health

Why this Netflix documentary is being slammed by health experts

By Stephanie Nuzzo August 8, 2017
What The Health

The content is extremely polarising 

Netflix documentary What The Health has been stirring up a lot of heated conversations since its release in March. The production, which covers the benefits of adopting a vegan diet, has suggested that certain animal products can have severe impact on your health and many medical professionals have spoken out against the film’s claims.

Specifically, the documentary has said that eating an egg a day is comparable to smoking five cigarettes a day and that eating one serve of processed meat per day increases your risk of diabetes by over 50 per cent.

A post shared by @wthfilm on

Neil Mann, food science and nutrition professor from the University of Melbourne has spoken to The New Daily about the claims and states that they are not supported by evidence:

“There’s no evidence to that, and that’s a dangerous thing to say, particularly for children, because an egg is like a giant vitamin-mineral pill for children,” he told the site. 

“[It is] not a direct association at all, that’s crazy.”

New York City dietitian and nutritionist Mary Jane Detroyer has also condemned the claims. The medical professional told the Daily Mail that the suggestion that a serve of processed meat per day is linked to diabetes is “misrepresented”; there are studies that show this link, but they only show a 19 per cent increase in risk, not 51 per cent.

“It’s distorted science, and if you misrepresent something like that, I just can’t trust anything you tell me,” Ms Detroyer said.

She also highlighted that the documentary only included advice from experts who are advocates of veganism or vegetarianism, the publication shared. 

Cancer researcher Alice Howarth spoke with The Times about the film and stated that while the concept of the documentary is a positive one and that a diet made largely from plant-based foods is good for your health, the film is spreading "facts" that are being "misrepresented":

“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,” she told The Times.

“What the Health overwhelms the viewer with scaremongering ‘facts’ which do not hold up to scientific investigation.”

While there is a lot of negative backlash surrounding the film, there is one element people seem to be in agreeance on; the documentary's comments about pharmaceutical companies having relationships with the food industry. Susie Burrell spoke with news.com.au and stated that the documentary is correct in calling out links between “the food industry and pharmaceutical sponsorship”, the website writes:

“It’s a massive wake up call for governments to regulate such vested associations and financial relationships, but more importantly, adequately fund public health.”

Image: What The Health, Netflix