The world of healthy eating has turned into a bloody battlefield.
Veganism's increasing popularity has seen its mantra founded not only on a moral basis, but also with a focus on the lifestyle's perceived health benefits, though to what extent has become a major sparking point for controversy.
A new documentary What the Health, available on Netflix, explores the links between the consumption of animal products and disease, has come under fire by health professionals for its sensational claims that one serving of processed meat a day increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 51%, or that eating one egg a day is as bad as smoking five cigarettes a day.
The film's website does cite sources for each of its claims, but these have found challenge within the scientific community. Alexandra Freeman, executive director of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University, told The Times that the claims about eggs are sourced from an "extremely controversial paper", for example.
Though eggs have been the source of much negative media attention due to their cholesterol level, scientific evidence has since provided significant basis to believe that the consumption of cholesterol isn't necessarily associated with higher levels in the blood or an increased risk of heart disease.
Mary Jane Detroyer, an NYC dietician and nutritionist, told the Daily Mail that the 51% claims about red meat are "distorted science"; multiple studies have concluded that eating even highly processed red meat every day poses closer to a 19% increased risk of developing diabetes.
"While it is true that diet plays an important role in diseases including cancer and diabetes, the claims in this film vastly overstate and misrepresent the scientific understanding," Alice Howarth, cancer researcher, told The Times. "What the Health overwhelms the viewer with scaremongering ‘facts’ which do not hold up to scientific investigation."
The project comes from filmmakers Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, famous for their 2014 documentary Cowspiracy, and What the Health has seen some major celebrity support. Leonardo DiCaprio helped persuade Netflix to release the film with him acting as executive producer, with Joaquin Phoenix also on board as executive producer.
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