Updated: Jun 9, 2020
In my last article series, I reviewed the literature regarding vegan diets in terms of macro & micro-nutrient composition as well as addressed some of the deficiencies therein. Retrospectively, I am glad I did, as it helped broaden my understanding of the diet and the obstacles facing vegan athletes.
In this article, I will be discussing the documentary the game changers, as it was one of the most deceiving, biased, and misinformed documentaries I have ever watched (I haven’t watch many and genuinely wish them all not to be so).
The plan is to explore the literature cited throughout this babble, then discuss claims made regarding sports and performance; everything else is irrelevant of my purpose. Moreover, I’ll be ranting about vegan Zealots throughout the entire article, hence, it is not politically correct or whatever progressives call it these days. Lassen uns beginnen.
Who Funded this twaddle?
Crucial to understand, is a role a documentary whereby reality ‘’as is’’ is presented, hopefully from opposing parties regarding a particular issue; the sole aim thereof is educating the general public. Normally, these documentaries are visually appealing and are easy to digest. Hence, acceptance from the public is higher. Of this instance, The Game Changers is a ‘’scientific’’ study of vegan diets. As such, I will treat it with due diligence.
One would hope that producers of said ‘’educational’’ and ‘’scientific’’ material would avoid pitfalls of bias to escape prejudiced results, as it is something even good researchers fear. I was however vastly mistaken; beginning with funding…If you ever see conflict of interest at the bottom of a research paper, that’s one type of bias and if needs referencing, this is what it looks like.
· James Cameron, Executive Producer –Founder and CEO of Verdiant Foods, an organic pea protein company with the goal of becoming “the largest pea protein fractionation facility in North America.
· Suzy Amis Cameron, Executive Producer – Founder, Verdiant Foods.
· Jackie Chan, Passionate vegan.
· Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ex-Meat Eater, Governor, Passionate Vegan Famous Person.
· Dr. Dean Ornish – Author, “Undo-it!”, leads vegan retreats and sells online programs.
· Dr. Aaron Spitz – Author, “The Penis Book”, plant-based book on penile function. (Really dude?)
· Dr. Robert Vogel – Author, “The Pritikin Edge”, plant-based book.
· Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn – Author, “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”, “Cookbook”, plant-based lifestyle and cookbook as well as accompanying DVDs.
· Dr. James Loomis – Contributor, “Forks over Knives”, plant-based meal planning service and publication company.
· Dr. Scott Stoll – Author, “Alive” and “Kristin’s Healthy Kitchen Recipes”.
· Dr. Kim Williams – Vegan Cardiologist
· Dr. Columbus Batiste – Contributor, “Forks over Knives”
Note: The narrator of this Documentary is James Wilks, a UFC fighter and instructor of combat training, and a vegan.
Gladiators would be disappointed
At first, James claims the following: ‘Gladiators had strong bones because they were vegetarian’ citing this article (not study as claimed by James). This could not be further from written words, in fact, the article clearly states:
‘’Gladiators, it seems, were fat. Consuming a lot of simple carbohydrates, such as barley, and legumes, like beans, was designed for survival in the arena. Packing in the carbs also packed on the pounds. "Gladiators needed subcutaneous fat," Grossschmidt explains. "A fat cushion protects you from cut wounds and shields nerves and blood vessels in a fight." Not only would a lean gladiator have been dead meat, he would have made for a bad show. Surface wounds "look more spectacular," says Grossschmidt. "If I get wounded but just in the fatty layer, I can fight on," he adds. "It doesn't hurt much, and it looks great for the spectators."
Then, goes on to explain how deficient the diet was in calcium, and supplementation was necessary to prevent bone health problems. This was done via consumption of charred wood or bone ash, which according to the writer, worked. Mind you, I don’t believe that which is written; I’m merely reporting what the article states instead of twisting its words.
Thereafter, James claims that vegetarians have high levels a strontium(mineral) whereas carnivores do not. I don’t accept this premise, and the burden of proof is on them to demonstrate that on living humans. That said, strontium levels are probably irrelevant as there is a huge overlap between omnivore and herbivore intakes thereof, as well as bone concentrations. And in terms of importance to bone health, it does not look to be something worth supplementing, as it subpar to calcium and bisphosphonates .
Before I comment on the athletes involved, I do want to mention that James introduces us to nutrition science…from 1890; at that time, protein was hypothesized to be the main source of muscular energy which was later debunked. Here however, James has the audacity to suggest that the ‘meat industry’ is conspiring to make the world believe outdated information from 120 years ago. Ironically, this documentary is doing exactly that.
Anyways, a number a endurance-type athletes are interviewed to share their life-altering experience when they switched to a vegan diet. Which only shows their previous diet to be absolute crap. This marked improvement in performance is due to increased consumption of carbs, not lack of meat consumption. Several strength-based athletes were also interviewed to say the exact same rubbish, as well as other bodybuilders and sportsmen.
The documentary was structured in such a way, that each misinformed claim is punctuated by a pause, each pause constitutes an interview of how ‘superior’ veganism is.
That said, here is a lesson in basic nutrition. Carbs provide energy. You can thank me later.
Conveniently, performance enhancement drugs were not mentioned, because any serious athlete is using them, chiefly Olympic athletes. Unfortunately, it remains true; no one makes it to the stage without them. If you don’t believe me, check the last WADA title revokes, especially of 2012 Olympics that took place in 2019. There quite few other incidents.
Snippet: WADA does not have enough resources to check every athlete, so the base assumption is everyone is using (because they are), until proven otherwise (which they never are). And the lab results of passing/failing are never published.
Carnivorous protein IS better than vegan protein
A while later, the filmmakers argue that plant protein is just as good as animal protein; in fact, vegan get 70% more protein than they need citing 3 papers out of context (*, *, *). Yes, at enough protein intake, quality ceases to be a problem. No, it doesn’t apply to vegans, because protein quality is atrocious; at best, whole-food vegan protein digestibility is 54% (discussed here). Thus, vegans opt for at least 20% increase in quantity to offset inferior quality . Furthermore, James thinks 50g of protein is optimal for muscle growth. I reckon B12 deficiency got the best of him.
There remains a bit in which a comparison is drawn between a peanut butter sandwich and 3 ounces of beef; James boldly asserts that both have identical protein content, with no further comments. It is truly hilarious because both may well have that, but one has a fifth of my daily caloric intake. Can you guess which?
The next bit discusses endothelial function in both vegan and what looks to be a high fat diet. Here again, an array of papers cited out of context, from which fallacious conclusions are drawn. There is about 23 or so thereof(Ref. below). All of which assert the already known; fruits and vegetables are good for your health, as they are high in antioxidants and provide a host of benefits. No one said otherwise, as all the papers suggest increased intakes thereof. Moreover, none of the papers suggested that meat intake is harmful, nor need be removed.
The moral of the story here is: eat your vegetables along a hefty side of steak.
Drivel la Burrito
3 athletes walk into a bar, one of which is vegan. The bartender notes how unaware they are and offers them a useless experiment in which no conditions are controlled, which they seem to happily accept. The bartender then presents them with 3 burritos, when suddenly, a scientist walks in and slaps all 4 of them across the face and says ‘’this is not how science works, stop producing garbage’’.
Cancer Risk, Heme Iron & Heart Disease
This part was especially disappointing and shameful to tell you the truth. When studies are flashed across your screen with highlighted bits only to convey one’s bias; well its quite distasteful. What is more saddening are ‘researchers’ and ‘doctors’ who don’t know the difference between association, correlation and causation, or maybe they do but are willfully blind?. This ignorance is baffling, and to think that someone with resources to educate misuses these opportunities to spread misinformation. It is eye-opening to say the least.
Anyways, I have previously discussed these issues in my All Vegan Things – Health article. Feel free to examine it at your leisure. I do want to point out that the studies mentioned here were either badly designed, or were prospective studies using FFQ method to recall food, which is the least accurate way of reporting     .
Do not speak of Hormones
Here, James argues of levels a testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol where he misinterprets few studies, then misleads with others.
Contrary to what James claims, there is no difference between testosterone levels between vegans and omnivores. In fact, vegans have non-significant lower free testosterone levels than omnivores . Estrogen levels on the other hand are slightly higher in vegans. And soy can impact testosterone levels at high intakes, although evidence supporting that claim are modest  .
And for the love of god, somebody tell him not use a study done on 7 men, with no control group that has never been replicated, and then generalize the results to the worlds population.
Finally, he dare say ‘’Research has shown that people who replace animal foods with high carbohydrate plant foods experience an average drop in cortisol levels of 27%’’ citing this paper ignorantly. No research has not shown that; the study was evaluating the effect of hormone binding globulins in different diets, where no changes in phenotype are observed.
My thoughts on veganism & a Conclusion
In the recent past, I was exposed to the progressive European culture and it was somewhat daunting; continuously being told that ‘’meat is detrimental to health’’, ‘’meat is causing global warming’’, and ‘’how could you cause animals pain’’. Part of it felt nothing short of an attack on my morality as a human being, and although its hard to get under my skin, this got to me; It felt as if I had broken the oath took to do no harm. I thought to myself, a time will come where I will sit down and find out exactly what veganism is all about, and if I need to reconsider my moral stance on things.
Today, as I write these final lines to this article, I’m less ignorant about veganism, and less so of agriculture and global warming. I’ve managed to re-examine my moral stance, only to be exactly where I think I need be; At least for now. And I’m writing this in part, because of the good & bad this exposure has offered.
That said, this documentary is not absolutely useless; it provides a number of laughs which are necessary to swallow the contents. It does at least show that you won’t completely be dysfunctional if you go vegan for a while, however long that may be. It is however far from ideal from a standpoint of athletic performance as I have previously discussed in All Vegan Things - Performance I & II.
I want to give credit to Meredith Root of Tactic - Functional Nutrition. She has written more extensively about the documentary here, which served as a great resource for the bulk of the cited papers and for the funding of the documentary.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Feel free to provide me with feedback as I'm always eager to learn, and open to perspectives I missed. Talk soon...
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