what the health review – the good, the bad, and the ugly

Jeremy PennerNutrition, Smarten Up37 Comments

what the health review

Don’t ask a dietitian to watch the latest popular food documentary. It’s bad for our blood pressure. I knew this already, but I couldn’t stop myself from writing a What the Health review.

what the health review – the good

Every scare piece has something good in it, a slice of truth that the filmmakers can hang their hat on and spin their lies around. So here’s the element of truth behind What the Health: most of us should eat less meat and more plants.

what the health review – the bad

I just wish documentary makers could figure out how to deliver these bits of truth without relying on misinformation and fear. What the Health is full of fear mongering, and I hate food fear mongering more than anything. That’s the bad.

what the health review – the ugly

If there’s one possible thing I hate more than food fear mongering, it’s food fear mongering that’s aimed at pregnant and nursing mothers. This population is already over analyzing every parenting decision they make. They don’t need documentarians amping up those fears.

What the Health does that plenty. So that’s the ugly.

Fear mongering like this perpetuates the epidemic of disordered eating that is plaguing North America. Even I felt a little afraid to eat after watching this documentary. That’s disturbing, since I know all the tricks to watch out for, and have all the information to counter the lies. The documentary format is so effective at spreading fear that it still managed to manipulate my emotions!

I can’t imagine how most people feel after watching docs like this.


what the health review – how true are their claims?

I spent an evening needlessly nitpicking all the “facts” in the What The Health documentary. For example, is a human’s intestine similar in length to a monkey? Nope. Is there any evidence to say that chicken causes prostate cancer? No again.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing true in this documentary. So let’s look in detail at the topics it covers.

1) health benefits of a vegan diet

This movie REALLy wants you to be vegan. And why not? After all, a vegan diet certainly can be a healthy diet for disease prevention! A well-planned vegan diet can help prevent cancer, type two diabetes, and heart disease.

Of course, they don’t mention that a well-planned omnivorous diet can also help prevent cancer, type two diabetes, and heart disease. The common thread is that these diets are based on whole foods, are abundant in plant products, and reduce chronic inflammation.

The movie focuses a lot on the carcinogenic properties of processed meats. It’s all good to draw attention to this; dietitians have been calling for lowered consumption of these products for years. But be careful around people who lump in processed meats with all animal products. There’s a big difference.

So on this topic my rating for What the Health is: partly misleading

what the health movie review

2) toxins in animal food products

The film makers really want you to be afraid of the toxins found in animal food products, mainly dioxins.

Dioxins = a group of carcinogenic compounds, including PCBs.

Dioxins are formed mainly from manufacturers. Think smog. They then settle onto the ground/water, enter the food supply and increase in number as they go up the food chain. The amounts most people consume are much lower than the lowest amount needed to have adverse affects on human health.

So the risk most people face from dioxins is pretty low. But even more encouraging is that governments are beginning work to dispel any potential health threat. This is what Health Canada has to say:

“These efforts are working. The latest inventory shows a 60 percent decrease since 1990 in the overall release of dioxins and furans from sources within Canada. Also, the levels of dioxins and furans in Canadian human milk, which were already low, went down by roughly 50 percent between the 1980s and the 1990s. It is expected that levels of dioxins in various sources in Canada will continue to decline in conjunction with ongoing pollution prevention and control activities.”

Rather than be frightened by the dioxins in our food supply we can be encouraged that they’re going down!

So on this topic my rating for What the Health is: mostly misleading

what the health movie review

3) how animals are raised for food consumption

What The Health outlines the “horrors” of animal agriculture, from antibiotics to hormones. Here is fear mongering at its best. There is little evidence that any of these things are detrimental to human health.

For an in-depth debunking of this fear of hormones in cow’s milk, check out Science Driven Nutrition’s thorough guide. For example, let’s look at “insulin-like growth factor 1” (IGF1). When you drink cow’s milk, the amount of IGF1 in your blood does not decrease, even though cow’s milk contains IGF1. But it does increase after drinking soy beverage, even though IGF1 is not found in soy beverage. There’s something in soy that stimulates the body to produce the hormone. The amount found in cow’s milk is about 1% of what we already have in our bloodstream anyways, so it’s a drop in the bucket.

