty-basement-undermine-decades-of-dietary-advice/
1:12:18 A good section on epigenetics and that our genes are not our destiny…but clearly I’m not aligned with many of the recommendations being made.
1:10:41 Dr. Ken Williams president of the American college of cardiology: Paraphrasing: “ It is clear that increasing meat intake causes increased rates of CVD.” Kip asks “what about fish” to which Dr. Williams responds with the “4 worries,” PCB’s, mercury, saturated fat, cholesterol.” I think the first two concerns can be reasonably valid and are why it’s a good idea to eat fish that are lower down the food chain. As to the saturated fat and cholesterol “issues”…I think we’ve covered that.
This is a slick process overall. What the Health starts off with a fairly credible position (in most people’s eyes) of raising the question of the safety of processed meats and red meat in particular. Lots of people buy that, even if they still eat them. Then chicken, eggs and dairy are thrown in, all with the same specious claims of cancer, CVD, and diabetes being solely due to the consumption of animal products. But then they add fish. That gate-way product for vegans shifting back to animal products. Slick.
1:08:55 Mike Ewall, Energy Justice network “dioxins are the most toxic substances known to science.” Dioxins are nasty, no doubt about it, but Chris Masterjohn did a thorough unpacking of this topic here: https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/environmental-toxins/dioxins-in-animal-foods-a-case-for-vegetarianism/
The movie goes on to make the point that the main input for dioxins is the grass that cows eat! But again, there is more to the story (said another way, this claim is patently false). From Chris’ article “A review published in 1995 suggested that pastured animal products would probably contain higher dioxin concentrations because of a higher rate of soil ingestion;3however, newer research has revealed the fact that the primary sources of above-average dioxin concentration in beef samples are feeding troughs constructed with pentachlorophenol-treated wood and the inclusion of incinerator waste as a feed additive.6 Grass-fed beef is not exposed to these sources of dioxins.” Mr. Ewal appears to be either very sloppy in his fact finding or he maybe, has an agenda. If I were not trying to be professional I’d say the man is “A Damn Liar.”
Again, I have to tip my hat to the What The Health folks, as one of the thorniest topics they deal with is the use of grazing animals in not just food production, but also habitat restoration, carbon sequestration…you know, “save the planet” stuff. The push for decentralized, grass centric processes is in direct opposition to the CAFO meat production just about anyone can hate. But, if a healthy, not-so-nasty alternative (pastured meat) were to gain traction (which it has) that could pose a problem for the folks who approach veganism as a religion. Is dioxin a concern? Yes. Is it a concern as presented in this documentary? Well, I’ll leave that up to you to decide. I do have to give them yet further props for wrapping up this section by relating the story that moms can pass dioxins to their offspring, both in utero and via breast feeding. This is true, but the whole context of this piece is at best questionable.
1:04:43 A section on the problems of dairy, many of which I agree with. There are interesting associations between dairy and autoimmune disease. But again, there is a lot of nuance and unpacking to get the full picture on that story.
1:02:29 Dr. Barnard comments that there is zero evidence that milk builds strong bones. Again, I largely agree with this. I have always put most dairy products into a “grey area” in that if you do not suffer any type of immunogenic reaction to dairy, fine, dig in. I do not handle bovine dairy, but do great with sheep and goat. This is one area of overlap between the vegan and paleo camps.
The movie goes on to cite research links between dairy consumption and cancer…again, this is all correlational work, BUT. There are some proposed mechanisms that could offer some insight in all this. Dairy is loaded with various growth factors, and promotes the production and release of growth factors from the liver. In the context of a chronically overfed westernized society, this could pose a problem. And in general, dairy consumption increases with industrialization. The only pesky problem here is traditional societies ranging from the Mongols to the Masai have consumed prodigious amounts of dairy but have been largely free of modern degenerative disease. This too is “anecdotal” but it’s interesting how the filmmakers appear to go out of their way to avoid mentioning any of these confounders.
1:00:38 Kip contacts the Susan Komen organization (the pink ribbon folks, whom I have serious issues, but again, topic for another day) and asks why they do not warn against dairy consumption, citing this paper which looks at high and low fat dairy consumption and cancer recurrence and mortality in breast cancer patients. This was a food frequency questionnaire (garbage) but check this out from the paper: “Intake of high-fat dairy, but not low-fat dairy, was related to a higher risk of mortality after breast cancer diagnosis.”
Let’s unpack that:
1-As I said earlier, food frequency questionnaires are recognized to be so fraught with problems and inaccuracies that many researchers have called for their abandonment. This is unlikely to happen as a massive amount of infrastructure and funding is wrapped up in this hopelessly flawed process. This whole paper and it’s findings are questionable, but let’s put that fact aside for a moment and consider this:
2-How on earth does Kip ignore that lowfat dairy (according to the study) is NOT associated with increased cancer recurrence? I clearly have my own agenda here, I’m the “paleo guy”, right? But how many times can a filmmaker do stuff like ignoring what is simply in the abstract, lying directly or by omission, and still be taken seriously? I know a lot of folks reading this do not have science backgrounds…so you are taking things largely on faith whether you believe me or the folks in this film, but if this is an error on Kips part one must really question his ability to analyze information in this sphere. If it’s not an error it’s a manipulative lie by omission, which should call into question any and all claims and motives with this whole project. But, we will not drop the ball at this point with still an hour to go in this film, we will slog through.
3-As flawed as the basic research is, let’s look at how the confounders can add up in something like this. Now, why do folks choose lowfat dairy? In general, low fat is still perceived to be a healthier option. People who make one healthy lifestyle choice tend to make multiple lifestyle choices which are arguably, healthier. People who do not eat meat (for perceived health reasons) also tend not to smoke. Although researchers claim they can adjust for all these variables, critical analysis of this type of research makes a pretty strong case this is by and large false. These murky cofounders are difficult if not impossible to adjust for and are fantastic opportunities to offer up statistically hatched lies. So, despite the limitations of the research due to the food frequency piece, one could make a case that the low fat dairy folks DID in fact see benefits with regards to cancer recurrence, but this may have nothing to do with what dairy option they chose and everything to do with the overall mindset and choices that would drive these folks to make generally healthier choices in all aspects of their lives.
58:05 Christina Stella Center for Food Safety, staff attorney. Section on the drugs, particularly antibiotics, fed to feedlot animals. I agree with most all of this, it’s dangerous and appalling. But this is also all an outgrowth of the industrial food system. Options like Polyface Farms, holistic management, mobile slaughter can make CAFO food lots a thing of the past, which would essentially remove the need for the vast majority of the meds fed to these animals and the potential problems which will come from this method of food production.
54:42 Larry Baldwin Water Keeper Alliance Talks about the number of pigs raised in north Carolina (more than 10 million…approximately equal to the human population). The film makes a solid case about how damaging this centralization is to the environment, and also the disease potential of things like the H1N1 flu virus. This is all accurate and concerning information. This whole story would also change entirely with decentralized food production which effectively managed the waste products of this process. Consider this:
That’s the total amount of nitrogen fertilizer used in the us, 1965-2010. Although a small amount of this is used for backyard gardening, a main portion goes towards row crops and industrial agriculture. What is somewhat humorous about the vegan agenda of this film (stop eating/using animals in any way) is that the primary option for fertilizing the corn, wheat and rice that these folks recommend will fall in petrochemical derived nitrogen fertilizers produced by the Haber process. Various beans and legumes ARE nitrogen fixers and can and should play a role in better managing this whole mess, but what if we effectively used the waste from animal production to fertilize our agricultural crops instead of letting it poison water systems? What would this mean for antibiotic use in animals? Watershed contamination? A frustrating element to this film is that one solution and one solution only is being presented. Are all of the environmental, social and medical issues concerning? Yes, they are. But Planet of the Vegans is not the only way to address these issues, but it is the only solution offered in the film.
48:45 Dr. Robert Ratner chief Science officer, American Diabetes Assoc. Kip interviews Dr. Ratner (he finally gets his sit-down with the ADA) and Ratner describes the mission statement of the ADA, and mentions that there is no way to prevent type 2 diabetes in all people. Not sure how Dr. Ratner has missed all the anthropological data showing populations without DM2, but I guess we will let that pass. To Kips’ credit he mentions a study comparing a low fat vegan diet vs the ADA recommendations and how the vegan diet performed better. Dr. Ratner gets pissed and closes out the interview, and is visibly pretty cranky. Dr. Ratner makes the point that many dietary approaches can reverse type 2 diabetes, there are many studies showing this. The problem is getting people to comply. Kip does not mention that a low carb diet beat both the ADA and conventional low fat diets, but hey, details. http://caloriesproper.com/diet-study-american-diabetes-association-vs-low-carb-ketogenic/
Low fat can work, so can low carb. I think LC works better (SEE MY ECOATKINS POINT ABOVE) and more consistently, but the important thing is “everything in moderation” is absolute bullocks when viewed through the lens of the neuroregulation of appetite and our modern world of hyperpalatable foods. Maybe I should write a book on that…wait…I did.
44:38 Kip mentions that dairy avoidance is associated with reduced incidence of type 1 diabetes. True, but also true for wheat, which again, he somehow neglects to mention: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4185872/
Important points: Not everyone who eats dairy and wheat develop type 1 diabetes. Not everyone who avoids these foods will be spared development of type 1 diabetes. But it may be that eliminating/avoiding allergenic foods such as these will reduce the POTENTIAL for developing the condition. This is perhaps one of the most infuriating and potentially injurious features of the film: Information is presented in black/white absolutes.
43:36 Kip discovers, in the wee hours of the night, that the American Diabetes Association is sponsored by a bunch of multinational food conglomerates. He lists a number of products like Dannon yogurt (which I can find on the sponsor page) and a number of entities that I cannot FIND, like bumblebee tuna. There is also a long list a pharmaceutical companies and even those bastards at Wonderful Pistachios.
Just kidding, pistachios are amazing.
Yes, corporate money has despoiled the whole medical industry…this is why I push for decentralization and I’d love to see 5 American medical associations, not just one. Kip goes on to do this same search for entities like the American Cancer Society…he highlights the meat oriented sponsors, yet somehow neglects to mention the folks who produce refined grain products who are also sponsors. The selection bias here is remarkable.
41:10 Steve-O. Yes, the “comedian” quasi-famous for such cinematic masterpieces as helping his friends put Hot Wheels cars up their bum, mentions an American Diabetes Assoc event he attended that had BBQ chicken. He left. The horrors. The gravitas.
(Ok, yea, I’m getting pretty punchy)
40:01 Kip beats the dead horse of the governmental bodies tasked with stewarding our health being funded by food producers. Yep, that’s a problem.
38:48 Mark Kennedy, Lawyer, PCRM- Mark describes the “check off program” which is effectively a government backed program that aids fast food producers (and others) in figuring out ways of increasing the consumption of fast food. As usual, they focus only on the meat and dairy inputs, ignore the refined grains and sugar. I’m not sure what else to say other than “and why do people want MORE government at every level of their lives?” I have an answer for that: So long as “my” perceived political ideology is in office, yea baby, bring on ‘Das Gubmnt’. Then, when the political pendulum swings it’s “OH SHIT!! How did that lunatic make it into office?! The government has too much power!” I promise, that’ll likely be the only political rant I do in this thing. Probably.
34:53 Film talks about “cheeseburger laws” which are designed to prevent litigation on the part of people who feel certain foods have caused them health problems. Only meat and cheese are mentioned. No mention of grains and or sugar.
Ryan Shapiro, Historian of National Security, MIT- Ryan describes how the American Egg board produced internal documents describing the vegan mayonase alternative, Hampton Creek as a “Crisis and major threat to the future of the American egg industry.” Too bad the American Egg Council did not just sit back and wait for Hampton Creek to be exposed as shysters and frauds: https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-hampton-creek-just-mayo/?MPA_Daily_News_Roundup
Clearly there are plenty of dirtbags who are also meat eaters, this is not a uniquely vegan thing, but when you consider the games played at Hampton Creek as well as the wunder gal Elizabeth Holmes (vegan), founder of the zero to $9billion valuation to zero Theranos, you kinda have to wonder. http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/09/elizabeth-holmes-theranos-exclusive
I’ve done my best to keep this as factual as I can, but at some point the annoyance with this stuff bubbles over. The tech scene is so enamored with crap like Theranos, Soylent and vertical farming that it’s almost maddening. The whole vegan schtick is sexy in that “I’m morally superior…l’m woke…” it just sickens me at this point.
32:55 (or there about) The film shifts to the massive influence of the pharmaceutical industry, how those folks do not want to see stints and statins go away. Yep agree with the analysis, just not the solution.
30:09 Jake Conroy, Formerly Imprisoned Activist- At this point in the film Kip is making the case that the pharmaceutical industry effectively gets its own legislation passed and then claims that they are so powerful they have imprisoned activists. Jake is introduced as if he was imprisoned “fighting big pharma” but was in fact part of an animals rights group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC).” Huntingdon Life Science is an animal testing facility (which I think a MASSIVE amount of animal testing is both unnecessary and unethical). SHAC (from Wikipedia) “used tactics ranging from non-violent protest to the alleged firebombing of houses owned by executives associated with HLS’s clients and investors. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors US domestic extremism, has described SHAC’s modus operandi as “frankly terroristic tactics similar to those of anti-abortion extremists,” Jake was imprisoned in 2006 after being found guilty of harassment.
I thought the lies by omission detailed above were bad…this…I’m not sure how to even couch the degree of bait and switch bullshit here. Yes, the guy was imprisoned. For harassment of the HLS employees. And the guy is the organizer of the SHAC which has responsibility for things perhaps as severe as firebombing houses. Who firebombs anything? I can think of religious zealots and drug dealers. It’s people like this guy and DurianRider that might ensure that veganism never goes mainstream. Thanks for that guys.
26:43 Dr. Milton Mills- Kip asks if we need to eat meat to get complete protein. There is a long list of docs that come on mentioning how if you eat 2,000 cals of brown rice and broccoli, you will be “fine”. I’m not really going to unpack this as this topic has been beat to death. A vegan diet is likely better than a SAD junk food diet, at least for a while. One can reasonably easily supplement and get the things missing in a vegan diet (DHA/EPA, choline, etc) but it’s not optimum.
23:40-Dr. Michale Klaper- Mentions that “all these Paleo people are going to die from heart attacks and diabetes.” Ok. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11965522
22:19 Kip gets into some comparative anatomy, specifically of the teeth and makes the point that since we do not have large canines, we are not designed to eat meat.It’s fascinating to me that Kip manages to ignore nearly 2 million years of human stone tool use, the role these tools played in our evolution, and how this all led to a massive die of of megafauna (big critters) at the hands of our ancient and more contemporary ancestors. Some people just dismiss this material out of hand…it’s the history of humanity! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quaternary_extinction_event
There are a lot of claims that come from Vegan Land, but the “Humans evolved to be herbivore/frugivorous and “never ate meat” is on par with insisting the earth is flat. One can certainly believe these fairytales if one chooses, but it’s interesting what a disadvantage people experience when they insist on using an operating system or world view that is fundamentally flawed. The notion that humans did not hunt significant quantities of both large and small game is not supported by any of the evidence from anthropology and calls into question how humans could have lived in any pre-agriculture environment that is above the 40* latitude line. My own story around this is possibly valuable: I participated in a Discovery Channel show called “I-Cave Man” in which we were instructed on the basic use of stone tools and then tasked with living in a harsh, alpine environment in late spring. I was provided some basic instruction ins stone tool knapping, dead-fall traps and snares a few weeks before the show and I practiced like a madman. I also made and practiced with an atlatl (a hand thrown spear, in which the throwing velocity is increased using a wooden launcher) for hours every day. I was still a relative novice, but by the time of the show I could make cutting tools that worked better than surgical steel. I managed to take down a 650lb elk with this Atlatl and between myself and castmates, we butchered the whole animal and brought it back to camp. Although Billy Berger (one of the castmates) is considered to be an expert in stone tool manufacture, he has related that his skills are likely on par with that of a 4-5 year old CHILD who would have been raised in a hunter gatherer troupe. My point here is humans were very good at hunting, stone tools make up for a lack of horns, claws and ripping/tearing teeth.
