Letter to Diggers – October 2018

In the Spring 2018 edition of Diggers, Bel P claims that What The Health has been “expertly torn to pieces”. No effort has been made to justify this claim. What The Health web site has listed approximately 300 references for the movie with the elapsed time that the information was presented.

In the absence of a valid critique of What The Health, I will present some evidence presented by the movie for the health benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet. All references provided are from primary sources for which I have the paper or electronic copy.

In 2006, The Food and Agricultural Organization published a 416 page report, Livestock’s Long Shadow. Dr Henning Steinfeld, an agricultural economist and chief of FAO’s Livestock Information and Policy Branch, was the senior author of the report. He wrote, “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.” The report continues with, “The livestock business is among the most damaging sectors to the earth’s increasingly scarce water resources, contributing among other things to water pollution, euthropication and the degeneration of coral reefs.”

According to the UNESCO produced “Value of water research report series no. 48′ report, “In order to reduce the pressure on the world’s water resource associated with their consumption pattern, individuals have the option of shifting from a meat-rich to a vegetarian diet. […] Meat-based diets have a larger water footprint compared to a vegetarian diet.”

Walter Willett, the Harvard epidemiologist who was the long-time director of the Nurses Study, in an interview with Gina Kolata of the New York Times that was published on 13 December 1990, stated “If you step back and look at the data, the optimum amount of red meat you eat should be zero.”

Eric Rimm, another well-known Harvard epidemiologist stated in an interview with Maggie Fox of Reuters, “But avoiding it [trans-fats] if at all possible is ideal. We can’t tell people to stop eating all meat and all dairy products. Well, we could tell people to become vegetarians. If we were truly basing this only on science, we would, but it is a bit extreme.”

Frank Sacks, another Harvard doctor and medical researcher published at least 4 papers in the 1970s and 1980s that concluded, “vegetarians have lower BP than do non-vegetarians”. However, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was designed by Sacks and colleagues so it would “contain enough animal products to make them palatable to nonvegetarians.”

Cammidge (1923) and Sweeny (1927, 1928) showed that high-fat and high-protein diets (that is, a standard western diet) are associated with type 2 diabetes. It was not until the 1990s that the reason was found. Type in “intramyocellular lipids diabetes” into a Google Scholar search and thousands of results are shown. An increase in the fat content of muscle cells prevent insulin from transporting glucose into the cells which causes a buildup of glucose in the blood. The real cause of type 2 diabetes is not an excess of sugar or carbohydrates. It is an accumulation of fat inside the cells that interferes with the muscle cells ability to respond to insulin. The muscle cells are unable to access glucose, which is required for energy production.

What the Health showed an interview with the chief medical officer of the American Diabetic Association who denied that there was a link between diet and type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Australia website states that the cause of diabetes is not known. Their advice contains suggestions to limit carbohydrates. If you limit carbohydrates, you increase fat and protein which exacerbates the problem which they are trying to solve. Why does the Diabetes Australia website state that we do not know the cause of type 2 diabetes when it has been known since the mid 1990s?

Much publicity is given to the longevity of the people of Japan and Okinawa (an archipelago that stretches from southern Japan to Taiwan). However, the population with the longest lifespan and the highest levels of health on the planet is the vegan Californian Seventh-day Adventists.


Steinfeld, H. et al. (2006) Livestock’s long shadow. FAO, Rome. 2006.

Mekonnen, M. M. & Hoekstra, A. Y. (2010) The Green, Blue and Grey Water Footprint of Farm Animals and Animal Products.

Sacks, F. M. et al. (1974) Blood Pressure in Vegetarians. American Journal of Epidemiology. 100 (5), 390–398.

Sacks, F. M. et al. (1975) Plasma Lipids and Lipoproteins in Vegetarians and Controls. New England Journal of Medicine. 292 (22), 1148–1151.

Sacks, F. M. et al. (1981) Effect of Ingestion of Meat on Plasma Cholesterol of Vegetarians. Journal of American Medical Association. 246 (6), 640–646.

Sacks, F. & Kass, H. (1988) Low blood pressure in vegetarians: effects of specific foods and nutrients. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 48 (3), 795–800.

Appel, L. J. et al. (2006) Dietary approaches to prevent and treat hypertension: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Hypertension. 47 (2), 296–308.

Karanja, N. et al. (1999) Descriptive Characteristics of the Dietary Patterns Used in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Trial. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 99 (8), S19–S27.

Cammidge, P. J. & Howard, H. A. H. (1923) New Views on Diabetes Mellitus. Henry Frowdw and Hodder & Stoughton.

Sweeney, J. S. (1928) A comparison of the effects of general diets and of standardized diets on tolerance for dextrose. Archives of Internal Medicine. 42 (6), 872–876.

Sweeney, J. S. (1927) Dietary Factors that Influence the Dextrose Tolerance Test. Archives of Internal Medicine. 40 (6), 818–830.

Bachmann, O. P. et al. (2001) Effects of Intravenous and Dietary Lipid Challenge on Intramyocellular Lipid Content and the Relation With Insulin Sensitivity in Humans. Diabetes. 50 (13), 2579–2584.

Fraser, G. E. & Shavlik, D. J. (2001) Ten Years of Life – Is It a Matter of Choice? Archives of Internal Medicine. 161 (13), 1645–1652.

Campbell, T. C. & Campbell, T. M. (2016) The China Study. Revised and Expanded Edition. Dallas, Texas: BenBella Books.

Harding, R. (2017) Low-Carbohydrate Mania: The Fantasies, Delusions, and Myths. Balboa Press.

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