When we young kids growing up our family hosted a young boy from Northern Ireland. Peter Casey was from Belfast and spent about 8 weeks one summer in Kelowna to get away from the turmoil back home.
We spent that summer riding our bikes, going to the beach and doing all the things 8-10 year old boys do. And that included getting dragged by their moms to go cherry picking.
One time when we were cherry picking, Peter thought it would be funny to throw cherries at my brother Jon and I. It didn’t take much for us to get drawn into this fruit fight considering:
A. There were two of us and only one of him
B. We were in the habit of throwing from playing football and baseball. Peter was used to playing soccer and had a terrible arm.
So the war was on. Since August in Kelowna can get very hot Peter soon ditched the tarp giving us this nice, pasty white target to aim at. We quickly realized if we bit half the cherry off a direct hit resulted in red circles all over Peter’s body.
Now while it’s fun to reminisce about fun stories growing up we weren’t the only ones cherry picking.
If you’ve seen the ‘documentary’ Game Changers you’ll know what I’m talking about. But in case you haven’t here’s a quick overview.
A MMA competitor injuries himself and spends his recovery time researching the best ways to come back to his sport better than ever. What he discovers is that a plant-based diet is not only better for health but it also gives athletes an advantage as well.
Those are a couple of the claims anyway.
Having produced some great pieces of fictional content such as Avatar and Terminator I’m sure James Cameron felt right at home producing Game Changers. He was joined by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan in producing this one.
As I sat back to watch Game Changers, twice, I noticed my head getting tilted sideways as it does when something doesn’t seem right. Rather than do a full autopsy on this one I’m going to lean on a few reviews that have already been produced. These reviews are courtesy of Men’s Heath, Menno Henselmans and Layne Norton. I’ve included direct links to their reviews below.
Men’s Health Review of Game Changers
At the beginning of the of documentary the MMA narrator James tells us that a plant-based diet is superior for cardiovascular health, sexual function and mortality. The story continues to prove these claims.
The first piece of proof is a ‘study’ of the remains of gladiators. The skeletal remains of these warriors indicate that gladiators, the most impressive physical specimens of the time, at predominantly fruits and vegetables.
The problem is that it isn’t a study that isn’t being presented but instead a narrative, taken a little bit out of context. As well, certain details indicating gladiators ate fish and had higher levels of creatine i.e. from eating meat, fail to make the final cut.
Later there is the mention of a study of how milk can drop testosterone and increase estrogen levels in men. The problem here is two-fold. The first is that seven men were included in the study and the findings were temporary. Hardly conclusive evidence to stop drinking milk.
The Men’s Health piece addresses the claim that increased meat consumption raises the incidence of cancer. This is true but there is more to the story. The incidence of colorectal cancer is 5% and eating a hot dog per day may raise this to a 6% chance. However using a marinade and or eating more fruits and vegetables could mitigate this increase altogether.
Game Changers Review by Menno Henselmans
Menno does a great job at looking at various claims made during the documentary. What I liked is that he includes omitted details from the studies mentioned and therefore a complete picture of the discussion. Here are some examples of his review:
- A vegetarian diet may have a lower risk for certain diseases than meat eaters. What is left out is that the lower risk is equivalent to fish eaters.
- A plant-based diet may result in increased cardiovascular health. What is left out from this study is that plant-based diets may also have an increased chance of non-communicable blood disease.
- A plant-based diet may add more vitamins, anti-oxidants and phytochemicals which are all good things. Eating animal products may allow for the consumption of higher quality protein, more iron, omega-3 and B vitamins.
- Menno mentions a study where senior women eat a high-meat diet. The study subjects increased muscle size and strength as well as markers of inflammation. Reduced inflammation is touted as one of the main reasons to ditch meat in favour of a plant-based approach.
Game Changers Review by Layne Norton
The last review to look at is the one by Layne Norton. Layne identifies many of the same short-comings covered by Men’s Health and Menno. So the brevity of this section is simply looking at unique points not covered in the previous reviews.
Layne does a good job of exposing potential conflicts of interests of those associated with the documentary.
James Cameron and Suzy Cameron are both owners of a plant-based nutritional company. James is the CEO and Suzy is the founder of Verdiant Foods, a pea-protein nutritional company.
Jackie Chan is a vegan himself.
And Schwarzenegger is part-owner of a supplement company that sells vegan products.
There is nothing wrong with having interests in plant-based companies or profiting financially from them. But how many of the people watching this documentary were aware of these relationships? Knowing these ties makes the documentary feel more like a commercial and less like a review of the scientific evidence.
Another great point Layne makes is to examine the claim that plant-based proteins are superior. This simply isn’t the case.
Proteins from animal products have a higher bioavalability by about 10-40%. This is a measure of how much of the protein we can absorb and use. Egg white has a bioavailability of 100 and other foods will be higher or lower than this. Kidney beans, soy and wheat have BVs of 49, 54 and 59 respectively.
Plant proteins are typically lower in essential amino acids than animal proteins. Essential amino acids (EAA) are ones the body cannot make and are therefore essential to be included in the diet. Leucine in particular is an important EAA and plays an important in muscle protein synthesis.
So what’s the take home message?
Netflix is great for entertainment. They are lots of great shows to evoke a variety of emotions and allow us to escape. Two hours of watching a documentary online doesn’t equate to the learning that comes from a university education.
Going forward look to include more fruits and vegetables in your nutritional plan. And if you are an omnivore you can rest assured that eating protein that comes from animals doesn’t put you at a disadvantage.
If you’d like to check out these reviews further here are the links: