Image Edited By Tim Rees

Watched The Game Changers? Now you MUST Read This.

A look at the evidence. Part 2: Anecdotes, theatrics & health resort.

Tim Rees
Tim Rees
Oct 29 · 17 min read

Part one ‘Intro & Protein’ can be read here.

For a summary of part 2 -if you don’t want to read the nitty gritty- scroll down to ‘Conclusions’.

Anecdotes = Good TV, Bad science

Lots of anecdotes are included because they’re eminently more watchable than a close look at facts. And why not? We all love a story.

But as mentioned in part 1, anecdotes aren’t evidence. I’d like to go over those used in the movie just to be clear.

An infinitesimal amount of variables as to why one may triumph over the other. Image credit.

Conor Mcgregor vs Nate Diaz

There are lots of reasons why McGregor lost the fight. No one can say it’s because Diaz’s diet was better. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.

The point is, no one will ever know.

After losing to Nate Diaz, Conor Mcgregor is quoted as saying,

“nine days before the fight I started eating 2 steaks per day and it just came back to bite me on the ass you know”.

McGregor had to put on weight for the fight. Steaks are not a good food for this.

What else was he eating to make weight and fight Diaz?

It’s nice to blame something because it allows us to make sense of it; even if it’s all wrong. That’s perfectly human.

Diet-wise, this is proof of nought.

Bryant Jennings, vegan boxing machine, used to love “fried chicken and Popeye’s.” Image credit.

Bryant Jennings

Jennings has been a vegan since 2015 and vegetarian before that. He decided to go vegan ‘for health reasons’ which begs the questions,

why didn’t the vegetarian diet work for you?

and, how has your diet improved from vegetarian to vegan?

And that’s the point isn’t it?

We need to understand what changed about someone’s diet before we can make a call about what the mechanisms are.

The movie gives us a clue about his diet prior to becoming vegetarian,

“I grew up not even knowing about half of these other vegetables. Asparagus to me just came out like five years ago.. spinach in a can, Popeye’s, KFC, everybody frying chicken..”

He was eating junk food and now he’s not.

No one recommends junk foods for athletic performance and health.

Next!

Theatrics and Sample Size

Three young American football players are enrolled in an ‘experiment’ that shows us how our blood fats increase after a meal with fat in it.

That’s it. A perfectly normal response.

However, my interest was piqued when one of the players gave us insight into a young American man’s diet.

“On away games we always eat fried chicken, we eat Popeye’s, I love fried chicken and I love Popeye’s and I’m going to eat Popeye’s every time.”

Junk food again.

Next!

Dr James Vogel

During the following experiment Doctor Vogel tells us,

“So if you have bacon and eggs for breakfast, a hamburger for lunch and a steak for dinner, this is going on all day long. Your blood is always cloudy and the ability to operate at your best is always impaired.

Fats travelling to cells via the blood is normal.

Hyperlipidaemia -a medical condition characterised by very high levels of fat in the blood- is not.

Hyperlipidaemia (Pathologically high blood fats)

It’s about balance. As always.

Wilks goes on to proclaim,

“Dr Vogel’s experiment was backed up by numerous studies measuring how a single animal-based meal can impair blood flow.”

To ‘back up’ this experiment we need to know a hell of a lot more about it.

We know the fat was seen in their blood, but we don’t know if their endothelial function was impaired and/or their blood flow disturbed in any way due to their meal.

So let’s look at the three studies he cites at this point.

  1. Postprandial hypertriglyceridemia impairs endothelial function by enhanced oxidant stress. (2001) (R)

This small study (n=20) showed a rise in triglycerides and an impaired endothelial function.

“Hypertriglyceridemia” was not demonstrated by the little experiment in the show.

Let’s see what the high fat meal was anyway(n=11):

“The high-fat meal consisted of 53.4 g fat, 30.7 g protein, and 50 g carbohydrate, composed of 110 g rice, 100 g Korean barbecue, 20 g egg, 200 ml milk, 8 g oil, 25 g mayonnaise, 50 g vegetable.”

What the hell is Korean barbecue?

