Did Netflix’s What the Health Mislead You?

In a world rampant with false health information and advertising, I have yet to see a more misleading, fear-driven, emotionally charged documentary.  What the Health is devoid of logic and reason.  Claims made in this documentary are so remarkably false, they make politicians blush.  As I sat there watching this, jaw on the floor, I could only think “I hope that not many people see this.”  Sure enough, over the past few weeks, patients started coming in and asking questions about the erroneous claims made in this ‘documentary.’  I wondered ‘how could Netflix even host such a hoax?’  Netflix subscription cancelled.

Let’s take a look at some of the outrageous claims made in the documentary:


Fat causes diabetes, not sugar.

Truth: Sugar does, indeed, cause diabetes


Diabetes is, indeed, caused by excess sugar intake leading to insulin resistance1.  A doctor (Dr. Barnard) in What the Health made a completely wrong statement when asked if high sugar intake is a cause of diabetes, to which he replied “diabetes is not and never was caused by eating a high-carbohydrate diet.”  Even worse, he scoffed at the question of what causes diabetes.  Yes, he audibly scoffed!  Well, hopefully no diabetics watched this and had a fleeting moment of enlightenment and if so, rest-assured this is completely false.  While a buildup of fat in the muscles of people with diabetes can play a role in the disease process and insulin resistance, it is not considered a causative factor.  Fat build up in the muscles is a result of eating excessive amounts of carbs.  Excess sugar intake has been a well-known cause of diabetes for quite some time.


Just one egg per day is the equivalent of smoking five cigarettes. 

Truth: Eggs are a superfood.


This is not the case.  This never has been the case.  According to the documentary, I’ve smoked 15 cigarettes a day for the past 10 years.  The health benefits of eggs are well-studied and have tons of research to support them2,3.  Eggs can even be thought of as somewhat of a superfood.  They have the capability of improving your cholesterol, increasing insulin sensitivity, and decreasing your risk of developing diabetes.  The idea that eating eggs is bad for the body comes mainly from the thought that they raise cholesterol levels in the blood.  In 2017, we have a better understanding of the role of cholesterol in the body, and it turns out it’s not the boogeyman we thought it was.  You need cholesterol for everyday bodily functions.  All the cells in your body are made up of cholesterol.  Many of the hormones in your body require cholesterol to even function and be produced.  Eating cholesterol from eggs does not raise the levels of cholesterol in your blood.


Eating an excess amount of carbohydrates isn’t bad for you.

Truth: This causes type II diabetes.


American’s are already doing this, and its killing us.  Judging by the incredibly high rates of heart disease and stroke4, I’m just a bit skeptical on this claim.  We witnessed firsthand as cardimetabolic diseases continued to climb when the ‘low fat’ food craze was in full swing (80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s, and even to some extent today).  Something labeled low fat generally means high sugar/ more carbs.  The standard American diet (SAD diet) recommends between 300-500 carbs per day.  As we can see, this is not working out considering one in every three Medicare dollars is spent on just diabetes alone.


High fat intake is a driver of disease.   

Truth: High fat intake has been associated with lower incidence of many different chronic diseases.


This has been a bit of a hot button issue lately.  With the recent attacks on coconut oil (see our latest take on coconut oil here) from the American Heart Association, with little research to support them, it’s time to pump the brakes on attacking fat.  The reality is excess sugar intake leads to high LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood1.  When you eat sugar, your body will store it in your muscles and liver, but what happens when those are full?  The sugar will be turned into fat and LDL cholesterol, causing a buildup of both in the blood.  Not good.  So what about eating a diet high in fat?  The latest research is finding that eating a high fat diet doesn’t cause cardiometabolic disease5.  The whole fat causes a ‘clogged pipe’ in the arteries argument is starting to lose traction.  Cardiometabolic diseases are starting to be thought of as occurring due to chronically high levels of inflammation in the body.  High levels of inflammation, especially for a long period of time, are very damaging to the body and decrease its ability to function6.


Humans aren’t designed to consume meat.

Truth: Humans are designed to have mix of both meat and vegetation.


This claim was made by a emergency room physician, Dr. Milton Mills, being interviewed in the documentary.  He claims that humans are not carnivores or omnivores, but are instead frugivores; animals designed to eat mainly a fruit/plant-based diet.  The truth is, we don’t break down food like herbivores do.  Our intestines are longer than most carnivores, but much shorter than most herbivores.  This means we can break down fats and protein from meats (which take a longer time) and plants (which are more easily broken down).  Plus, there are so many more nutrients that have higher rates of absorption that come from animal sources rather than plants.  For example, humans can more easily absorb iron, zinc, copper, omega 3 fatty acids, and protein found in animal products, to name a few.


Don’t believe everything you read or watch (except this truth-telling article you just read).  Throughout the documentary we continue to see false claims being put forth as fact.  It’s never a bad idea to be skeptical of outrageous claims made in a documentary, especially relating to food and the food industry.  We’ve seen the damage sugar has done to our society, and for some people, their bodies.  Fat is not the problem.  We should be focusing our efforts on taking good care of our bodies by eating less sugar and more healthy fats.  At Inertia Health Center, we feel it is necessary to utilize treatments, such as dietary interventions, with good evidence and research behind them.  When we see a documentary like What the Health floating around, we feel the need to be sure our community at large isn’t mislead.