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

 

 

Combating Illness Through Diet Change

The Magic Pill: Combating Illness Through Diet Change

Directed by Robert Tate (2017)

Film Review

Although this documentary was made two years before the COVID19 pandemic, it offers a highly plausible reason why COVID19 mortality rates are much higher in patients with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Given that most patients with these conditions are still eating a low fat diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods.

Citing both archeological and research evidence, the filmmakers maintain that modern day humans have evolved (over 100,000 generations)* to flourish on a hunter gatherer diet high in animal fats and fresh fruits and vegetables.

They believe the hunter gatherer diet for is probably most similar to the modern ketogenic (high fat, low carbohydrate diet). Many pediatricians are successfully treating with refractory epilepsy with a ketogenic diet. Likewise a number of oncologists are using it as an an adjunct to cancer chemotherapy.

Unfortunately this high fat, low carbohydrate diet is the exact opposite of the low fat, high carbohydrate diet (aka the Food Pyramid) most Western doctors and public health officials continue to recommend for their patients. According to growing research evidence, this diet is largely responsible for an epidemic of obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s (which many diet researchers refer to as type III diabetes).

The film follows a dozen patients with a myriad of health problems (including obesity, diabetes, asthma, autism, arthritis, autism, seizures, recurrent respiratory infections, and early dementia) who switch to a ketogenic diet. Amazingly all their medical problems either resolve or improve dramatically after only 10 weeks. Even the two autistic children are markedly calmer and exhibit a big increase in verbal interaction.

The filmmakers also follow 11 Yoingu (a northern Aboriginal tribe) women experiencing similar chronic medical conditions. After only two weeks they, too, experience significant improvement when they abandon their high carbohydrate Western diet for more traditional foods. Prior to adopting the Western diet in the 1940s, the Yoingu were extremely healthy and rarely suffered from chronic illnesses.


*Evidence of tool making suggests there were ancient human living in China 2.1 million years ago https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/07/early-humans-left-africa-250000-years-earlier-than-thought/564896/

Anyone with a public library card can view the film free at Kanopy. Type Kanopy and the name of your library into your search engine.

 

Fat: Why the Medical Establishment Gets It Wrong

Fat: A Documenary

Directed by Peter Curtis Pardini (2019)

Film Review

This 2019 documentary provides an update in the ongoing battle to get the American Diabetic Association, the American Heart Association, the Dieticians Association of Australia, and similar public health organizations to acknowledge research evidence that the low fat high carbohydrate diet they promote is largely responsible for the epidemic of obesity, diabetes and cancer (the most common medical conditions linked to COVID19 deaths) that is currently sweeping the industrialized world.

The film features investigative science and health journalists Nina Teicholz and Gary Taubes, the handful of doctors and scientists who have actually reviewed the relevant research, and four parents who did battle with the rigidly dogmatic medical establishment. In both cases, parents saved their kids (one with refractory epilepsy and the other with insulin-resistant diabetes) lives by putting them on a ketogenic diet.* .

Filmmakers interview researchers who assert research has never been done linking high cholesterol levels with high cholesterol intake. All dietary cholesterol is totally broken down during digestion. The liver produces the cholesterol found in the blood to fight inflammation.

Likewise there is no credible research evidence linking high saturated fat intake with heart disease. Evidence suggesting otherwise includes the 1928 Bellevue Study (revealing people on an all meat diet have greater overall resistance to disease); seven decades of research indicating 50-70% of children with refractory seizures benefit from ketogenic diets; the Warburg Effect (demonstrating the beneficial effect of starving cancer cells of glucose), the !973 Minnesota Coronary study revealing that low fat carbohydrate diets don’t reverse the incidence of hearth disease; John Judkins 1972 book Pure, White and Deadly, warning of the dangers of sugar; and numerous longitudinal studies showing low carbohydrate diets can reverse type II diabetes, as well as lowering the risk of heart disease and obesity.

Unlike earlier films on this topic, Fat delves more into the psychological factors that cause medical and public health officials to stick so tenaciously to unscientific myths (including those around vaccination and fluoridation) as a growing body of research debunks them.

The conclusion filmmakers reach is an ugly one – for medical professionals to reverse themselves on the low fat high carbohydrate diet would force them to acknowledge their role in the premature death of hundreds (or possibly thousands) of their patients.


*The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. It’s commonly used to treat refractory epilepsy.