Expert responses to the What The Health documentary from a low-carb, ketogenic perspective, including reliable, FACTUAL information for further consideration.
The internet is saturated with information regarding health: every time you log into Netflix, there’s a new documentary with new information to consume. While I am excited to see that more people are recognizing the relationship between food and wellness, unfortunately, not all of this information made for public consumption is gathered with the best intentions, methods … or even facts.
As a nutrition educator, I want to make solid information available so that you can feel confident in your choices and empowered to make decisions that help you feel good, which is why I have picked the brains of health leaders in the hopes of providing you with perspectives that shed some light on that burning question: “What the Health?”
You might’ve heard about What the Health, a “documentary” on Netflix that’s making waves with claims like, “EATING 1 EGG PER DAY IS JUST AS BAD AS SMOKING 5 CIGARETTES PER DAY FOR LIFE EXPECTANCY,” (seriously, that’s a direct quote). While I can appreciate the fact that What the Health is eager to emphasize the connection between diet and wellbeing, I am a little apprehensive about their methods, and I think that they’ve created more confusion than intended. I took the following quotes directly from What the Health, presented them to revered health and wellness professionals, and I’m posting their responses, making them available for public consumption, so that you can feel confident in the choices you make for yourself.
What The Health: CARBOHYDRATE CONSUMPTION IS INVERSELY RELATED TO DIABETES (09:03)
Dr. Jason Fung, chief of the department of medicine at Scarborough General Hospital on the board of directors of Low Carb Diabetes Association and the scientific editor of the Journal of Insulin Resistance: There is no reliable data to suggest that carbohydrate consumption is inversely related to diabetes. In fact, most data suggests the opposite – that high consumption of refined carbohydrates and particularly sugar are directly related to type 2 diabetes. It is well known that type 2 diabetes is characterized by high blood glucose and refined carbohydrates are the precise foods that raise blood glucose the most. For more from Dr. Fung, check out the Intensive Dietary Management Program, or check out his books: The Obesity Code and The Complete Guide to Fasting). Dr. Fung was featured on Episode #004 of The Keto Diet Podcast.
Ryan Lowery, President of the Applied Science and Performance Institute currently completing his PhD in Health and Human Performance at Concordia University: The idea that Type 2 (and now what’s being referred to as Type 3 diabetes) is tied back to insulin resistance and the body’s inability to properly utilize glucose is no surprise. It seems unethical to not recommend someone with insulin resistance to lower their carbohydrate intake due to the overwhelming evidence that this approach has demonstrated in helping people not only improve their symptoms, but completely eliminate their medications. In fact, good friends of ours, Drs. Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney helped start a company called Virta Health that directly works with Type 2 Diabetics and incorporates in a low carbohydrate diet – to put this in perspective, after just 3 months of being on a low carbohydrate, ketogenic protocol, 87% of patients significantly reduced or completely eliminated their need for insulin. It’s time we stop putting a band aid on the issue by treating the symptoms and instead start going deeper and addressing the root of the issue – insulin resistance and excessive carbohydrate consumption. For more data, click here, here, and here. For more from Ryan Lowery, follow him on Instagram or preorder his book, The Ketogenic Bible: The Authoritative Guide to Ketosis. Ryan was featured on Episode #044 of The Keto Diet Podcast.
What the Health: DIABETES IS NOT CAUSED BY EATING A HIGH CARBOHYDRATE DIET OR SUGAR (8:18)
Elle Russ, writer, health/life coach, and host of the Primal Blueprint Podcast: If any person does not believe in the clear scientific evidence that Type 2 diabetes is caused by a high carbohydrate diet (excess glucose consumption) – then I would love to hear that same person try to explain away how THE ONLY WAY TO REVERSE AND SOLVE TYPE 2 DIABETES NATURALLY IS BY ADOPTING A LOW CARB/LOW SUGAR DIET. For more from Elle Russ, check out her website, grab her book, and listen to her podcast. Elle was featured on Episode #015 of The Keto Diet Podcast.
Megan Ramos, Program Director for the Intensive Dietary Management Program: This quote is absolute crap. Sugar is the number one cause of many of the chronic diseases we today. We did not evolve as a species on sugar. It provides no nutritional value and causes a state of insulin toxicity in the body, which leads to metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. For more from Megan Ramos, check out the Intensive Dietary Management Program or follow her on Facebook. Megan was featured on Episode #037 of The Keto Diet Podcast.
What the Health: EATING 1 EGG PER DAY IS JUST AS BAD AS SMOKING 5 CIGARETTES PER DAY FOR LIFE EXPECTANCY (16:50)
Maria Emmerich, wellness expert in nutrition and exercise physiology: It is sad we even have to defend such a false and misleading statement. The study this comes from (which other studies have shown the opposite results) a study where it showed the increased risk of colon cancer goes from 5% to 6% with higher consumption of process meats. Seems insignificant but with “Relative risk” attached to this they say there is a 20% increase in your risk for colon cancer (6 is 20% higher than 5). It highlights the danger of using “Relative Risk” in studies like this. For more from Maria Emmerich, check out her blog and grab her book, The Ketogenic Cookbook. Maria was featured on Episode #039 of The No Sugarcoating Podcast.