Somewhat related: With a few weeks of practice I managed to develop the skills to make a fire kit and actually make a fire with a hand drill. It was a bastard, and we barely pulled off the fire as part of the show, but again, it illustrates that although many of these skills are quite complex, a relative amateur can attain enough technique to pull this off in fairly demanding situations. As I mentioned above with regards to Ricahrd Wrangham, fire was a critical part of human evolution, particularly as it relates to our nutrition:
19:47 Dr. Caldwell Esseltyn- Relates research showing improvements in patients consuming a plant based diet. Yes, any shift away from a hyperpalatable, highly processed diet is going to be a win.
The final 15 minutes of the film is a mix of rapid fire medical claims about veganism, several before and after transformations, interviews with vegan athletes and heartstring tugging cinematography. This is a slick, well done film and the whole vegan story is incredibly compelling: eat to be healthy for yourself, your world, and be a kind, spiritually superior person. Who doesn’t want that? The problem(s) arise when we ignore a few things: Veganism is not the only healthy way to eat. It’s arguable if veganism is actually healthy long term, but I’m all about folks experimenting, just be rational and honest about your experience. Some of the most compelling elements involve the notion that veganism is going to “save the planet” and it is morally superior. It’s outside the scope of this already long piece to unpack those topics properly, but myself and others are working to have a concise, well researched accounting of those topics. I will say this: the vegans are kicking our collective asses. It’s a religion, it’s a community, and identity. I’m not sure how to deal with that other than creating an alternate food religion, which honestly sounds horrifying to me. The problem is these folks are well organized, well-funded and they get massive traction in producing films like What The Health, Cowspiracy etc. Cowspiracy was crowd funded and raised more than $600K in 48 hours. We have no similar analog (with regards to scale and reach) for “ethical omnivores” that are working to address many of the issues raised in the film, including animal husbandry practices, environmental damage etc. As a movement we are remarkably fragmented and in general I’d say most folks are more concerned with getting abs than thinking about the knock-on effects of an industrial food system. Not slamming folks, just stating an observation.
Unpacking a topic like this involves shades of grey, and if I’ve learned anything about human behavior, it’s that we, as a species, do not do well in the grey. Black/White, Left/Right, Vegan/animal murderer.
Kip and Dr. Garth Davis have reached out to me and we are working to set up a conference where folks can present and debate theses complex topics. I’ll keep y’all updated as that progresses.
I hope you found this analysis helpful. Again, I tried to generally remain professional in my tone but clearly at some points became pretty frustrated. Now, I’d like to ask you a favor: If you do in fact care about this topic, please become a member of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. These folks fight the legal battles that small farmers find themselves in when they end up in the crosshairs of a local health department, or a multinational like Monsanto. The FTCLDF is interesting in that they will help just about any farmer, at any time. One of my favorite people in the world, Joel Salatin, had an interesting response when asked how vegans could get along in a world that worked along his model of food production (which includes, but is not exclusively based on animal products). His (paraphrased) response “If the vegans will let me raise the food my family wants to eat, I’ll make sure to raise the food their family wants to eat.” We could all likely learn a lot from some contemplation on that sentiment.
I’ll close with a question of sorts: Based on my average site traffic this post will get far more than 6,000 readers who would identify as “ethical omnivores.” Way more. If someone (not me) were to produce a GOOD movie based around the practices of regenerative agriculture and the Ancestral Health model, how many of you would donate $100? $50? If you are game to help, please say “yes” in the comments (along with any other observations you care to share. If your answer is “no” I’d appreciate you tell me why you’d be unwilling to support a project like this.
A few of the commenters have made the point I’m biassed because I tend to promote a paleo/ancestral health approach. I mentioned all this bias myself. Multiple times. But reading comprehension ain’t what it used to be. Be that as it may, here is a review by a registered dietician (who also hold a masters in Public Health) who has many of the same concerns I had. In fact, she found some angles that I overlooked.
This is an interesting article on the “Alarmist food documentary.” Kip hits every key with WTH.
Interesting film, The Magic Pill, looking at the ancestral health/sustainability story. It’s been released in Oz and NZ, coming to the rest of the world in January.
THE MAGIC PILL – final trailer from Robert S Tate on Vimeo.
A new documentary film (Dispelling The Lies) is in the fundraising stages. This is a fantastic project and I highly recommend that folks who are interested in an Ethical Omnivore perspective on health and sustainability support this project. Please click through for more details and to donate.
I’m also excited to tell you about another brand new film, Kale vs. Cow, which will dive into the nutritional, environmental and ethical case for meat. Kale Vs. Cow is the brainchild of our friend Diana Rodgers of Sustainable Dish, a real food dietitian living on a working organic farm. The film focuses on the most vilified of farm animals, the cow, ultimately making the case that eliminating animals from our food system will cause more harm than good.
She needs your help! Support Kale vs. Cow’s crowdfunding campaign here!
Thanks for the review!!!
Katherine Emery says
Is this a real person or the same company posting “Yes!” over and over
Robb Wolf says
As I said in your other comment:
All responses have unique ISP’s and emails, so they appear to be legit. If someone were trying to “stuff the ballot box” I’d expect to see thousands, not dozens.
Yes! Thanks for your work on this
Josh Sparks says
And we’d be happy to donate a lot more than $100 if you’d sign on as an adviser Robb.
Devan Naidoo says
They’re aware of this, therefore they post dozens and not thousands. The art of deception is delusion.
Congrats to you Robb on writing such a “looonng” review. Seriously, no sarcasm. I appreciate the fact of the research and writing you did.
Unfortunately you lost my attention about a quarter of the way in. I could seriously sit through the “What the Health” doc so much easier.
The terms and jargon were just to much to follow. I am a simple person who needs “simplicity” to make informed choices and my friend, you did it do that for me at all. So as much as a review or case you seemed to have built, you’ve not accomplished anything to make me change my mind on my stand with the doc or my decision to become a vegan.
To be honest, after I researched you and what you do for a living $$, it was clear that this is another “A” versus “B” review.
It seems your review is trying to “convince” others to switch from Vegan to Paleo?? No?
Awe, maybe I shouldn’t say that as I did not read the whole article. True.
For me, I believe enough evidence or so-called evidence or research from the doc was good enough for me. I am quite capable to make an informed decision based on what I saw. Besides, switching to vegan is not going to kill me, Forks and Knives did an amazing job and still do of teaching the correct nutritional information to make the transition from non- vegan to vegan. To me, instead of comparing and bickering against one another, celebrate that both methods(paleo and vegan) are healthy alternatives to what many people eat today.
Keto, paleo, Vegan, blah blah blah, let’s just be free to make the choices we want to without having to read over a 45 minute (complex & scientific review) .
Just for he record, I love animals and if that were the only reason I become vegan, well, how do you review that with science?
Robb Wolf says
Sara- i asked questions about clear misrepresentations in the film. Yes, i make a living telling people to not eat junk food, i’m not sure that is particularly nefarious in this case. As I said elsewhere, if Kip is not on point with the science he presents, if things are clearly taken out of context, omitted etc, then the WHOLE message is called into question. This is quite unfortunate as he makes fantastic points about corporate collusion, shady activities on the part of the governmental organizations charged with stewarding our health. “Keto, paleo, Vegan, blah blah blah, let’s just be free to make the choices we want to without having to read over a 45 minute (complex & scientific review) .” People are scared by the film, they ask for input about the veracity…just dismissing a topic because it’s hard is lazy and how we have ended up with the political situation we have in the US. Facts matter.
So Sara, you put your trust only in what you can easily digest (no pun intended) intellectually? I am not asking in an insulting tone; just paraphrasing what you said (ie. the documentary was easy to understand, the article was not; therefore you will stick with the documentary). That is a scary stance for anyone to take on any matter. Worth reconsidering.
Thanks for the review Robb – I watched the movie before I read your review, and frankly, the ‘bias’ in the movie was very evident and immediate. Your review is very fair and in accord with my conclusions about the film. For me, I improved my health dramatically by focusing on my ‘immune’ system/gut flora via incorporating more raw fruits/veggies as well as fermented foods and reducing/controlling stress, and improving my sleep quantity/quality. ‘Mainstream Medical’ never talks about the importance of a healthy immune system and its dramatic and positive affect on many health issues. Thanks and peace.
Thank gawd I read this article, I can eat again.
Ben Pelletier says
Is this a real person or the same company posting “Yes” over and over
Robb Wolf says
All responses have unique ISP’s and emails, so they appear to be legit. If someone were trying to “stuff the ballot box” I’d expect to see thousands, not dozens.
Tressa Bryan says
Word! I watched “What the health” and, I am embarrassed to say, fell hook line and sinker. I have since started eating meat again and looking at both sides. This article was very informative. Thank you. Great, Great, Great points you made!!! I can see how the other side was trying to sway us now. Along with other things I’ve been reading about the NWO and how they are pushing society to go to a vegan based diet for very dark reasons.
Robb Wolf says
Glad this helped, you might also find this interesting: https://quartzy.qz.com/1277389/the-art-of-the-alarmist-food-documentary/
Instead of trying to negate all the facts given, why not just try it and let the results speak for themselves. Jeez. People you’re missing the point here.
Robb Wolf says
I LOVE outcome based approaches. Love them. I said multiple times there were laudable elements to the approach recommended by the film, but this does not negate the factual inaccuracies of the film. As I pointed out previously, Kip did a good job of couching the story of corporate collusion with the government in our food system. BUT. If the film is full of factual errors, it’s not hard to then dismiss these other, important, factual elements. So, instead of protecting a flawed product, you might consider asking more of people like Kip.
Larry Holmes says
Let those that want to debunk science research over have their way.
Your life is your greatest asset, spend it the way that you think is just.
I will place my health with the latest research and technologies that free my family from the grips of the dairy, meat and poultry lobbies. I now realize that the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Diabetes Association are all only telling you partially the truth.
I have been on a plant based diet now with my wife for about 7 years.
Ocassionally, on trips to Europe, we are coerced from it, but , upon our return, we always thankfully embrace it.
I myself, will never return to the diet that I was weaned on as a child in southern California from the local supermarket.
Kelly Munford says
Many people have tried the vegan diet, done it right, and failed to thrive. Some become miserably ill. There are very sound genetic and enterotypic reasons for this, that don’t care about ideology. Here are just four reasons why some people just plain don’t cut it as vegans: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/4-reasons-some-do-well-as-vegans
As Robb points out, this documentary is riddled with factual errors. Anybody catching these errors is unlikely to want to try the diet, because the information given is inaccurate and often based on either misunderstanding or just plain ideology. It would be greatly to the film’s benefit to clean up the mistakes.
Eddie M says
Eddie M says
Sugar is not inflammatory. What a joke.
Eddie M says
Anyone I have ever met with acne or eczema, including myself, show inflammation with consuming even too much fruit! So I believe sugar is an inflammatory. I am vegan and went vegan for the animals but learned that my health of course is important but overall I am worried for my siblings and their health. Plant based should not sound scary or a way to victimize people who eat animals. Just do research on your own and listen to the facts! (:
Johnny Clark says
I agree. If it makes sense to you and is advantageous for your family, then do it. I was never one for listen to Joe Blow and his views he has on health while eating everything in sight. Do what feels right.
Emily Lowe says
A big yes from the Netherlands! Thank you for this info, I started watching the movie and stopped doing so in tears. I just could not handle the subjective and offensive way of throwing ‘info’ at me. Some things I could refute easily, other things I could not… I gave up. Thank you again for doing the work. I wil share the link with a friend who has metbolic syndrom en diabetis II and is now turning into a vegan… I just offered to send him some info…. he agreed… I send him Thepaleomom-site… easy to read, even voor Dutch people. But maybe he can read this too.
Are you tying to stray your friend from going vegan? Sounds unusually for a friend to want their friends to not try something that is beneficial….Please warch the rest of the documentary. Documentaries are supposed to be informational and the light of this documentary is dismal and overall freaky, but it is the truth. Please do your own research, lovely!
Joe Struck says
Tom Lynn says
Without question..!! How much do you need..??
What the Health is a direct result of
“Lack of Protein”…
Matthew Stewart says
Miles wheeler says
Yes. Please, yes!
Yes. I lean vegan in my food choices out of taste preference but am not completely vegan. I want to support movement toward more decentralized and cleaner production of all food.
Justin Dillon says
Ian Wallace says
Yes. Make it happen, Robb.
Catherine Pate says
I respect your views but I am vegan because my heart made me do it. Believe me, I resisted. Even if it’s not healthier, I believe it’s morally the right thing for me. I enjoyed the review and am trying to be open to other views. Hard….but trying. Lol.
I love your approach. That’s how everyone should do it, in my opinion.
And thank you for the in-depth review. A vegan friend of mine recommended I watch What the Health, but I wasn’t prepared for what felt like religious propaganda — which, as you say, is a real shame because of the very real problems with the industrialisation of food that were lumped in with vegan ideologies. Signed: an ethical omnivore.
Yes!! I would donate more than $100 for a project like that.
Amanda Jagos says
No. I appreciate your analysis. I’m just fed up with biased reports. Seems very difficult to get anything that doesn’t have an agenda. Your’s seemed to be to get a job making a movie. Good Luck.
I did appreciate your perspective.
I feel very much the same way. I’m just trying to find unbiased facts and information… shouldn’t be this difficult. I learned a lot of disturbing facts from the movie. For years, we have eaten a mostly paleo diet and couldn’t believe what we were hearing in this movie – that free range chicken and eggs were harmful…. what!? It looks like I have to continue researching. One thing is certain… After years of my husband eating mostly paleo and still has to take high blood pressure and cholesterol medications, he is convinced more than ever that the paleo diet is not working. We are going to do a three month trial period to see if he can come off of his meds. Robb, I have one piece of advice for future reviews. Please consider the readers who are truly trying to figure out which data is fact …. please be more professional in your delivery. I had a very difficult time reading your review due to your snarkines.
My step dad went vegan cold turkey after watching the film with me (I’ve been vegan for 1.5 years now). Before he followed a strict paleo diet for 5-6 years (lots of meat, eggs, fish etc) but his cholesterol was still over 300 while on meds. After 6 weeks of being vegan he got retested and it dropped to 120!! The benefits of a plant based diet truly are amazing (for both our health and the plant!)
Aimee, depending on your personal biochemistry, a vegan diet can improve or destroy your health. The claim that a vegan diet will benefit the planet is highly questionable – can you think of a single natural, healthy, ecosystem that does not include animals eating each other?
Think of grasslands covered with zebra, gazelles, wildebeest, and buffalo. What happens if you knock out the carnivores – the lions, cheetah, leopards, jackals, hyenas, and raptors? The ecosystem collapses.
Humans are proud of their big brains and their special tool of culture. A well-managed grassland supporting meat animals, or a crop farm that integrates cattle, sheep, or goats, maybe free-range chickens, is a very healthy, very resilient managed ecosystem. Year by year, good livestock management (whether running grazers on grassland or rotating them with crops) increases soil depth and fertility, sequestrates carbon, rainfall retention and percolation, and produces more human-edible food than plants alone.
By the way, my husband has familial high cholesterol. He cut out grains and sugar, and a month later his cholesterol had dropped to well within the normal range. During this trial month, he increased his intake of meat, eggs, and cheese. He’s not overweight, but his waistline shrank nearly 2′ in this month. Sadly, his love of bread, pasta, and pastries, toppled him off the wagon again, and his cholesterol and waistline went back up.
On the other hand, one of my best friends struggled to get her biomarkers into the healthy range. For her, the regimen that works well is exclusion of red meat and shellfish. She loves seafood, so she is not happy with this.
My own experience with two years of ovolactovegetarianism followed by a vegan diet was abysmal. I was doing it right – on paper. My medical team could not understand why I was so thin (90lb at 5’5″ tall), had so many deficiencies, and got so sick, given that my diet theoretically provided ample calories and enough nutrients.
