A lot of science in that motion picture. Got me thinking real hard about a plant based diet. Maybe New year's resolution? Change my mind.
Great to see you on here man!
I recommend you read this review of the movie: https://tacticmethod.com/the-game-changers-scientific-review-and-references/
Heres my quick opinion/summary:
1) I think plant based diets are great. However, I think well balanced diets including at least SOME meat are easier to maintain and confer the same health benefits.
2) This film REALLY took liberties with the research they cited. They told partial truths and exaggerated some findings.
3) If you want to you can find doctors/RDs/strength coaches etc that will put forth REALLY convincing arguments for every single diet. There are PhDs I follow on Twitter that recommend the carnivore diet which is the opposite of being a vegan or vegetarian. What I look for is a consensus among researchers, the current consensus is VERY much in support of well balanced diets consisting of high quality lean animal protein, fruits, veggies, and whole fiber grains.
4) I am not going to get into the discussion on plant based diets being better for the environment but it looks like the consensus on that is they are better for the environment.
Once you read the review let me know what you think!
Jared Freeman BS CPT CSCS
Agent of Change / Managing Partner
It took 30 minutes to read that review with no distractions in the early morning... Conclusion, vegans are liars. JK. I feel like both the video and the review had their biases. In the end moderation is key just like everything in life. Too bad you want to forgo the environmental effects conversation because I could write a book on cow flatulence and how it is polluting the environment.
Hey @Douglas Christensen! I just wanted to follow-up on @Jared Freeman's comments from above with a general thought on scientific evidence and research. Mostly my thoughts relate to what Jared said in number 3 above regarding support and evidence for nearly every kind of diet.
After reviewing scientific literature on exercise, nutrition, and health-behavior change for the past 20 years I can absolutely agree with what Jared said, you will find just as much support for a given intervention as you will find reasons to not support it (and everyone will sound very passionate and convincing about what they think, that's how most people are). The reality of all research is that it publishes study population means (averages of the people that participated in the study). Means are great for a journal article, but they don't take into account the individual variability between people. Secondly, the sample populations in a lot of studies aren't always consistent with the population the study is applied to. For example, the most common sample population in research is the college student (b/c they're on the campus of researchers and readily accessible to them). If you try to generalize the results of a study done on college students to the adult general population, you might find very different results.
In saying all that, where does that leave us with research and this documentary? This is my take on how interpret, practically, many of the claims made in research and documentaries like this (I'll sum it up succinctly): if something might help you, and it's not going to hurt you, and (most importantly) it works in your lifestyle - go for it. So with regard to Game Changers (or any other scientific findings), in the real world it's more a question of feasibility than it is function. Will eating a healthy plant-based diet be healthier than the standard western/American diet, the answer is very likely. However there are a number of other ways to modify the standard diet to make it healthy without going to the extreme of eliminating all animal products. That's where I recommend most people start. Instead of jumping all the way to the extreme b/c this documentary was convincing (or there was some new research published), instead start by looking at your diet and making small incremental changes daily. As you've made those healthy, incremental, daily changes you can move towards a plant-based diet if you choose, but you might find that just progressively moving towards healthier diet gives you everything you're looking for in terms of performance, energy, and body composition, without having to go to the extreme of going all plant-based.
In short, as I said, above: if something might help you, and it's not going to hurt you, and (most importantly) it works in your lifestyle - go for it. Just realize there never was, is, or probably will be a silver bullet to health and wellbeing, those constructs are too multifactorial for any one thing to swing the pendulum that dramatically. Progress towards a healthy lifestyle everyday with things you can do and implement consistently, from there make your decisions and avoid going too extreme too soon. This is most pragmatic approach I've found throughout my career working with clients (and also working on my health and wellbeing along the way).
Michael E. Stack, BS
CFP CSCS*D CPSAGENT OF CHANGE, CEO, & Exercise Physiologist
Yeah I agree, moderation is key. Scientific consensus provides us the least biased opinion in most cases, right now this movie goes against the scientific consensus and has its own significant bias (Cameron the producer just invested 140 million to manufacture pea protein). I posted a link on Facebook from the ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition) that touches on a few of the issues with the film.
HAHA! I believe the environmental issues, I just dont know enough to speak out on it. That said, I do only buy grass fed/free range animal products.
I agree 100% with @Mike Stack and @Jared Freeman. This film was great for entertainment (as the production quality was better than ANY documentary I have ever seen) but not so great for getting your nutrition and exercise knowledge.
Yes, I saw the movie last month and liked it's message. I have been mostly vegetarian for many years, but early this summer I switched to a mostly whole foods plant based diet after reading the following few books, and I love my new diet. I recommend the books below for valuable knowledge and interesting studies.
