A Matter of Fact? The science behind Netflix’s “What the Health” documentary
Fact-checking the Netflix vegan documentary What The Health (dir. Kip Andersen).
A scene-by-scene, fact-by-fact What The Health fact-check and review.
The most important take-aways.
FALSE / FALSE-ISH
These just aren’t true
: Eating processed meat is as dangerous as smoking. No. An 18% increase on baseline risk vs 1900%!
: Eating sugar doesn’t cause inflammation and no plaques form in your blood vessels after you eat it. Nope.
: Chicken is no better than processed meat. False.
: Chicken is the number one source of cholesterol in the US. Nope, eggs are.
: One egg per day is as bad as smoking five cigarettes. Total rubbish.
: Eating egg yolk coats red blood cells, thickens blood, changes hormones. Nope.
: Meat from livestock fed pesticide-laden GMO feed causes hormonal damage in infants. Not true.
: There’s a link between dairy consumption and auto-immune disease, asthma, MS and diabetes. No.
: People who drink milk have higher rates of cancer, die earlier, and have more hip fractures. No they don’t.
: Casomorphin (from cheese) plays a role in sudden infant death syndrome. It really doesn’t.
: Livestock emit more greenhouse gas emissions than cars and transport. No. Transport 14% Livestock 5%.
: Two weeks of a vegan diet suppressed prostate and breast cancer. No it didn’t.
TRUE-ISH / MISLEADING
Kinda true, misrepresented, uncertain or unfalsifiable.
: Diet is a higher health risk factor than smoking. Only because everyone eats and not everyone smokes.
: A 50g serving of meat daily will increase colorectal cancer by 18%. True, but it’s 18% of an existing 5% baseline risk. So the actual risk increase is 1%.
: A meat-based diet causes diabetes. Unclear. There are many factors.
: Heart disease is caused by diet. Yes, it’s a factor. But so are lack of exercise, smoking and obesity.
: Most dioxin exposure comes from eating meat and dairy. Fish and shellfish are major contributors, too.
: People on statins still get heart attacks. Yes, but fewer.
: Cholesterol plummets within days of eating a plant-based diet. It does drop, but not “within days”.
: Kids have fatty streaks in their arteries by age 10. All children everywhere have streaks. Links to heart disease later in life are weak.
Facts that stand up
: Diet and obesity are a major cause of chronic health problems.
: Diabetes is a terrible health scourge and one in five US health dollars goes to care of diabetes sufferers.
: The dairy and egg industries have large, manipulative lobbying arms that fund biased research.
: Both the American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society are sponsored by large food corporations. The USDA guidelines are probably affected.
: Dioxins, pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones accumulate in the flesh of meat and fish.
: The World Health Organization considers processed meat a carcinogen. Cutting it out can improve health.
: Fried or barbecued meat is especially bad for you.
: Chicken is the leading source of sodium (salt) in the US diet (but for 12-19 year olds it’s pizza!)
: No human needs the milk of a cow. Though it is good for you, it does not give you ‘strong bones’.
: Milk does contain a permissible level of pus. The US maximum level (750,000 cells per millilitre) is higher than the EU level (400,000).
: Plant-based diets can help to control diabetes.
: Small studies suggest plant-based diets can reverse heart disease and plaque build-up in arteries.
: If everyone went vegan it would have a profound effect on society.
More food for your brain
» Our data and sources, sorted by truth category
» Read a massive metastudy on the health benefits of plant-based diets
» Scientific evidence for the health benefits of flexitarian diets
» The effects on your body of a vegan diet
» The environmental impact of plant-based diets
» See our fact check of Based on a True Story movies
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