Then the testing started, and the lights came on. I’m hypoglycaemic – all those healthy whole grains were doing a number on me, as was my high fruit intake. The high amount of fibre in my diet sparked off appalling IBS. I’m gluten-sensitive, so I’d developed leaky gut from my home-ground, home-baked wholewheat bread. I don’t efficiently convert ALA to DHA and EPA, so the flaxseed was going straight through, and exacerbating the IBS and leaky gut. With leaky gut and IBS, I couldn’t absorb the minerals in my food. And I’m legume-intolerant, so those healthy pulse-based dishes caused crashing migraines, and nearly destroyed my gut. I was very sick indeed. It took close to two years to get me back to health. I had to have transfusions of immunoglobins, intramuscular shots of B12 and iron, IV treatments with a vitamin and mineral cocktail, and return to an omnivorous diet. I will never, never, never, put myself through that again.
Jamie Ayres says
Robb very clearly says that he has no interest in making the movie. The idea of saying whether you would or would not donate to a documentary on ethical omnivorism appeared to to me to be merely gauging interest.
As for trying a different diet to see if you get better results, there is no suggestion in this piece that you shouldn’t do that.
I only know Robb from this one article, but from my point of view it only starts to get ‘snarky’ nearer the end where he has to reiterate the same comments over and over again because the documentary lies about the same points over and over again. It’s good to hear that you did get through it as, unlike the documentary, Robb cites all of his research and is open when he has personal opinions.
Finally, don’t believe everything you see on documentaries… next week there may be one commissioned by the dairy, meat and eggs mass producers and they would have equally strong – but opposing – ‘proof’ to What The Health. It’s a minefield!
Kevin Gatz says
When will “Paleo” types lose the living in a big city, air conditioned/heated homes, cars, computers, etc
True Paleo types should live in caves, wash maybe once a week or month in a creek, catch their own food, hunting with spear, cook over open fire, or eat raw meat
How do you KNOW some of these factors aren’t important, humans lived that way for a majority of history
This gave me a really good laugh! Using this logic, vegans should move out of the cities and live in trees, wash very seldom, eat only plants endemic to the region, in season, raw, or cooked over a smoky fire, and use only the tools they could make from stones and sticks. That’s what a natural, evolutionary, vegan lifestyle would look like. Humans lived that way for millennia – except that there is exactly zero archaeological evidence for vegan humans. None. Zip. Nada. Thanks to stable isotope testing, it’s possible to tell not only what proportion of a diet was plant or animal, but whether the protein fraction was plant, marine animal, or terrestrial animal. Ever more sensitive tests can now pick up starch granules on stone tools and in sediments, and differentiate between fats.
Either everybody had to return to the lifestyle of millennia, or nobody has to, regardless of dietary affiliation.
So true Paleo means 100g of fiber per day right? Where do you get your fiber and how much per day?
If everyone who ate meat consumed all their meat as grass-fed beef and continued eating the same amount of meat, how much grass land would that require globally?
John, this comment suggests that you know very little about the paleo diet, as conceptualized nowadays. Paleo folks can easily eat as much vegetable matter as vegans. Paleo-dieters eschew grains, dairy products, refined sugar, and industrial seed oils. They don’t eat any industrial foods. The paleo diet is not purely meat and fat. There are even people who call themselves pegans – paleovegans. They too cut out all industrial foods, relying on foods purchased in their natural state, of kinds that they believe would have been available in the Palaeolithic.
A Paleo meal might well comprise grilled meat, a pile of sautéed kale, a small serving of sweet potato, and an enormous mixed salad. Paleo-dieters get their fibre the same place as vegans: from plants.
Grant Lawrence says
Thank you-thank you. I was intrigued by What the Health and immediately dug in to see the response. My visceral response was to make a change. My step bro and his equally bad ass wife have been vegans for at least a couple decades. I stopped eating meat and dairy that day, but I cannot deny being conflicted by the fact that I’m Native. Thank you for your insight and humor on the subject. I intend to absorb as much info as I can. But what to do with all that vegan butter? There was at least one example of a native permaculture movement that seemed incredible but I am three different tribes and non Indian. How to begin to research the ancestral diets specifically even though I have some ideas and then to source things like eel. Ew. Thanks again for all the links to good info. I feed my crew and if I can at least keep them healthy and provide basic sense and guidance I’ll feel better. But I also still want abs.
Linda R says
I’m reading this as a link over from Mark Sisson’s Best of 2017 Research Insights….
Some interesting points that I hadn’t really thought of as well. I found it interesting when I lived in Iowa that the pig lagoons were not well maintained and that they did little to compost the detritus of the lagoons into good fertilizers. Well composted waste can be a good fertilizer..yet, someone would try to speed up the process and the waste would be hot or toxic still.
As a Business & Society researcher (yeah, I’ve got a Ph.D.–in business), I’ve always kept my eyes on the Vegan Lifestyle. Vegan left me B12 deficient and anemic. Sigh. When I gave it up, fish was not a gateway food, I slapped down some bacon and pork chops when I got done. I just could not handle Vegan.
Being a critical thinker and a food and diet tinker-er, I think that there is likely a point of compromise somewhere in all of this. Paleo seems to hit the nail on the head for me with the inclusion of healthy fats, a few 2-3 reasonable servings of protein (not an entire side of beef) each day, and lots of fresh veggies, fruits, and the ‘slower’ uptake carbs (potatoes, some flours, and oatmeal for me).
Sadly, now I’m worried about the abuse of monkeys who are used to harvest coconuts. Oy.
As a conservative thinker I believe that we each have an accountability for leaving the planet in at least a habitable state. Yet, when I teach one chapter on sustainability to my students, I realize that we’ve outgrown the planet–and that’s with me and about 25 students laying out a sustainability footprint as one person.
I know, I know, sustainability footprint calculators have their issues as well.
Anyhow, I appreciate your thoughts.
Thanks Rob. As always, your analysis was on point snd extremely thorough. As a physician myself, I know your science is on the money. Many years ago, your book changed the way I eat forever and my health has improved no end. Thanks for all your hard work in this field, it is greatly appreciated!
Renee bartlett says
Great review … thank you for taking the time to critically review this documentary. I have lots of referrals to watch it and now can do so critically (also didn’t realize it was another vegan documentary which leads me to not want to watch it)
When I disagree with things or feel like something is wrong I look into the they side, which is exactly what critical thinking is. In order to be a critical thinker you need to be open to the opposing sides. Please lay your biases aside when it comes to eating animals and their secretions. Please watch What the Health and though dear may arise don’t worry too much, just try to make a difference! We all can with our dollar bills! (:
Jesus. Please collect your thoughts before you decide to spray us with your word salad next time.
Morris Howard Kulmer says
Thought provoking for sure, genetics seem to play a big part. Microbiotics is a very healthy life style but boring and misses out on the many fantastic plant based and meat based nutritious food choices. I am for moderation in most all things but like to get out on the fringe from time to time. Life’s short so eat your dessert first!
Yes, in fact I helped support another film based on the same lines (The Perfect Human Diet). It had good info but lacked the pizazz needed to attract an audience outside the paleo crowd.
Christy Faucheux says
I liked that film. Thanks for that. I hope someone wants to make another good film that make it as big as these vegan films.
Amanda M (@mommygorun) says
Where can I find this film?
It’s on Netflix
Ed Wilson says
Film can be purchased for $9.99 from “Whatthehealthfilm.com.”
Barley Donahue says
It’s on Netflix
Jennifer Perez says
Also, I’m married to a film composer and I’m sure he’d love to provide some killer music if you make this film!!!
Yes. Thank you for the article.
Yes. And yes. (Husband shouting from couch)
Katie G says
Yes. Excellent review, as is everything you do, Robb! Thanks for being brave!
Yes! And, I for one would be very, very happy if you were on the radar of the cranky vegans. I frankly count on you to help educate the world regarding best practices – food, lifestyle and ‘saving the world’ wise. They like to believe that meat-eaters are mindlessly following the CAFO-eater masses. They’re wrong. There are folks out here who know what we are doing and are living robust, thoughtful lives. As an ex-vegan, I can honestly report that the events that I went to hosted by vegans and vegetarians vs the ancestral and paleo folks are striking in their differences. The vegans were pretentious and not friendly in the slightest; the ancestral and paleo folks are radiant, friendly, fun and intelligent. With your help, the record will be set straight.
Hi Marty. I have followed a vegan diet for six years, but I still consider myself a fun guy to hang out with. Like anyone with strong views (whether it be veganism, religion, etc), I agree that people can be so caught up in their beliefs, they become insufferable. If you are ever in Eastern Canada, we can have a beer!
Robb Wolf says
I’ll take you up on that if the offer is extended.
that is quite the generalization saying that “The vegans were pretentious and not friendly in the slightest”. The politics of diet are not pretty, just like politics in general. There are plenty of meat eaters that aren’t friendly either. being vegan (or your diet in general) should be looked at as an individual endeavor. It doesn’t need to become a fight but rather finding a lifestyle and making food choices that make YOU feel good and thrive. You wouldn’t judge another for playing a game that makes them happy, just as you shouldn’t judge them on the lifestyle they’ve found that makes them happy. Vegans are not a virus that you should be “on the radar” for. Eating a plant based diet fills you with micro nutrients while meat and dairy can leave you feeling bloated, lethargic, or tired. Maybe that doesn’t apply to all people, and of course it doesn’t. We’re all different. How do we expect people of different backgrounds and experiences to eat the same way as us. The most you can do it educate yourself as much as you can and make as educated choice on how you want to live your life. That said, you would hope others do the same to ensure the best life for themselves. There is no motive for vegans to try to “convert” meat eaters to their lifestyle if they didn’t think it would make them(the meat eaters) feel as good as themselves (the vegans). If you were unhappy with your life, why would you recommend it? If you are educated enough to make a thoughtful decision on how you want to live a fulfilling life, i think there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the people that mindlessly eat food just because it was artificially titled as “healthy”, that need to take another look at what they’re consuming and fueling their body with; whether that’s vegan or vegetarian or paleo, or whatever. I just think people should venture out, try new lifestyles, and not be so quick to judge people and what they eat with out having tried that diet before, because you won’t know the best thing for your body if you just stick to the standard american diet just because it’s “normal”.
Common sense indicates to me that eating meat cannot possible be as harmful as “What the Health” claims. I really needed this review to help me make sense of the movie. I haven’t finished the entire review or clicked through all the links yet but I will.
My only negative comment about this review is that the Vegans in my life are fabulous people and I endeavor to treat them with the kindness they treat the entire world. I hated that you started with a reference to militant vegans – I guess they must be out there but the vegans I spend time with are LOVELY people. At a vegan wedding just days ago we danced for hours and love and joy were in the air!
For a movie to compete with this one it will need to be straight forward and funny. It is certainly difficult to make a scientifically sound argument that is easy for the masses to take in quickly but we need to TRY hard to do it.
I like Lily’s response and would agree with her. Everyone should eat whatever they want if it continually ‘feeds’ them…no pun intended…but id does work! If one is healthy…no cancer, no health issues…then keep on doing what you are doing. If, however, there are health problems..it’s time to relook at lifestyle ways, which may or may not include food. however food is the biggest thing we consume…so it makes sense to start the changes there.
I agree with Margaret.
Julia Wilson says
I am not surprised the vegans behaved that way! They are in serious need of a tryptophan fix!
Absolutely, yes man!!!!
Christy Faucheux says
I would absolutely give $100, if not more. We NEED this. I cannot wrap my mind around being vegan. Most vegans I know don’t eat animals, but will consume massive amounts of sugar and flour. It blows my mind.
That is true, but I would say massive amounts of carbs. I eat a lot of unrefined carbs, but not a lot of simple sugars. Guilty when it comes to bread as well. That being said, I do a lot of long distance running, and that stuff is the fuel of my engine.
Unrefined carbs become simple sugars in the body. So you are just doing the refining internally. What is more frightening to me is the consumption of soy, which isn’t too good for humans and most is grown with the aid of glyphosates and petroleum, as are most non-organic grains. A high carb diet is filled with glyphosates(used as a desiccant) unless organic. I’ll take a pasture fed cow over a bowl of soy any day.
Erin Turner says
It would need to be great to penetrate the minds of those it needs to, but it’s possible – ‘Food inc’ changed my thinking dramatically.
Matthew Standridge says
Yes. Yes. All day long yes. I would donate way more than $100 if we’re serious about this.
BRENDA TSARDAKIS says
Yes, and thanks for the review, I’m happy to use your article as a rebuttle to all the people telling me to watch the movie (I did begrudgingly) but would love to send them back to watch your movie instead.
Bryan Ballart says
Very timely review as my husband and I watched this documentary in disbelief this weekend, and I was searching for a review from a Paleo/ancestral health approach. I don’t understand how documentaries like this one completely ignore how humans have lived and evolved over time. My “favorite” lines from the documentary (paraphrasing) were:
“Elephants, one of the strongest animals on earth, only eats plants.” Um, okay but the king of the jungle eats animals so…
“With a vegan diet and supplements, you will thrive!” HELLO the fact that you have to supplement negates everything you just said.
Thanks for the great facts oriented review! I just started Wired to Eat and I can’t get enough!
Life span of an Elephant : 70 to 80 years.
Life span of a Lion : 12- 15 years.
Robb Wolf says
Yes, and fruit flies are a matter of days, while some whale species may be in excess of 200. I know your implication is that plant eaters inherently live longer…this has absolutely no bering in any of what we are discussing. If you want to run with this, what is the average lifespans of chimps and gorillas relative to humans??? Oh…gee…
God some vegans are so fucking stupid. Hey LG did you even read the damn article?? Holy fuck. There really isn’t anything else you can say to ignorance like this.
How simply one forgets how similar we are to chimps and gorillas HAHAH
@Alexis: have you ever looked at the actual physical differences between other great apes and humans? Like the reversal of the ratio between small and large intestines? We’lol leave gorillas out of it, as they are much more distant relatives than chimpanzees. In chimpanzees, 1/3 of the total gut is small intestine, 2/3 is a very large sacculated caecum plus huge colon. In humans, it’s the other way around. This strongly suggests that chimpanzees can digest a heck of a lot more fibre than humans, as the caecum is a big alkaline fermentation vat. The marked extra length of the small intestine in humans strongly suggests that humans took a different evolutionary path, in which we became truly generalist feeders, equally capable of digesting plant and animal foods.
I’m an anthropologist who specializes in archaeology. There has never been a hominin species that was not omnivorous. I always think that too much credit is given to the big brain, and not enough to our amazing generalist gut – and our staggering ability to lay down fat. A very lean woman, at 18% body fat, carries 3 times as much fat as a female chimpanzee in prime breeding condition. A scrawny man down to 5% body fat is still twice as fat as a hunky male chimpanzee, running 1-2%. Our fat gives us high survival ability in lean times, better female fertility, and higher reproductive success than chimpanzees.
Even within our species (mostly sapiens, but with varying amounts of Neanderthal, Denisovan, and at least one Species X, which is thought to be Homo erectus), there is considerable variation. Although we may vary by less than 6% in gross genome, looking at SNPs shows that we have a million Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms. If you and I differ by only 1%, that is still 100,000 differences in our genes. Then there’s the messiness of gene copy numbers. Take Salivary Amylase 1: I might have only 6 copies, you might have over 30. I would have a tough time with starches (I am, in fact, hypoglycaemic), while you might thrive on grains. Which version of the ApoE gene do you have? Maybe you have a variant that limits your ability to process saturated fat; my variant might allow me to eat any amount of animal fat and maintain low cholesterol and very low triglycerides – which is indeed the case.
My ancestors over the last 300 years were lactase-persistent Northern Europeans, for whom dairy products and fish were staples, and Afrikaners, who relied very heavily on red meat and dairy products. There’s also a dash of KhoiSan. Over this period, children born with genes that did not fit them for a high-protein, high-fat diet, would probably have died at weaning.
