The Game Changers
Directed by Louie Psihoyos
Executive Producers: James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic and Chris Paul
If you watch Hollywood movies at all, you know that James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan are some of the biggest names in the movie business. When I see those names, I think, “lots of action and special effects.” Don’t get your hopes up. This is no Avatar. There is not a lot of action outside of one brief clip showing Sylvester Stallone slugging Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold smiles and tells Stallone, “You hit like a vegetarian.”
As much fun as that scene is, this movie is not singing the praises of animal food. Quite the opposite. This is one long, shameless propaganda piece pushing vegetarianism and veganism. While there are few car chases or explosions in this video (more would have made it better), there are plenty of scenes filled with guys who look like they could bench press New Jersey. They all claim that switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet increased their strength and improved their health, but only one claims to have been on such a diet since birth. The rest explicitly grew up with a diet rich in meat. Arnold, for example, did not acquire those bulging muscles eating kale, mulch, twigs and soy slop. (I’m pretty sure I heard he had a little help from controlled substances, too.)
The evidence presented is not very compelling. For example, the guys get all excited about lowering their cholesterol to dangerous levels well below one hundred eighty, but while you can find hype insisting that such low levels are great, the data actually say that it increases your risk of stroke, cancer and suicidal depression. The athletes also get their facts backward when they claim that heme iron is toxic and that plant protein has a complete and healthy balance of amino acids. In addition, they perpetuate the myth that cattle consume massive amounts of water per pound of meat produced and that the water is lost forever to the ecosystem. They ignore the fact that over large expanses of the planet, grain and vegetables are impossible to produce. The only option in those places is grass-fed livestock.
The former meat-based diets that many of the athletes describe include steak (often grass-fed) and chicken. In other words, lean meat. It would not surprise me if they also slammed down buckets full of Big Macs and other processed stuff. In such cases, any change in diet can result in some temporary improvement. I won’t make any specific accusations, but it wouldn’t surprise me if, when they say they switched to plant-based diets, some of them are thinking, “Yeah, for about three hours.”
There are some good scenes reminding us that once upon a time in the twentieth century, doctors and researchers were paid to promote smoking. I don’t suppose that could be going on in this movie? It must have taken some serious money to collect the film’s big names. The conventional wisdom is that mankind wallowed in a fog of ignorance and stupidity until the last century or so, when we slowly emerged into enlightenment—and now we understand everything.
This conventional wisdom has rapidly swung around to the belief that plant-based diets are the healthy option. If true, why do injury rates in major (and minor) sports seem to be climbing steadily? Why are hospitals expanding? Recently when visiting my little home town, mom told me the local hospital had gotten much bigger since I lived there. My response was “That’s too bad.” Medical technology keeps getting more sophisticated, expensive and invasive. That’s too bad. We need it more now than ever. That’s too bad. Not only are we getting physically more fragile and disease-prone, we are also losing our grip mentally and emotionally. Bullying is a bad thing, and I hate it as much as anyone. I was a scrawny kid. I was bullied when I was young and even had a knife pointed at me once on the playground, but it never occurred to me to commit suicide. Sadly, now it seems to happen routinely if someone says something mean on Facebook or other antisocial media. Looking at the big picture, it does not appear to be working out too well to follow the conventional wisdom.
One more point: this is a Hollywood production. Hollywood. Not exactly the most dependable source of accurate information. You might already suspect my thumb is pointing in the general direction of down. If you disagree, that’s too bad.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2019