I watched the bullshit documentary What the Health so you don’t have to.

TL:DR – this goddamn documentary kept me in a state of rage for about 30% of the thing, rolling my eyes for another 45%, and mumbling “fine, whatever, that’s valid” to myself for the other 25%.

I’ve yet to find a nutrition documentary that I think accurately represents the topic because Do-Your-Own-Research-Because-Every-Human-Body-Needs-Specific-Kinds-of-Fuel-and-You-Must-Learn-Whats-Best-For-Yours wouldn’t sell. These documentaries are designed to shock you because that’s how they get watched. That said, What The Health was particularly full of inaccuracies.

What set off my TOTAL bullshit alarm: 

  • The guy who made it has absolutely zero background in diet, nutrition, science, or academics other than being a self professed hypochondriac who clearly finds one section of information and hyper focuses on it, thinking it’s the end-all-be-all. Not only that, but he was specifically using soundbites from interviews that supported his original unresearched theory. He DID NOT go into this looking to collect information, then present accurate findings based on research. This is the kind of person who goes to Google, types in “the color blue causes cancer,” finds a few articles with people who agree with him, then makes a documentary about it.
  • He cited SO many studies as fact that have been disproved.
  • He cited SO many things as fact that are purely correlation (NOT causation) and not even remotely proven. #CorrelationNotCausation #PeerReviewedResearchNerd
  • The guy took studies on processed meat – which, no, is not good for you (not a lot of real food plus SUPER high levels of sodium) – and expanded those studies to ALL animal based proteins. That’s not how science works, buddy.
  • DIETARY FAT DOES NOT CREATE BODY FAT. *one more time for the people in the back* DIETARY FAT DOES NOT CREATE BODY FAT.
  • The bullshit he kept circling around to that all animal protein causes disease is completely inaccurate. In *some* bodies, it will. It *many* bodies, it won’t.
  • The entire time, as he was talking about diabetes, he was talking about type 2 diabetes. Personal gripe, but valid. #SaidtheTypeOneDiabetic
  • Every time he was calling an organization, then saying some sob story about getting no answers, he was calling the general help line, reaching a coordinator or receptionist who had no possible way to answer his questions.
  • All of the bullshit around “sugar isn’t bad at all” as he was scanning candy aisles in the grocery store was making me instantly enraged.
  • The statement one doctor made that “sugar doesn’t cause inflammation” is bullshit. Complete and total bullshit. ESPECIALLY when said in tandem with panning candy aisles.
  • The “countless studies” he cited that cow milk causes type 1 diabetes was ONE study that led to further studies about gut health and autoimmunity. But no, dairy does not directly cause autoimmune disease. NOT EVEN MUCH CORRELATION. NOT CAUSATION.
  • “Serving chicken at an American Diabetes Association event is like serving alcohol at an AA event.” WHAT THE FUCK, STEVE-O? No. Just, no. See also: since when is Steve-O a valid expert on literally anything at all?
  • What the human body was created to eat based on our teeth, our stomach structure, etc. is entirely dependent on whatever facts you choose to cite. You can “prove” that humans should be carnivorous the same way you can “prove” that humans should be vegan. It depends on what facts you look at.
  • The people who switched to a plant-based diet and achieved AMAZING results weren’t going from an otherwise healthy diet to plant-based. They were going from a lot of processed food and stuff they should never have been putting into their bodies to a drastically different and far healthier diet. That does not prove that vegan is the answer for everyone. That proves that processed shit isn’t the answer for anyone.
What was valid:
  • The premise that there is a tie between nutrition and health is 100% accurate. Food is fuel and every time you put food into your mouth you’re either feeding disease or fighting it.
  • The information he shared on PROCESSED meat was accurate.
  • The information he shared about the general effect environment, spray run-off, added antibiotics, etc. has on our food supply, including seafood, was accurate.
  • Yes, there are certain types of food (he talked about dairy, but sugar (natural and artificial) and wheat do the same) that are shown to have addictive qualities, which is why you tend to crave them and they will affect your brain chemical balance.
  • Man-made environmental toxins, particularly sprays and chemicals used in commercial farming, absolutely cause massive amounts of disease. Humans shouldn’t be around them or consume them.
  • His sections on commercial farming, the environmental issues it causes, and the truly disgusting meat we consume from it was absolutely accurate.
  • Food access and the impact of commercial farming on black communities is definitely a civil rights issue. No doubt about it. Look into food deserts too (not desserts – deserts).
  • His coming down on the American Diabetes Association for not being more clear that diet and type 2 diabetes are directly tied was pretty fair. What Dr. Ratner was *kind of* trying to say and FAILED at was that different people need different diets, so it would be entirely inaccurate and not medically or scientifically sound to say that a vegan diet would prevent or reverse type 2 diabetes. Every case of diabetes presents differently in each body, so a purely vegan diet will not work for EVERYONE but certainly has been proven to help some. For others, a paleo diet will be best. For others, focusing on low-carb will be best. People need to learn to eat for their own bodies.
  • The amount of money non-profits and medical organizations, including the USDA (by way of politicians whose campaigns get paid for by food lobbying organizations) and nutrition and dietetic certification organizations, accept from problematic food and pharmaceutical companies is absolutely an issue and creates major conflicts of interest that lead to bad information.
  • Yup, food industries spend A LOT of money marketing food that’s not at all good for them to eat to people, PARTICULARLY to kids (I STILL turn my head when I pass by Lunchables and Capri Sun). Fair rule: if the food is packaged or you’ve seen a commercial for it, you probably shouldn’t eat it. Food commercials are made to sell commercial products, not educate you.
  • The key for disease in the body is controlling inflammation. This was mentioned by guest interviews, quickly and in passing, twice. Know that this is KEY, but what causes inflammation in each person’s body is different. For me, gluten, sugar, and dairy cause inflammation but animal protein doesn’t. For you, red meat and alcohol might be what causes inflammation. Pay attention to your body and how you’re feeling. If you feel tired, bloated, depressed, or anything else negative in the hours or days after you eat a specific type of food, stop eating it. (Yes, this absolutely requires a lot of personal science experiments. It takes time but it’s worth it. Look up elimination diets.)
  • It’s true that that the large majority of doctors and medical professionals are never taught nutrition. Not even one class. So no, doctors will not typically be able to counsel you on using the food you eat to help manage your health.
  • In the end, eating more produce is a great umbrella rule. No harm in that. A plant-based diet is never a bad thing. Just be smart about where your plants are coming from (commercial agriculture is an issue too). And correct, eating plant-based doesn’t need to be even remotely expensive and athletes don’t necessarily always need animal protein to be in elite form.

