Health Related Documentaries
Last fall I became a documentary junkie. And I don’t know how it happened because I don’t watch tv. Anyway, now that you’ve run out of shows to binge on, I thought I’d share these with you!
I watched all of these documentaries on Netflix with an open mind and took what they presented with a grain of salt (they may not be available any longer but if you Google them you can find most of them on YouTube, etc.). Before this, I was a meat eater, fervent recycler and IKEA shopper. I’ve now reduced meat to three or less meals per week and have thrown away my Teflon coated floss. Below, you’ll find a synopsis, any criticism and any response to criticism, if applicable, for each documentary. I should warn you; this may be difficult for some to digest!
Disclaimers: Most of these documentaries are filmed in the US, not Canada. I am not a doctor or a farmer. I still support our local farmers and am not telling you to stop eating meat. Everyone will do what's right for them and some diets may work better for different people. I'm only providing this as I found it interesting. I will not profit in any way from this blog.
SYNOPSIS: “After noticing a strange odour in his child’s pajama, filmmaker and father, John Whelan, searches for the source and uncovers potentially toxic secrets of the chemical industry. He discovered that any manufacturer could include known carcinogens, under the umbrella term “fragrance,” without being required to name a single one.”
CRITICISM: “John Whelan spends a lot of time on the phone trying to track down the "toxic" chemicals in his daughter's pajamas, all while asserting that we are guinea pigs of industry bathed in a sea of chemicals. Throughout, he completely ignores the basic principle of toxicology that "the dose makes the poison." This scaremongering documentary can't help but mention the words "toxic" and "chemicals" every other sentence, a tactic of repetition in lieu of scientific evidence.”
RESPONSE TO CRITICISM: “Stink! was featured on the syndicated television show, The Doctors. The Doctors invited the three major industry trade associations of which the movie was critical, including the American Chemistry Council, to appear on the show to contest the claims presented in the film. All three organizations declined.”
MY OPINION: When manufacturers don’t have to prove the chemicals are safe, we are by default their guinea pigs. The chemicals have to be proven unsafe before they are banned. “The dose makes the poison” is like saying, yes, this chemical is toxic but only if you have a lot of it. I’ll pass on a little bit of toxin, thanks. And the reason there may be little scientific evidence – who can afford hundreds of thousands of dollars on scientific studies? Well, manufacturers can, but you can bet they’re not sharing anything unflattering. And when industry doesn’t want to talk about it, it makes them look guilty. Shocking and a good watch.
The Devil We Know
SYNOPSIS: “Citizens in West Virginia take on a powerful corporation after they discover it has knowingly been dumping a toxic chemical -- now found in the blood of 99.7% of Americans -- into the local drinking water supply. And it turned out they did so knowing that the waste was detrimental to the environment and human health. This leads to the filing of one of the largest class action lawsuits in the history of environmental law.”
CRITICISM: Not found.
MY OPINION: It’s a good look at industry and how some are in it just to make a buck despite ANY consequences. Even more shocking and a good watch.
SYNOPSIS: “Tells the story of James Wilks — elite Special Forces trainer and The Ultimate Fighter winner — as he travels the world on a quest to uncover the optimal diet for human performance. Showcasing elite athletes, special ops soldiers, visionary scientists, cultural icons, and everyday heroes, what James discovers permanently changes his understanding of food and his definition of true strength.”
CRITICISM: “It received criticism for scientific inaccuracies and a perceived unbalanced support for plant-based nutrition, with several experts accusing it of misinformation and pseudoscience. Despite its overall reception, the documentary came under heavy criticism not only from sports, science and nutrition sectors, but also from other defenders of plant-based diets.”
RESPONSE TO CRITICISM: Joe Rogan addressed the documentary on his podcast, which featured Chris Kresser, paleolithic diet proponent. Both harshly criticized the documentary, accusing it of scientific dishonesty on the show. Kresser described it as being "full of misleading statements, half-truths, flat-out falsehoods, flawed logic, and absurdities." However, Rogan invited both Kresser and creator, James Wilks, to a follow up podcast. The debate lasted four hours and saw Wilks engaging Kresser's criticisms, eventually making him concede mistakes about vitamin B12 livestock supply. Notably, Rogan himself stated to have changed his own posture, praising Wilks' defense of his position and even considering taking down the previous chapter from his channel. He was quoted as "James knocked it out of the park and defended himself and the film quite spectacularly."
MY OPINION: This is the first documentary I watched and the catalyst for starting to change my diet. Plant-based diets don’t have a lot of scientific evidence because there’s not enough money in vegetables to fund it! Definitely a good watch.
SYNOPSIS: ”A new docuseries examines how the rush to make things cheap or convenient for consumers has led to a lot of intended and unintended consequences. The episodes cover counterfeit makeup, where these knock-offs contain ingredients that poison consumers, how furniture makers are so intent on making cheap furniture that it’s injured or killed children; how the vaping industry has sucked in young smokers with hip products, and the plastic crisis and how we won’t recycle our way out of it.”
