What the Health

I promise this is going to be the last review post and I will get right back into cooking. I’ve seen this title so many times being touted as the crème de la crème of food documentaries that I just had to sign up for Netflix and see for myself. I thought to myself that if nothing else, I would have gained some blog fodder 🙂

I will admit that the first time I attempted to watch it, I only watched the first 10 minutes of it due to the multiple attempts of making refined sugar seem like the good guy in the “food pyramid”. I just couldn’t get over the fact that anybody in their right mind would try to convince anybody that eating sugar won’t kill you. That was a deal breaker for me and I had to turn it off in utter disgust and disappointment. However, I did return to it with a clean slate and decided to give it a try in hopes that I would be able to crush it in my review.

First of all, the sugar commendation in the first 10 minutes of the movie is a very weak attempt at trying to convince the viewer that carbohydrates in general are not the enemy and should not be feared. The authors mistakenly and to the film’s detriment, in my opinion, dump refined sugar in the same category as other sources of carbohydrates coming from natural plant sources (think sweet potato, rice, fruit, beans and veggies). To me, this is very off-putting and inaccurate – I don’t believe that a calorie is a calories and it does matter where that calorie came from. If it comes from refined sugar it will only make you crave more of it, if it comes from a plant it will satiate you and nourish you until your next meal. So, I think it would have been a good idea for the authors to scale back on the promotion of pure refined sugar at the beginning and instead talk about carbohydrates coming from vegetable sources. 

However, there was a reason why the film specifically mentions sugar as the good guy –  in order to promote veganism/vegetarianism the film needed to convince us that high carbohydrate diet is not the source of disease such as diabetes or obesity. A specialist in diabetes Dr. Neal Barnard states that ” diabetes is not and never was caused by eating a high carbohydrate diet, and it’s not caused by eating sugar.  The cause of diabetes is a diet that builds up the amount of fat into the blood, I’m talking about a typical meat based, animal based diet.” To show how this happens we get to see an animation of the muscle cells being blocked by the buildup of fat that prevents the natural sugars from getting in the cells where they belong and this causes insulin resistance as the sugars now have to remain in the blood steam. This sounds plausible, until you get to listen to the next guy.

Dr. Garth Davis states that “carbs cannot make you fat in and of themselves”. He points out that we have storage in our bodies for carbs called glycogen in the liver and in the muscle – so when we eat carbs we either store them or we burn them. When we eat fat, he says, it goes straight to our hips and organs as there is no inbetween for fat. He fails to mention, though, that the storage for carbs is only about 2000 calories. So what happens when we eat more carbs than we can store or burn? Well, we’ll get fat. He briefly states that you would have to overdo it by a lot to get fat just from eating carbs. But the real kicker comes when we get told that the cookie would not be bad for its sugar content if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s accompanied by fat. In other words, the only reason why the cookie will cause you to gain weight is because you cannot efficiently use the energy from the sugar in the cookie because of the inhibiting powers of the fat surrounding the sugar. So, this assertion made me consider that, maybe, if you eliminated sugar from the diet, fat could be used for energy and as a result would not block sugar from getting into the cells? Think Keto.

I don’t have answers to this hypothesis, but one thing that becomes more and more obvious to me is that you have to pick your campsite and stick to it. You are either an efficient carb or fat burner and you either thrive on carbs or fats, not both. Does the fat have to come from animal source, though? I don’t think it does and the authors of the film don’t think so either, but their reasoning is completely different than mine. But I won’t spoil everything for you, you should find out for yourself, because there is more in the film that’s worth watching. Not least of which is the type of conflict of interest that the government is a part of by taking money from the industry to sponsor studies and research that will then put this industry’s products on the shelves of your grocery store. How can you trust the government advising you what to eat by creating their infamous food pyramid, when you know that the various conglomerates in the food industry basically paid the government to promote their individual products?  It’s quite upsetting to realise that any industry has this much say in what the government is recommending you to eat – this fact alone makes me want to reconsider my entire menu. 

Whether the movie convinces you to ditch the meat or not, I think the main message of this film is a good one : eat more of the real, plant stuff because it is good for you.


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