We made a feature-length film debunking their film - here's all the studies to back it up
THE ROMAN GLADIATORS ATE A VEGETARIAN DIET, SO WE SHOULD TOO?
The Gamechangers claim that these noble, courageous gladiators battled it out to the death while eating a vegetarian diet, and thus claiming that we should as well. Unfortunately, these gladiators aren't as much of a physical spectacle as we think. These two articles show that gladiators ate a diet rich in carbohydrates such as barley and legumes. The vegetarian diet had nothing to do with poverty or animal rights but was implemented to help them gain fat. It seems that the evidence points to gladiators actually being quite fat. They needed an extra layer of subcutaneous fat to help them survive in battle. If wounded in battle, a fat cushion would act as a protective layer for your vital organs, nerves, and blood vessels. It was also seen that surface wounds on the fat layer would "look more spectacular" for the spectators as they would be able to carry on the battle even when wounded as the wounds would gush blood, but were shallow to not cause death. So the claim of ancient heroic gladiators eating a vegetarian diet to fuel their performance and physique doesn't seem to be what the Gamechangers suggest.
HEALTH DETRIMENTS FROM THE SWITCH TO HUNTER-GATHERERS TO AGRICULTURISTS
In the Gamchangers, they state how those who ate a vegetarian diet had higher bone density than those who were carnivorous based on ancient bone artifacts. This could not be more false. Shawn Baker briefly mentions these three articles in the context of how the switch from hunting and gathering to agriculture led to many health-related consequences. Hunter-gatherers had better bones, had no signs of iron-deficiency anemia, no signs of infection, few (if any) dental cavities, fewer signs of arthritis and were in general larger and more robust than their agriculture-following contemporaries.
We also see the rise of agriculture begins with the fall of brain size due to the malnourishment many of these examined populations suffered when switching towards this agriculturist lifestyle. The third article mentions how the rise of agriculture also saw the rise of tooth decay, periosteal inflammation, and mouth-related disease, which in turn led to the overall poor health of the population. It seems like the switch towards agriculture really made us progress backward rather than forward and the direction towards greater bone density and brain size occurred at the same time we went back into eating high-quality animal products.
ANIMAL PROTEIN VS PLANT PROTEIN: SHOULD THEY BE CONSIDERED EQUALS?
In the film, we hear Dr. Jacob Wilson and Dr. Gabrielle Lyon discuss the issue of how protein from plants is not the same as protein from animal products. This review of studies testing the role of anabolic properties of plant- versus animal-based protein sources shows that even though the amount of protein was controlled, the groups who consumed animal proteins had better muscle mass maintenance. This is due to the fact that animal proteins have better digestibility and higher essential amino acid content (especially leucine). It is possible to get your protein solely from plants but the tricky part is that plant-based sources of protein usually do not contain the whole spectrum of essential amino acids, in other words, an incomplete protein. in addition, the leucine content of most plant sources of protein is not adequate enough to reach the threshold needed for muscle protein synthesis. Most animal products are complete proteins with al the essential amino acids, especially higher in the leucine content.
IS A VEGAN DIET THE BEST FOR ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE?
In the Gamechangers, they continuously argue that a plant-based diet is better for performance, whether you are a professional athlete or an average gym-goer. This could not be more wrong. A plant-based diet misses out on tons of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. It has been continuously shown that the lack of Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, zinc, iron, protein, creatine, taurine, and the list goes on. Not only is the issue the lack of the amount of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, but also the poor bioavailability of these nutrients that plants have compared to animal products. We have included an extensive list of resources regarding the many deficiencies we observe in a plant-based diet and the health detriments.
These studies highlight the importance of protein for bone mineral density:
Plant-based diets and how they lack creatine, an important nutrient to aid in building muscle:
Taurine deficiencies and its detriments:
Deficiencies in vitamin A, iron, and zinc from a plant-based diet:
Growth and development of children from a plant-based diet:
Exercise performance as a plant-based athlete:
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES AND PLANT-BASED DIETS
Dr. Georgia Ede goes on in the film about how a diet rich in plant foods can lead to several vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can result in neurotransmitter imbalances and ultimately mental health issues. For example, Vitamin B12 is found only in animal products. Without B12 the body cannot synthesize DNA, RNA, red blood cells, or myelin. To no surprise, B12 deficiency can cause a whole host of psychiatric problems including depression, psychosis, memory problems, mania, and changes in behavior or personality. Check out the plentiful references above to learn more about B12 deficiency in vegan diets and the negative detriments.
Not only is the issue from lack of vitamins and minerals in plant foods themselves, but also how plants can have antinutrients that block the absorption of said nutrients. Phytic acid, found in many grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, acts as a mineral magnet that interferes with our ability to absorb iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. It makes sense as these seeds are using this clever molecule to hold on to precious minerals so they can't be washed away in the soil while waiting to sprout (a sort of defense mechanism). To make matters worse, it can steal minerals away from foods that you eat with these plant foods and interfere with the absorption of these essential vitamins and minerals. There's also a whole other list of antinutrients such as goitrogens, oxalates, and tannins.