What the Health: VITAMIN INTAKE, OVERALL NUTRITION GO UP ON A PLANT-BASED DIET FROM A MEAT-BASED DIET (67:41)
Jamie Rautenberg, licensed psychotherapist: Overall nutrition is dependent on a myriad of lifestyle choices and factors and cannot be singlehandedly based on whether someone eats meat or not. It’s a subjective experience, and it also comes down to the quality of our food source. If that’s neglected, this drastically affects the amount of nutrition we receive from a meal. While recovering from severe chronic illness, I developed so many food allergies on a organic raw vegan diet that it left my body unable to obtain the vitamins and minerals it required to heal. Incorporating grass-fed and organic meats fed me the nutrition I was lacking which finally moved me toward healing. For more from Jamie Rautenberg, check out her website and her YouTube channel, The Daily Infusion. Jamie was featured on Episode #016 of The Keto Diet Podcast.
Martina Slajerova, creator of KetoDietApp.com: A common myth is that low-carb diets are low in nutrients because they exclude nutrient-dense vegetables. That is simply not true. Apart from animal products such as red meat, fatty fish, eggs and raw full-fat dairy, a well formulated whole foods based low-carb diet includes non-starchy vegetables, avocados, nuts, seeds, berries and healthy fats such as olive oil, all of which are particularly rich in nutrients. For more from Martina Slajerova, check out her website and get the app.
What the Health: TWO THIRDS OF ADULTS ARE EITHER OVERWEIGHT OR OBESE (05:56)
Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and certified intuitive eating counselor: First of all, the terms “overweight” and “obese” are stigmatizing to people in larger bodies. Both terms are categories in the body mass index (BMI) that seek to medicalize and pathologize certain body types, when in reality, being in a larger body does not necessarily mean anything about your health. BMI has been thoroughly debunked as a measure of health; a 2016 study looking at the cardiometabolic health of 40,420 people, for example, found that nearly half of the people deemed overweight and 29% of people deemed obese were metabolically healthy, and more than 30% of people deemed “normal weight” were metabolically unhealthy. By relying on BMI as a health indicator, doctors are miscategorizing and misdiagnosing millions of people, with disastrous consequences.
One of the reasons this miscategorization is so harmful is that weight stigma (aka feeling like a failure because you’re in a larger body) and weight cycling (aka yo-yo dieting in repeated attempts to lose weight) are both linked to worse health outcomes, such as increased risks of cardiovascular disease and even death. And since 95% or more of diets fail, basically all diets are yo-yo diets, and almost everyone who goes on a diet ends up weight cycling. In terms of health—both physical and mental—people would actually be better off learning to accept their bodies at their current size than they would if they tried to lose weight, and the “obesity epidemic” rhetoric is causing more harm than good. For more from Christy Harrison, check out her website, her podcast: Food Psych, and get more information about her intuitive eating course. Christy was featured on Episode #005 of The Keto Diet Podcast.
What the Health: WITHIN MINUTES OF EATING DEAD MEAT BACTERIA TOXINS, THE BODY GETS A BURST OF INFLAMMATION, STIFFENING OR PARALYZING THE ARTERIES (14:17)
Meg Doll, a nutritional consultant who specializes in disordered eating recovery, self-love, and healing with a high-fat eating style: As someone who sat down to watch What the Health without knowing anything about it previously, ie. an open mind, I was soon left speechless and with my jaw on the floor. When choosing animal meat, including red meat, from properly sourced animals, such as grass fed cows, the body is delivered nutrients that actually have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, I know the nutrients we need to reduce inflammation within our body come from real food sources, including grass fed beef and other properly sourced red meats. Unfortunately, this documentary makes claims and statements that are completely opposite to what is actually truth. For more from Meg Doll, check out her website, her Instagram, and her podcast with Shawn Mynar: The Nourished Podcast. Meg was featured on Episode #019 of The Keto Diet Podcast as well as Episode #036 of The Keto Diet Podcast.
What the Health THE FOOD THAT YOU EAT DETERMINES THE BACTERIA THAT LIVE IN YOUR GUT [so don’t eat meat!] (68:18)
Shawn Mynar, NTP, CPT, RWP, a holistic health practitioner nutritionist: We can definitely use food to nourish the bacteria in our gut, however meat really doesn’t have much to do with it at all. Eating fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds will provide the fiber that our gut bacteria thrive on. Processed foods and sugar, our environment, and antibiotics are the real culprits for damaging our microbiome, not meat. A diet that contains high-quality, unprocessed meat will still be very good for our gut bacteria as long as it also includes the veggies we need to thrive! For more from Shawn Mynar, check out her website, her Instagram, her podcast with Meg Doll: The Nourished Podcast, and her podcast: The Keto for Women Podcast. Shawn was featured on Episode #036 of The Keto Diet Podcast.
There are plenty of other resources to check out, too — I highly recommend:
- Nina Teicholz’s Review of What the Health
- Jimmy Moore’s commentary on his podcast, Keto Talk with Jimmy Moore & the Doc
I hope this empowers you to consume information wisely, digest what you’ve explored, and make decisions that promote wellness in a way that works for your body.