What The Health?, the new Netflix documentary, has allegedly been turning dedicated meat-eaters into vegans overnight. I was naturally curious to see what it was all about.
From the same team that brought us Cowspiracy, which exposed the horrors of the dairy industry, What the Health? focuses on the all too cosy relationship between the American food and drug industries. Big Farmer and Big Pharma are very close indeed and the health of that nation is suffering.
Well, as expected, the film didn’t make for comfortable viewing. It is certainly hard hitting, although in some parts I thought it did overstate its case. For example, it uses a study which says eating one egg is as bad as smoking five cigarettes. Now I’m all for avoiding eggs, but I find that particular statistic a little hard to swallow.
That said, the film does make some pretty shocking (and ultimately believable) claims: like eating a meat-based diet has contributed to the growth in diabetes, heart disease, cancer and dementia. But the really shocking thing, for my money, is the way that the food industries use massive budgets to hide these facts and to encourage people to eat more meat and dairy. Even the official health organisations that give advice and support to diabetes, cancer and heart disease sufferers in the United States appear to turn a blind eye to the facts. Their recommended menus for “healthy eating” turn out to be sponsored by food producers – producers of the very foods that are making people sick. And sicker. And this is where Big Pharma steps in. The treatment of chronic disease is a $1.5 billion industry. All very horribly cosy.
There are enough themes in the film for a whole raft of blogs and I may well pick some of them up in future posts. However, here are a few key facts:
• It’s a myth that milk strengthens bones – there is a strong correlation between countries with high dairy consumption and osteoporosis levels.
• We don’t need as much protein as we’ve been led to believe but we do need more fibre.
• Human breast milk contains a tenth of the protein found in cow’s milk – there is far more protein than we need in cows’ milk.
• All the protein we need can be found in plants – the world’s biggest, strongest mammals are all herbivores.
• Our physiology resembles herbivores more than it resembles carnivores – fact.
• Cheese is physically addictive – though I think we all knew that deep down didn’t we? Casein breaks down in the body to form casomorphines which attach to the same receptors as heroin!
The best part of the film for me, though, is at the end where the tone becomes more positive. Presenter Kip Anderson interviews a number of chronically sick people who switched to a plant based diet and experienced real improvements in their health. He also talks to elite athletes who have opted for a vegan diet and speak about the improvements they have noticed in their bodies and their performance. As one of them says “You can’t be strong and dying on the inside.”
Finally, he looks at the cost of going vegan and the fallacy that it is expensive. It isn’t if you opt for natural products rather than processed vegan meat and cheese substitutes. The real cost is time. It takes time and thought to create tasty, healthy vegan meals. But that’s what we at Miller Green are here for – to take the graft out of making delicious plant-based food that’s good for you, good for animals and good for the planet!