Plant-Based Diets: Pluses and Minuses

Eating You Alive: One Bite at a Time

Directed by Paul David Kennamer Jr (2018)

Film Review

In essence, this documentary is a series of glowing testimonials from patients who reversed life threatening illnesses by switching to an organic whole food plant-based (ie vegan) diet. Although the film is disappointingly short on research evidence, the list of illnesses overcome with this diet is extremely impressive: end stage pancreatic cancer, lupus, stage 4 metastatic ovarian cancer, stage 4 renal cancer, severe heart disease, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, breast cancer, cervical cancer, uterine cancer, malignant hypertension, type II diabetes, and morbid obesity.

Although I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of any of the patients (who include Penn the magician and the actor Samuel L Jackson), I had reservations about some of the film’s basic premises. Given its heavy emphasis on obesity and type II diabetes, I was surprised it made no mention of insulin resistance or dysfunctional gut bacteria as triggers for obesity. In my experience, patients with insulin resistance are far more likely to lose weight on a high fat ketogenic diet. The latter is also extremely helpful for treatment-resistant seizures.

Unfortunately some of the doctors advocating for plant-based diets also make statements that aren’t strictly accurate. For example, decades of research has totally debunked the myth that consuming large amounts of cholesterol causes high blood cholesterol levels. It is now established that cholesterol is part of the body’s normal defense against inflammation, that the main cause of high cholesterol in otherwise “healthy” people is inflammation caused by excess dietary sugar. See How Sugar Really Affects Your Cholesterol

I was also concerned about the way featured doctors trashed olive and coconut oil as major culprits in cardiovascular disease and cancer. Numerous studies suggest otherwise.

The statement one of the doctors makes about no prior human culture relying on meat-based diets (as most of the industrialized world does at present) is simply untrue. Both the Massai people of Africa and the Inuit people of the Arctic traditionally ate 100% meat-based diets. Likewise all hunter gatherer societies relied on occasional meat in addition to a routine diet of fruits and vegetables.

I was also concerned that the doctors featured saw no need to caution viewers about limitations of a 100% plant-based diet in terms of specific key nutrients: Vitamin B12, zinc, iron (in menstruating and pregnant women), Vitamin D and omega 3. Most of the doctors I know recommend their vegan patients take supplements providing these nutrients. Pregnant women following a vegan diet also need to be monitored closely to ensure their protein intake is adequate.

The full film can be viewed free at https://tubitv.com/movies/475193/eating-you-alive

 

 

Victory: Environmentalists Win Appeal Against Seabed Mining Decision

We won! As reported in the Taranaki Daily News, the New Zealand High Court has overturned a decision by the Environmental Protection Authority to grant a seabed mining consent off the coast of South Taranaki.

In August last year Trans Tasman Resources was granted consent to mine up to 50 million tonnes of iron sand from a 66 sq km area off the South Taranaki Bight. Following a split decision, the chairperson cast his vote in favor of TTR’s consent.

The court’s findings focused on what the appellants argued was “adaptive management” – a practice of essentially “trying it out and seeing what happens” – which they argued is illegal under New Zealand law. The judge agreed that the Exclusive Economic Zone Act sets out requirements to protect the environment against pollution and to favor caution and environmental protection if the information available is inadequate.

Read more here: Taranaki Daily News