The China Study - https://www.amazon.com/China-Study-Comprehensive-Nutrition-Implications/dp/1932100660/ref=sr_1_3?crid=1Y6JFG2Q2ZR6L&keywords=the+china+study&qid=1572092412&s=books&sprefix=the+china+stu%2Caps%2C156&sr=1-3
The Blue Zones Solution - https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Zones-Solution-Eating-Healthiest/dp/1426216556/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=blue+zones+solution+by+dan+buettner&qid=1572092571&s=books&sr=1-1
Thanks @Tara Clapper for sharing those resources. I think they provide some good insight. I would, however, approach the "China Study" with some caution. A lot of the "science" they cite in the China Study is questionable if you look at the original research (example, applying the cancerous claims of eating certain animal-derived proteins, that was observed in research on rats, and applying it to the human population). I do think a number of the claims in the China Study have some validity (i.e., it's certainly good to have a diet high in plant-based sources of nutrients), but a number of the claims are exaggerated relative to the actual research if you dig into it. This is unfortunately the problem with any book like this, very few people are going to take the time to look into all the science and vet the research, so you're kind of left at left at the mercy of the accuracy and truthfulness of the authors.
This is a link to a good review of the China Study, it's by and independent group that uses a highly scientific method to review books, it's a good read prior to picking up that book: https://www.redpenreviews.org/reviews/the-china-study-the-most-comprehensive-study-of-nutrition-ever-conducted-and-the-startling-implications-for-diet-weight-loss-and-long-term-health/
I will say that plant-based diets can absolutely work to improve health, performance, and body composition. They can work very well in fact. Tara it sounds like it's working great for you, which is awesome, so definitely keep it up! For everyone who's considering it, I think it's important to realize there is just as much research (if not even a little more) that supports a diet with a variety of food types for improving health, performance, and body composition.
There really is no "one size fits all" approach to eating, so try different things, see what works for you and realize the best diets emphasize eating a variety of healthy foods in moderation. It becomes very easy for that message to get lost in all of these movies and books (that are designed to make a profit). A lot of the creators of these books and movies are looking to profit from sensationalized scientific claims, that are usually only half true in many cases (except who knows which half is actually true). The reality is most science is nowhere near as definite as the claims that are ever really made in the popular media.
As I said in my post above, I would always exercise a degree of caution with a more extreme approach to nutrition, particularly if your current diet is nowhere near where the diet you're looking at suggest you should be at. Start by making small changes that move you towards a healthier diet. If those changes involve less animal product than great. As you make those small, incremental changes day-by-day you can actually figure out what works best for you. Don't lose the message because of the messenger (have it be a book or movie for against a certain way of eating). Always approach these topics with the pragmatic view of how can I make my diet a little better today then it was yesterday, if you can do that you'll be healthier, more sustainably, than if you tried to make a dramatic change.
Just wanted to share a post today from Brad Schoenfeld, a very well respected Exercise Scientist, that addresses this film. Nothing particularly new from the thoughts already shared here, but just another very respectable voice in the discussion.
@Sawyer Paull-Baird Big smile that you added insight from Brad Schoenfeld! One of my Board Members is mentored by Brad and was a fitness model in his book Strong & Sculpted.
Oh wow, that's really cool. He is one of my go-to experts in the fitness industry. Small world!
I'm going to find some time to look up @BradSchoenfeldPhd.
Thank you @Douglas Christensen for starting this thread. I just came from a doctor's appointment where they are encouraging me to go to a whole foods plant-based diet, and was wondering where my gym family stands on this. I fully believe that jumping right in will end up causing failure on my part to stick with it, so I plan to make some small changes and let them build over time, see how it goes. I'm still going to eat my annual steak for my birthday though 😁 Thanks to everyone for their insight!
@Tricia Nault, the question is WHY did he say you should go on this kind of diet? Doctors can be very good at a number of things, but they're typically not very schooled in nutrition and the latest research. I'm curious why he told you to go on it. There are some legitimate medical reasons for sure, make no mistake about it, but if the reason is because "this is the healthiest diet to be on" the evidence doesn't necessarily support that. I'm curious as the WHY. Let us know.
As an aside, I'm proud of you for questioning your doctor. We don't do this enough with medical professionals. Just because you have the initials DR in front of your name doesn't mean you get a pass scientific scrutiny.
So the doctor is from the Integrated Medicine area at Henry Ford. SHE :) looks at how what you're eating can either help or hurt your health, specifically pertaining to any diagnosis you've been given by a specialist, PCP, etcetera. As part of seeing her she requires her patients to see a RD as well.
The doctor was telling me that our bodies are made up of trillions of bacteria, so much so that it is 10 bacteria cells for every human cell. The bacteria works symbiotically with our bodies, but they do not "eat" meat, they eat plants. (And I know I'm probably not saying this exactly right!) But she said that in order to make the microbiome happy and the bacteria happy and doing what they are supposed to do, they need to be fed the right things. This is where the plant-based part comes in.
About the protein, she said that people don't need as much protein as they think, and actually if they follow the whole food plant-based way of eating they can get all the protein they need from these foods. People don't need to eat meat. Now, I'm thinking, but what if you are trying to build muscle, isn't getting more protein better for that? The doctor said that the excess protein, if it is not used, is stored as fat, which of course makes me freak out a little, because I DO NOT need any more fat! LOL 😂
Why she suggested this plan of eating for me? Well, I have had digestive issues in the past, possible IBS, But I was also told that I was pre-diabetic so I need to get the sugar under control and eat the correct carbs. I've actually never been a big meat person, and in doing a food sensitivity test, chicken was marked as something that causes me a reaction. I was also told by the ear, nose, and throat doctor that to reduce the fluid in my ears, I need to eat less salt.
So, I know this is probably more information than you ever wanted to know! But it does get confusing with all the information out there and different people advising different things. 🤔
@Tricia Nault that's helpful. I'm not sure the current literature would back all of her claims particularly with regard to the microbiome. This is one the areas that we still know very little about in the human body (at least right now, check back with me in ten years). When you look at the science on GI physiology right now (especially the microbiome) it's still emerging. One protocol is seems to be effective for one type of person with a disorder and not effective for someone else (with basically the same disorder). That being said, the research is pretty clear that eating a healthier diet, with less processed/refined carbs and less higher fat forms of food seems to improve overall gut health.
With regard to the protein statement your doctor made, I'll give that a half-truth based on the evidence. The average American, based on current statistics gets less protein then what they need to meet their protein turnover needs if they're exercising (about half of what they need in fact). The other element with plant-based proteins is if you're not eating the right combinations of plant-based proteins you may not get all of your essential amino acids. So the half-truth is that if you're inactive it probably doesn't matter how much protein you take in. If you're active it definitely does. The other half-truth is that you do need to be intentional about the plant-based protein sources you consume to ensure you get all of your essential amino acids EAA). A good RD can help you with protein selection do ensure you meet you EAA needs.
Saying all of that, there are definitely benefits to a plant-based/whole food diet, make no mistake about it. In your case medically there may be some real benefits. Where I struggle with these recommendations categorically speaking is that it may not be necessary to go to that much of an extreme to improve your blood sugar regulation and gut health (unless you really want to, which I'm thinking you don't or you wouldn't have asked the question in the first place).
So for you I think the answer is much more pragmatic than anything else. How do you go about moving towards a plant-based diet incrementally to see if there's a positive affect for your health? I don't think it means going all the way to all plant-based initially (and not because I don't think that will help, because it probably would, more so because it's too big of a leap for many people behaviorally). What might be wise is to work with the dietician to start incrementally integrating a more plant-based approach to eating, be progressive and experiment. If you do it a little bit and you start to notice differences (both symptomatically and with regard to you blood markers) then do it a little more and a little more. What I'm saying is there's not enough compelling evidence out there based on what you've told me of your current medical conditions to go full out all plant-based right now. This is unlike a cancer diagnosis where going all plant-based can literally be a manner of life and death (in some cases, certainly not cancers, and that discussion is way beyond the scope of this thread). For you, consider the likelihood of implementation and what will be sustainable for you. As I've often said, the best diet you should choose is the one you can stick to, and you need to figure out if this will work for you.
@Mike Stack Yes! The best plan for me is one I'm going to stick with! Thank you for all your information. It really is helpful!
Great @Tricia Nault, keep us posted on how this process goes for you. Like I said, nutrition for gut health and disease is complicated and different things work for different people. We'd all be curious to know how this worked for you!
Great stuff here @Mike Stack and @Tricia Nault . At the end of the day we humans have the tendency to want to take firm stances at one end of a pole or another.. The middle ground, for whatever reason, seems less attractive to most haha. No one would argue with your doctor, Tricia, that eating more plant-foods is probably an awesome idea. That said, it certainly doesn't have to mean at the expense of all meat.. nor should it probably be from a purely health perspective.
This thread has been awesome!
@Sawyer Paull-Baird, great point. It's easy to be on one extreme or the other of an issue, it's much harder to see the happy middle ground. As the old saying goes, life isn't lived in black or white, it's lived in the grey.
Bumping this thread back up after some time as I recently came across this article which I found super insightful. The article is written more for an audience of fitness professionals, but I certainly think it is relevant to anyone who is interested in health and fitness (not just those who do it for a living). I found this article to be more neutral and aligned with my own thoughts and values than anything else I have read so far. These are not only nutrition lessons, but also life lessons for how to have a productive conversation regarding things you might not agree with/believe in =).
Posting it below in case anyone is interested
I LOVE this article and it's diagram of diets and the shared beliefs in the middle. It makes so much more sense looking at it this way. I mean I can certainly add more vegetables and cut out more fried foods/processed foods. But never having a steak again? Or never having a piece of homemade bread with butter? That is probably not going to happen. :) Thank you @Sawyer Paull-Baird for posting this. Seems to be much more balanced and something I could stick with.