If you’ve got a Netflix subscription and a love for documentaries, you may have seen the extremely popular but extremely scientifically shaky vegan doco What The Health. It’s certainly been in the news recently, mostly for its absolutely wild claims that eating processed meat ups your risk of diabetes by 51 per cent – or, most wackly, that eating a single egg per day is as bad for you as smoking five cigarettes.
Seems like this shouldn’t have to be said, but here it is: this is obviously not true.
New York dietician and nutritionist Mary Jane Detroyer (incredible name, by the way) said that the documentary warped scientific findings to suit their agenda: “It’s distorted science, and if you misrepresent something like that, I just can’t trust anything you tell me.”
Australian dietician Susie Burrell concurs.
The issue is that all studies are linked to relative risk. This means the chance you will get ill. It does not mean that every person who consumes processed meat (for which there is relatively strong evidence a high intake is linked to an increased risk of developing colon cancer), will actually get cancer. Such data also does not take into account dietary patterns.
Basically, as set out very clearly in an article for Vox, eating processed meat every single day will likely boost your risk of colon cancer from a baseline of 5 per cent by one percentage point. To 6 per cent. A fair bit less than 51 per cent.
As for the egg thing – nope. Two out of three long-term smokers will die because of their smoking. As Julia Belluz at Vox says, the same just cannot be said of egg eaters. Eating eggs doesn’t even make your cholesterol rise. EGGS IS GOOD FOR YOU.
the egg council got to us, too
Look, there are a bunch of benefits to a vegan diet – including not contributing to an incredibly cruel system of manufacturing food, doing your part to lower carbon emissions, assuaging your conscience, and yes, health. We could all eat more veggies.
But it’s a bad look for everyone if the biggest vegan doco of the last few years is spouting very bad science at best, and outright lies at worst.