The Science Behind the Top 10 Claims from What the Health

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The Science Behind the Top 10 Claims from What the Health

Every couple of years, a new “health” documentary pops up in the media or over dinner conversation. Nine times out of 10, the movie’s takeaway is that you should consume your vegetables in liquid form and eat soy burgers for the rest of your life.

What the Health, a Netflix documentary brought to you by the makers of Cowspiracy, is one of those documentaries.

Why respond to something so … not science?

Normally, something like this doesn’t even deserve a response, but some of the claims in this movie are downright harmful.

When controversial documentaries, articles, and conversations cross into your personal space, remember one thing:

If you present solid science, you don’t have to emotionally charge your audience with scenes of parents serving their children cigars wrapped in hot dog buns. Heavy-duty evidence stands on its own.

After watching What the Health, your friends start side-eyeing the hunk of butter you just plunked into your coffee. If you’re looking for some real science behind the claims in this movie, read on.

Here are the top 10 claims from What the Health and the real science behind them.

1. Meat is as dangerous as cigarettes

Nope. This is a claim that pops up in the news every couple of years, and my response is always the same: Not all meat is created equal – and some meats aren’t even good enough to be considered food.

But when someone lumps all meat together as being bad for you, regardless of quality, you can bet there’s more fear-mongering than science behind the claim.

In What the Health, the documentary’s anti-cheese meat-hating doctor Neil Barnard, M.D. sent researchers into fast food restaurants to test for carcinogens in their products. Surprise! They found carcinogens in every chicken sample they took.

In other news, water is wet.

Fast food chains are notorious for having the worst quality “meat” possible. Chicken McNuggets® contain more than 30 ingredients, including fillers, flavoring, and preservatives. Failing to distinguish between processed versus unprocessed, overcooked versus slow-cooked, and grass-fed versus industrially-raised meat is comparing apples to oranges. This point honestly doesn’t even deserve a rebuttal.

So, when the narrator compares processed meats to cigarettes, I tend to agree with him. Sodium nitrite-cured sausage made from meats raised in crowded, unsanitary conditions are terrible for you. But they are nothing like grass-fed beef raised on sustainable pasture without pesticides and antibiotics.

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