In a population where the diet was starch or fruit heavy, with little access to animal foods past weaning, the reverse would have happened. Children with high requirements for protein, inability to synthesize DHA and EPA from ALA, and high zinc and iron requirements, would have died. The population’s genome would be skewed toward the plant end of the dietary spectrum.
There are very real biological differences between individuals even of the same birth family. A diet on which one child thrives might be less than optimal for a sibling.
I was very ill as a vegan. Yes, I was doing it properly! It was only when my body went Into a severely catabolic state and I had a battery of tests done that I found out that I’m hypoglycaemic. I also have low starch tolerance. All those whole grains and fruits I was eating were wrecking my metabolism. I’m highly sensitive to legumes, so the lentil rissoles, tofu, and beans, caused smashing migraines, IBS, and leaky gut. I was dangerously anaemic, and seriously deficient in vitamins A, D, and B12, and in several minerals. I had to have IV infusions of immunoglobins to get my immune system functioning again, plus painful intramuscular injections of iron and B12. It turns out that I don’t make much vitamin D, regardless of how many hours I spent each day under South African sun, or efficiently convert beta carotenoids to retinoids. But then, for many generations, my ancestors’ staple foods were rich in both. Genes can be lost with disuse. Many Inuit, for example, cannot produce sucrase. Fruit makes them as sick as milk makes those who don’t produce lactase.
Undeniably, some people thrive as vegans as long as they supplement wisely. Others thrive on paleo diets with no supplementation at all. There are people who eat nothing but raw meat and fat – and their health is provably excellent.
There’s really no point in comparing humans to chimpanzees. It makes more sense to compare sapiens genomes with really close relatives – Denisovans and Neanderthals. We were so closely related to them that we interbred.
Patrica Hetherington says
Supplementing is a completely different topic. Our soils are deficient = our food is deficient. We all must be supplementing
Charlene Ortiz says
Yes I would proudly donate! I just need to catch up on my car payments first.
The only supplement a well-planned vegan diet needs is Vit B12, and this is not because it is made by animals. It is not. It is made by bacteria. In ancestral times we all got enough Vit B12 just drinking out of streams or ripping a tuber out of the ground. Now, with food sanitisation practices, even meat eaters may be Vit B12 deficient and need supplements. In some animal husbandry practices, livestock are supplemented with Vit B12 so that the meat product actually contains Vit B12.
I would support a movie like that!
Thank you for this analysis and it really helps see the other side. I’ve been a big supporter of paleo for years and now I’m questioning…
I was hoping you would have got to this study that showed high fat, not high carb consumption acutely impairs endothelial function. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9036757
This is interesting for those of us who exercise yet fat not carbs limit this flexibility for 4+ hours. This looks bad to me but your thoughts?
Robb Wolf says
I touched on this in the article amigo, ALL meals cause a decrease in endothelial function.Their “high fat” meals were both high fat AND high carb…should this surprise anyone that this would be the worst of all worlds? This is a case for not having highly complex meals and also to do some degree fasting vs grazing. Always question, but before formulating a question, establish CONTEXT.
Austin Robinson says
I am in this field and there is evidence showing that exercise prevents the transient potential decrease in endothelial function. With that being said, if you are an exerciser, you are likely protected. There is thought that these transient decreases in FMD, but no one really knows yet. There is no longitudinal study indicating a potential decrease on FMD is predictive of heart attack, mortality, etc. Lastly the studies on lo get term effects of fat vs carbs on FMD do not show a negative effect of fat .
This study focused on eggs specifically. For what it’s worth, Dr Katz is huge proponent of plant based diets, so I really trust these data given they are the opposite of what he likely had hoped for.
Yep. Also a lot of the regenerative ag folks are more and more post-vegan and that group is growing. It should be a combined effort. I know the Carbon Underground folks if you’re interested.
Yes! I couldn’t agree more with your analysis of the pseudo documentary. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing the sheeple flock to lies, half truths and blatant terroristic agendas. I was once a vegan(while going through cancer treatment) and ended up in the hospital with severe malnutrition and other deficiencies. I had been following a strict vegan diet for years and often took advicer from a well-known vegan nutritionist (no names given?!) I learned to listen to my body, educated myself in my own nutritional needs (primarily paleo) and kicked the snot out of colorectal cancer! (Imagine! A vegan diagnosed colorectal cancer at the age of 39!!!) Thanks for opening eyes!
You weren’t vegan all your life. And cancer takes years to grow. YEARS.
Explain babies (0-12months old) with cancer… (from your theory of cancer needing years to grow)
Robb Wolf says
They will blame the meat eating mom…
Sarah M says
I would absolutely be willing to contribute to a film on this topic. I’m trained as an anthropologist and studied human evolution, the rise of agriculture and nutrition years ago as an undergraduate and have been concerned about misrepresentations about healthy diets and eating ever since. It’s little remembered that one of the first books talking about what is now called a Paleo diet was written in the early 1980s by a couple of female anthropologists who had worked with hunter-gatherer populations. Back then, writing about food and nutrition was seen to be as a “women’s topic” and it was not given much respect in the academic community.
Yes! I too went vegan for about 3 years. At first I lost weight and felt great. Now I realize it was from cutting out processed foods. After awhile I felt awful. My b-12 and D3 numbers were in the toilet. My digestion from all the raw food was horrible. I ended up with colon cancer. I’m clear now after surgery/Chemo but am healing myself with good quality meat and lots of bone broth. Vegan is not for everyone.
Guillermo Ruiz says
Yes! About time.
Thanks for the review. Maybe we can start by doing a kickstarter to buy you a bottle of “just for men”. I’m sure you grew some gray hairs after that epic review.
Robb Wolf says
More than a few!!
Yes and thank you for the review!
Ryan O'Connor says
Thank you so much for this! Working in the Keto idea and looking into diabetes as an optometrist this movie got me equally fired up. Thanks again, I really appreciate your work and time you took to write this.
Ryan O'Connor says
Thank you so much! Appreciate your work!
Boom roasted lol
Michael Scarn says
Now that’s funny.
Doris Baum says
Yes, I would definitely support a film highlighting regenerative agriculture in the context of Ancestral Health! Bring it!
Been a follower of your site since 2010. You do great work. At 57 I’m better than at 27. You are a part of this. So yes. I would help
Robb Wolf says
Ben Morgan says
YES YES YES!!!
Yes, yes, and yes.
And thank you for doing this despite the cross-hairs!
Yes and thanks for the great rebuttal points in the review. We need to feed the sustainable omnivore movement.
Yes! I will donate!
To regenerative Ag
Rob Arthur says
Brittany | Paleo Bee says
Yes, I would! Thanks for the thorough review!
Kate Edwards says
Im poor grad student so I couldn’t donate 50 but definitely donate 10 or 20
Robb Wolf says
More than generous, thank you!
Frank Matus says
I’m not a grad student, but I’m still poor. 😉 I’ll donate $10. Keep up the good work!
Hilda Labrada Gore says
Thanks for this insightful review. And, yes! I love the idea of a movie, Rob! I hope someone from the ancestral health movement picks up the vision and runs with it!
Derek Kearns says
Thanks for taking the time to write this! Great review! This is exactly what I needed!
YES! I would walk to your house from WV and hand deliver the money after that review!
Mandy McShera says
Me too lol
Yes. I believe educating people is a large piece of the solution to improving our national health epidemic. I certainly didn’t have nutritional information growing up and was obese until age 35. Now I try to pass on what I’ve learned to anyone who asks. I would be most happy to donate to this cause.
Mark Bousquet says
Yes, you can count me in!
Great breakdown of What the F**K? 😀
RYAN STUART CARROLL says
You have my email and my $100.
Mehmet Bugra Balaban says
Yes. Anything I can do Robb!
Yes. Thanks for the review and all your other work.
Allison Wojtowecz says
Absolutely yes. Not sure how much help I’d be, but I do have degrees in both kinesiology and acting as well as nutrition certifications and geek out as much as possible around this stuff. And I’m good at talking to/connecting people. If you need me, I’d love to help on the project., should it happens. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Thanks for the careful review. Yes, I would support a film along the lines you suggest.
I appreciate the detail and nuance in this review. Keep up the good work!
Robert Beverly says
YES!!! I would love to see this more than anything!
Would be happy to contribute, of course, and to hook the producers up with local farmers in my area who are doing exactly this kind of farming and land restoration. (There is no shortage of them!)
Yes, most definitely
Liked your review. You didn’t mention the people in the movie who were on multiple prescriptions and after a few weeks on a plant-based diet, were off meds and feeling better. Do you think it was the plant-based diet or they were over medicated to begin with?
Robb Wolf says
Judi- I did mention them as part of the “transformation” section. Undoubtedly this is an outgrowth of their basic diet change. I do not think veganism is optimum for most people, particularly over the long haul, but it is clearly much, much better than the diets that got these folks into their predicaments.
I noticed in the film the first ‘transformation’ woman references fasting and a plant-based diet. I believe the two transformation stories were from the TrueNorth Health Centre, which is for medically supervised extended fasts. My opinion is that the extended fasting and the resulting autophagy is actually the reason for the profound results, not the plant-based diet that follows the fast.
I’m acknowledge I am making this assessment based on limited details from the movie, but that was my take-away.
Robb Wolf says
That is a good catch and I wondered about that…but I was so burned out there at the end i could not muster the mojo to go further.
Stephen Z says
Plus try to get someone like Dr. Jason Fung (a board certified internist/nephrologist) to be your “diabetes expert” rather than someone like Neal Barnard ( a board certified psychiatrist) whose only real claim to expertise in internal medicine seems to be the performance biased based epidemiology research he has conducted.
Same thing with paleoanthropology…get people like Harvard professors like Daniel Lieberman and Richard Wrangham rather than an emergency room doctor like Milton Mills, who being a creationist, doesn’t even believe in evolution.
Heck you can remake the same exact film with the same exact structure just using different people talking about the same topics.
Though seems like in the vegan world, and it’s somewhat ironic given the appeal to authority, but the only thing that seems to qualify someone as an “expert” in any of this group’s films is that the so-called experts use the title ‘Dr” and are vegans. This was the same thing in Cowspiracy where the main talking head “Dr” Oppenlander is a dentist. Then again there’s nothing that disqualifies someone just because they’re a dentist (e.g Weston Price) . Though having some basis in actual objective science, rather than simple minded vegan dogma, certainly helps a lot.
Though then again what makes this quasi religion veganism so accessible is it simple mindedness. All that ails us in terms of our health the environment’s health is due to eating meat, so the simple cure is just “go vegan.” People are always looking for easy answers to more complex difficult problems.
Robb Wolf says
As a psychiatrist, I find it offensive that you think a psychiatrist could not know as much about nutrition as a nephrologist (Dr Fung, in this case). There is eg, a whole sub-specialty in psychiatry of nutrition and mental health.
I am also offended by your suggestion that a vegan diet is an easy option and simple-minded. What, more simple-minded than doing what you have always done, just eating meat, dairy and eggs, without thought to the cruelty of this practice or the ravaging of the planet?
Do not invoke ‘ethical omnivorism’ as a response as others have done. Whether the cow is ‘humanely’ raised on a family farm, almost as a pet, or whether it has spent most of its life in a CAFO, it ends up in the same place, dead from having its throat cut.
Not eating the animals that died in the production of your food does not make them any less dead. The mice, snakes, and birds – among other taxa – killed by machinery, poisons, and flame-throwers don’t die peacefully and painlessly. There are no angels guarding special plants supernaturally destined for vegan plates.
The horrid truth is that producing food for humans always involves the death of non-human animals. It may be indirect, like habitat destruction and water diversion, or direct – the already-mentioned cultivation practices, or by deliberate slaughter for meat. Whether or not you stick your knife and fork into their corpses, they died so you can eat.
The thing is, death is an inextricably tied in part of life. Nature is basically a big recycling machine. We are made up of the same atoms that were stars billions of years ago, and they probably made up countless other things in between. Animals, plants, bacteria, etc are all dying and feeding on each other constantly. Death is unavoidable, and we are not magical exceptions from nature that can think we are above it all.
Yes. I can’t break stuff down like you Robb but I can smell crap from a long ways away lol. I would support a film that is well done showing how well sourced meat and healthy fats increase health and longevity!!
Amanda Dollison says
Thank you so much for going into detail and using actual SCIENCE to explain/support your points. I watched this documentary and was enraged the whole time. He thinks he is really proving his point and sticking it to the man by asking front desk receptionists and hotline operators the “hard hitting questions”. I think this guy skipped 7th grade science class when we learned about the scientific method and how accurate data is actually obtained.
Thanks Robb. Would absolutely contribute/donate to such a project. We might not have the organized community of the vegan crowd but I’m guessing that if someone with the necessary skills came forward, the backing would absolutely follow.
100% yes. Thanks for your well thought out (and courageous! ) review. I’ve seen quite a few Paleo bloggers berated by vegans lately. As a RD, I appreciate you doing what you do–it takes a village to spread the ancestral health message!
Aye. Put me down for $100.
Yes! Great work Robb.
Kip, really is my name – not a play on the guy who made the film. Thanks for
posting this. I just watched this with my wife this weekend and I struggled with so much of it. I’d throw in $150 to make an alternative film.
YES!!! Please DO it we need it…these vegan films are so confusing and I hate to accept that they are very convincing I even thought about turning vegan after I saw the film! … But when I realized the experts in the film where all vegan I knew there was something fishy.
You gonna make a documentary?
I’m not going to tell you to not let the crazies bother you because I have no idea what it is like to be in the crosshairs of any militant. All I can say to you is: “Thank you, Robb!”
You’ve changed the health and lives of many, many people. You’ve changed mine. Reading your words and listening to your podcasts have clarified much confusion about how to stay healthy and off meds as I sit on the cusp of closing 6 decades of life, looking forward to vibrant health for another 2, 3, dare I wish for 4? It is my hope that the words of gratitude and encouragement from your fans lift your heart.
This world needs folks with open minds and kind hearts. Why should we beat each other up over what’s on our plates? Total waste of energy and time.
Kevin Watts says
Yes, i’d absolutely donate to the cause Robb!
Without a doubt, YES.
Matthew Gross says
Jacob J Marty says
Thanks to you and the rest of this community my health has improved dramatically since 2013.
I’d definitely support a movie!
Yes and thank you for all you do.
Thanks for everything you do.
I owe my better digestive health to all the information you provide.
Colby Helgerson says
Yes. So much Yes!!
Yes! It’s badly needed!
Thank you for saying what my brain cannot and for explaining confusing research. I appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge, so so much. I will be sharing this with some nurses at work who will be nurse practitioners soon. I attempted to kindly debate this film with them-but I just can’t seem to verbalized what I have learned. I don’t want medical practitioners passing the info of one documentary on to patients who listen without doing their own investigating. Then they end up in the recovery room where I work, sad and defeated and in pain. It’s heart breaking and frustrating! Again, thank you for the value you bring to the world.
Brad Hirakawa says
David Casey says
A friend of mine showed me this in response to my recent decision to go vegan after watching ‘What The Health’. After reading it, here was my response to him:
Great read. I recognized when I watched it that quite a lot of the claims made were hyperbole, overstated, rested on a false premise or equivalence, or were simply inconsistent with the best science we have. Many half-truth claims were regurgitated again and again with little regard for what the nuance of the whole truth. I get it – and I saw it and the very clear agenda when I watched it. Even recognizing this though, I had a visceral reaction to this documentary. Which apparently is pretty common – meaning they did a good job pushing their viewpoint, even if intelligent viewers realized their agenda and their sometimes weak arguments and weak science on some specifics. As the author writes:
“This is a slick process overall. What the Health starts off with a fairly credible position (in most people’s eyes) of raising the question of the safety of processed meats and red meat in particular. Lots of people buy that, even if they still eat them. Then chicken, eggs, and dairy are thrown in, all with the same specious claims of cancer, CVD, and diabetes being solely due to the consumption of animal products.”
In general, my main overall gripe against this movie is that there is a lot of nuance and unpacking to get the full picture that just isn’t included, and flat-out ignored because it isn’t in line with their agenda. There is a lot of mixing up of correlation and causation.