Also, which oil? And mayonnaise?

I’m going to assume the oil and mayonnaise were made from something that has no business being an oil in the first place (example photo below) and exists only via a complex extruding process invented after we discovered how to fly.

American Garden Mayonnaise. Not recommended for athletic improvements or health. Image credit.

These fats are very likely oxidised (damaged in their processing). They’re literally reactive substances that increase oxidative stress.

It’s junk again!

The response shown, as stated in the paper’s title, was due to ‘oxidant stress’.

Next!

2. Impaired flow-mediated vasoactivity during post-prandial phase in young healthy men. (2000) (R)

This is another whopper, n=10, this time.

They found a close association to raised blood fats and a corresponding decrease in blood flow.

Now, let’s see what the high fat meal was this time:

‘The standardized high-fat meal consisted of whipping cream, liquid chocolate and non-fat dry milk and contained 65 g of fat, 25 g of carbohydrates.’

Trust me ‘liquid chocolate’ isn’t 100% cacao beans.

It’s the kind of crap you’re supposed to be happy about dipping a strawberry into at a cheap buffet.

It’s vegetable oil based.

It’s crap and should be used for your bike chain. For more info have a read of this.

Next!

3. Hass avocado modulates postprandial vascular reactivity and postprandial inflammatory responses to a hamburger meal in healthy volunteers. (2012) (R)

Another big one, n=11.

The teeny experiment looked at the inflammatory response to a ‘ hamburger only meal ’ (100% beef) vs a ‘hamburger with avocado meal’.

Skip to the ‘summary’ below unless you want the details.

They were cooked, frozen and then reheated. They weren’t burnt. The only ingredients were ground beef and salt. Plus avocado for the crossover.

I’ll admit I was expecting some junk to have been slipped into the mix and was surprised to see none.

After 4 hours an increase of a single inflammatory marker (IL-6) for the beef only group was seen. No increase in the beef and avocado group.

“Postprandial plasma IL-6 levels increased by 70% at 4 hours with burger only.”

A good reason to add avocado to your burgers? Maybe.

Quote:

“The stomach acts as a bioreactor and gastric fluid as a medium for further dietary lipid peroxidation and/or antioxidation.”

NB: This is more likely to occur with PUFAs vs animal fats because they are less stable.

They’re proposing the stomach acid oxidises (damages) the fats from the beef. This oxidation makes them reactive and inflammatory. If it’s true.

However, in the + avocado group, the response was mitigated at the time tested. Was IL-6 raised before or after the single test at four hours?

More data required.

One test at four hours doesn’t really tell us anything. How about two hours, 6 hours etc etc? It’s almost like they didn’t want to know.

The authors don’t know the mechanisms working for either group and it seems to me were not at lengths to find out.

“In summary it appears more likely that avocado may act through other factors influencing the endothelial function other than NO [nitric oxide, a vasodilator] mediated relaxation….Larger intervention studies are needed to confirm these results.

The questions are,

  • is this a perfectly normal response naturally mitigated by our inbuilt antioxidant system a little further down the line?
  • Is it actually damaging or is this inflammation a short term necessity -like post exercise inflammation- that is really just the beginning of the digestive process?
  • Why did the avocado only group have raised IL-6 as well?
  • Does this happen for everyone all of the time?
  • Which other foods may evoke this response?
  • Why were the levels not tested earlier and for longer to see if fluctuations in both groups?
  • Are you set to benefit in anyway from showing positives for avocados?

It’s such a small study it’s irresponsible to proclaim anything definitively which is exactly why the authors concluded that larger intervention trials are needed.

The popular practice of adding a slice of avocado to various meat sandwiches was able to reduce these symptoms and may have cardiovascular health benefits. Larger intervention studies are needed to confirm these results.

Notice they use the word ‘symptom’ which is misleading. A rise in IL-6 is not a symptom it’s a response. The word ‘symptom’ implies something unwanted.

There is one other point that’s worth mentioning….

Front page (R). I have never seen a research paper with a picture on its front page. Image credit.

Human fallibility

When I was a kid I used to play Risk against myself. Geek! I tried to be as neutral as possible but somehow my favourite’s, British Redcoats, always won.

