The Game Changers advocate the ‘plant based’ lifestyle by highlighting the health and performance benefits of veganism over a traditional omnivore diet.
I want to emphasise that nutrition is never a straight forward concept. It’s grey, blurry and very complex! What we eat, what we absorb and how we function at a biochemical level is different for everyone.
This new documentary shares a lot of misinformation and goes against my entire philosophy, which is educating and empowering people with sound information to aid them in making their own personal health decisions.
So this article isn’t going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t eat. It’s about providing clarity to help you make informed decisions that work best for YOU.
Here are my views:
1. When we read research studies, we tend to look at who funded it first. Therefore, when a documentary is suggesting major lifestyle changes it may be worth taking a look at where the money is coming from. Interestingly, the executive producer (+ his wife) are the founders of a protein supplement company.
2. In the documentary, the term ‘plant-based’ is used loosely which seems to indicate vegan, yet a lot of the research and data they present are actually not vegan but vegetarian diets (with dairy and eggs).
3. Lots of anecdotes are included because they’re interesting to watch than a close look at facts. Anecdotes is not evidence and leave a lot of questions unanswered. For example, does genetics play a role in one’s athletic performance? What about sleep quality? What about stress levels? What about the training program involved?
4. The diet of what the athletes ate before switching to a vegan diet is not discussed in detail. We know they ate meat - but what quality of meat? And what was the quality of the food they ate before switching in general?
5. Popeye’s, KFC, fried chicken, and burgers are the type of animal-based food they mention as examples in the documentary. They are processed, low in quality and high in inflammatory oils. Therefore, undoubtedly when they are removed, inflammation reduces and optimises health.
6. They mention how plant-based diets improve heart health and diabetes. But could it be that a diet that avoids junk food, processed meat, and refined sugar, and focuses on real, high-quality foods is the answer to diabetes and superior heart health?
7. In terms of research, they cherry-picked single studies that support their story, avoiding discussing studies that don’t support it, as well as omitting recent meta-analyses and systematic reviews. In addition, there are a handful of studies included in this documentary that are pilot studies consisting of a very small collection of test subjects and most of the results have not been duplicated. These studies almost all conclude with something along the lines of ‘further investigation is needed’. The filmmakers do not disclose this.
8. It’s easy for Arnold Schwarzenegger and the other elite professional athletes to eat a vegan diet with careful supervision and monitoring of nutritionists and personal trainers. When in fact, can an average person do that?
People are already struggling to nourish themselves adequately with animal foods - removing this completely will magnify problems and leave people malnourished.
9. Plant protein is NOT superior to animal protein. Animal foods are the highest quality protein sources. Period. In vegan diets, heavy supplementation is required to reach the intake of essential amino acids (particularly leucine) and vitamin B12. An example they gave was that a PB sandwich has as much protein as 3oz beef or three large eggs. That’s about five tablespoons of PB. Who uses 5 tbsp of PB to make a sandwich? What about the other nutritional qualities that are lacking?
Of course, there are plenty of nutrients found in plants that are lacking in animal foods. The most nutrient-dense diet is one that contains a wide variety of both animal and plant foods. As each contain different nutrients that our bodies need. No one food is inherently good for us, as no individual food is nutritionally whole, but it is the COMBINATION of foods that make up the overall diet that is vital for us. It’s all about balance and moderation.
With all this being said, there is some truth said in the documentary such as everyone would benefit from including a larger variety of vegetables and fruits in their diets. The science supporting this is sound. However, that consistent push I felt throughout the documentary, that a vegan diet is the perfect diet that is suitable for all people, is distressing.
Just to point out, I am not anti-vegan or pro-meat. But as you know I ALWAYS say, there is no one size fits all in terms of diet. People have individual dietary needs, and often have many complications as nutrition looks at physiology, biochemistry, genetics, immunology and the different systems in the body including the gastrointestinal, endocrine and nervous system.
I hope this documentary motivates people to eat more fruits, veg, whole grains, and legumes and become more mindful of their diet. However, fearing the consumption of animal products based on misinformation is not a solution nor should it be a method to get people to eat more plants. It’s important to not get your science from documentaries that do not provide a balanced scientific argument.