Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.
– Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC)
As I mentioned in my previous post, the documentary Food Matters is available to watch for free this week (October 2nd – October 8th). I took some time out from doing homework to sit down and watch the movie through. I found it to be quite fascinating, and decided to jot down notes so I could bring you my thoughts on the movie.
Note: I would love to have the time to research all of the papers and sources they talk about in the movie, as I feel that is the only way to truly judge any “scientific fact” presented to you (it is very easy to cherry pick specific details to make your point), but unfortunately that just isn’t in the cards right now. So my current opinion on the film will be based on my own background in science and nutrition – feel free to disagree and debate!
The basic gist of the film is that humans can prevent and/or cure many, if not all illnesses related to lifestyle and diet choices by eating an organic, plant based, high raw, superfood filled diet; that pharmaceuticals do more harm than good; that high doses of vitamins can be just as effective in curing illness; and that generally our (US) medical system is set up to keep people sick so that all the players involved can continue to make money. In a nutshell – put quality fuel into your body, and you will allow your body to thrive and fight off any illness that may come your way. I’m totally paraphrasing, but I would say these are the main points of the film.
What I Liked
I liked that the film generally focuses on the fact that what we choose to fuel our bodies with is the major driving factor in our own health. I like that the film puts the emphasis on prevention and self care, as I feel that too many individuals don’t take responsibility for their actions and the consequences they have on their health and well being. We have definitely become a society where we would rather find the solution to our woes in a pill than turn to something as simple as food. And this is just sucking up money from our medical system left, right, and centre. We would be so much better off putting our resources into prevention programs and keeping our population healthy rather than trying to fix things that are broken, sometimes beyond repair.
I also like how they talk about the fact that there are thousands of scientific papers and journals that often go unlisted or unrepresented in many of the major journal databases. The official reason would be that those in charge of compiling the databases probably deem them to not be scientific enough, or to have some other sort of flaw, but there is always some level of bias when deciding what journals to include, and even what studies get published over others (negative results often are deemed of lesser quality than positive results, certain topics are trendy, and therefore get over resprented, etc). I think it’s so key to realize just how much scientific information is out there, and how one must read EVERYTHING with a very critical eye – how was the study set up, how many participants, have they controlled for variables, who funded it, etc. I’m not saying what we do see published in mainstream journals is garbage. But what we don’t see published isn’t necessarily garbage as well, and we may not be getting the complete picture.
Some quotes that I quite enjoyed:
“Cardiovascular disease is the disease of civilization.”
“If everybody at read food, we would have an epidemic of health.” (a bit of a paraphrase)
“If someone is malnourished, they should be depressed – go eat good food!”
What I Didn’t Like
So as much as I agree with the basic take away message of the film (fuel yourself with real food to thrive and prevent illness), I have to say I take issue with, or question, quite a bit in the film. Again, I have not had the time to research every “fact” presented, so perhaps my opinion would change for some things, but I have to go with what I currently know.
First and foremost, I really did not like the overall conspiracy theory vibe I got throughout the whole film. Big pharm is out to get us, the government doesn’t want us to know things, etc, etc. Yes, there may be some truth to these points, but when they are presented in the whole “really excited voice, wild hand gestures” kind of way, it seems to take away credibility. I think that is one of the first things we learn when evaluating science – if there are a lot of exclamation points, chances are it may not all be truthful.
I also find some of the experts to be very extremist in their views. It’s great to be passionate about your own views on what makes up a healthy diet, and to want to share that with people. But I don’t agree that every diet works for everyone. One of the major ideas in the film is that having a diet that is at least 51% raw, preferably 80% raw, is what we need to thrive. Yes, some nutrients can be damaged by cooking, but not all. Yes, there are benefits to raw foods, and they are simple and easy to prepare. But they can also be hard to digest, and it can be hard to extract some nutrients from these foods – cooking can actually boost certain nutrients’ availability (example – lycopene in tomatoes). This is then coupled with a huge plug for superfoods like goji berries, acai, cacao, etc. Again, I don’t see anything wrong with including them in your diet, but I also don’t feel they are necessary to achieve optimal health. One, they are expensive, and two, many are not grown locally. I have a hard time believing that we need to rely on foods transported 1000’s of miles to get to us to truly be healthy. The expert even talks about replacing GMO corn, soy, and wheat with these superfoods. Why not just replace the GMO’s with unaltered or heirloom strains of these foods – they aren’t the devil in disguise. And will these exotic superfoods even grow here?!
There is a big push for the need to detox from our poisonous diet as well, not just through eating whole, organic raw foods, but also utilizing colonics and enemas. In fact, you can eve buy a detox book to accompany the film. I’m sorry, but you will never convince me that an enema is vital for optimal health. Our gastrointestinal system is designed to very efficiently detox and remove, well, crap from our bodies. That’s the whole point of it! Drink more water and eat more fibre if you need to get things moving better. You really don’t need more than that.
I also worry that the film may give those suffering from very advanced diseases, such as cancer, false hope. The experts in film make claims that their program of eating/detox can in fact reverse and cure cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. In all fairness, I have not met the people who have gone through their programs so I can’t say for sure. But they also did not interview any of them for the film. And I feel that it is good to have a level of skepticism about the idea of healing very serious, advanced diseases. It is easy when you feel you have nothing left to try to want to grasp onto someone’s promise of a cure, even if it may be farfetched. For some people, yes, it may work, but I imagine the number is very small, or that it has been used in conjunction with other therapies. Again, this is why prevention is just so key.
I think Food Matters is a film people should take the time to watch. The message that real foods and vitamins can enable you to prevent disease and thrive is a good one. It seems like such a simple, common sense investment into our own health, and yet we don’t always follow it. Pills are not the answer to what ails us. Yes, they have value in short term, life saving situations (say an infection), but to take something long term for a chronic condition just doesn’t seem desirable on any level. Why wouldn’t we want to avoid that? And I think the film is great to spark discussion and questions. But I do feel that it goes to extremes, and that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. You should never form an opinion without informing yourself on all sides of the debate, and if you only watch this film and take it as gospel, then you aren’t doing that. Do I think our food system is broken? Oh hell yes. Do we need to take responsibility for our actions and our own health? Of course! Is this the only way to achieve optimal health? Probably not.
Go watch Food Matters for yourself and let me know what you think – maybe you see it completely different from me. I would love to hear your thoughts!
Side note – I am actually interested in the content of the detox/diet plan. Not sure I want to pay the $10 USD for it though. Has anyone read it? Perhaps you can share?