See highlighted section of the photo below.

The Hass Avocado Board, sponsoring studies since…. Image. (R)

Summary

  • The study was tiny.
  • It showed an increase in a single inflammatory marker in the beef only group at a particular time.
  • Who’s to say this wasn’t seen in the other group at a different time?
  • Both groups were above normal lab range of the marker.
  • The mechanisms are unknown.
  • Is this a perfectly normal reaction that is balanced later on in the digestive process?
  • The authors concluded that a larger intervention study is required.
  • This is not a reason to go vegan but may be a reason to add avocado to your beef burgers.
  • The authors say the response is a ‘symptom’ which it isn’t.
  • The study was sponsored by the Hass Avocado Board.
  • Eat avocados if you want! (What’s the carbon footprint of an avocado anyway?)

This does not support eating ONLY plants.

Next!

A Large Body..

This next section is a little painful not least because I had to look at the studies listed, all 21, knowing they don’t support the consumption of a plant only diet but may support the addition of them to an omnivore's diet.

Fancy that?

But of course, flashing up 21 studies woos people into thinking that all of them are somehow supportive of a vegan diet.

“But look, look at all the research!” your subconscious whispers over and over.

Flashing up research not supportive of a plants only diet is a subliminal programming of your mind. Image credit.

Don’t they know it. This movie is a non-stop exercise in subliminal messaging.

Shameful.

21 studies

James proudly tells us of the fruits of his research:

“I also found a large body of research showing that plants have the opposite effect improving endothelial function and increasing blood flow.”

It’s true. The cited studies showed an improvement in blood flow.

  1. Purple Grape Juice (R)
  2. Chokeberry juice (R)
  3. Blueberry flavonoid (R)
  4. Cocoa (R)(R)(R)(R)(R)(R)
  5. Black tea (R)(R)(R)(R)
  6. Blackcurrant juice (R)
  7. Apples & Spinach (R)
  8. Green tea (R)(R)
  9. Boysenberry (R)
  10. Wild blueberry (R)
  11. Black raspberry (R)
  12. Grape & Pomegranate Juice (R)

The takeaway

Include some of these in your diet if you like! 85% + cocoa, no cheating now,

None of these papers provide evidence for eating plants only or even predominantly. Nada.

Beetroots, Better than Steroids

‘Effects of Beetroot juice supplementation on intermittent high intensity exercise efforts’ (R)

The beetroot juice intervention led to significantly improved performance in four of the studies [54, 56, 58, 60], while in another four no such effects were observed [38, 55, 57, 59].

(NB: Refs inside quote above are the papers.)

Not so robust then.

Try a N=1 study and see if your workout improves. Not a reason to eat nothing but plants. Image credit.

In the show they quote a 19% (18.9) increase in total strength for bench press, but this is referenced in the study cited not tested by it.

Let’s have a look at the actual study.

Ingestion of a Nitric Oxide Enhancing Supplement Improves Resistance Exercise Performance. (2016) (R)

A cross over trial, 12 young men, lifting 60% of their 1RM (single rep max, the most they can lift).

3 sets until failure were performed and those reps were totalled. Those in the nitrate supplement group performed more reps. The weight equated to an 18.9% increase.

This study demonstrates that nitrate supplementation has
the potential to improve resistance training performance and work output compared to a placebo.

Supplementation you say? That’s not mentioned in the movie!

We’re told over and over that you can get everything you need from eating plants yet they’re trotting out studies that use a nitric oxide supplement made from highly concentrated beetroot juice.

That’s a long way from “just eating plants.”

This is also not a reason to only eat plants.

Just one more thing

Nitric oxide (NO) is generated from the nitrates in the beetroot. It’s a vasodilator so opens up blood vessels and improves flow in the short term.

Viagra doesn’t contain NO but uses the same pathway, just in case you were wondering.

Other foods that contain nitrates?

Beef, Pork, Chicken & especially liver, salmon, trout, tilapia & tuna!

Next!