That all said, do look into your food. I highly recommend making friends with local farmers who grow and care for food in ethical and healthy ways. Look up your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) – they are a wonderful way to get safer and healthier food while supporting your local farmers. At some, you can even go visit the farm to see in what conditions your food is grown and raised.

If you want information about nutrition that has been heavily researched by academics and scientists and presented in an easily digestible (*ba dum tss*) way, read Eat the Yolks or go look at The Paleo Mom (for autoimmune paleo information) or Kris Carr (for vegan information).

It will always be important to eat for YOUR body and do your OWN research. Don’t buy into the hype, wherever it ends up popping up – Time Magazine, Netflix, your favorite aunt – whatever. People stay latching on to tiny bits of information then going down their own spiral because it sells and they can get attention for it.



2 thoughts on “I watched the bullshit documentary What the Health so you don’t have to.

  1. HERE, HERE. Amen to everything you just said. Finding it hard to understand why this inflammatory POS documentary is so popular. It’s so sensationalistic I can’t take it seriously, and it’s downright disrespectful to compare things to 9/11.

    1. Thanks for reading! And agreed! Whenever someone can spin people into a state of fear, they can get those people to act. That’s 100% what this has done. From a business perspective, I get why Netflix/his production companies like the film maker so much but it’d be great if he could put his energy behind doing proper research to create something just as impactful but also accurate and helpful.

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