If you would prefer not to consume animals that have been raised with growth hormones or antibiotics, you can buy organic meat or choose to go meat-free. For my family’s diet, I choose to keep this issue in perspective. We don’t eat a lot of meat, and there are a lot of other perfectly healthy, vegan foods that contain hormones as well. For example, look at how many nannograms of estrogen are found in 3 oz of beef compared to peas, cabbage, and soy beverage.

Source: http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/beef/2846/15997

As a Canadian dietitian I should also note that in Canada:

  • growth hormones are NOT permitted in animals (except for beef cattle). Organic production of beef also does NOT permit growth hormones
  • antibiotics are only used in dairy cows when they are sick. They are removed from the herd and their milk is discarded during a washout period
  • antibiotics are used to promote growth in many other animals
  • antibiotics are also used on some fruit trees. I’m sure you’re aware that fruit is a vegan food!

Due to the increase of antibiotic resistance, antibiotics are increasingly saved for times when they’re needed to save lives! Sweden banned antibiotic growth promotors in animals back in 1986. They have developed many alternative methods to keep animals disease-free and growing well. The EU instituted a ban in 2006. I’ve read several news articles stating that Canada plans to phase out their use as well.

Please note, these bans have nothing to do with the safety of consuming animals raised with growth promotors. They are aimed at preventing antibiotic resistance.

So, on this topic my rating for What the Health is: mostly misleading

what the health movie review

4) environmental concerns of animal agriculture

There’s a disturbing scene in What The Health shot in North Carolina that shows pig manure being sprayed onto a field close to a residential area. This is horrible not only for the people living nearby, but I’m pretty sure it’s bad for the environment too!

In Manitoba pig manure is collected, turned into fertilizer, and then injected 10-15 cm into soil, so that there’s no runoff into the waterways.
So some places are using more sustainable methods to farm animals. Food regulations can do a lot to alleviate environmental/health problems like this. You can choose to remove animal products from your diet, or make a case for stricter food regulations in your region. But, let’s not pretend we can’t do animal agriculture in an environmentally friendly way.

So, on this topic, I find the What the Health claims: partly true but still potentially misleading, depending on local regulations.

what the health movie review

5) corporate sponsorships of health organizations

Some health organizations accept money that might imply a conflict of interest. For example, The American Cancer Society accepts money from the beef council. This seems like a potential conflict of interest, since higher red meat consumption increases the risk of colon cancer.
Whether or not this is problematic depends on how the sponsorship is set up. Is it an unrestricted grant? Are the beef councils specifically paying the American Cancer Society to include beef recipes in their meal plans?
Some people are 100% against corporate sponsorships and think they shouldn’t exist at all. That would solve the conflict of interest problem, after all. But, let’s face it, research into new cures and prevention campaigns require funding!
I believe health organizations can ethically accept money, provided there are guidelines and transparency in place. However, I’m not clear on how organizations like The American Cancer Society have set up their sponsorships.

So, on this topic I find that the What the Health claims: holds some merit.

what the health movie review

6) nutritional adequacy of vegan diets

What the Health wants you to be a vegan. So, obviously they address the fact that, after years of debate, we now know that a well planned vegan diet is nutritionally complete! The only exception is vitamin B12, which is not present in any plant foods. Vegans (and vegetarians who don’t eat a lot of dairy or eggs) need to supplement this vitamin.

Another question that often comes up with vegan diets is whether they get enough protein. When most people think of protein, their minds turn to meat. The truth is that:

  1. most North Americans get plenty of protein, more than they need in fact (usually because they’re eating too much meat)!
  2. there are plenty of vegan sources of protein such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains. However, one person in What the Health claimed that veggies are a good source of protein. That’s wrong. Veggies are fantastic for many reasons, but they are only a minor source of protein.
  3. most North Americans are not getting enough fibre! A vegan diet is plentiful in fibre as fibre is only found in plant foods. Most non-vegetarians could start to eat more plant-based foods to get more fibre!