THE FALSE ACCUSATIONS OF NEU5GC ON HUMANS
The first study explained by Dr. Paul Saladino shows that the Gamechangers false accusations of Neu5Gc, a sialic acid, supposedly causes inflammation and cancer. The film bases this accusation off one particular study with rats, but this article above completely refutes it with a human study. It shows that these kidney transplants patients had Neu5Gc and anti Neu5Gc antibodies injected in them from polyclonal antibodies from rabbits. The second article also chimes in on this explained from Chris Kresser that even when humans were fed large amounts of Neu5Gc it didn't actually increase their serum levels of Neu5Gc. He then goes on to apply the theory to the populations of Maasai, a pastoralist tribe living in Kenya and Northern Tanzania, that consume a diet almost entirely of meat, milk, and blood. Two-thirds of their calories come from fat, and they consume 600-2000 mg of cholesterol a day. If the Gamechanger's theory of Neu5Gc affecting humans by promoting inflammation and cancer, we would see this tribe riddled with disease considering that their diet is full of Neu5Gc.
Also, here's a video to understand more about Neu5Gc and its mechanisms:
EFFECTS OF RED MEAT CONSUMPTION ON CARDIOMETABOLIC AND CANCER OUTCOMES
Chris Kresser explains how these two meta-analyses studies refute the point that the Gamechangers make when stating that there is a strong link of cancer and cardiovascular disease when it comes to red meat consumption. In the first article, we observe a meta-analysis of the association of dietary heme iron intake and risk of cardiovascular disease. It is noted that in the cohorts studied that the American group had a significant association of dietary heme iron intake and cardiovascular disease. What the Gamechangers fails to tell you is that ALL of the other cohorts studied (Netherlands, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Sweden) there was no association found! What this tells us is that the association shouldn't be from heme iron or red meat consumption, but rather the issue of the poor standard American diet. The second meta-analysis also refutes the Gamechangers by concluding that there is low- to very-low-certainty evidence that diets restricted in red meat may have little or no effect on major cardiometabolic outcomes and cancer mortality and incidence. In other words, red meat is not the culprit of these cancers and diseases but is more likely an unbalanced diet that we see so commonly in American culture.
Red meat and cardiovascular disease:
Red meat consumption and colon health:
Red meat and development of cancer:
DO PLANTS ACTUALLY OPTIMIZE YOUR GUT MICROBIOME?
The study defines alpha-diversity of the gut microbiota as the richness (number of taxonomically distinct organisms present) and evenness (relative abundances of organisms) of its composition. Basically the amount and diversity of species of microbiota in the gut. In this meta-analysis, not only does it state that a diet of solely plants does not increase the alpha-diversity of the microbiome, but also how a carnivorous diet with no plants does not decrease the alpha-diversity of the microbiome. The gut microbiome is still a very new and uncharted area of science so we can not make any hard conclusions or claims yet, but this fact does not stop the Gamechangers from making very broad and biased claims in support of their agenda.
IS PLANT-BASED REALLY THE BEST WAY REVERSE HEART DISEASE?
The Gamechangers film cites Dr. Dean Ornish's study of lifestyle interventions in reversing coronary heart disease. They use this study to state that a plant-based diet is the only disease to be able to reverse coronary atherosclerosis. What they don't include in this very obscure claim is how this study had ONLY 20 patients on the diet, and furthermore it was not controlled for the diet itself but had several other lifestyle management interventions implemented. These included aerobic exercise, stress management training, smoking cessation, and group psychosocial support. The Gamechangers continues to cherry-pick their studies and data to help move their agenda forward without giving the whole picture. That's not even the end of it, in the study the experimental group compared to the control group weighed 34 more pounds so it is likely that those who have more weight are bound to end up losing more as well. But of course, once again, the Gamechangers does not mention this detail.
DOES CONSUMPTION OF ANIMAL PROTEIN REALLY CAUSE HEART DISEASE?
The film cites this study and then makes a very broad claim stating that animal protein is the sole reason for the cause of heart disease. Good thing in the conclusion of the study it states that “We observed no association between dietary protein and risk of total IHD in this group of men aged 40-75 years.” Brian Sanders then goes on in support of this by referring to populations of Hong-Kong and Japan, who eat a heavily animal-based diet but yet tend to live the longest. Animal proteins are not the enemy, but rather an unbalanced diet that is made up of mainly processed, unnatural foods usually consisting of refined sugars and oils.
DOES HUMAN EVOLUTION POINT TO US NEEDING TO BE VEGETARIAN?
In the film they have anthropologists state how our early ancestors relied heavily on plant foods. It seems a bit far fetched considering that many climates couldn’t support the availability of plant foods year-round. If that doesn’t seem logical enough there have been studies done using stable isotopic compositions of Neandertals and first modern humans in Europe. The data shows that they ate a diet based on mainly terrestrial herbivores. This also goes in line with the optimal foraging theory that gathering plants wouldn’t sustain the energy demands of our ancestors, so spending their time and energy on getting a kill from a large animal was much more worth the return.
HOW DOES A PLANT-BASED DIET AFFECT YOUR HORMONAL BALANCE?