Hidden Poisons in Meat

Dr Scott Stoll, vegan and Chairman of the board for The Plantrician Project, tells us,

“in animal products you’re getting protein packaged with inflammatory molecules like Neu5Gc, endotoxins and heme iron.

“When we consume animal products, it also changes the microbiome, the bacteria that live in the gut. And the bacterial species that have been shown to promote inflammation overgrow and begin to produce inflammatory mediators like TMAO.

OMG! Has anyone told the Eskimo’s, the Maasai or any traditional meat eating cultures i.e everyone?

Will someone please tell the Maasai to stop eating animal produce all the time, it’s so bad for them. Image credit.

There is a conspicuous lack of references during Dr. Stoll’s intro to this piece. For a show that stacks them up almost every frame that really surprised me.

Could you not find a single one to spin, cherry pick, take out of context or is bias?

Back to the avocado study, quick!

Inflammation

The first reference shown for this section skips back to the teeny weeny n=11, Hass-avocado-sponsored-Hass-avocados-are-good-for-you study. (R)

James moves the show on to talk inflammation and he uses the avocado study to tell us,

“..that a single hamburger meal can…increase measures of inflammation by 70%”

He’s used plural but should have used singular. Only IL-6 (an inflammatory marker) was raised.

You won’t be surprised to hear there’s more to the story,

“Thus, IL-6 concomitantly regulates proinflammatory and antiinflammatory activities and contributes to both the development and the resolution of the acute inflammatory response.” (R)

Taking a marker like this out of context is misleading and unhelpful for all of us in the long run. It’s used only to push the Game Changer’s agenda.

Sleight of hand throughout The Game Changers. Image

Agreed

James tells us,

“In the arteries, inflammation reduces blood flow, in muscles and joints it can increase pain and soreness and delay recovery.” (R)

No argument from me there, except that I’d say chronic inflammation because acute is a completely natural and vital part of existence.

The Game Changers are trying to blame animal products for the damaging inflammation seen in disease but

have not succeeded in showing this at any point.

Antioxidants, Not Much of Anything

Fruit and vegetables contain more antioxidants (AO) than animal produce.

However, you may be surprised to hear that antioxidants in food -both plants and animals- haven’t been shown to do much of anything at all.

When I was studying we were asked to write an essay about AO. It was designed as an exercise to break us away from preconceived beliefs because we were convinced that AO in foods were awesome for, erm, well, loads of stuff.

Here’s a part of the conclusion from an article by the Harvard School of Chan (R):

“Free radicals contribute to chronic diseases from cancer to heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease to vision loss. This doesn’t automatically mean that substances with antioxidant properties will fix the problem, especially not when they are taken out of their natural context. The studies so far are inconclusive, but generally don’t provide strong evidence..

The idea is simple and that’s why it’s taken hold.

Coffee is full of AO, but is it as simple as drinking it and letting them work for you? If only. Image.

Cash Cow

Antioxidant supplements are a $500M (US) (R) industry that continues to grow; powered by hype, confusion and a simple idea.

  • Oxidative stress is witnessed in injury and disease.
  • Antioxidants balance the reactivity of those molecules thereby preventing them from causing harm. Simple.

If only. It just doesn’t work like that. That’s why the research is so flakey.

Despite the fact that this process does occur all the time in the body, i.e oxidants are ‘quenched’ by antioxidants.

The prime movers are endogenous (in the body) antioxidants that are built by the raw materials (nutrients) you obtain from a nourishing diet.

Here are the top 5

  1. Superoxide dismutase (SOD)
  2. Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
  3. Catalase
  4. Coenzyme Q 10 (CoQ10)
  5. Glutathione Peroxidase (GPX)

These endogenous AOs are many thousands of times more powerful that those founds in foods and supplementing them doesn’t provide you with the same benefits.

There are some exceptions, vitamin C being the obvious one, which is easily obtained from fruits and vegetables. Incidentally, also found in liver.

Dr Scott Stoll again

“In plant based proteins you’re getting protein that’s packaged with antioxidants*, phytochemicals, minerals* and vitamins* that are going to reduce inflammation, optimize the microbiome**, optimize blood supply, and optimize your body’s performance”.