So, on this topic I would grade What the Health‘s claims as: mostly true.

what the health movie review


As you can see, I actually agree with many concepts presented in this movie! Vegetarian/vegan diets are healthy, good for the environment, easy on the wallet, etc. I covered this in a post called 9 Reasons to Eat Less Meat.
However, I take exception to the fearmonger-y tone of the movie. There’s no good reason to scare people into a diet. I also hate the blatant misinformation they use to misleadingly emphasize their core aims. It’s not OK to lie to people, even if your underlying motivations are good!
In my practice as a Dietitian I encounter many people who are scared to eat. Are you? You may not consciously identify this fear, but when you’re bombarded by the “evils” of every single food out there, it can affect your subconscious. (Would you believe, even carrots get a bad rap!?)
This fear of food can cause people to cut out foods in the name of “healthy eating,” to the point where it can become problematic. Eventually they end up with such a narrow selection of food that they can’t properly nourish themselves anymore. The extreme form of this is an eating disorder called orthorexia. Many people suffer from less extreme versions of this disordered eating.
A fear of food can also cause a “nocebo” effect. This is when the body starts physically responding in the way the person psychologically expects it to respond. Believing that a food will make you sick can, in fact, make you sick!
The people behind this movie lead you to believe that they have your health in mind. To be fair, their intentions are probably pure. However, the fear tactics they use completely ignore the unhealthy role that fear, stress, and anxiety play on a person’s health!
As Dietitian, Andy DeSantos, says in his review of the film: “Eating meat and drinking milk doesn’t make you a bad person, nor is it a death sentence, but it is important to know that eating less and replacing animal products with plant products is important for your health.”
I wish popular documentaries could just say that. But something tells me that sensationalism is exactly why they become popular.

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37 Comments on “what the health review – the good, the bad, and the ugly”

  1. Thank you for doing a critical review of this film. I watched this myself and a student dietitian I was not ok with the scaremongering and misrepresentation of information but… as you have outlined could also see merit behind the message of reducing meat, increasing veggies and questioning certain motivations within the food industry. I enjoyed reading your balanced and informative review

  2. A documentary and the filmmakers would never work again if not for the sensationalism. The simple truth does not sell films.

    Thank you for the rational and researched perspective.

  3. Fear mongering seems to be your perception of the documentary, but that is really unfortunate. These are simply facts that people need to be aware of regarding their lifestyle choices. Not only do people need to be aware of them, but they need to be aware of the urgency by which healthier lifestyle choices need to be adopted.

    Having my bachelor’s and master’s degree in nutrition, and having been deeply immersed in the nutritional science literature, a large majority of the documentary is very accurate. Many of the arguments you presented in response to the documentary are fallacious or have strong holes. For example, when you say that vegan diets well-planned can be healthful, you share an academic paper, but when you say that well-planned omnivorous diets can be healthful too, you cite a magazine article. Yes, the Mediterranean diet has health benefits, but research also suggests, when they break down the diet by component, that longevity from such a diet are from increased vegetable and nut consumption; not from the olive oil or fish.

    You focused in on dioxins, which are concentrated in animal products, but failed to mention any of the other toxins also concentrated in animal products. You mention that dioxin levels are not elevated in human samples, but a 2013 study of children in California found that every single of the 364 children sampled had dioxin (and other contaminants) levels were over EPA-determined cancer benchmarks. The authors believe that the primary exposure to dioxin and other elevated chemical levels identified in the samples were from food, especially animal products like poultry and fish.

    Finally, your last big complaint was on animal agriculture. You seemed to have missed many of the other big points brought up in the documentary. However, concerning the one you did bring up–sustainability–you brought up what is the minority of farms in North America. Most of the animal agriculture is from farms that do not, or minimally practice sustainable agriculture.

    Overall, I am disappointed by this review. It almost seems as if this article was written in defense of a documentary that challenges your own personal worldviews. The science actually strongly backs up almost all points mentioned in this documentary. I’m glad What the Health brought some of these points to light, especially to hopefully reach a population that rarely hears the benefits of whole food, plant-based diets.

    1. Since I am writing for the general public if I am just scratching the surface on a topic and not going into detail about it myself I will often reference another evidence based written article geared towards the public. If I’m writing in-depth on a topic that will explain complex nutritional concepts, that’s often when I’ll link to the research papers itself.

      In pertaining to the Mediterranean diet, this study in particular did find a specific protective effect of the consumption of olive oil or nuts as compared to simply a low fat diet: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa1200303#t=article

      I’m not sure you fully read my review. In fact I stated that a lot of what was said was true. I still stand in solidarity with the hashtag #factsnotfear as the best way to present nutrition information to people. Fear mongering only causes stress, which we all know is also not good for our health!

