The Game Changers is a popular 2018 documentary that touts the health and fitness benefits of plant-based eating. On Dec. 15, 2019, experts from an array of medical and scientific fields gathered at CrossFit Headquarters to address the claims the film makes about nutrition and health. Here, David Diamond, who holds a doctorate in biology and has more than 40 years of experience as a neuroscientist, addresses the film’s evolutionary argument about vegetarianism and corrects its false assertions about cholesterol and heart disease.
First, Diamond refutes the argument that “we have no specialized genetic anatomical physiological adaptations which enable us to consume meat.” Scientists in the film claim our teeth are designed to crush vegetables and are ineffective at tearing through animal hides and meat. Diamond points out that we lack the chambered stomachs that are common in most herbivores, but more importantly, he argues, “We have this specialized organ. It’s our brain, and … it gives us cunning, it gives us weapons, and it gives us fire. … We have a brain that is an adaptation that enables us to eat meat.”
Second, Diamond addresses the suggestion that one should follow a vegan diet to lower their cholesterol and combat heart disease. He reviews several studies “that are really quite inconvenient” to proponents of lowering cholesterol by any means, including restrictive diets or statins. These studies demonstrate that for those in their 60s and 70s, “having high cholesterol … they have a normal rate of death from heart disease, and they have a significantly lower rate of death from infectious disease and cancer.” This is because “cholesterol is a part of our immune system,” Diamond explains.
“There is no link directly of cholesterol to heart disease,” Diamond claims. Instead, there is a preponderance of evidence demonstrating heart disease risk is related to coagulation: “What you find consistently is the subset of individuals that have heart disease are those that have more clotting factors,” he explains.
He argues a low-carbohydrate diet is the key to combating the adverse effects associated with clotting factors. “What there is a need to do is to reduce blood sugar,” he says. “And that reduction in blood sugar improves all of the risk factors.”
Exercise is a second way to improve the risk factors, he claims: “Older people who exercise do not have this increase in clotting factors.”
To read a complete transcript of the presentation, click here.