One local medical expert weighs in on the popular documentary "What the Health"

Posted at 9:13 AM, Jul 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-25 12:13:18-04

The popular Netflix documentary “What the Health” has been streamed hundreds of times and has cultivated millions of reviews and responses on social media platforms.


A registered dietician with Morrison Healthcare at Kern Medical, Jordan Dennis, however said her initial reaction to the film as a clinician was “surprised in how biased it was in one direction.”


Her concern being that the film presented research that only supported one side of the story. She warned viewers that one can find a peer reviewed medical journal to support any side of this argument, making some of the information misleading.


“It really pushed this fear, this scare-based tactic which works. I watched it and I was like ‘I need to go all the way Vegan,” Dennis said, admitting that although she is a vegetarian the film made her scared of her dairy and egg intake, for a moment.


As a medical expert, she is no stranger to the “scare tactic” used in the film. A method, she said, never has long-term results.


Although plant-based diets have been proven to have many health benefits, Dennis believes making decisions to change your diet needs to be a process where one rids of old, bad habits and replaces them with better ones... slowly.


Starting small by incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet is key and suggested making things a little fun. “Meat-less Mondays” is one of her favorite things to suggest to her clients.


The “cold turkey” approach never worked for any of her patients and she always saw their bad habits creeping back in after a couple of weeks on a different diet.


One of the subjects of the film was a woman who stopped taking her medication all together and replaced them with a vegan diet. Dennis felt this was especially dangerous because she had never seen that in a clinical setting and advised against this method.


“You want to be careful and look at the entire clinical picture before [making a similar decision]. It’s highly unlikely that, again, a vegan diet is going to cure all your medical ailments,” Dennis said.


Another claim the film made that concerned Dennis was the way it framed protein intake from plants versus animals. In the segment below, experts weigh in on where protein comes from.





She explained that animals eat plants and then turn those amino acids into muscle, which is the protein found in animals.


“He is correct saying that the cow eats those fruits and vegetables to get those amino acids and build muscle… however, I think it gave the illusion that it was the plants that were just the protein, but it’s actually the muscle that’s the protein,” she said.


During her studies Dennis was never concerned with the American diet lacking protein. She does advise that vegetarians consume a wide variety of vegetables so that they get enough protein.


Research and interviews in the film is presented to demonstrate how meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy and all processed meats in America are linked to cancer. 


Dennis assured that how these items are prepared and how they are preserved before they arrive at a local store is key. For example, at cook outs the meat itself may not be carcinogenic, but rather the crispy charcoal bits that form on it.


Following a vegetarian diet works for her, but she admitted it may not be the case for everyone.


She suggested that if anyone must eat any of the products listed above, that they ask themselves the following questions: 


  1. Where do I purchase my food?
  2. What happened to the animal after it passed?
  3. What’s my relationship with the farmer / CSA?

There are local farmers who don't feed their animals any hormones, nor do they treat their products with antibiotics or pesticides. All it takes is a little research.


Still, there are some that agree with the film's message. Bakersfield Vegans founder Miranda Defoor created the site after she realized how crucial a support system was when making such a drastic transition in your diet. After she got her mom to change to a vegan diet with her, she knew there were other people out there she could connect with.


"She was the only vegan I knew... I made the Facebook group and people started joining," she said.


Defoor encourages anyone with questions about how to replace meat, chicken, dairy and eggs to message her Facebook page.