Anytime a new health-related documentary comes out, I’m all over it — especially when they’re promoting the vegan lifestyle. There have been so many great ones released over the years, from classics like Earthlings to newer films like Forks Over Knives and Cowspiracy. And another one recently got added to every health-conscious person’s must-watch list: What the Health.
The documentary — executive produced by Joaquin Phoenix — follows filmmaker Kip Andersen (the same guy behind Cowspiracy!) and dives into the secrets to preventing and reversing chronic diseases, as well as unveiling lies of the nation’s leading health organizations. What he so easily revealed made me want to slam my head into a wall; it definitely makes you feel like you’ve been lied to your entire life. And these are some of the facts I still can’t stop thinking about.
1. You can be convicted as a terrorist for taking photos of animal abuses happening in the animal agriculture industry.
Under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, activists in the United States who, for example, photograph or videotape abuses by the animal agriculture industry, can be charged as terrorists — yes, terrorists! — for disrupting the profits of any businesses that use animals. These ag-gag laws protect the farmers and corporations that are abusing their animals and prosecute those who are trying to reveal the truth.
2. Cheese really is addicting.
Anyone who’s had cheese during their lifetime knows that it’s pretty much impossible to just have one bite. And, it turns out there’s a scientific reason for that: cheese has actually been found to be addicting.
In the documentary, Neal Barnard, MD, clinical researcher, PCRM, said, “The casein protein — that’s the main protein in dairy products — breaks apart in human digestion to create what are called casomorphins. They go to the brain and they attach to the very same receptor that heroin attaches to. Don’t get me wrong — they’re not as strong as that, but they’re strong enough to make you come back again and again and again.”
And to make you love that plant-based lifestyle even more, Mills says the biggest and strongest animals on the planet are all herbivores. Even chimpanzees — who humans are most closely related to — get 97% of their calories from plants. The other 3%? Insects. I also discovered nearly half of the food consumed by chimps are figs, so I’m going to go get some immediately.
3. Only 5-10% of cancer is actually genetic.
This one really blows my mind. I always figured that since I’ve had cancer in my family, I have a chance of having cancer as well solely because my family members have. But that’s not the case. When it comes to breast cancer, for example, women who have had breast cancer can increase their chances of dying from the disease 49% simply by eating just one serving of dairy a day. And if breast cancer doesn’t kill them, that same daily serving of dairy can increase their chances of dying from any disease by 64%.
4. Most people are lactose intolerant.
Most mammals — humans, included — stop producing lactase after weaning, so they’re automatically intolerant to any dairy they have afterward. This explains why after eating ice cream or drinking milk you probably get bloated, have diarrhea, or feel sick. So really, there’s no need (or point!) to ingesting dairy after infancy.
“Cow’s milk is baby calf food. There’s absolutely no child or human on Earth who actually needs the milk of a cow any more than they need the milk or a giraffe or a mouse,” Michael Klaper, MD, said in the documentary.
5. Milk doesn’t even build strong bones.
In fact, it’s the reason bones are weakening in the first place. It’s been found that countries with the highest rates of dairy consumption also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. So much for milk being behind strong bones.
6. People ingest the drugs that are administered to animals.
There are at least 450 of them, and most companies keep them a secret, as well as how they affect humans. Considering the animals consumers eat are living in tight, dirty conditions with other sick and dead animals where they’re lying in their own waste, it’s easy for the bacteria to spread. That’s why 3,000 people die each year in the United States from foodborne illnesses like salmonella. In addition, 23,000 more people each year die from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. I’ve never heard of anyone dying from broccoli, so I’m going to stick with that.
7. Livestock animals produce more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector.
Sure, you can stop driving your car around every day and ride your bike instead. But if you’re eating meat, you’re still doing more harm than good. Raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector, and it’s also a major source of land and water degradation.
8. Most Americans are eating twice as much protein as they need to.
Surprise, right? People are overloading on animal protein when they can get more than enough plant-based protein from veggies and grains — and with greater benefits for our bodies, too.
“All protein is initially made by plants, and it’s not necessary to eat animal tissue in order to get protein,” Milton Mills, MD, critical care physician, said in the documentary. “Only plants have the ability to actually take the nitrogen from the air, break those molecules apart, and incorporate that nitrogen into amino acids and then make protein. Any protein you get from an animal is simply recycled protein.”
9. Eating 1 egg a day is as bad as smoking 5 cigarettes a day when it comes to life expectancy.
And here we thought eating eggs were part of a healthy diet. But according to a study, even eating one a day is just as bad as smoking 5 cigarettes a day. Because the egg’s yolk is made up of pure fat and cholesterol to, you know, form a baby chick, once it goes into the body, all it does is clog the arteries and raise cholesterol levels.
10. Eating 1.8 ounces of processed meat a day raises the likelihood of cancer by 20%.
That 1.8 ounces equals one sausage. Yes, one measly sausage a day. The World Health Organization Report classified both bacon and sausage as carcinogenic to humans, but the most interesting part about that is that the American Cancer Society actually encourages eating processed meat. Hmm. And that’s just one of the many organizations the documentary calls out for telling us to do the exact opposite of what science says we should do for our bodies. The more you know, right?
Watch What the Health on Netflix, or check it out online for a small fee.