Discussion in 'Health and Fitness' started by Overnight, Aug 3, 2019.
Saw this only recently. Yep, I kinda' figured...
Well, it is also about the fats. But, yeah, it's about the sugar.
Good gosh is there a Cliffs Notes version?
Sugar bad. Very bad.
Sugar is all fun and games until the feet come off.
I hate when that happens.
*Psst* It's a full-length movie. And a well-made one. Give it a watch while it is still out there. Or, you can watch it on Amazon for free if you have a Prime membership.
This one was also interesting when you look at the basic facts presented:
The Magic Pill is a character-driven documentary that follows doctors, patients, scientists, chefs, farmers and journalists from around the globe who are combating illness through a paradigm shift in eating. And this simple change -- embracing fat as our main fuel -- is showing profound promise in improving the health of people, animals and the planet.
The Magic Pill
The Magic Pill is a 2017 Australian documentary by celebrity chef Pete Evans, a man also known for his campaigns against fluoridation and sunscreen and his support of anti-vaccinationists. The result is an entertaining yet flawed documentary promoting a ketogenic diet (low carb/high fat) with the healthy twist of also recommending the avoidance of processed foods.
“What we have been taught about nutrition is dangerously wrong.” – Pete Evans
Some of it certainly has been wrong, but a more accurate statement would be: “What we have been taught about nutrition is confusingly contradictory.” Unfortunately, this documentary only adds to the confusion.
Despite its many flaws, I enjoyed this documentary. In this post, I will discuss what worked, what was problematic, and what the known health effects of ketogenic diets are.
The documentary tells a story, and I connected with the people who agreed to a 10-week keto diet program, especially the New Jersey family with their autistic daughter. One can’t help but root for this likable and medically troubled family. The scene where the nutritionists ransack their kitchen by removing processed foods is a vivid commentary on the Western diet. Take a look at your own pantry or just go to the supermarket and you’ll see, the majority of food is processed (in bright, wordy packaging). I also liked how the documentary focused on health rather than weight.
What was problematic?
Because the keto diet is opposed to all carbs, they advise avoidance of whole grains (recommended by practically all other diets), lumping these in with unhealthy carbs. The case they make against wheat is particularly feeble. While every analysis of human history points to the cultivation of wheat 10,000 years ago as the basis of modern civilization, this documentary actually laments the change in diet away from high meat and fat. Yet, they seem to understand that the reliance on processed food, which has led to an epidemic of obesity and chronic disease, has taken place in the last century, ignoring the 9,900+ years in between.
Eventually, they declare the keto diet is the “magic pill” (in case you had any doubt) and they suggest that medications (the things proven to be effective by rigorous studies, unlike the keto diet) should be discarded. I’m all for improving your diet to reduce disease and reliance on medication, but a documentary demonizing proven prescription medication promotes a potentially dangerous attitude. The Australian Medical Association called for the documentary to be removed from Netflix.
That’s a bit extreme, but so is calling the treatment type 2 diabetes mellitus with insulin “criminally insane.” Most type 2 diabetics don’t require insulin, but if the diabetic control is poor enough, then refusing to prescribe insulin is criminally negligent. Will improving your diet help you get off insulin? Maybe, I’ve seen this in my own practice, but many will still need insulin at a reduced dose while others will need insulin because they cannot take oral medications due to other health problems like kidney and liver disease. The lack of nuance in this documentary limits its argument.
My most significant criticism of the documentary is that they followed the subjects for only 10 weeks, and during this time, they provided a level of support most people could only dream about. I have no doubt the benefits the subjects experienced were real, but what happens to that family when they go out to eat or if they take their children to birthday parties? Maintaining a strict diet long-term while the rest of the world is engaged in a gluttonous orgy of processed food requires a level of willpower most adults can’t muster and are especially challenging for children.
Ultimately, the faults of this documentary are the same as those for fad diets in general. Most work in the short term but are not sustainable in the long term because the severe restrictions lead to cheating and binging. They are often promoted or endorsed by celebrities with an interest in self-promotion and profit. And they are described with exaggerated claims with no discussion of any downsides. I found that last point particularly frustrating. Every documentary is bolstered by at least discussing the difficulties of whatever they are promoting. All negative issues in this documentary were ignored.
What are the known effects of a ketogenic diet?
Doctors do recommend a ketogenic diet for drug-resistant epilepsy, especially in children. There is no conclusive data for other disorders, but it may be beneficial in certain neurologic conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and autism. Ketogenic diets do result in short-term weight loss but are no more effective than other fad diets in the long term. And ketogenic diets do show short-term improvement in glycemic control for diabetics, as expected with any low sugar diet.
There are also known problems. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, constipation, bad breath, and sleep problems. It can worsen the kidney function for those people who have chronic kidney disease. And as with any fad diet, it is difficult to sustain and may result in “yo-yo dieting” with rapid weight fluctuations that are associated with increased mortality.
The Magic Pill accurately demonstrates the real difficulties of individuals and families suffering from chronic medical problems and how a change in diet can have meaningful benefits. Their biased approach and neglect of any downside severely limit their argument in what was otherwise an enjoyable documentary. If you are already interested in trying a keto diet, this documentary provides a framework you might find beneficial. Personally, I found it more misleading than convincing.
If you are looking to improve your health with a low carb diet by reducing sugar, I recommend checking out Sugar Coated. If you want to learn about a balanced (not ketogenic) healthy diet that cuts out processed foods, I recommend checking out In Defense of Food. If you are interested in a healthy diet that cuts out animal meat and fat, I recommend checking out What the Health. What the Health and The Magic Pill are very similar in terms of cherry picking data to fit their predetermined narratives and come to opposite conclusions. Yes, confusingly contradictory. It’s almost as if there isn’t one “correct” diet for every individual…
Most relatable moment: When young Abigail is abruptly taken off her regular diet of chicken nuggets, apple juice, and Doritos, she has a histrionic meltdown. I think every parent has experienced something like this at one time or another. I found it encouraging that after 2 weeks of what must have been absolute torture for the entire family (a convenient jump cut spared us the details), Abigail did eat the healthy foods she had previously refused, resulting in a marked improvement in her behavior and health.
Most egregious cheat: The documentary opens with a written CYA (cover your ass) noting how other factors like exercise and lifestyle choices also affect health, how the stories told are anecdotal and not necessarily typical, and how you should consult your doctor before starting any new diet. All critical points yet easy to disregard since they fail to mention any of this at any time during the documentary. This cheat may absolve them legally but, morally speaking, that was super lame.
Dumbest non-ironic moment: When they took the original unsubstantiated food pyramid based entirely on wishful thinking and flipped it over to create a new unsubstantiated food pyramid based entirely on wishful thinking. Stop. Just, stop.
Separate names with a comma.