CRITICISM: None found.
MY OPINION: The episode on recycling was the best one and the furniture episode will have me buying local and good quality furniture next time I need it. Worth the watch.
Forks over Knives
SYNOPSIS: “Forks Over Knives examines the claim that most, if not all, of the chronic diseases that afflict us can be controlled or even reversed by rejecting animal-based and processed foods. The storyline traces the personal journeys of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional biochemist, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a former top surgeon. On separate paths, their ground-breaking research led them to the same startling conclusion: Chronic diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes can almost always be prevented—and in many cases reversed—by adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet.”
CRITICISM: Two very long critiques. See:
MY OPINION: This one seemed to drag at parts but some of the science was interesting. Not in my top picks but still worth the watch if you’re interested in diet and/or science.
The Magic Pill
SYNOPSIS: “The Magic Pill follows doctors, patients, scientists, chefs, farmers and journalists from around the globe who are combating illness through a paradigm shift in eating. And this simple change -- embracing fat as our main fuel -- is showing profound promise in improving the health of people, animals and the planet.”
CRITICISM: Longer critiques are found here:
MY OPINION: This one is about the keto diet. My big problem with this one is that they followed people who ate mainly processed foods. In that case, these people could have switched to any diet that bans processed foods and have had an improvement in their health! If you eat processed foods, it’s a must watch, otherwise only if you’ve watched the rest.
What the Health
SYNOPSIS: “Filmmaker Kip Andersen uncovers the secret to preventing and even reversing chronic diseases, and he investigates why the nation's leading health organizations don't want people to know about it. The film exposes the collusion and corruption in government and big business that is costing us trillions of healthcare dollars and keeping us sick.”
CRITICISM: “When this anti-meat documentary materialized, it was vigorously debunked by health officials, scientists, and journalists alike. The film, which blames meat for pretty much every health ill in modern society, butchered science and misled viewers. While filmmaker Kip Anderson claims the film is evidence-based, fact-checkers found that "96% of the studies mentioned in the movie do not support the claims being made."
RESPONSE TO CRITICISM: https://medium.com/thrive-global/critics-of-the-documentary-what-the-health-can-just-go-to-health-382c7cb710b5
MY OPINION: The critic’s “fact-checkers” was actually one person who wrote a book about meat belonging in a healthy diet. So…100% not reliable! One of my favourites – it was also entertaining!
The C Word
SYNOPSIS: “Cancer is no laughing matter but the archaic way we are beating it, is! With a dose of good humor, heart, and a touch of rock-n'-roll beat, THE C WORD reveals the forces at play keeping us sick and dares to ask: if up to 70% of cancer deaths are preventable, what are we waiting for?”
CRITICISM: Nothing found.
MY OPINION: A favourite - must watch!
SYNOPSIS: “A ground-breaking environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world's leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.”
CRITICISM: “Did you know that animal agriculture is the leading contributor to climate change, responsible for more than half of all carbon emissions, more than fossil fuel energy? No? Good. Because it's completely untrue. This is the lie at the heart of Cowspiracy, which claims that if the world's population "simply" went vegan, we'd save the planet. More nuanced, evidence-based evaluations find that eliminating meat from our collective diet actually wouldn't be as beneficial as claimed. Pesticide production would have to go way up to make up for all the lost fertilizer in the form of manure, and many more people would face nutritional deficiencies.”
RESPONSE TO CRITICISM: The Union of Concerned Scientists has disputed that the majority of greenhouse gases are produced by animal agriculture, as this runs counter to scientific consensus (the cause is fossil fuel emissions). However, this dispute has been critiqued as a biased effort to minimize the impact livestock has on climate change.”
See here for more https://www.cowspiracy.com/blog/2015/11/23/response-to-criticism-of-cowspiracy-facts .
MY OPINION: I don’t understand the critic’s logic that pesticide production would have to increase (ironically, it’s from RealClearScience.com). The critic also seems to be vague and uninformed on nutrition. You need to know where to find protein and B12 in a plant-based diet but that’s more about awareness. Definitely an interesting watch!
SUMMARY: Knowing that scientific evidence can be hard to come by, I’m open to case studies and anecdotal evidence. Most criticisms are about the lack of evidence but show me where the research is to prove them wrong. For example, the critics aren’t providing any evidence that meat is good for you. So why is it up to the plant-based side to prove a meatless diet is better for you when we know that meat isn’t good for you?
With many of these documentaries supporting a plant-based diet, I did a quick search and found these studies:
- Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/
- Anti-inflammatory Effects of a Vegan Diet in Coronary Artery Disease Trial https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30571591
- Plant vs Animal Based Diets and Insulin Resistance, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29948369
- Vegetarian diet and blood pressure in a hospital-base study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30069127
So prepare yourself a healthy snack and enjoy a documentary or two! And then get some exercise.
Have you watched any of these? What were your thoughts? Are there any other documentaries you’d recommend?