Dr Neal Barnard, the president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC recently spoke out against a backlash of criticism following his appearance in Netflix documentary “What The Health”.
The documentary, directed by Kip Andersen who also starred in and directed ’Cowspiracy’ details the corruption of the food industry in the US and the impact it is having on public health. The film highlights the prevalence of meat and dairy in the Standard American Diet (SAD) and warns of the risks this type of lifestyle poses to human health. Dr Barnard was one among a number of doctors interviewed for the movie.
Deemed by some as a controversial subject, the film has received a mixture of positive and negative feedback from the public and media alike. One accusation of the film is that the studies supporting the movie’s claims were cherry picked and taking official medical statements out of context.
Following the critique, Dr Neal Barnard spoke with the Washingtonian to provide some clarity.
He told the Washingtonian: “I was really glad to see [the film] because people tend to not think about the foods that they eat, and they tend not to talk about it too much.”
In response to the claims of cherry picking, Barnard explained “Keep in mind that a movie is not a journal article. A movie needs to get people’s attention and lay out some things that people can then talk about.
That’s a great contribution, and I would go further and say that the evidence of benefits for a plant-based diet is really quite convincing.”
Dr Neal Barnard is no stranger to criticism, being one of few outspoken plant based physicians, it’s common for his approach on medicine to be a curiosity within the industry. However, regardless of the claims and accusations, one positive thing to take away from this is that it’s gotten a lot people talking about their health and questioning the information they are being given.
“Where I think we run into the biggest problems – it’s not a documentary that’s controversial.” he explains,
“When [people] get home and they pick up their remote control, the commercial messages that are going to be directed at them are presenting such a risk-laden view of food.”
“‘Pile the burgers on higher’ is basically the message, and the other half of the commercials are for medicine to try to make it all go away. That’s the crazy world that we live in.”
“There are a lot of forces of evil out there, and if anybody wants to criticize a movie that’s trying to shine a spotlight on these issues, I think they should really look at the real problems we have in the culture.”
Closing on a positive, Dr Barnard analogizes switching to a vegan diet with “If you’re standing at the edge of a swimming pool, sticking your toe in the water and noticing what a great time everyone is having there in the pool and wondering if you should dive in, the answer is yes, now is the time.”
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