I spent a lazy afternoon yesterday surfing around (does anyone still say that?) on Netflix looking for something to watch. After watching the first ten minutes of a number of not very good films I came across “What the Health” (no question mark, apparently), and I found it pretty interesting.
At first it seemed like another one in a series of hatchet-jobs on the food and pharmaceutical industry, but there were some great animations to illustrate what was being said by the experts in the film, so that got my attention.
The other thing that got my attention was the people in the film with various health problems, which didn’t seem to be helped much by all the medication they were taking.
As the film neared the end the suggestion was that the meat and dairy products these people were eating made a bit contribution to the poor health they were experiencing.
At the end of the film these people had moved to a plant-based diet and their health had improved remarkably, apparently as a result of this.
Try a plant-based diet
So that’s where the film was going. We should all eat a plant-based diet and everything would be alright.
This idea has been presented in a number of other films and books, but it still made me think. The strange thing was though, despite really enjoying the film I didn’t feel very convinced about all this.
This is strange because I have a NutriBullet (other blenders are available) lunch every day, which comprises a smoothie of kale, spinach, spring greens, blueberries, raspberries, seed mix, and any other vegetables that are lying around the kitchen.
I also try to reduce (not very successfully, it has to be said) the amount of processed food that I eat.
Why would I do that if I wasn’t convinced of the health benefits of all this plant material?
Not sure, maybe I thought the film was just trying to promote a vegan diet, or something.
That was until this morning…
I was reading the business section of the Sunday paper and there was an article about how pharmaceutical companies are turning to natural remedies as developing synthetic drugs becomes more difficult.
I know that the drug companies are purifying these chemicals from plants, and the levels needed to produce the health benefits would be way higher that you would get from a plant-based diet.
It made me think a lot harder about the claims made in “What the Health”.
Fruit and vegetables – more than just filling the gap
It makes sense that avoiding the harmful chemicals claimed to be in meat and dairy products would go some way to improving our health. But rather than just filling the gap left by not eating meat and dairy products, the benefits could really come from upping our intake of plant materials.
There are plenty of books and articles on so called “superfoods” that can do all sorts of things like help to fight cancer.
It’s also pretty well known that a number of established drugs originally came from plants. Examples include Aspirin, Digitalis and Morphine, but for some reason some people (who, me?) seem to be quite sceptical about this. “If it’s just from plants it can’t work, can it?”
The article talked about how a British pharmaceutical company was purifying a chemical from broccoli that could be used to treat conditions as diverse as stroke and breast cancer.
The part that caught my eye was that this drug may be able to turn breast cancer into a chronic condition rather than a fatal one in women where the cancer had spread to other parts of the body.
This is really incredible!
I’m going to read a bit more about this and I might write some more on it later. For now though, you may (depending on where you live) be able to read the article online at the link below:
It should be free, but they may ask for your email address to be able to read the whole thing.