      1. Let me be clear that I absolutely read your blog. Every word, at least once. Now that we have that covered, let’s get into some actual substantive discussion.

        The study you referenced had a plethora of limitations that would prevent any distinguishable results from happening between the nut and olive oil group, or being recommended on a large scale. 1.) 4.) You said that the intervention groups in this study were compared to a low-fat diet. Did you look at the study? The intervention groups consumed 41% of their calories from protein. The control group: 37%. The USDA recommends no more than 35%. The control group is actually considered a high fat diet. In fact, the % of calories from olive oil was extremely high among ALL groups (22% (oil), 17.6% (nut), 16.4% (control). .) If you convert the USDA’s recommendation for oil intake (5-6 teaspoons/day), that equates to roughly 10% of calories. The olive oil group more than doubled that–that is simply way too many nearly empty calories, and no dietitian would (or should) recommend that. 2.) The study had three groups, but the adherence to the control diet was significantly worse than the adherence to the Med diets. So of course the subjects not adhering as well to healthy dietary changes will cause increases in mortality. If you look at the breakdown of nutrient intake, they didn’t differ much at all between the 2 Med diets (olive oil vs. nut). When you have so much similarity in diet, but only differ between oil, chances are your health outcomes are going to be very similar. And that’s exactly what this study got. It doesn’t appear as if this is a good example of an article to pick to defend your argument.

        Fear mongering: you say “#factsnotfear”, but there is an underlying fallacy here that facts themselves cannot cause fear (which is what the documentary primarily does). The bulk of anti-cigarette smoking ads were and are today fact-based, with the actual intention of scaring people away from doing it. How many ads have we seen with a lung cancer victim with a hole in their neck, or about how it turns your lungs black? And since the 1970’s, smoking has plummeted by more than half. That would sound silly to tell people back in the 1970’s that these ads were fear-mongering. What about texting and driving? Should we not share the tragic results of what can occur from such actions in fright of fear-mongering? In one sentence, the documentary says that a diet higher in animal products leads to higher risk of disease, and that diets higher in whole plant foods leads to a lower risk of disease. The science undeniably demonstrates this.
        In conclusion, I see the film as portraying a reality that conflicts with most Americans’ (and even many dietitians’) viewpoints. To protect ourselves from this cognitive dissonance, we come up with reasons why their positions are incorrect. You repeat “fear-mongering”, but aside from the facts that they present (again, which almost all of which can easily be confirmed by science), what SPECIFICALLY do you find as fear-mongering? Public health and public health professionals’ messages have centered for years around helping people to eat certain foods in moderation, with little, if any success. But what’s so bad about adding in the EXPLANATION for why they should eat healthier? If the reality of potential disease or death won’t change people’s dietary patterns, what in the world will?

        1. Excellent…I think your response articulates the importance of how we gather information and how it is used. Your reply underscores the need to be versed in how to read research studies and most importantly, the need to ask a great number of questions. Who does this study benefit?… Who paid for the study? …Why am I seeing this study, in this form, disseminated in this manner? These types of questions can be a great source of information for the lay person to make personal choices. Research studies should not be used to back arguments unless they are deemed to be rigorous and as nonbiased as is humanly possible. There are so many examples of industries awarding large grants to universities in order for studies to be conducted…and if statistics can be interpreted in context, out of context, differing variables used for various reasons and perhaps incorrect choices in methodologies….well, interpreting research tests is a difficult proposition for most of us.

  4. Good job Jessica That documentary was exceptionally bad. I was in particularly offended by their comparison of meat to cigarettes – that was never the intention of WHO when they published that info – and in no way that that classification meant.

    1. Yes… and what’s even funnier is the part where they compare eggs to cigarettes. I went on their website to look at their references for that statement. One of them had absolutely NO mention of eggs anywhere in the article!!

      1. The study they were probably referring to was probably the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which found that the daily amount of cholesterol found in just one egg cut a woman’s life short by as much as a woman smoking 5 cigarettes a day for 15 years.

        Researchers followed up this study by looking at the plaque of people’s carotid arteries. Those that ate the most eggs (equivalent to 4 eggs per week or more for 50+ years) had 2/3 the risk of excessive carotid artery plaque build up as those smoking (equivalent to smoking a pack a day for 4+ years).

        Then we have a 2013 meta-analysis from the best studies all the way from the 1930’s, that found that those that ate the most eggs had a 19% increased risk of CVD, 68% increased risk of diabetes (once you get diabetes: 85% risk of heart disease). Just over 1/2 a day may increase heart disease risk 6% (40% once you have diabetes), and 29% increased risk of diabetes. The researchers said that their findings “supported the AHA dietary guidelines which advice restricted egg consumption in adults for preventing cardiometabolic disease.”

        I hope it does not seem such a mystery now where the documentary could have gotten their information, even if their website did not have the source. If you were on a mission to avoid heart disease and diabetes at all costs (shouldn’t everybody), the science suggests you would probably want to leave eggs out of the diet.

  5. Hi Jessica. Thank you for the information. You have some very good points here but you have used Canadian data not the United States. I believe that you are completely factual again based on Canada not the United States. The regulation in the US is completely different than in Canada. Most of what the documentary points out are factual evidence that the US diet is completely wrong and the organizations that set the regulations for the “healthy” diets have been sponsored by suppliers. Honestly I would love to be able to live in Canada so I would receive the benefits of clean, sustainable, organic foods available. Just remember that the US has president that believes climate change is a hoax and that all news is fake except fox and alex jones. We are the butt of all jokes in the world. It’s very disheartening and I’m embarrassed as an American.

    1. Hi Mehdi,

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, I made a note of where I was highlighting the Canadian situation vs the US. This is partly to show that the way things ARE done in the US doesn’t mean that it HAS to be that way! If you are passionate about protecting the environment or improving the food supply, then these are some things you can advocate for!!

  6. I appreciate your comments about fear mongering etc. However, once again people are overlooking the brutal fact that eating meat causes many billions of animals to be brutalised and needlessly slaughtered each year just so humans can eat meat. The level of cruelty is beyond insane and people JUST DON’T WANT TO SEE. Forget whether or not it’s healthy, it’s not ethically justifiable to any intelligent, sane person. Vegans are labelled as radical, but what is not radical about CONDONING CRUELTY every day and refusing to acknowledge it. I wish people would wake up and stop being so bloody selfish.

  7. That was great for your friends in Canada but we live in the USA.
    Meaning I’m a Black/Cuba decent male over 50, and a lot if these foods effective us differently….Pork ,Beef and Eggs is like or even worse than cigarettes..They all kill us as a people..We keep our own data…So I found the information palpable. But I know how to meat the spit out the bones.That a very old saying to get fruitful info and spit out the B…S…..
    Keep up your studies..

    1. Hopefully this movie will spark some real discussion around reforming farming practices in the US!

  8. Thank you for the review! I definitely relate to the fear of food this documentary induced in me. I’d like to hear more on your take on their claims that sugar consumption plays practically no role in the cause of diabetes? I’ve never heard this claim before.

    1. Hi Dempsey,
      The role of sugar is complicated. You can’t really say that sugar directly causes diabetes but to say that it doesn’t play any role at all would also be misleading. What we know is that a diet that’s inflammatory, which would include a diet high in added sugars, plays a role in increasing what we call insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes. Also, excess body weight can contribute to the development of diabetes. So if a person is consuming too much added calories in the form of sugar, that could play a role as well. Essentially you can’t emphatically say that “sugar causes diabetes” nor can you ignore the role it plays in a person’s diet.

  9. Thank you! This review is fantastic and much appreciated. It wasn’t even 5 minutes into the documentary before red flags started going off in my head. Great to read feedback from a registered dietitian. I’ve seen some of the buzz on Facebook and will likely start posting a link to your review when I see people reacting to this sensational documentary.

    1. Hi Jonathan!

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I hope your friends and family will find the review useful as well!

  10. Hi Jessica. I do not see your response to Vicki. I’m particularly interested as I also wonder why we decide to focus the discussion around diet and conveniently omit the cruelty side.
    If it is now evident that a vegan diet is just as healthy or healthier than a diet that includes meat and dairy, then why are we still brutalizing and slaughtering animals? What is the rationale behind it if we are clear on that we do not need meat for survival and/ or to preserve health? Why are not addressing the addictive component of eating meat (or sugar or anything else for that matter). Realistically speaking, we eat meat because it tastes good, not because we are convinced that our bodies NEED that piece of meat we’re eating. It’s a vicious behavioral pattern not a nutritionally conscious one.
    I am also not a fan of any information being delivered with the intention of causing fear, but I am glad someone finally had the guts to tell people what they do not want to hear because it’s outside their comfort zone. After all, no one likes change, and certainly no one likes giving up something that gives them pleasure. It’s just easier not to see…

    1. Hi Maritza, these are important issues that need to be wrestled with on an individual basis, but the ethics of animal treatment are outside my area of scientific expertise. The reason I focus on nutrition is because that’s what I do, I’m a dietitian. Since nutrition is a science I’m well-versed in, I can make statements of facts and truth with confidence that my opinions are solidly backed up in research and I can defend them in any discussion to any person, to bring people together around common values of discovering what’s good for our bodies. I find that the ethics of animal treatment is an issue that people end up coming to vastly different conclusions on, regardless of what experts have to say. I’ve also found that adopting a positive approach to diet changes is far more effective at helping people change their eating habits, so my approach is not to say “don’t eat this” which often creates a forbidden fruit mentality and makes it much harder for people to eat less of it. Instead my approach focuses on the health benefits of foods that we should eat more of.

      Regarding the addictive nature of meat and food, please check out this article I wrote a while back… https://www.smartnutrition.ca/nutrition-2/food-addiction-myth/

  11. Interesting review and for sure their is a lot of fear mongering in the movie. Some of the presentation and “facts” were skewed to produce the desired effect of the film makers.

    I see that you have some misleading information about estrogen in Soy milk. There is no estrogen is Soy milk, it is phytoestrogens

    Meaning: From the Greek word “phyto,” or plant, and “estrogen,” the hormone that causes fertility in all female mammals. Phytoestrogens have also been termed dietary estrogens because they’re not created by the human endocrine system. They can only be ingested or consumed.

    You are using the same fearmongering in this article by misrepresenting the facts. They are not the same.

    1. Hi Gazza, sorry that you got the impression I was trying to cause fear about soy, I was certainly not intending to do that. The comparisons of estrogen levels is merely to show that there is little to worry about regarding the estrogen levels in beef. While you’re correct that there is a difference between estrogen from animal sources and phytoestrogen from plant sources (I actually made that exact point in an article I wrote about soy), there are similarities between the two. The main point to take away is that there is little evidence that we need to be concerned about the amount of estrogen found in beef, or the amount of phytoestrogen found in soy.

  12. INteresting….Very Interesting.
    In a world of “trigger words” “safe spaces” and protesting anything that “hurts feelings”…it does not surprise me that “fear mongering” would be the buzz word of choice in your article. Tough these days to say or produce any work that does not scare people. So people are scared…big deal. You were a little afraid to eat meat after watching the documentary. I would be scared too when I saw the puss oozing from lanced boils on the pigs’ legs. It should scare you…it should scare everyone.

    Even if you cut this documentary in half…it is still “fear worthy”… as it should be. Please, visit a slaughter house, go to North Carolina and talk with these families…or meet some of these physicians before relying on “peer reviewed” papers or your own institutionalised education. Who is paying whom…would be my first question.

    Your point about HOW grants from companies are set up and that it makes a difference in how the funding of these health organizations is organized … is ludicrous. By associating a logo with an organization infers a partnership (Marketing 101). Try taking money/grants from a large drug cartel… it is set up in such a way as not to influence anything or anyone ……please.

    Remember you were educated in a system, as I am now, that promotes certain biases. Have you really looked at this? What were you taught about the Canadian/American food charts? Have you read the history behind the development of these charts? University of Toronto offers a degree program (MA, PhD) in investigating the history behind the how/what/when/where/ of disease. Currently I am working with PTSD and what I learned from these courses is beyond the scope of this letteryet, suffice it to say… they are fascinating courses…critical thinking at its best.

