Debunking What The Health Nonsense Debunkers

Michael Vacanti’s comments in the video seem pretty representative of the people who review What The Health, so I figured I’d make a response post to him.  My comments below debunk his comments in the video point by point.

1. It’s not just observational studies in terms of meat causing cancer. N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) is a potent carcinogen, capable of inducing malignant tumors in various animal species in a variety of tissues, including liver, lung, and stomach. This was proven in numerous controlled experiments. NDMA is especially prevalent in processed meat. And that’s not the only cancer causing chemical found in meat. When meat is cooked, heterocyclic amines are produced, which are also carcinogenic, as are the endotoxins found in meat. Further, meat increases production of IGF1, which promotes cancer growth. And don’t forget about the exogenous estrogens and heme iron in meat as well!

2. Your point about dietary fat not leading to weight gain is technically correct, but fat has roughly twice the caloric density of carbs or protein, making it far easier to over-eat on a high fat diet. A high fat diet also injures endothelial cells and impairs arterial dilation.

3. What “dead meat bacterial toxins?”  They are scientifically referred to as endotoxins.  Consumption of meat causes endotoxemia.  To quote one study on the subject:

Intestinal microbiota metabolism of choline and phosphatidylcholine produces trimethylamine (TMA), which is further metabolized to a proatherogenic species, trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). We demonstrate here that metabolism by intestinal microbiota of dietary L-carnitine, a trimethylamine abundant in red meat, also produces TMAO and accelerates atherosclerosis in mice. Omnivorous human subjects produced more TMAO than did vegans or vegetarians following ingestion of L-carnitine through a microbiota-dependent mechanism.

Meat eaters have more “bad” bacteria in their guts that produce more “dead meat bacterial toxins”, which are directly linked to heart disease.

4.  It’s not clear to you that red meat plays a role in cardiovascular disease because you’ve been listening to people like Peter Attia and Gary Taubes tell all sorts of lies about the research.  Take a look for yourself.  Virtually all research that says saturated fat and cholesterol are good for you is poorly done and is funded by industries with conflicts of interest.  I do an entire breakdown of one of Attia’s lectures here.

5. While there is a difference in the caloric density of skin-on/skin-off chicken, it’s still a significant source of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.  While we need a small amount of sodium in our diet to stay healthy, the levels of sodium and fat in store bought chicken are high enough to elevate blood pressure and impair arterial function immediately upon consumption.

6.  You mention eating a caloric deficit and moderation as effective means of maintaining one’s health.  As an anecdote, “Biggest Loser” host Bob Harper had a heart attack after switching to an omnivorous diet.  Half of people who have heart attacks have cholesterol in the so-called “normal” range below 200 mg/dl.  You don’t get serious protection from a heart attack until your total cholesterol is below 150 mg/dl.

Maintaining one’s weight and eating a “moderate” diet of saturated fat and cholesterol could result in a “moderate” death from heart disease.  A subset of the population have a hyper-response to dietary saturated fat and cholesterol.  Looking healthy on the outside doesn’t mean a person is healthy on the inside.

7. Blood (serum) cholesterol and dietary cholesterol are indeed linked.  While not on a one to one basis, the results of 395 dietary change experiments tell us that, on average, “avoiding 200 mg/day dietary cholesterol further decreased blood total cholesterol by 0.13 (0.02) mmol/l and low density lipoprotein cholesterol by 0.10 (0.02) mmol/l.”  The average vegan has a serum cholesterol level of 141 mg/dl, compared to 208 mg/dl for omnivores.

8.  Pointing out facts about the overwhelming impact of heart disease, cancer and environmental devastation caused by the meat and dairy industries isn’t fear mongering.

9.  Dead pigs are routinely fed to pigs. To quote porkgateway.org:

Animal harvesting and processing generally have three main by-products: animal fat (tallow and lard), blood meal (cooker-dried or flash-dried), and meat meal or meat and bone meal. Currently, while ruminant diets can not legally contain beef or poultry by-products, there is no such restriction for swine diets. Pigs can be fed diets containing meat by-products from pigs, cattle, poultry, etc.

10.  The 49% figure from the study on dairy increasing breast cancer rates is actually the increased mortality from eating a high fat dairy diet, not the recurrence rate.  BreastCancer.org states, “The researchers found that women who reported eating one or more servings per day of full-fat dairy products had a 64% higher risk of dying from any cause and a 49% higher risk of dying from breast cancer compared to women who ate fewer servings per day of full-fat dairy products or women who ate low-fat dairy products.”  349 out of 1500 had a recurrence.  So the documentary did not directly lie, they just weren’t specific.

11.  As far as protein and satiety goes, there is a scientific index of foods that defines the most satiating food per calorie.  Guess which food comes out on top? – boiled potatoes.  4.3 g of protein vs. 37 g of carbs per serving.  Most whole plant foods are more satiating and less calorically dense than animal products.

12.  The movie never says eating one chicken nugget will cause you to die immediately and go to hell.  Let’s get the hyperbole under control.  It’s obvious that a low fat whole food vegan diet is the optimal diet for health, which is what this movie is recommending.  There’s nothing biased or wrong about that.

13.  So you want proof that diets high in animal proteins create diabetes, create heart disease, and create cancer.  I already went over the cancer and heart disease, but here’s a study showing the impact of an ad libitum (eat as much as you want) vegan diet on all those disease markers after just 7 days.

The study notes that, “The median weight loss was 1.4 kg. The median decrease in total cholesterol was 22 mg/dL. Even though most antihypertensive and antihyperglycemic medications were reduced or discontinued at baseline, systolic blood pressure decreased by a median of 8 mm Hg, diastolic blood pressure by a median of 4 mm Hg, and blood glucose by a median of 3 mg/dL. For patients whose risk of a cardiovascular event within 10 years was >7.5% at baseline, the risk dropped to 5.5% at day 7.”  – so that’s a massive improvement in all disease markers after just a week on an unrestricted low fat whole food vegan diet.

Here’s another study showing a vegan diet, where portion sizes, energy intake and carbohydrate intake were unrestricted, did better than a calorie restricted American Diabetes Association diet at getting blood glucose and lipids under control.

Thus, your final comments about caloric intake being the number one risk factor for disease are incorrect.

For a bonus round, watch Mic the Vegan take down Dr. ZDogg’s nonsense debunking:

Come on people, I see a lot of people reading this and no one sharing it – hit the share button and save a life 🙂  Better yet, send them a link to What The Health!

  • Tait Wells

    Excellent article!

  • Ina

    China Study. Animal protein and casein does play an important part in the increase of cancer and other diseases. Many studies have shown this over many decades. I think it’s difficult for people to hear that meat is simply not healthy. It’s like an attack on who they are and their way of life, I get it. But it’s true, sorry. Not convenient.