In the film, they portray a very poorly designed experiment testing the link between meat consumption and nocturnal penile tumescence, in other words, erections in their sleep. Dr. Paul Saladino makes some good points about the flaws in the experiment noticing that there was no control group, randomization, standardization, and the lack of acknowledging confounding variables. Almost all of the scientific community would take one look at this study and find it negligible as the flaws essentially deny any credibility to the study at all. It is apparent that the film uses this bogus study for the essence of shock value for spectators to really chime in on such a bizarre experiment. What is even more interesting is that in this case study above, the only ACTUAL scientific study you could find regarding veganism and erectile dysfunction, states that they examined a case study of a man with sudden onset of loss of libido and erectile dysfunction. They concluded that the main cause was the ingestion of large quantities of soy-based products in a vegan-style diet. After a 1 year cessation of the vegan style of diet, they observed normalization of testosterone and DHEA levels. This case study indicated that soy product consumption is related to hypogonadism and erectile dysfunction. Now, yes it should be acknowledged that this is a case study, but it is a much more reliable and credible scientific study than that compared to the ludicrous study created in the Gamechangers film.
Erectile dysfunction from a plant-based diet:
Menstrual cycle problems from a plant-based diet:
HOW MUCH DOES CATTLE AND MEAT PRODUCTION ACTUALLY AFFECT THE ENVIRONMENT?
The Gamechangers makes some very broad claims regarding the way the farming of animal products affects the environment in a negative way. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The statistics they use don’t seem to be backed up and have many controversial sources saying otherwise. For example, they discuss the use of water for cattle production in comparison to plant products. What they don’t mention is how most of the water use is from rainwater, or water that has been sourced from the surface or groundwater resources. Although beef requires 280 gallons of water per pound, that is much less than the amount needed to produce a pound of avocados, walnuts, or sugar. They also mention how cattle production is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. This statistic has been completely overblown. The EPA has stated that all livestock only represent 3.9% of US GHG emissions, far lower than the 18% - 51% range many plant=based advocates report. A lot of plant-based advocates argue that we should get rid of cattle production to free up more land for crop production. While this may seem like a good idea, unfortunately, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Even if we removed all the cattle more than 60% of the agricultural land is too rocky, steep, and/or arid to support cultivated agriculture. It is also known that monocropping (planting one type of crop for acres of land) destroys the topsoil of organic nutrients, causes erosion, and damages waterways.
We should also take into consideration that cattle helps to turn the food we can’t eat into valuable protein. Think about it, cows are ruminants and have evolved to have extremely long and large intestines for them to be able to digest grass, leaves, and other crop residues. The Gamechangers state how cows are just the “middlemen” for us and that couldn’t be more true! (Looks like they got one thing right) They take what we as humans couldn't even digest and in turn use that as fuel to create a product we can eat (animal protein). We realize how horrific and cruel factory farming can look, especially considering all the exposures we’ve seen in the media recently, but what we should focus on is not canceling meat altogether, but supporting those smaller ethical farms that make a living treating their animals humanely and sustainably. If you’re interested in this topic, I urge you to look into regenerative agriculture. Joel Salatin is a world-renown advocate and a great resource for more information.
THE BIOAVAILABILITY OF PROTEIN FROM ANIMAL PRODUCTS AND HOW IT IS BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND OUR BODIES
In this study, they tested how the switch from cattle to mainly plant-based would affect the human-edible protein conversion efficiency, net protein contribution, and enteric methane production. By now you understand that ruminants are much more efficient in taking indigestible products and providing an adequate source of bioavailable energy for humans to consume. This study helps to support that by showing how cow-calf production is the most efficient in creating protein edible for humans. We also saw that the net protein contribution of beef is much greater due to the fact of their ability to upcycle protein from low quality to high quality. It was also noted that the methane contribution of the cow-calf sector was much less than that of feedlot and nonruminant systems. Overall, it shows that beef production is much more efficient in providing sufficient amounts of protein by taking the least possible while reducing methane emissions to the environment.
IS A PLANT-BASED DIET SAFE FOR CHILDREN/NEWBORNS?
There are many negative side effects that can occur if a pregnant woman sticks to a plant-based diet without careful supplementation. Animal products provide us a very wide spectrum of nutrients that can be simply replaced with plant foods. There have been many reports and incidences where children and infants have run into developmental issues because of this. As a matter of fact, it is now apparently illegal to force your children to eat a plant-based diet in certain countries such as Belgium and Italy.
The effect of plant-based diets on newborns and pregnant women:
The effect of plant-based diets on children:
A vitamin B-12 supplement of 500 μg/d for eight weeks does not normalize urinary methylmalonic acid or other biomarkers of vitamin B-12 status in elderly people with moderately poor vitamin B-12 status
RESEARCH ON ANIMAL FOODS AND THE CORRUPTION WITHIN IT
In the film we often we see how the plant-based advocates often claim how the meat industry is corrupt by paying research and lobbyists for their agenda. This could not be more wrong as it is the exact opposite, where we see all the funding get supported by plant-based companies/foods. If you have a hard time believing that, go check out the references below: