There’s no better way to spend a Friday night than with a good movie — but sometimes, the drama and comedy selections just aren’t cutting it. You’re ready to get hit with some cold, hard facts while curled up on your couch. You’re prepared to hear about all the ways the dairy industry’s fooling you while sitting with your bowl of buttery popcorn. That’s right — you’re gearing up for a food documentary.
There’s one problem, though — you can’t believe every sensational claim made in these docs. While many of these films make great points about the sugar industry and animal cruelty, there’s also plenty of misinformation you shouldn’t believe. The following food documentaries are among the most popular, and they contain some bogus claims no one should trust.
1. What the Health — One egg is as bad for you as five cigarettes
You’ve definitely heard of this documentary by now. What the Health is the latest movie turning many viewers from meat eaters to vegans overnight. While the film makes great points about the potential risks of dairy and meat-heavy diets, there’s one claim we couldn’t get behind — their stance on eggs. The film goes on to suggest eating one egg yolk is as bad for you as smoking five cigarettes. Before you gasp in horror, let’s break this down a bit.
A study published in the journal Atherosclerosis found those who ate the most eggs had plaque buildup almost comparable to those who smoked. Sounds convincing, right? Well, Dr. Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic told ABC News the study is flawed. The way the researchers measured the patients’ plaque has been met with a lot of criticism, and the study didn’t take any other lifestyle habits into account. Not to mention there’s evidence to suggest eggs might actually be good for your heart. We recommend ignoring this advice.
2. Food Matters — We all need to detox
We hope by now you know detox diets usually do more harm than good. But in case you’ve watched Food Matters and are determined to give your health a boost with their guidance, we’re here to steer you away from that idea. The directors and producers of the film suggest going on a three-day cleanse following the Food Matters Detox Guide. This involves a lot of carefully selected juices, smoothies, and soups — and that’s it. One of their supporters even goes on to discuss how one man had 12 bowel movements and lost 15 pounds in one day once he started detoxing. Fun!
The trouble with a “detox” plan is your body’s already hard at work every day removing toxins, and it doesn’t really need your freshly blended veggie juices to help it out. And dietitian Lona Sandon told NBC News when you flush out the “bad” from your intestines, you’re also taking away all the good gut bacteria that keeps your digestive system healthy. This can lead to even bigger problems down the line. We recommend actually chewing your fruits and veggies instead of juicing them.
3. Super Size Me — Eating 5,000 calories a day from McDonald’s is doable
Remember when this one came out? If not, here’s a refresher of what went down: In 2004, Morgan Spurlock decided he was going to eat a McDonald’s-only diet for three meals a day and would Super Size his meals when the option was offered. His body went through some pretty horrifying changes, and his doctor told him he was eating around 5,000 calories a day — far above what it should be.
Here’s where things get wonky, though — Cracked notes the documentary Fat Head shows how hard it is to actually eat 5,000 calories a day in three McDonald’s meals. Think about it — the Big Mac, one of the unhealthiest items on the menu, paired with large fries and a coke, is 1,200 calories. Doing this three times a day results in 3,600 calories — and even throwing in a dessert doesn’t touch the 5,000 mark. Also, Spurlock wasn’t eating a Big Mac every day, as he had to try each and every item on the menu. The idea that he was easily consuming this amount is likely false.
4. Food, Inc. — GMOs are the Antichrist
Food, Inc. is a documentary containing a lot of alarming information, particularly about the effects genetically modified food has on the environment and our bodies. It’s true — corn and soy are in most of our processed food products and being fed to the animals we consume, which is cause for concern. And the environmental effects are dire. But are GMOs truly the Antichrist of the food industry? A lot of scientists don’t think so.
WebMD reports nine out of 10 scientists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science think GMOs are generally safe for eating. And the publication notes simply changing something’s genes isn’t always bad — it even happens naturally to give a plant or animal the best chance of survival. Many of our GMO foods are more nutritious and plentiful than the non-modified goods, too. Frankly, without these modifications, world hunger would likely see a sharp increase.
So, are altered crops totally safe? It’s possible they could be detrimental to our health, but the science has yet to prove that.
5. Fed Up — Sugar is the No. 1 cause of obesity
We all know we should cut back on our sugar consumption. And according to Fed Up, obesity rates are on the rise thanks to our love affair with the sweet stuff. Without doing any other research, this seems to make sense — processed foods are loaded with hidden sugars, after all. But Harriet Hall, M.D., writes for Science-Based Medicine that the data simply doesn’t match up with what Fed Up is saying.
As Hall notes, sugar consumption actually declined between 1999 and 2008, yet obesity rates have continued to climb. And according to this data, the U.S. doesn’t eat as much sugar as many other countries. So, what’s the reason behind our weight gain? In short, it’s complicated and probably related to many factors, such as lifestyle, increased calorie intake over the years, and perhaps the types of sugar we’re eating. This sweet ingredient certainly plays a role in our health, but there’s a lot to consider here.
6. Vaxxed — Vaccines cause autism
OK, so this one isn’t about food, but it’s too ridiculous to leave out. Vaxxed is a documentary claiming the vaccine that protects against measles and mumps is also responsible for increasing rates of autism. The origin of this idea came from a study published in 1998 stating 12 patients showed signs of autism after receiving this vaccine. But the study was later retracted from the journal, as it was totally fraudulent, The Washington Post reports.
Let’s be clear — the theory that vaccines cause autism has been debunked again and again. And guess who directs this documentary? Andrew Wakefield — the lead author of the original study that caused so much chaos. We suggest taking a look at this study instead from The JAMA Network. After 96,000 children analyzed, researchers found no correlation between the vaccine and autism.
7. The Raw Truth — Cooked food is toxic to the body
There’s nothing wrong with a plant-based diet. In fact, an all-natural, vegan way of life suits many people perfectly and includes all the vitamins and minerals meat eaters get. But The Raw Truth takes its vegan claims a little too far. According to this documentary, any food that’s cooked above 118 degrees Fahrenheit has lost all its nutrients. To get the most benefits from food, the doc suggests eating a totally raw diet.
Listen — we’re all about veggie cruditées as a healthy snack, but to say all veggies lose their nutrients when cooked is just plain wrong. A report in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry actually found boiling and steaming many veggies preserves their antioxidants. And eating cooked produce is easier on your digestive system, Scientific American notes. Keep in mind deep-fried zucchini sticks are obviously not the better choice over raw. But when it comes to healthier cooking methods, we say go for it.