    Why/how can I speak to this?
    Trained by/Worked for one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies
    27 years vegan
    2 undergrad degrees, Masters, now completing my PhD (the only relevance here, is that it has taught me critical thinking skills)..
    Looking forward to your rebutal…My best to you, Jessica…Remember, people had rather change their religion than their eating habits.

    1. Hi Terry, that’s a wonderful suggestion, I’d certainly be glad to watch a version of this documentary that is cut in half and contains only the parts that are valid and truthful. Currently I don’t think that version exists though, so I couldn’t react to it. My reaction was to the misleading parts of this documentary that fill people with invalid fears about the food they’re eating on a regular basis. My approach to dietetic advising is based on the understanding that people in general respond best and eat healthiest when they have a positive and properly educated relationship with food, rather than one that is based on fear and misinformation. If you respond differently than the majority, then I’m sorry this review won’t resonate with you.

      Regarding your point about drug cartels, I suppose some people might think comparing publicly traded and legally operating businesses to illegal and violent drug cartels is a valid comparison from which we can draw conclusions, but I don’t.

      As you say, every system of thought and education has a bias. It’s been my experience that science-based education has the most resilience to misinformation and displays the most flexibility at adapting to new information. This is not to say that it is never wrong, but rather that it is constantly proving itself wrong and learning more about the world around us, so the best we can do is go with the current information we have available. I’m glad you have a lot of education in different subjects. I personally have a lot of education on this topic specifically, and it’s my pleasure to share that knowledge with people.

  13. Jessica,
    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I wanted to address most of your points…yet, I feel at this stage it would not be of much benefit to you, your readers or myself for that matter.
    Concerning the film… I have had the pleasure of knowing several of the physicians featured in the film. Your statement, “It’s been my experience that science-based education has the most resilience” is interesting. Yet, this is why I am surprised… the science-based education that these learned physicians have spent years obtaining does not seem to count in your critique. I suggest you could not find a more educated and revered scientist/physician/researcher then Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. I am sure you are familiar with his research …the ‘China’ study. He is also the founder of Forks over Knives.

    I would question your statement concerning “people in general respond best and eat healthiest when they have a positive and properly educated relationship with food.” The term ‘properly educated’ is bothersome, as I believe it to be impossible. To be ‘properly educated’ would indicate that the ingredients; the drugs used, the pesticides sprayed, the altered genes, the additives, preservatives and the diseases, which befall the food chain, are known and that educated choices could be made. Even the scientists, the nutritionist, the physicians…do not know what long term effects these have on the human body.

    Your graph showing the “nannograms of estrogen” is from the University of Nebraska’s website. If you follow the links from your graph, you will find UN’s educational programs in beef cattle production. Please note a few of the bylines taken from the site:

    Genetic Improvement of Feed Efficiency in Beef Cattle
    National research project to address feed efficiency in beef cattle.

    Bovine Respiratory Complex
    This group of researchers has a goal to reduce the prevalence of bovine respiratory disease complex in beef and dairy cattle.
    Feed Additives
    (May 2017) When profit margins are tight, the use of technologies such as feed additives should not be overlooked.
    Profit Tip: Implanting the Suckling Calf
    (April 2017) The use of growth implants has been shown to be an effective tool in increasing production from the ranch to the feedlot.

    There is no way possible for the average person to be “educated” enough to comprehend an industry as intricate, specialized, and secretive as the cattle industry. I am from Texas, and a great number of my family members were ranchers…it is a tough and arduous business. You might suggest that the FDA (US) will protect us…know that this institution does not develop nor test any product. They rely on the studies submitted by the company that is seeking product approval. Which brings us back to the fact…Nebraska is the heart of the cattle industry. No biases here…

    “Regarding your point about drug cartels, I suppose some people might think comparing publicly traded and legally operating businesses to illegal and violent drug cartels is a valid comparison from which we can draw conclusions, but I don’t.” You must know that my example was a metaphor…written in jest, as I find it particularly amusing that anyone would believe these companies would give large sums of money to health organizations out of kindness. Sorry, legal or not…it just doesn’t fly.

    “…so the best we can do is go with the current information we have available…” Now we are getting somewhere. What I am advocating is for people to look critically at the information as you have mentioned. Yet, go deeper… Where does the information come from? Who paid for the research? Where might we find alternative information in order to critique the current info available…! This is where the power is…this is where people become empowered and to start thinking for themselves…We must study the history of these companies…the cattle industry for example.

    I am not sure I understand your comment “If you respond differently than the majority, then I’m sorry this review won’t resonate with you.” I guess this is a compliment, as I do respond differently than the majority of people. I feel 27 years of veganism would suggest that I have done my homework. It was not easy. As I said before, most people would rather change their religion rather than their eating habits.

    You are a smart and knowledgable woman. You have the tools to stretch your education, to question your education, and desiminate it in a manner that opens peoples’ minds to all possibilities. Question…question…question…that is the mark of the truly educated.

    My best to you…

  14. I was thinking about our recent correspondence, this morning…I wondered if I was a bit harsh. Sometimes emails are not the best form of communication. I felt uneasy until I heard the morning news:

    One in five sausages in Canadian study mislabelled, including one with horse
    Read more at https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2017/08/04/sausages-canadian-mislabelled/#LYTG4BQgxtKWirUP.99

    20% of sausages tested across Canada had unlabelled meat, study shows

    Now, this is scary. Understanding that if you see one rat, there are a 100 that you do not see…well, again, this is a Southern US saying, an analogy, a metaphor…

    So, people are barbecuing and actually eating horse meat. They were not given a choice, they were not educated on how to look for horse meat or pig in their beef saugages…you see…not everyone is as forth right and honest with good intentions and a great deal of integrity..especially the meat industry.


    1. Food fraud is certainly a horrible occurrence but it’s an entirely separate topic from the debate of the justification of using fear tactics to “convert” someone to veganism. The meat industry is not the only culprit in food fraud.

  15. Jessica,
    Please tell me one reason why anyone would want to convince anyone…to be a vegan? It is not a religion…or a cult…please tell me. I could care less who chooses what to eat. My family are all meat eaters and enjoy poking fun at my husband and I. People ask me if I care if they eat meat in front of us…I laugh! I am more than happy to help them prepare their meat and even help them debone the turkey at Christmas. If you think this film is trying to convert people (again, no motive to do so) I would say they do not need to work that hard. All you have to do is read the newspaper and wonder if you are serving horse, pork or beef at your home this holiday. Well, If they use horse meat…what else might there be?

    No, sorry…difficult to debate with someone about something that is so important…who can excuse the use of horse meat and say that other people commit food fraud also. Do you realize the health implications not to mention religious convictions that have been violated? I dare say to eat horse or a turnip…well, you can see the analogy.
    I left these types of arguments… long ago in the school yard…just give people a choice and document your reviews with material that is not put out by the cattle industry. That is the least you can do.

  16. Thank you setting things straight about this movie. I can breath normal again knowing I’m not going out of my mind. I’m 52 years young, I have a University degree and grow an organic garden and hunt and fish my own meat… in my spare time one of the things I enjoy is learning about food, nutrition and health and have been for years since I was a teenager. I feel I have enough knowledge to know that the claims I witnessed in this film are false and/or outdated. I started watching this documentary today and stopped after it tried to convince that sugar as virtually harmless and meat, fish poultry and dairy as the biggest cause of diabetes and cancer and more. This made me mad!

  17. jessica, on the surface you make some interesting points. but i must say your critics make some better ones. i have no dog in this fight, but looks to me like you are hung up on the whole being ‘fear-mongered’ by the film and are missing the bigger picture… what is the truth?? is meat truly detrimental to our health?.. a lot of research seems to suggest there is indeed a link there…of-course research is full of bias on both sides and correlation does not imply causality…ofcourse,the film-makers are being sensationalist and maybe over reaching. but maybe, just maybe they are onto something… there is a saying we here the first day in medical school. 50% of what we will teach you will be proven false in years to come. we just dont know which 50% it will be… may is suggest that rather than focusing on how the film made you ‘feel’ how bout you put your brain to good use and help us get closer to the truth. don’t just rely on what you learned in dietician school. how bout do the research yourself? get a PhD, write policy, team up with others to find the best available data and disseminate that! .the verdict is still out about the meat thing, in the meantime there are people dying of heart disease and diabetes. i see them every day in my clinic. the cattle industry will always wana keep the status quo. the dollar is their bottom line, not the public health. it is up to us to stand up and question weather what we are putting in our body
    help us!

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