4 Takeaways From Documentary: What The Health


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A large part of what fueled my motivation to go vegan was watching documentaries. And no, I’m not talking about the ones loaded with brutal, slaughterhouse clips that show the torture that animals go through before ending up on a plate. Although watching those can be disheartening, I found greater value in documentaries like Cowspiracy, Vegucated, and the newest I’ve watched, What the Health.  These types of documentaries provide evidence and examples of the nutritional, environmental, cultural, and governmental implications of consuming animal products, which I find to be my leading reasons for going vegan.

What the Health confirms that the corporate food world, pharmaceutical companies, many doctors, health organizations, and even our own government make money off us getting sick. In today’s society, it seems that health providers are more focused on treating conditions, rather than preventing them. It also never really made sense to me why our government subsidizes meat and dairy (approximately $38 billion a year) but much less for fruits and vegetables (approximately $17 million a year). That ratio does not seem logical at all. Even so, the World Health Organization has classified processed meat and red meat as carcinogenic, yet tax dollars are still footing the bill..WHAT THE HEALTH?! I’ll also mention that animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change and environmental destruction (water depletion, deforestation, ocean dead zones)..but instead of going on a rant, I’ll sum up some important information for you.

I found four valuable pieces of information from What the Health, and decided to share them with you.  I’ll do my best to list these findings and not inject my opinion, since being vegan makes me biased. Most of what I learned from watching this documentary was interesting and disturbing, but also important to know.

Processed meat can cause cancer.  The World Health Organization deemed that processed meats like sausage, deli meats, and bacon are carcinogenic. In addition to this, they say that red meats, which include lamb, veal, pork and beef are “probably carcinogenic” to people. If you’re interested in learning more about this, NPR did a story on these findings.

One serving of processed meat per day increased risk of developing diabetes by           51%. We’ve been socialized to think that carbohydrates and sugary foods are what lead to diabetes, but no one ever talks about processed meat being a cause. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted a study with results that suggested that red meat consumption, particularly processed red meat, is associated with an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes.

The leading source of sodium in the American diet for adults is chicken. This is a weird thing to think about, but  it is a common practice for chicken companies to “enhance” the flavor of chicken by injecting it with water, salt, and other additives. Read here to learn more. Substantial amounts of dietary sodium come from restaurant and processed foods, so purchase location does matter. However, sodium intakes were examined in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys  found that although the majority of sodium consumption came from foods purchased from stores and prepared at home, almost one third of total sodium came from restaurant foods.

There’s a reason why cheese is so addictive. Scientists in North Carolina did a study in 1981 and found that cow’s milk has traces of a chemical that “not only looked like morphine, but turned out to be exactly that. It’s not unique to cow’s milk—you can find it in human milk as well. Morphine, of course, is an opiate. If that weren’t enough for your brain to handle, a protein in milk called casein releases opiates, called casomorphins, upon digestion, too. When you eat a slice of cheese, digestion breaks the casein into casomorphins of various lengths. One of them, a short string made up of just five amino acids, has about one-tenth the painkilling potency of prescription morphine. This opiate effect may be why dairy products are constipating, the way opiate-based painkillers can be.” (prcm.org) It’s a weird thought to compare cheese to painkillers, but think about it. Why do you think it is that we always crave foods that are calorie dense and high in fat when we are stressed? And why do we keep craving them?





11 thoughts on “4 Takeaways From Documentary: What The Health

  1. I appreciate you linking your evidence, to prove your case about taxation on foods. I really don’t like reading claims that have no evidence to back up the findings. I read this blog post to my girlfriend because she is a dietetics student and all she would do is nod her head or agree with all of the facts about processed meat and risks of diabetes, outside of sugary foods. But the part I found most interesting was the morphine being found in cow and human milk. Like what?? I knew there was a reason that I like cheese so much! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, glad you liked my post! The documentary really had some shocking information to it. The cheese/morphine thing really shocked me too! They said a lot of other things about cheese too, one doctor called it “coagulated cow pus” haha but I didn’t want to offend any cheese lovers 😛 Regardless, this documentary uncovers a lot of information that food companies/the government/ health organizations don’t want you to know!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. All I can say is wow. It’s crazy to think that even our government has its hands in what we eat, at least as far as funding goes. I really appreciate that the documentary you chose to cover isn’t simply another sob story for animal rights. I like that you chose material that isn’t all slaughter houses, but also facts, often not talked about, about what can be naturally found (like morphine) within some of the animal byproducts that we consume.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you appreciated my post! There’s definitely the stereotype that all vegans are tree-hugging PETA activists (nothing wrong with some being like that), but I wanted to highlight that there are many more implications–with our government, health organizations, and nutritional implications of eating animal products. Thanks for your feedback 🙂


  3. As someone who eats quite a few (a lot) meat, your post was very enlightening. Not just because it scared me to consider what I was eating but it also scared me because as someone who has eaten meat all my life, where do I even start trying to cut down my meat consumption. It seems like everything I eat has a portion of meat. Also thanks for linking the the documentary, I will definitely try to watch all three of them and learn more of the facts along with what you already stated here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your comment, thanks! Veganism can seem like an extreme lifestyle because it requires cutting out any and all animal products, but even doing something like “Meatless Monday” is a great place to start! 🙂 You would be surprised at how many meat recipes can be veganized!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have never seen What the Health before, but I have seen Cowspiracy on Netflix so I could only imagine how horrifying it is. It’s crazy to think about how many problems are caused from animal agriculture and processed meats. I myself eat a good amount of red meats, but I try to cut back and even add fish to my diet. I’ll definitely have to check the documentary out. Thank you for sharing!


  5. Wow, a lot of this is very eye opening to me! As a big meat and dairy lover it’s hard for me to even believe things like this mostly because I don’t want to. I definitely know I could be eating a lot healthier in some ways though, but it would definitely be hard. I will definitely have to give this a watch though, as I’m always open to learning about new things.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I found these facts very interesting. I do not think I have heard of almost any of these before. Personally, I can believe the diabetes one because my father has type 2 diabetes and is a huggeee lover of meat. I am sure he could cut plenty other things to help him loose weight, but meat would be a good thing for him to cut down on as well. I was a little surprised about the chicken thing, although now that you mention it chicken in general has a very salty taste to it. While I understand processed meat being bad for you, I’m not sure how much I can trust those tests on other meats causing cancer.. If it is unprocessed and not a huge amount of red meat I would think it would be very healthy for a person to eat, not a way to get cancer. Anyway, very interesting post!

    Liked by 1 person

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