Education

Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition

Master of Dietetics

Accredited ISAK level 1

Member of Dietitians NZ

Associate member of Sports Dietitians Australia

© 2017 by Cushla Holdaway. 

  • Cushla Holdaway

The Game Changers documentary – is it truly a game changer?

If you have a Netflix account, then it’s almost guaranteed you have watched the recent documentary called ‘The Game Changers.’ I have been asked a lot in the last few weeks what my thoughts are about this documentary which highlights the benefits of eating a plant-based diet and the dangers of eating meat, with a focus on athletes and sports performance.



I am supportive of whichever way people choose to eat, provided its appropriate for the individual and not harming them. People have many different beliefs and nutritional needs, and food can be a very personal choice. I do not have a problem with this. What really concerns me is when people tell everyone else they need to eat a certain way as it is the only way we should be eating, like a ‘one size fits all.’ What’s worse than that, is when these people base their opinion on information that is misleading and bias. For example, after watching Game Changers you are led to believe that if you consume animal products you are going to (a) never be an elite athlete, (b) die of cardiovascular disease, (c) get colorectal cancer, or (d) all the above. This is EXACTLY the type of emotive response this documentary is wanting to elicit from their viewers. There’s a name for this – scaremongering.



There is one main theme in this documentary that I strongly agree with, and that is to eat more fruit and vegetables! This is a basic nutrition recommendation that we have heard for years. It seems no one wants to listen to ‘5+ a day’, but when information is given through a Netflix documentary suddenly it’s life changing advice. Consuming plenty of fruit and vegetables is not equivalent to being vegan, or plant-based. Hang on, what’s the difference between vegan and plant-based? This is something the documentary fails to clearly define. Plant-based eating can still include meat, dairy, and eggs, but veganism doesn’t. So, what is the documentary meaning when they say plant-based? Other terms they refer to with equivalent meaning is plant foods and carbohydrates. Although some plant-based foods contain healthy sources of carbohydrate, many plant foods, particularly vegetables, have little to no carbohydrate in them. Again, this is poorly defined.



When looking at any evidence, it’s crucial to look at both sides of the argument, that’s what real science does. Real science does not always result in a black and white answer (especially with nutrition science!), but it will give us a better idea of the hypothesis while considering a balanced argument. The major flaw in The Game Changers is they fail to acknowledge any evidence on the opposing side of the science they refer to. It’s an extremely biased discussion of studies that have been chosen strongly in their favour. This is not science, in fact, this is a classic example of pseudoscience. The arguments against a lot of the studies they discuss have unequivocal scientific evidence, including many powerful worldwide studies, but are these mentioned? Absolutely not. Why? Because it would go against the biased view they are trying to elicit in the documentary. Additionally, many of the studies they discuss in the documentary are review articles, not original research. The few studies they do mention are weak, some containing a mere handful of subjects.



Several times in the documentary they have groups of people change their way of eating, often from high-fat/high processed foods to one including more fruit and vegetables. As expected, they see positive results, including improved cholesterol levels. Can I emphasise that anyone altering their dietary pattern to reduce processed foods and foods high in saturated fats to increasing fruit and vegetable intake are likely going to see major health benefits. You do not have to be vegan or plant-based to achieve this (again, I am not sure if they undertake veganism or a plant-based diet as this is never actually defined, as mentioned above).



Paleo, Intermittent Fasting, Keto, now Game Changers being life changing, what will be next? There are endless points I could further scrutinise in this documentary, but I have done my best to get the overriding point across. My main advice would be to stop looking at dietary intake as one way or the highway, stop labelling foods as good and bad, and start being more conscious of where you seek your dietary advice from. A biased Netflix documentary is certainly not the right source to make drastic lifestyle changes or obtain nutritional knowledge. Speaking of bias, are you aware a lot of the medical professionals interviewed in the documentary also have a company selling vegan products on the side… coincidence? I think not.

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