That said, this documentary made me ‘wake up’ and take a real hard look at what I was eating – which is always a good thing. I switched to a mostly vegan diet in the last few days since I watched it and I think I’ll continue to closely watch what I’m putting in my body from now on, though I doubt I’ll ever go full vegan since I’m not a zealot by nature about anything. I think if we can respect the fact that the filmmakers had a clear agenda and get past that and its obvious effects on the way they present some of their information we can see a clearer takeaway that industrial agriculture is seriously fucked up and take a second look at our food consumption habits.
Robb Wolf says
David: Outstanding! I am glad you had both a positive experience with the movie AND saw the limitations of the messaging and tactics. Thank you for the lengthy response, this is fantastic and I wish you well on your health journey.
Mark Littlewood says
It is false to say that because meat consumption had increased and heart disease has fallen then citing meat as a contributing factor is crazy. It could well be that if people had reduced tobacco and meat then HD would have fallen further, the tobacco drop has trumped the meat increase in other words. Also processed meat contributes to HD, yes they used relative risk but do you really want to eat processed meat if it increases HD by 1%, why would you ?. The only diet proven to have reversed HD is a whole food plant based diet (Ornish and Esseltyn), while we are debating whether meat should or should not be ruled out I suggest hedging your bets and eating WFPB.
I would also with respect suggest that the likes of Kresser and Zoe Harcombe are not buying factory farmed, anti biotic pumped supermarket meat but for the majority that is the only economic option other then WFPB
Robb Wolf says
Mark- No, a ketogenic diet has shown the same CVD reversal as some of the ornish like programs, which are themselves a comprehensive lifestyle intervention, which calls into question if it was the diet, the lifestyle or the combination. You clearly did not read my piece very well as I made exactly the point that you did, but provided the context of although people eat, in general, less meat, they eat more chicken, although ALL of these consumption levels have generally decreased since the 80’s. Finally, you STILL clearly do not understand the limitations of correlation studies nor what the absolute risk story is here. As I said in the piece, due to the nature of the food frequency questionnaires there is more noise than signal in all of this, yet people like you and the filmmaker are presenting it as if it were as solid as plate tectonics or electromagnetic theory. Again, i fleshed all of this out in the original piece, how on earth did you miss this? Finally, if we assume ther IS something to the absolute vs relative risk, here are the exact details of that: Someone who does not eat meat has a 5% risk of colon cancer. Someone who eats processed meat, every day of their lives has a risk of 6% (according to the already suspicious correlational data). Those are the facts. You can learn the science to a sufficient degree to understand this on your own, or continue to live in the dark. that you’d defend the use of dodgy statistical manipulation like presenting the 5 vs 6% risk as the 20% cited in the film is telling. This is what religious zealots do. they claim the earth is 6,000 years old and do their damnedest to ignore any information which calls their religion into question.
Mark Littlewood says
Robb If I am guiilty of not reading your piece you are certainly guilty of not reading my reply. I acknowledged that 5 v 6%
Mark Littlewood says
If I am guilty of not reading your iece properly then you are certainly guilty of not reading my reply. I stated that 5 v 6% was a more accurate representation but why take the extra 1% risk ?. Why are you accusing me of not understanding this?. I agree that Ketogenic diets are a useful tool, I eat close to that myself. Furthermore yes I do understand the limitation of correlation studies, I am a data scientist. My point is made however from a pragmatic point of view. While we pontificate about the fact that correlation does not mean causation and we tap out fingers waiting for the impossible double blind placebo controlled food trial, people out there need to make a choice based on the best evidence we have even if its not perfect. The evidence is that no one has popped up and said that a WFPD is bad for you, even a hard nosed paleo enthusiast would have difficulty whereas the debate seems to be whether meat and dairy is good or bad. So what should one do ?, I would suggest go WFPB until you guys sort this out and one of you wins the debate.
Robb Wolf says
Mark- Apologies if I misread/misrepresented what you said. I will argue that there is sufficient evidence that at least meat, fish etc is “safe.” I place dairy in a bit of a grey area, which as I said in my original piece, is where paleo/vegan have significant overlap.
Yes. I watched this last night and went to bed with all sort of trepidation and lack of sleep. I was really pleased to see your review this morning. Keep fighting the good fight!
Jenna Osborne says
From New Zealand, yes! And thanks for the phenomenal review 🙂
YES! Absolutely. And thank you for the amazing amount of work you put into this review.
Amanda Atkins says
I’m a film producer – ! and a diabetic controlled by diet only – LCHF
Garden Corresoondent says
Yes – in a heartbeat! Thanks for taking the time to respond to this film so thoroughly – now off to check out the FTCLDF…
DL Griffin says
I’m new to this whole arena of conversation…what does FTCLDF or LCHF stand for? Thanks for your help
Robb Wolf says
Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund
Low Carbohydrate High Fat
Yes, absolutely! I’ve been excited to see this trend evolve from the whole Paleo 2.0 a couple years ago, and I hope it continues to gain traction! Keep up the great work.
zoe harcombe says
Yes! Great review – thanks so much for saving me and so many other from having to watch this propaganda 🙂
Stephen Z says
Zoe, please make that sacrifice. The more content out there correcting this nonsense, the better
Dean Edwards says
Yes. Great review.
Tim Blakey says
And thanks again. ✌🏽 love your work
Philip Doran says
YES YES YES
Paul Travis says
Yes! – excellent review btw.
Evan Scholten says
Stephen Nicolaou says
Yes. I’m in. Send me the kickstater link and let’s get this thing done. Netflix is all about veganism and juicing. We need to teach people how to eat again.
No! You come across as prejudiced against vegans and rather condescending to those who question your beliefs. Best to keep an open mind amigo and not be blinkered by professional training.
Robb Wolf says
Thanks for that Bill. Can you please comment about the scientific inaccuracies in the film?
When I heard Dr. Neil Barnard say that diabetes was never caused by eating sugar I couldn’t pick up my jaw that hit the floor. Yet we have doctors such as Dr. Jason Fung (who’d be great to interview btw, as he doesn’t mince words) are able to reverse T2D completely in a matter of a couple weeks because they understand the effect that refined carbs have on insulin resistance.
Stephen Z says
Dr. Fung is a board certified internist. His specialty is nephrology (kidneys). Whereas Barnard is a board certified psychiatrist, not a board certified internist. Barnard’s not a nephrologist or endocrinologist. The basis for Barnard’s so-called expertise are the numerous performance biased epistemological studies Barnard has done to support his confirmation bias.
What was most striking in this mockumentary was that Barnard, the so-called “diabetes expert” didn’t even seem to understand how the human liver works, specifically in regards to fatty acid synthesis (de novo lipogenesis) which converts excess carbs into saturated fats.
Never seizes to amaze me how people like Noakes can be put on trial in South Africa, while unqualified fools like barnard can pretty much say whatever falsehood they damn well please.
Amen to everything.
I believe Dr Barnad has board certification in both psychiatry and internal medicine.
It is true that carbs CAN be converted to fat but this is a very uncommon process. De novo lipogenesis only occurs in the presence of markedly excessive caloric intake. Pretty well all of the carbs we eat are used for energy or else stored as glycogen in the liver or muscles.
Matt Wilkins says
Mandy McShera says
Yes… i wiuld love a Paleo film lived this way for 6 years helped family members reverse their high blood pressure, pre diabetes mental health issues and my own gastritis IBS etc have my own page on facebook Paleo Primal Uk just trying to spread the message.
I also contributed to Cerial Killer, and I find your proposal of making a movie based on regenerative agriculture and ancestral health so much more important! I have been so frustrated by the vegan agenda hijacking the environmental issues. Just yesterday I had an hours-long discussion with my nephew, who is studying for his master’s in ecology, and is vegan purely out of environmental concerns – believing this is the only solution. He even told me how shocked his vegan friends were when he told them that one day he might have his own chickens for eggs and meat. He thinks that people who want to eat meat should have to kill it themselves. (!) But since this is not really possible, the only solution is to be a vegan. He had never heard of holistic management/grazing, and was absolutely sure it would not work in a country with as little available land as in the Netherlands, where he lives.
We need your kind of movie.
Also, thank you so much for this write-up!
Audrey Drake says
Maybe the reason why the responsible omnivore movement hasn’t seen the impetus to making a film such as this (other than our love for getting abs) is that, rationally, we cannot be bothered because we are too busy not being crazy…and I would submit that the level of crazy I am talking about has a lot to do with basic nutrient imbalances due to omitting some fairly important amino acids and omegas out of the diet?
Robb Wolf says
All good points, but we can no long let these people have free run.
Yes. Go for it.
I would definitely help and ask other people to help donate for you to make a movie!
Absolutely yes! Love that you took the time to write this. I wanted to Luke the what the health documentary for calling out certain things but they left out SO MUCH! Selective bias is absolutely correct. And not to mention so much false information… Would love to see an ethically made documentary on food.
Geri Newell says
Hi Brian, I actually found your site exactly because I was searching for a review of this movie and I thank you for it.
Yes, I would donate as much as I can.
The issue with the most optimal human diet has been a crux for a long time for me. I’ve been a vegetarian, then vegan (only a year) but never felt optimal during those times. I am still trying to figure this out for myself and now your side provides an amazing source – thank you for this too.
Yes yes yes!!! I am obsessed with documentaries and thoroughly enjoyed your review. It was so hard to sit through the documentary, cringing the entire time. We need “grey” documentaries! Not black/white
Tom Denton says
YES! Thanks for this, Robb.
Side note – if your comment box is placed above the actual comments section, you’ll probably get more response on stuff. Humans (Me) are so lazy – I’m passionate about this stuff and I almost didn’t scroll ALL THE WAY 🙄 down to add my YES. (Using mobile version btw)
The trick will be in what constitutes a ‘good movie.’ Production would have to be done in a way that gives balanced and objective view of science so doesn’t fall prey to reciprocal criticisms of cherry-picking and bias. You will know better, but I would guess this is harder than it looks. The old adage of it taking 100x the effort to refute BS than to produce it feels like it will apply.
Robb Wolf says
I agree, i do not want a repeat of crap like this, only with a paleo/LC slant.
Dave Feldman says
I genuinely think both can be achieved. Indeed, I think it will make it a much better movie.
Concede that *all* diets reducing processed, hyperpalatable improves health directly. But likewise, point out how this is often used to set up a false dichotomy on food activist films.
In doing so, you’re setting up a much more effective, objective position to bring the science to the specificity of this diet.
Dave Sill says
I haven’t seen What The Health but it sounds like it’s pretty compelling. If we could present our case similarly without resorting to the tactics they used, that would be great. We also want to avoid falling into the trap that thinking that presenting facts is compelling or that being fact-based will allow us to “win” the argument.
Robb Wolf says
Great points and that is something to take from WTH: they rely heavily on the emotional content to anchor the “facts.”
Oh Yes Yes Yes ! 😃
Marcy Grote says
Thanks for exposing the garbage that flows around us every day.
Great article, confirmed a lot of what I was thinking when I watched it. My only (minor) thing is I think advocates of a paleo diet are a little hypocritical when decrying and lambasting veganism as an over-zealous religion and identity.
Robb Wolf says
Jon- I do not recall ANY paleo centric people firebombing folks houses. Yes, the newly converted can be annoying, but please.
Meghan Dorman says
Yes. Absolutely. I’m in for donating and helping in any way with PR/communications to facilitate crowd-funding efforts.
Deborah Gordon says
You have the patience of a saint (my eyes glazed over after I read “vegan” for the 10th time in your review) and the insight and clarity of an expert.
And yes, yes, yes!
Robb Wolf says
You need to convince my wife of that! Honestly though, The film is so compelling it really needed a thorough accounting to folks who are confused ahve some frame of reference.
Thank-you so much for your review, and the time I’m sure it took to site all of the documentation that you put together. Unlike others I did read all of your blog. I must be honest I have never heard of you (no disrespect) but I did watch “What The Health” last night and it scared the heck out of me. Partly because I just bought some low sodium ham for sandwiches, that I was now afraid to eat along with the cheese lol. So today I was looking online for the counter point to the film, and there you were.
It is difficult to know what to believe, as far as health and eating anymore, because every few weeks someone claims to have the magic bullet, or now something is going to kill you, or is good for you.
I wholeheartedly agree that we should not be pumping all of these antibiotics and hormones into the animals we consume because, WE NOW HAVE A GREATER POTENTIAL EPODEMIC OF BUG RESISTANT DESIESE, THAT WILL BE GAME CHANGER TO HEALTHCARE ALL OVER THE WORLD.
Having traveled and worked in a lot of third world countries, it is interesting to me that the people that seem to have the largest ethical problem with killing and eating animals, have the luxury to do so. If I ask someone in a poor country if they have an ethical problem eating anything, if they are malnourished they would say no; science or no science. Same goes with cheese if you are fortunate enough to have a cow or a goat, you can eat that animal once but you can drink the milk, and eat the cheese over and over again. I have yet to see any harmful effects. I however have no scientific proof.
So now let the negative comments begin…because I’m sure someone will have a problem with this fact.
The comment- Elephants live 70-80 years and large cats live 12-15
If you are making the leap for a vegetable based diet accounting for that, how do you account for the people that feed their dogs, dog food, and other people feeding their carnivore dogs, vegetarian diets? Both dogs have the life span of a dog.
I am dyslexic something I was born with, and am pretty sure it had nothing to do with how much or how little meat my mother ate, or milk she drank, or cheese she ate.
And yes I would donate 🙂
If i wasnt struggling to pay for my food and rent, i’d support you with what i have left over! My exact thought after watching this “movie” was that we need someone to make a proper informative documentary based off of facts, experience and ..common sense. Not quackery.
Robb Wolf says
Mo, this is support enough. Just the fact folks care and are generally willing to help. I’ll be honest, i’ve been blown away by what the outpouring has been.
Yes!! This is so important. Thanks Robb.
Adele Hite says
Yes, with caveats.
I want a documentary about ancestral approaches to food & health and regenerative agriculture that:
–notes the problems in nutrition science methodology that make diet-chronic disease relationships impossible to establish on a cause-effect level
–addresses the politics evenly (there are politics on both sides) and acknowledges the power relations inherent in telling other folks how to eat
–indicates that the best diet for any given individual varies from person to person and may vary within the same individual over time
–points to acquiring adequate nutrition as the primary reason for dietary guidance and respects all of the other cultural, economic and social aspects of food
–recognizes that along with dietary practices, agricultural practices–including how we raise animals for food–might vary with varying circumstances; there is also not “one farm to rule them all”: the goal is providing the humans who rely on those agricultural practices with long-term, equitable access to foods that nourish them, their traditions, and their communities
–when it must advocate, advocates for things that regular folks–not just a highly committed elite–can do
Robb Wolf says
I nominate you to the production/board of directors!!!
Stephen Z says
Geez, though I agree 100% with everything you wrote…The effectiveness of films like Cowspiracy, What the Health, and propaganda in general is that they appeal to the least common denominator with a very simple message that “even a vegan” can understand. People want simple answers to more complex problems. Simple answers are also much easier to convey (and nowadays go viral).
Once you get into too much nuance, and deal with too many issues, you lose a large part of the audience. That’s what makes a “balanced” response much more difficult. You have to really break everything down to a “meme” level of understanding and then provide more detail with some nuance to keep people engaged.
Robb Wolf says
Well put and too true.
Dave Feldman says
I think Adele makes some incredibly salient points. But Stephen likewise points to the importance of a concise and repeatable message.
I’m sometimes dinged on my own verbosity in trying to get a lot of “nutrient-dense” info across in a presentation or conversation. But often I find I need to simplify it much more for laypeople and put more effort in the wording that will get across the idea in a cleaner, easier-to-remember sentence or two.
Hi there, saw your comment and couldn’t help but think of a film made by Michael Pollan called. “In Defense of Food”, and another four-part documentary series that he has available on Netflix called, “Cooked”. He touches on a lot of things that you mentioned above! Great watches.
Angelica, I came across your comment and want to thank you so much for those recommendations. I watched the first episode of Cooked and loved it. It actually made me emotional. I’m in the process of exploring my own relationship with food- especially meat- and this touched on so many things that speak to my inner truth. Thanks again for the recommendations. It was everything I needed to see and hear!
Count me in!
I’ve been reading your stuff for a long time, Rob (since 2010). You’re always super well grounded in research and you’re not afraid to evolve your POV as more information becomes available. I’d absolutely support a project you were behind. Thanks for being brave.
Robb Wolf says
Thank you Louise! both for the kind words and the support.
Yes! I would support this project.
Yes!! Our country needs to hear the other side. I’m so frustrated people are buying into this movie (What the Health).
Heather primeau says
Yes! Humans deserve to know the science and the truth.
Carlyn Davies says
Yes! I’m so tired and confused with all the misinformation. Thank you for the review.
Hell Yes Robb! Love that you are willing to share your knowledge and passion with all of us! Keep on keeping on! Proud that you live with us here in Reno. 🙂
Yes!!! Thanks Robb for sharing your knowledge and passion with all of us! Keep on keeping on! 🙂
Yes, for sure.
Hell Yes! Let’s make a movie!
Nora Jaramillo says
Yes! ethical omnivores rock
Erik Rokisky says
Yes , I would support it. Thank you for this review.
Carleen Cuevas says
Sydney Shank says
Yes! Great review!
Marty Kendall says
definitely yes. sounds like you might have a documentary project on your hands! another thing I would love to see is the nutritional implications of pursuing and extreme plant only versus animal only approach. though the science needs some development, I think optimal lies somewhere between the extremes.
Robb Wolf says
Marty, you my friend will be in this thing talking nutrient density (If i have any say in the matter).
David Casebeer says
Yes! I could find more than $100 for that project.
Thank you for taking the time to review. My hubby is vegetarian and even he thought film was nonsense.
Harry Piuze says
Yes but… as I learned with my last Road…euhhh…badtrip to paleo f(x) my 50$ Canadian must be like 5$US but it’s better than nothing.
Robb Wolf says
It all helps!
I don’t consider myself to be an “ethical omnivore” although I do try to make conscientious decisions and purchase more ethical versions of meat when my budget allows.
I found your article when I first started watching What the Health (at the urging of my friend who changed her entire diet because of this film) because from minute one I could tell it was another Vegan scare piece.
Despite not being vegan or an actual “ethical omnivore” I would fully support that film because there needs to be more voices in the media to counteract all of the “scare tactic” vegan films.
There’s nothing ethical about eating animal products. That’s something people made up so they don’t have to feel bad about being selfish. It’s totally fine to choose whatever eating habit you believe in, but that phrase is BS. Call it what it is. The phrase is an oxymoron. It’s like saying “polite polluter….who only pollutes in certain areas” WTF. Don’t sugar coat it.
Robb Wolf says
THAT is an opinion. Some people think there is nothing ethical about birth control, others know that it limits the population and unwanted pregnancies. What is becoming every more clear is some people (like you) are comfortable not just foisting your ideology on folks, but will work to change things at institutional and governmental levels to push your agenda. What this film did is provide the seed crystal for an ethical omnivore movement. You can dislike that, but it’s coming and the science is on our side, both from the health and sustainability perspectives
Robb, unfortunately it is a fact. Not only is it a fact, but you deflect from it by pointing to birth control, a completely unrelated issue.
First, let’s determine if animal moral value follows logically from your world view. I’m going to assume you believe humans have moral value. This is bootstrapping ethics for humans. Someone else can choose to bootstrap ethics for animals, and to reject their bootstrapping of animal ethics without simultaneously rejecting your own bootstrapping of human ethics, you need to use an argument which will only apply to animals in practice, but which in principle is consistent, because it would work for humans if it were applicable to them.
If you reject the argument once applied to humans, then within your world view, that argument per say, meaning by itself, is not valid.
There is no trait absent in animals which, if absent in humans, would cause us to deem ourselves valueless.
Therefore, without establishing the absence of such a trait in animals, we contradict ourselves by deeming animals valueless.
With this realization, animals now have moral value. There is no trait absent in animals which, if absent in humans, would cause us to consider anything short of non-exploitation to be an adequate expression of respect for human moral value.
Without establishing the absence of such a trait in animals, we contradict ourselves by considering anything short of non-exploitation (veganism) to be an adequate expression of respect for animal moral value.
Veganism is not a religion. It is philosophy founded in logical consistency.
Robb Wolf says
this is honestly one of if not THE most thought provoking and compelling arguments I’ve received on this topic. May I email you directly to talk more?
I would absolutely be happy to speak with you more on this subject. I apologize for the late response, life has been busy!
Robb Wolf says
I’ll circle back soon!
Jonathon Sullivan says
Yes yes and yes
João Z says
Big Yes from Portugal 🙂
João I'm says
I’m also a musician sound designer and sound engineer, and would love to give my contribution that way.
Yes! I’d donate $100 in an instant to support a film that speaks the truth of ethical omnivorism and regenerative agriculture! A friend recently asked me if I knew of a film that debunked the vegan propaganda films of late. Seems her teenage son’s girlfriend cannot wait to get out of her house so she can become vegan. I nominate Lierre Keith to be the Executive Producer!
He missed the mark of the documentary. The documentary was not created to entice a battle between “vegan diet vs. “x-diet””. “What The Health” is a follow-up to “Cowspiracy”, so of course it is coming from a vegan perspective. Robb Wolf tries to make this into a “vegan vs. low-carb” diet, however. The film showcases researchers, nutritionists, and doctors who have discovered strong evidence through research and clinical practice that a vegan diet causes remarkable outcomes when it comes to preventing and reversing disease, as well as the economic and environmental benefits of the diet. Robb Wolf wants to create a battle between his preferred diet (LCHF) and a vegan diet, which is not what this documentary is about. The purpose of this documentary was to highlight the collusion and corruption of the government and major corporations and how and why they are keeping us sick. There is nothing controversial about a vegan diet. Who can argue that a diet of mostly whole fruits and vegetables (which is promoted in this documentary) is detrimental to our health? Robb Wolff is barking up the wrong tree and doesn’t deserve any sort of rebuttal. What he needs to do is create his own documentary showing how a low carb diet can reverse major health conditions, lower health care costs, save the environment, and prevent the needless deaths of billions and billions of innocent animals.
Robb Wolf says
Thanks Barry, I’m working on it.
Stephen Z says
Someone has drunk too much KoolAid, since so much of the so-called “research” shared in the film was BS used to fearmonger to gain converts.
If the point of the movie was to point out the corruption of the government and big ag/big pharmacy then why would a vegan diet even need to be mentioned? That was not THE point of the movie but another mechanism to get more people roped in. The ironic thing is, as Robb pointed out several times, many of these concepts are agreed upon between the ancestral health world and the vegan world. However, vegans bring much more emotion into the picture along with extreme tactics and refuse to see evidence that you can have health eating animal products.
Have fun with your soy man titties Barry
Said the guy who drinks estrogen…from female…bovine.
I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU BARRY – THIS FILM HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BECOMING A VEGAN OR VEGAN VS ANYTHING. ITS THE FOOD/DRUG INDUSTRIES AGAINST THE CONSUMER. Mr. Wolf’s assessment of this film is “fluff” – who cares what you think? You should spend more time caring more about people overall – with regards to just being HEALTHY.. and how corrupt the food industry is – period. And, no, I’m not a vegan – I eat my chicken and beef once in a while… but am more disgusted by the CORRUPTNESS. FOCUS MORE ON THAT, MR. WOLF, AND LESS ON PICKING A FIGHT with the good guys who have no choice but to try and inform the public what has been hidden for years…. WHY DO YOU THINK CANCER HAS RISEN OVER THE LAST 20 YEARS??? WITH ALL THE RESEARCH AND FUNDRAISERS… WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE ARE STILL SICK? My uncle, who ate, low carb diet, ran 5 miles every morning, had steaks, bacon, eggs almost every other day of his life… yet for some strange reason – despite the fact that he appeared physically fit — developed Throat / esophageal cancer….. and passed 2 years ago. People were shocked — he never drank nor smoked and could bench press double his weight… my point is,,,, he was a strong man… but his diet – now it seems, had everything to do with his cancer. Why cant we all just stick together ….
Robb Wolf says
Rebecca- The financial and economic underpinning of the SICK-care system which we are all largely trapped is at the center of my work, if you do a bit of investigating you can find those details easily. What both you and Barry appear to have missed is a massive amount of inaccuracies have been presented as fact via this film.
That is a problem for several reasons, not the least of which if if the big food, pharma etc wanted to discredit all elements of the movie, they need only point out the glaring factual omissions. Then, they can just wave everything else all away. I mentioned time and again where I absolutely DID agree with the film, and this was largely pertaining to the very issues you raised.So, if you want to actually have a platform to do the things you are suggesting, one must have a message grounded in good science, not vegan propoganda. By committing the lies by omission that Kip has done here he has undermined the messages that really does matter.
Well said Barry!
Yes yes yes!
Mike G says
YES! I will donate to the movie.
Yes dude yes! Give the Mind Pump guys a cameo!
Thanks for the review!
I would absolutely donate $100. I find the lack of representation in the health community appalling, as if being a vegan or living on bologna and hot dogs are the only choices we have.
Robb Wolf says
Mike Cheliak says
WOW! DUDE! You put a tonne of work into that review. Thanks a bunch for the time you dedicated to that and for the work you do! I truly appreciate you!
Nailed it Robb!!!
Steffany Pel says
Thanks for taking the time to review the What the Health movie. I have actually not finished watching it yet, but was sharing it a little with my friend, who is def. omnivore, and her daughter went vegan after watching the WTH movie about a month ago. The claims in the movie about eggs and meat causing diabetes were alarming, as we raise our own chickens, and i eat eggs every day. I would support you if you made a balanced movie with the TRUTH scientifically backed by modern studies supporting a healthy diet for all mankind. It is so confusing these days with all the personal agendas out there to know what is the right thing to do/say/eat.
Yes! And I just joined the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Thanks for the recommendation.
Robb Wolf says
Kim Ainsworth says
I’m a Stanford trained M.D. in Maryland…..an internist with additional board certifications as a lipidologist and hypertension specialist. I have an advantage……I do bloodwork on everyone!!…..sophisticated biomarkers of cardiac risk including insulin levels etc…and see major advantages to lower carbohydrate eating whether Paleo-esque or even nutritional ketosis.
Robb Wolf says
Lou- thanks for this, our clinic here in Reno appears to be on a similar track.
Do you deny that LDL is a valid marker of CVD?
There is growing recognition that LDL is not one single thing There are several different kinds of LDL, which have significant differences in size, density, and relation to arterial inflammation. It’s rather like having many species within a genus. Triglycerides are one kind of LDL, and are thought to be a better marker than the blanket term LDL. Two people with the same LDL reading could have markedly different CVD risks or realities if one has high triglycerides and the other has low triglycerides.
There are better predictive markers than crude first-order LDL readings. First up: ratios of Total Cholesterol to HDL, and of LDL:HDL.
Apolipoproteins are gathering increasing scrutiny as a potentially better marker of CVD. http://jalm.aaccjnls.org/content/1/2/214
Inflammation is correlated with CVD. It can be measured by the levels of C-Reactive Protein.
Overall, it looks very much ch as if LDL readings are only one marker of CVD risk, and should be approached as a first-order assessment rather than an absolute.
Roger James says
Greg Tiller says
Yes. I would be in for at least $1,000.
Mason Murchison says
I’ll donate more if you need
And thanks Rob! Your investment in this critical review is much appreciated, so valuable amongst the ad nauseum praise and sharing of this kind of media.
Does anyone know of any short, smart video’s that lay out some of the critical response to Kip and Keegan’s films, or similar vegan media?
Robb Wolf says
There are bits and pieces, but not one cogent film, no. Not yet.
I watched “What the Health” and thought what the FUCK is going on? As a resident physician who already had a patient bring up the film and try to talk me out of a ketogenic diet……….Thank-you. & Yes
Jason Merrell says
Yeth. Motht thertainly.
I will support the film if you only promote seal milk, turkey eggs, eating large marine and land carnivores.
Seems everyone here is oblivious to the pain they cause to plants by eating mainly herivores flesh milk and eggs. We should eating carnivious flesh as ethical omnivores. I’ve been doing this for over 7 years.
Wake up to yourselves.
Austin Robinson says
Yes, would definitely support that cause.
Thanks for taking the time to write a review Robb. One issue the ethical or mindful omnivorous movement faces is presenting evidence that grass fed is indeed better for health. I am aware of Joe Robinson’s work on nutrition differences between CAFO and grass fed, but we need more studies such as the following where grassfed bison presented no increase in atherogenic risk (using several biomarkers) and CAFO beef did. I would hypothesize that grass fed would win every time but the research isn’t there.
Same goes for longitudinal studies of mindful omnivores vs vegetarian and vegan. There is data suggesting pescatarians fair just as well, but no data on individuals who eat mindfully and consume grass fed.
P.S. I am in the cardiovascular physiology research field (currently post doc) so if you know of anyone who would be interested in such a study, my lab may be interested and when I get my own lab I will definitely be interested in researching this area.
Benjamin Nutt says
There’s all of this great information out there about ethical ominvory. The problem is that is hasn’t been consolidated into one easy to digest package. There’s no single book or single film that really, truly says it all. There are some that stand out, like Michael Pollan’s work and the work of Dan Barber, but there is no definitive case for ethical omnivory that shows the long-term implications of a diet without animals, both from a human health and environmental health perspective.
Someone needs to make “THE” film from the perspective of the ethical omnivore – our version of Cowspiracy or Forks Over Knives. That’s not even me saying the “Paleo is great” documentary, because it’s so, so, SO much more than that.
I’d chip as much money as I could toward seeing that documentary get made. I’m also willing to bet us folks at Paleo f(x)™ would be happy to support the effort in whatever way we can.
Yes, yes, a hundred times yes. Thank you so much for this review.
donovan shouse says
Aloha Robb, i definitely have some critiques of the movie as well as some major critiques of your correlative, and sometimes it seems biased style review.
I mostly wanted to criticize your criticism of dr. gregers nutritionfacts.org having an untruthful name in comparison to the content it releases
i have been through the entire website quite a few times and the method of delivery on evidence based nutrition is pretty straight forward, and literally every claim in all of his videos are sited below the video with the evidence being pretty straight forward
in comparison to your claims promoting saturated fat being entirely in the opposite direction of what the majority of science shows relating excess intake of fat including saturated fat to type 2 diabetes
so in turn it would make sense to have a website that relays evidence based nutrition titled nutritionfacts.org
Robb Wolf says
I apprecaite your comment donovan. I completely disagree with it, but sincerely appreciate you taking the time.
Donovan That was the oddest part of Wolf’s childish, I-wanna-eat-dead-things-and-make- excuses-for-it, nonsense. It is sooooo easy to find Greger’s plentiful citations and the scientific research cited by What the Heath in general. These are real doctors, treating real patients, not some washed up blogger ignoring heart disease and environmental decimation to make a few bucks. They are not hiding the data…it is the BBQed elephant (or woolly mammoth) in the room that keeps fools from seeing it. I guess if someone uses the word “underpinnings” and “confounders” and such they can spew any biased and unsupported lies they want.
Yes, for sure!
Great impartial article as usual Robb. You’re the first guy I started following when it came to nutrition back in 2008 and my wife who has Lupus has been in remission since that time thanks to you!
I would love to see something that speaks not only to agriculture but wild eating as well such as hunting, fishing, and edible wild plants something we do a lot of in MO. How does keeping to native plants and animals help the environment, soil health, etc. This and regenerative agriculture is a complex topic and could probably be broken down into several documentaries 🙂
I know you will keep the religious (vegan, etc) points of view out of it but it will be refreshing to have an unbiased ( as much as possible) point of view with solid evidence. Thanks again for all you do!
Robb Wolf says
I’ll noodle on this but I’ll be honest, as important as this is the impact vs properly addressing say factory farming…tough to square those two. An although the vegans go after hunters, but their crosshairs are on the food production system. They are trying to ban the use of animals on public lands for grazing. I believe THAT is what we need to focus on.
Patti Feliciano says
Yes! I’ve been incredulous listening to Neil Barnard…it’s so negligent and dangerous and selfish to potentially persuade thousands, if not more, of people to suddenly become mortally afraid of all animal products.
Dr. Barnard treats and cures patients with heart disease every day. Where are your creds?
YES!!! $100 at least!
Yes, absolutely. I would love to see a well-rounded documentary featuring ethical omnivores that focuses on local agriculture, and the similar improvements in health that many people experience as such. Fresh and Food Inc. started the ball rolling but I didn’t feel like they really got as in-depth into the biological and ecological reasons why integrated, biological farms are so critical to our food future. There are several nutritional circles you could find ample investigative material in – Paleo circles, AIP circles, GAPS circles, WAPF circles, etc.
My family has been doing the GAPS protocol for about 8 months now and has found tremendous healing for a wide array of health conditions we were dealing with. There are a lot of very common, persistent misconceptions about GAPS and what it looks like, but there are a mind-blowing number of success stories involving families, some of whom who were vegan, coming to GAPS and seeing their health improve. If anything, learning about Paleo first and then GAPS has made us more aware/involved in local agriculture, food sustainability, decentralized infrastructures, and animal welfare than we ever were before.
I love the quote you have from Joel Salatin. We’re all biologically different with different nutritional needs based on our macro- and micro-environments. Let us raise and eat what our families need and we’ll make sure that anyone with different needs has the foods they believe in.
Yes, just without the bullshit. Include the actual studies and facts.
Jake Peyser says
Yes, although I worry unpacking such a dense subject in the timeframe of a documentary begets the kind of one-sided perspective you see in movies like WTH
Robb Wolf says
If the film needs to be 3 hours, it’ll be 3 hours. We only need to reach the smart people to make this work.
Robb, thanks for the great work (for years)
I would agree that there is much to unpack, and was thinking that perhaps rather than a documentary, what about a series akin to Penn & Teller’s Bullsh!t?
Take a topic, dive deep, look at the research and explore how the main stream view has changed over time and why.
With the MSM people only really get the headlines and even with an overwhelming abundance of evidence to the contrary, they still fall back on “conventional wisdom”.
I would totally support a documentary (or series) of this type. Here’s an idea, perhaps it could be called “Wired to Eat”. Just a thought. Run with that if you like it. 😉
Robb Wolf says
That is actually a fantastic idea…could actually do a deeper dive on any given topic, but the series would have an overall theme. THANKS!!
Yes! I’m so tired of the vegan scare tactics and presenting their solutions as the only ethical ones.
Jason Sprouse says
Now, if you do one of those nifty, tiered donation layouts (like Kickstarter) and have the option to hob knob with some upper crust folks yourself, Robb? Well, time to take another mortgage out on the house!
Thank you so much for such a thorough review! I would absolutely donate to your film!!
Great Reveiw! Thank you for standing up to the vegan craziness! Go Savory! Saving the planet one acre at a time!
Incredible review – as all your ‘stuff’ always is!
Yes! Also quick question: you mention the chronically overfed West, and the fact that eating of any sort seems to cause some arterial hardening. I take this to mean that even if one is not obese, does not have diabetes or other symptoms of hypertension, there are some adverse consequences of “overeating.” How do you define overeating? I’m a fit, trim crossfitter, but I’ve always eaten way more than the vast majority of my peers. Should I moderate my intake? I know you’re a busy man, but if you have a link or some other lead for further research, I’d be grateful.
Lastly, I’ve been following and reading you for years. Thanks for fighting the good fight. And thanks for going beyond the immediate discussion of nutritional info by explaining your methodology. Does wonders to raise everyone’s literacy in the scientific method so they can understand correlation v causation, etc, and arm themselves for future inquiry.
Robb Wolf says
Ewan- Tough to answer concisely. But if you do not have signs and symptoms of insulin resistance, likely good to go. Thank you for the kind words!
Ken D Berry, MD says
Rodrigo Ordóñez says
Katy Strong says
Yes, oh please, yes. We need to get the info out there, really concise, thorough and covering all the angles. I will be keeping an ear out for calls for a crowdfunder on the podcast and twitter.
Simon Hunter says
Chris Ashenden says
Good article mate. I feel for you
Put me down for a decent chunk for the movie idea
You could probably do with a foundation and a donate now button – I can connect you with some folks who can assist in the process if you don’t want to become a fully fledged foundation but enjoy many of the same benefits – a lot cheaper to set up
Robb Wolf says
That’d be fantastic! thanks!
Dave Feldman says
Ironically, I started my career journey wanting to do films before ending up as a software engineer. Now after a few years on the nutrition/medical side of the fence, I’m starting to respect just how much modern media shaped everyone’s opinions in this industry.
I’m thankful for What the Health showcasing just how powerful a well-shaped film can change opinions if it ultimately motivates us to do likewise.
Get super-serious on this one, Robb — make it happen!
Thomas Rees says
I so appreciate your candid review. YES!!!
I’m a teacher and our budget is razor thin, but YES, YES, YES!
Celeste Titus says
Christopher Larrieu says
Yes! I don’t have a lot of funds but I could come up with something. LCHF has healed me.
Lane Jatzlau says
Yes! I’d for sure donate to that!
Great review, Robb! So many need to hear the facts with an unbiased approached. I went on YouTube to look for reviews of this doc as well. Apparently card-toting vegans are the only ones doing video reviews. I didn’t see one (out of 10 or so) that questioned the ethics/one-sidedness of the research model presented in What The Health. All they discussed was how amazing the doc was and how everyone should watch…
Debbie Snider says
Yes. I watched this last night and got very confused. Thank you for the clarification.
Chris Barnhill says
Yes. Please add me to the list when requesting funds.
I watched this film yesterday and got so depressed about living on our planet today. Glad it’s only temporary and that Eternity is exactly Eternity! God created certain animals for humans to consume so I will continue to eat Paleo. I also will continue to be pleased with the good healthy blood and cholesterol results I received today (and will continue to receive during check ups) as a result of eating Paleo. Thanks for the time and effort put into this piece.
Steven Miller says
no, for two reasons.
1. this proposed documentary of yours would be in response to the vegan claims made in What The Health. your theoretical target audience would ostensibly be everyone who had the ability to watch said doc. your realistic audience would be vegans, regenerative ancestral nutrition advocates, and nutrition documentary fans. the overwhelming majority of Americans would not be interested in such a film, and of those said uninterested Americans the overwhelming majority of them (if either forced to watch or randomly stumbling upon such a film) would not get behind such a concept as it would infringe upon their finances and conveniences. in essence, your theoretical response doc would be akin to pole vaulting a mouse turd.
2. I would much rather have you attempt a documentary that debunks Cowspiracy, one that makes the claim that the mass meat production on Earth is somehow a sustainable way of feeding 8 billion people. THAT I would donate money towards. assuming, of course, that I would be refunded my donation once you fall flat on your face.
one thing I’ve learned from being paleo and vegan at different times in my life is that if I were somehow forced into having to eat meat, I could survive. same goes for being forced into veganism. if what Cowspiracy claims is true, that we are at this moment at the tipping point of irreparable climate change due to the past and ongoing destruction at the hands of the meat industry, the claims made by What The Health will be the least of your (our) worries
Robb Wolf says
Steven- Thanks for this, really helps, particularly on point #1. As to point #2 i did not do a good job unpacking that but at least half the film would address the sustainability issues, climate change claims etc.
Thank you again!
Stephen Z says
Fortunately Steven, Cowspiracy was a bunch of hyperbola, so no need to worry yourself so much. Here’s my Quora response to the question “How Accurate is Cowspiracy?” https://www.quora.com/How-accurate-is-the-movie-Cowspiracy/answers/16079158 plus another review I wrote: https://lachefnet.wordpress.com/2016/07/04/la-chefs-movie-review-cowspiracy-truth-or-propaganda/
Yes!! I made the mistake of watching this film with my 10 year old daughter in the room. Now she’s afraid she will get sick. I used this opportunity to talk about nutritional choices and she actually wants to try paleo low/carb for a couple weeks. Maybe I can salvage this situation after all!
Brian O hAonghusa says
Jason B says
Yes. I’m in for $50 at least.
Deborah Hart says
ALL CAPS YES!!
Yes, Can’t wait. We need a film like you described. To push back against the horrendous recommendations put out by the AHA lately, for example. It would be nice to touch on Biodynamic agriculture.. Are you familiar with Rudolph Steiner?
I love this man’s ideas and I’m sure you will too if you aren’t already familiar. I saw you at the NTA conference recently and it was great. Thanks.
Yes, and i don’t even subscribe to a diet per se. I’d just be glad to see someone offer a counterpoint to this egregiously biased documentary which i stumbled upon on Netflix. Even i, a ‘non-zealot’ for any side of the diet debate, saw the B.S. pretty quickly. My search for a counterpoint is what brought me here.
Thanks for the time and effort you put into this post. It is very important and I am sure was hard to make the choice of putting a bullseye on your back.
I’ve seen and read so many articles about nutrition over the last 10 or so years I don’t know what to believe anymore. Many agendas, research institutes and experts cause a very incoherent picture for the average consumer like me.
I’m heavily involved in the crossfit community but don’t agree with all aspects of it. Many diets, many visions, many different approaches to various topics such as marketing, training and nutrition, just to name a few.
While each stakeholder has their own agenda and I see a lot of controversial views I do believe in one approach that many “diets” seem to support: Eat local, seasonal, non altered (GMO), unprocessed whole foods. Make it from scratch and avoid processed nutrition as good as possible. I grew up in Switzerland and we learned how to cook early on. This, along with education seems to be a promising path.
Thank you Robb for taking time to write such a detailed review. I haven’t understood all of it but it’s certainly appreciated.
Mikki Williden says
Krissy Welch says
When he said sugar doesn’t make a big difference to our health I had to turn this off! Thanks for your review!
I watched this film and found it to have some good points and some not so good. the first 20 min seemed like a sugar ad to me. I did also find your commentary on the film to be similarly biased. there has been much research on the benefits of a largely plant based diet, eg. china study . there has also been new research on the benefits of having more animal fats in the diet especially in realtion to certain digestive issues and blood sugar imbalances. I don’t like that you seem to group all vegans together using words like “crazy” and ‘religion’ to describe food choices. I am vegan, and a nutritionist, and have worked with mainly omnivores as my clients, and see many heath issues related to overconsumption and lack of plant foods/fiber. and have seen most clients improve with a more balanced approach. I have also been a part of many discussions relating to meat/non meat eating and ill tell you one thing, the fanaticism is just as strong with the meat eaters. so please lets not lump people together just because of their food choices. the main issue I see with our health here is our overconsumption of processed, refined foods and abandonment of whole natural foods diet. balance in my eyes Is the key.
Robb Wolf says
Veronica- Did you miss every scientific citation I unpacked and how outright lies were told here? Ok, i get it, i’m a mean cranky person, but are you really going to put your emotional response to that ahead of what happened here scientifically? As to the China Study, that got unpacked in this process. The claims there were largely dismantled here…which tells me you really do not understand the details of that research either. I’d recommend following up with this: https://deniseminger.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/
Y. E. S.
Cory J says
YES, YES, YES!
Yes, I would even help in producing such a film since I´m a filmmaker too and care about this subjects. Thanks for the review, it clarified many of my concerns on the film to get a more balanced view on the subject. Thanks for being so objective and informed on the subject and congrats on your book, I will have a look on it. So what would be a good diet for starters? what would you recommend? There seems to be so much controversy on the subject. For me it seems quite clear that eating un-processed food is a good start, and having a wide plant base, can help, but I´m not a vegan, never been one, nor planning to become one soon.
Robb Wolf says
Alex- thanks for this and i will reach out to you re the film. As to eating: You are 90% there. Start and maintain a largely whole, unprocessed food intake. Play with your macros a bit. Do you feel bast at higher or lower carb intake. Get out in the sun as much as possible, sleep early and much, have a kick ass community. DONE.
Jeremiah G says
Ha! Well, not sure about the money for the doc, though I feel it would be a more accurate piece, I will say that your article was very refreshing. I was getting quite upset by the blatant skewing of facts in WTH that I couldn’t even make it to the 30 minute mark. I needed to know that I wasn’t alone… and here you were! First thing I’ve ever read of yours. Thank you for just doing the basic research and providing a clear rebuttal. I’ll sleep easier tonight… not afraid of the food lurking in my kitchen. Thanks!
And now that I think of it… $50 isn’t that much.
Waunetah Goins says
Ray Lingel says
Yes! It would be so helpful to have a well produced film to reference as an alternative to the constant flow of vegan screeds!
And a mention on how things run in Europe too, for us Europeans…. we always watch what things go on in the US but are never really sure if it’s the same in Europe too? Or better regulated? Or worse?
Thanks for taking the time to write this, very important read.
I am a pensioner on a limited income so couldn’t afford to give money but would back this all the way.
Robb Wolf says
Just rent it when it’s out!
Btw – This movie has just been released in Australia! Can’t wait to see it! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_XV-dBEG1Fc
Nichole Weaver says
Yes yes yes. Would definitely donate. I agree that The Perfect Human Diet was amazing. It changed our perspective and leaned us towards Paleo. But it hasn’t gone mainstream
Heather V says
And thank you for the review. Moments after the documentary started I was itching to turn it off because I found it infuriating. But then I told myself I should also indulge in information that is contrary to my beliefs. I was disappointed that the “science” and “facts” seems unlikely to be supported or accurate. I felt obliged to look for the movies sources and came up empty handed. Then it occurred to me that one of my Paleo experts must have an opinion about the film – and Voila! Thanks for saving me all the research time.
Robie, RDN says
Yes!! Thanks for all you do!!
Andrea @ pencils and pancakes says
Done! Just donated to the farm to consumer site and happy to do it. Thank you so much for such a well written review. I was told I had to watch it and 15 min in I thought it seemed very familiar to Cowspiracy. Imagine my surprise to find out it was made by the same people. Thanks again Robb! Been following you since the beginning of your podcast.
Robb Wolf says
Carissa Haddad says
Yes! What the Health churned my stomach and I’m only halfway through it.
Duh…yes of course.
Robb, Yes!, and defense fund joined.
And thanks for being a role model for civil discussion. Maybe, it’s just me but it seems that across many different topics, even if you knew nothing about the topic you could get a good idea where the best evidence lies by seeing who is consumed by anger and/or can hardly string a coherent series of thoughts together (perhaps due to nutrient deficiencies) versus those who are serene and civil. I think all of us who want to see better health information put out to those who are open to it can learn from your attitude to be an example for the people around us.
Robb Wolf says
Thanks Vince! I have my days of irrationality…I just try to get that out while at Jiu-jitsu!
Fredericka King says
YES YES YES
YES! Thank you for all you do and loved reading this piece.
Marianna Healey says
Thanks so much for this review!
All the information out there is so confusing, especially when it’s presented in such absolutes – I appreciate all the links to research that supports opposite facts, and all the opinions 🙂
Patrick mcmaster says
Yes. You are the man. Thanks for this!
And thank you for this review! I’ll be passing it along to many 🙂
Wow, it’s so obvious you’re looking at this like a lawyer would, dissecting facts simply to support YOUR lifestyle and what you want to see, probably because you don’t want to admit the truth like most carnivores for fear of feeling like you should change your lifestyle. Just a few issues with your arguments
you say “But, if a healthy, not-so-nasty alternative (pastured meat) were to gain traction (which it has) that could pose a problem for the folks who approach veganism as a religion.” Yes, while this is healthier and “kinder” to the animals, it’s not at all better for the environment as it uses up MORE resources and impedes on MORE land that used to be for forests (which negate CO2 emissions) or wild animals (which balance surrounding ecology).
“best solution (a grain based vegan diet)” actually no, the best solution recommended by the Dr. you were referring to is PLANT based. You strategically put grain based because grains pose health issues, yes, but the Dr. was suggesting PLANT based is the best solution and no, while they may overlap, not the same thing. It seems like you try to prove your points for profit, while some vegan businesses might have to consider that, most of the intent is based on their VALUES & wanting to help people, animals & the environment or better yet, choosing not to contribute to their destruction.
“Despite a clearly sicker population with regards to obesity and type 2 diabetes, heart disease rates are declining, due mainly to decreased smoking (the smoking decrease is powerful enough to offset even the increases in diabetes, at least to some extent). If the claims about meat consumption contributing to heart disease and cancer were true we would NOT see trends like those depicted above.” Do you honestly think that if everyone gave up meat & dairy products, and ate a plant-based diet you would not see MAJOR decreases in disease trends? I feel sorry for you if you’re that stubborn and/or in denial.
It’s sad that you have to insult people passionate about not contributing to meat-consumption because they fiercely believe in not being cruel to animals, not using up resources unnecessarily, and because of the havoc it wreaks on our bodies (not to mention abhorrent substances that are ingested). Have you ever thought vegans might act righteous bc they ARE righteous? Some of the smartest, wisest, most revolutionary people (in my opinion) have all emphasized the need to refrain from eating animals (Einstein, Gandhi, Da Vinci, Steve Jobs) it’s not a coincidence, although I do understand many people put down vegans because they haven’t reached a place where they understand just how horrific it is to support the meat industry-the way it is today.
You’re absolutely entitled to choose your diet, but don’t try to undermine people genuinely passionate about doing what they think is right (which overall, is extremely hard to argue with).
Robb Wolf says
Yes Katie, guilty as charged. I dissected facts, and for the most part the film was left wanting in that category. And beyond that, they actually lied. We saw this in the last political cycle in which everyone was so ideologically entrenched they ignored FACTS, opting instead for a religious degree of support for their chosen camps. This left us with Trump and Clinton as options. THIS is what happens when people like you put emotions ahead of facts.
Yes! I would totally donate! Would love to see this happen.
I would love some non-bias info on food and nutrition in a movie that is made by someone who understands science and research who hasn’t made up their mind.
Hey man I think you are all missing the big point. All the negative reviews are trying to do is defend the animal industry as there isn’t enough evidence to back some of the plant-based diet claims against it. Nevertheless you are forgetting to talk about the benefits of a plant based diet independent or not of the harm that an omnivorous diet can or won’t produce. Also you are not talking about the ridiculously obvious lobbying going on in America’s government… its sad to see how people miss the point and still try to defend their ways of being with everything it takes ..
Robb Wolf says
did you “read” the article????
Yes, count me ALL in for funding a thoughtful, insightful and substantive movie about regen ag, human’s co-evolution with grazing animals and plants and insects and most exciting a vision for the future. I’m certain we have permaculture enthusiasts, sustainable husbandry experts and medical experts who would provide one helluva fun romp of a rollercoaster ride down the Ancestral paleo / keto True Stories that could open viewers’ minds and hearts via science and anecdotal stories. You know the old venn diagram humor, eh? Where Sports Fans occupy one circle, Non-Sports Fans occupy the other, and Guacamole sits in the overlapping sliver? I imagine that within 10-20 years time – we might be able to put the Nationalized, Industrializ Corporate Food System of Today in the center, and call it a day. Gotta point fingers somewhere, so much easier than taking accountability for FDA/EPA corruption and collusion re: subsidies and Big Ag/BigPharma. If vegans can drop their mic, walk off the pulpit and stop preaching veganism for a healthier planet, and begin thinking in shades of gray – they will understand the powerful force ruminants have to sequester carbon, reverse disease and restore ecology. Cows farting methane (Cowspiracy) and causing rainforest destruction is so superficial and myopic, it hurts. Decentralization will save us, I agree with you. But first – education and research and awareness campaigns have to prosper. I love the way you redirected your followers to vote with their comments, you are so savvy.
Thanks for your incredibly thoughtful and thorough review, Robb!!!!! Now I don’t have to experience the pain of watching this movie. And now back to my plant-based keto diet. 🙂 We must reinvent. We must see hybrid options. Those of us who live in the “gray” territory vs black and white may find the Cognitive Bias Wheel a REALLY, REALLY cool tool to breakdown other people’s flawed arguments: https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*71TzKnr7bzXU_l_pU6DCNA.jpeg
Mike Oden says
I did not know that you reviewed WTH before I attempted to watch it. I may have made it 15 minutes in before turning it off and googling “what the health robb wolf”. Ha! I smelled bs and needed someone like you to confirm. Thanks for devoting yourself to this area health and wellness.
Yes I most certainly would donate to your film idea.
Mike Oden says
***correction…to this area OF health and wellness
Robb Wolf says
I’ll get on that, thanks!
I just want to point out that the screenshot of the Facebook Messenger posted at the end of your article (https://robbwolf.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Interview-Request.png) that you use to showcase your “ignored” interview request shows clearly that your message was never seen. In other words, your request was not rejected, not ever ignored; it simply never reached Kip Anderson. Guess you are not in his Friends circle? With my own Privacy settings, I know that random messages sent from strangers are hidden from me. There would be a little icon (checkmark) below your message if it had ever been seen.
Robb Wolf says
Well, being a “public person” he should ahve his settings for global, I do. Additionally, he is now clearly aware of this post and has still not reached out to me for clarifications. What i said was “he did not respond” , not any of what you articulated.
Amanda Anderson says
Thank you so much I greatly appreciate this article very helpful…….
Ryan Kamins says
Yes! Wired to eat has changed my life in 3 months -thank you
Everyone wants animals to be treated better.
Meat to be clean of any chemicals.
A balanced diet, paleo, keto, vegan – they all work just depends what is for you. Don’t judge others
Great review article, the movie had a number of good points but completely lost me due to the number of things the sensationalized of ignored valid counter arguments.
Unfortunate bc Americans truly do need to reduce meat consumption and increase veggie intake.
Robb Wolf says
Their points about corporate collusion is/are outstanding. Which really makes the shoddy science unfortunate as it could largely undermine that point.
Etienne D. says
“Garth’s reply…which spends the opening salvo largely trying to discredit Denise due to “lack of credential” (that’s what we generally call a Straw Man attack) while also playing the game of somehow acknowledging her brilliance?? It’s odd. Really odd. If you notice my interaction with people I have NEVER raised the question of “qualifications.” Does the person know the material, yes or no? In this day where there is easy access to any topic”
There are a few things wrong with this paragraph. First of all, there is a certain irony here: *you* are trying to discredit Dr. Davis by claiming that he is engaging in logical fallacies. That is 10 times more severe of an accusation than pointing to someone’s credentials when you’re establishing context. Pointing to lack of credentials is not a straw man argument either, by the way. A straw man argument is a debate tactic that serves to deceive the audience into thinking you are counter-arguing a point, when in fact you have misrepresented a position (you built a straw man to attack). You probably meant it was an ad-hominem attack (it isn’t that either, though).
The second part is also interesting. There would be no reason for you to raise the question of qualifications, since you are not formally qualified yourself. You’re in no position to do so. You’re also naive to think that everyone has access to such information; a lot of it is behind paywalls. And even if we did have access to it all, that doesn’t mean we are properly trained to evaluate the data. Clearly, most of us– and I’m sure most of your readers — aren’t.
There is a lot more to discuss here. Some of your criticisms being valid (the documentary is way too one-sided, and should have featured non-vegan experts like Dr. David Katz and Dan Buettner). A lot of it is fluff, though. It’s good to critique these types of documentaries (and IMO, their Facebook page has a lot more questionable content than the documentary itself that’s worth attacking) but we should do so from an impassioned perspective and I could sense that emotions really clouded your judgment at a few different occasions here.
Still, these discussions are important and I hope to see someone (a qualified someone) enlighten us as to where you went wrong here when it comes to the science.
My answer is ‘no’, by the way: I don’t believe in ‘ethical’ omnivory. That’s an ideology of its own, which makes little more sense than deontological veganism.
Robb Wolf says
You are spot on with regards to my treatment of Garth…I largely did what he was trying to do with Denise Minger. I appreciate you pointing that out and was not sure anyone would even catch it. I completely disagree with your straw man assessments, but we can leave that where it is. I do sincerely appreciate your time and thoughtful comments.
First of all, I applaud you for taking that criticism like a champ and admitting your fault. I rarely see that happen online and whenever I do I make sure to mention it, because we need more of it. I hope that serves as a form of apology towards Dr. Davis as well. He’s a really good guy in my view and deserves to be treated fairly (not like ZDoggMD did to him recently).
Secondly, I’m not sure what you’re referring to re. “straw man assessments”. I was sharing my thoughts and I’m not sure where you see straw man arguments. I perfectly understand that I might have sounded a bit too critical, but I must say the following: If it looks like I dismissed you as a valid source of nutrition information, I apologize. I am sure you have some expertise, but I had never heard of you before this article, and I did a quick PubMed search with your name and couldn’t find any research papers to your name. So, I assumed you were simply a blogger.
After looking at your page some more, I see you do have some qualifications, more than the average nutrition blogger to be sure, but at the end of the day– and this is no insult to you and your work– I’m always looking for the most qualified people I can find to advise me on any issue I’m not an expert on. I think having done nutritional sciences research specifically makes one much more likely to be qualified. I try to base what I know on the doctors and researchers who have been doing this stuff for decades and the Registered Dieticians whose job it is to sift through all the (often confusing) data and make it understandable to us. Of course, human bias and greed being unavoidable, even they should not be fully trusted and one should approach every topic with some skepticism. From what I’ve just seen of you, it appears that you, like me, are more likely than others to be able to do this. So, even though we fundamentally disagree on veganism and I’m sure a few other things, I sincerely wish you the best and hope your film project pans out. I think that if you want that film to be truly great and as unbiased as possible, you willl learn a lot in the process, and perhaps come to appreciate plant-based diets a little more.
Robb Wolf says
Thank you for the thoughtful reply Etienne. Best to you too.
Elke Gunst says
Yes, yes, yes, absolutely!
Gary Rock says
Thank you. And yes!!!
Thank you for the excellent review.
I am halfway through the Documentary
but I had to stop to smoke 10 cigarettes. Sorry, I meant eat two eggs with a side of salad.
$1000 if I can be a part of it.
Aamir Zakaria says
I would submit that one needs to take the comments of a Paleo-committed scientist with at least as much of a grain of salt as vegan-committed physicians. To criticize the makers of the film because they are vegan is a ludicrous circular argument. Physicians and scientists who are convinced of the health benefits of a plant-based diet aren’t likely to eat animal-based products. Duh. That’s just like claiming that a physician who advocates smoking cessation Is unfairly biased because they do not smoke. And although I am myself biased because I am a physician and vascular surgeon, I would submit that the physicians interviewed in “What The Health” are more qualified to comment on health matters due to their lifelong training on the human body than is the author of this blog, who is a research scientist. And Robb Wolf has a pretty strong profit motive to attempt to debunk any plant-based diet science, as his entire livelihood depends on it. You might as well take your advice from the dairy and meat industry, as the motives are the same.
I don’t have a horse in this race, but I am intrigued enough by the findings in “What The Health” to make a go at switching from my carnivorous diet to a plant-based one.
If you’re looking for some real scientific evidence, read through the following review of the literature from Kaiser Permanente, the largest Health Maintenance Organization on the planet (and my former employer):
“Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets”
Unlike for-profit healthcare organizations, Kaiser’s goal is to save money by keeping their members healthy, rather than make money off of chronic disease management.
I’ve always been put off by the constant controversy and lack of clear-cut nutritional guidelines in the health care community; but, as I am now discovering, there IS good science out there supporting a plant-based diet. I don’t really want to admit that, because I sure do love my meat, cheese, and butter, but the facts speak for themselves.
But ignore what I have to say and what Robb has to say. Look at the references yourself and come up with your own conclusions.
Robb Wolf says
I guess you missed the 4-5 times that I said “Clearly, here are my biasses”. This appeal to authority is fascinating, and suggesting Kaiser has cracked the nut on this via an exclusively plant based diet is itself short sighted. They also have goofy standards on cholesterol, diabetes management and a host of other ailments. What you are insinuating is there is one way to do this. I am say there are multiple routes to health, vegan being one of the options. Nothing they ahve done comes close to this: https://robbwolf.com/2012/04/16/paleo-diet-risk-assessment/
Aamir Zakaria says
I’m not appealing to authority, merely to science. I cite the Kaiser paper merely as a handy place to find actual scientific references supporting a plant-based diet. I’m sure there are many paths to good health, but plant-based and non-plant-based are mutually exclusive options. Purely from a dietary perspective, it seems one would have to choose one or the other.
I apologize that I have missed some of your comments by not taking the time to read all of the over-300 comments on this controversial topic.
Robb Wolf says
Well, my nutritional perspective is similar to my political perspective in that I am a centrist Libertarian and find laudable characteristics from both ends of the political spectrum. Similarly, I do not see nutrition as a religious process in which there is only “one true path.” I think it’s ridiculous to say it has to be either or. More to the point there are very specific claims being made here (meat CAUSES diabetes for example) which cannot be supported by the available literature, nor anthropological observations (Inuit, Aché etc). I appreciate that the link goes to a number of scientific papers, but that does not give them a pass with regards to veracity.
Yes. I have felt for a long time that it is unfortunate a meat-based diet or paleo diet is quickly dismissed in global food policy circles because it is not easy or is currently a bit elitist. Why won’t we accept that the world could be so much healthier with better access to good protein sources and work on figuring out how to make it possible? If paleo believers won’t support the movement no one will. I agree with you that we have much to offer the world with movements for higher quality food and better care for the animals in the process. We need to stop being so “judgey” of each other and start working together for real change.
i believe many would support such a movie.
Thank you for the awesome review, this documentary made my blood boil 🙂
Sally St.Amant says
100% abso-freaking-lutely YES
Michael Schuerman says
I’ve been following you for a few years now since reading your book. You’ve also been very helpful via twitter when my doctor tried to diagnose me with high cholesterol and put me on meds at age thirty-three (Pretty fit as well). You had me ask for LDL-P, and one other test to show the real state of the LDL and the doctor got frantic like he had seen a ghost. Sure enough, he ordered the two tests and everything came back “excellent.” He was so quick to recommend drugs.
My question is this: I’ve read Tim Ferris’s book dealing with the “Slow Carb Diet” which is very similar to the Paleo lifestyle (which I’ve been following for a few years). I too recently watched this documentary “What the health” with my wife, and now we’re somewhat perplexed and a little confused. It never recommends sourcing at all in the documentary. It only refers to government-funded meat institutions not privately owned farms. Can sourcing play a role and make a case for Paleo? In your mind how does Paleo stack up against the “slow carb” lifestyle?
It seems everyone has an opinion and reasons to back up that method of eating. It’s hard too because I’ve lost faith in the traditional medical system because I feel like I know more than they do and they’re too quick to prescribe meds (one thing “What The Health” did hit on but didn’t dive into).
Any help, insights, or advice would be great. I’m now 36 and want to be around to see my great grandkids. Thanks for taking the time to post this as well. Cheers.
Robb Wolf says
Michael- there is a lot to unpack there. i try to start things in the following way: Eat foods that one is not immunologically reactive to. Wheat, soy, corn are biggies, as are eggs for many. this is straight out of the paleo play book. For some this may mean no beans (at least initially). From there we play with the amounts and types of carbs that one does best with. i talked about this at length in Wired To Eat and this is largely based on the work of the weitzman institute: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26590418
The interesting thing there is even classic “slow carb” options like hummus can be either a good or poor carb option depending on the person. So, this kinda calls into question the very notion of “slow carb” unless one has actually tinkered with this stuff.
Both of these are templates and starting points. The basic protocol will get 90% of people significantly down the road, but from there we need to do some tinkering.
Great review. I watched half of it last night and then got very depressed. I haven’t eaten meat or chicken for years, but fish is even worse?! And cheese is the worst food on the planet? I googled “What the Hell What the Health.” Make your movie, please.
Andrew Mencher says