  • * Built in the body by nutrients, proteins (AA), best sources are animals.
  • * vitamins and minerals are found in abundance in animal produce and are more bioavailable.

**Optimize the microbiome

Our microbiomes alter to our foods (and other things) to allow us to adapt to different environments -which used to mean a different diet too (therein lies a problem).

No doubt an important ability that has allowed humans to flourish on many different diets on every continent of the world.

It’s genius really. We essentially outsource some of our digestive ability to microbes rather than being stuck with a system that isn’t flexible. Nature’s wonders.

A human existing on predominantly meat has a different microbiome to one eating predominantly plants.

One is not ‘optimized’ more than the other.

They are appropriate to the individuals diet and environment.

You want to improve your microbiome? Stop eating junk food!

No wonder they didn’t reference that intro.

Antioxidants again

James,

“The antioxidants Dr Stoll was talking about are found almost entirely in plants, which have on average 64 times the AO content of animal foods.” (R)

Given the research, so what?

He continues with this,

“Even iceberg lettuce has more antioxidants than salmon or eggs.”

It’s a silly comparison designed to berate nutritious salmon and eggs and over inflate lettuce based on something that is neither here nor there.

If you’re bothered, salmon contains 0.4–3.8 mg of astaxanthin per 3.5 ounces. An antioxidant (R).

Much of the UK’s Iceberg lettuce comes from Spain. Carbon footprint? Image credit.
Lettuce under a whole shit load of plastic… Image credit.

Nutrient Comparison just for fun

FYI: Iceberg vs Salmon vs Eggs. Nutrient Data

James continues,

“As a result, switching to a plant based diet can help reduce measures of inflammation by 29% in just 3 weeks..”

Let me at it!!

“As a result”? OK, so the next piece of research should be showing us how AO reduce inflammation. But, the citation used for this statement is:

C-reactive protein response to a vegan lifestyle intervention (2015) (R).

Now, if you look carefully at the title you’ll notice a word hidden amongst the others.

Lifestyle.

This is not evidence that AO reduce inflammation! Not even close. Let’s have a deep dive.

The participants of this study were,

paying guests!

Black Hills Health & Education Centre (BHHEC). If you’re lucky you will hear the humming from miles away. Image Veggie Hotels.

No shit. This place is a resort, literally.

“The typical daily routine during each BHHEC session started with an early wake-up call at 5:30 a.m. followed by a morning inspirational thought for the day. Next was a medical check with a physician or nurse. A stretching session was next followed by an energizing walk and then on to breakfast. Daily lectures and treatments of massage and hydrotherapy filled out the mid-morning schedule. As the second, and final, meal of the day was approaching guests put on aprons and begin to prepare the lunch with supervision of the food service director . Participants then consumed the meal they had prepared. After some light walking and relaxation it was on to the weight room for a personal training session. After some more free time and a lecture participants took time to relax and then retired for the day.”

It sounds amazing! I can feel my blood pressure dropping just reading that.

They weren’t eating junk food either.

There’s more.

“The parallel relationship between CRP [an inflammatory marker] and BMI [fatness] suggest that CRP change may be tightly linked to the amount of fat lost over the course of the intervention.”

You don’t say?

This means the more weight the guests lost the lower their inflammation became. It was perfectly mirrored.

The 604 people that attended this health resort over the period, 2005–2012, were there to lose weight.

They were obese.

Obesity is an inflammatory state.

This is why it’s so damaging to so many systems. The study concludes,

“This finding is consistent with those of Julia et al.12 and Centritto et al.,13 which found diets higher in micronutrient content were able to more effectively mediate CRP levels.”

Micronutrients A.K.A vitamins and minerals.

Guess where you’ll find more bioavailable nutrients, pound for pound than anywhere else?

Animal products.

And they have the audacity to tell us the inflammation was reduced due to the vegan aspect of the lifestyle.

This is the most shameful cherry picking I have ever seen and why I’m spending days picking this shit apart.

Conclusions for Part 2

  • Anecdotes are fun to watch but don’t provide us with any proof.
  • An improved diet is relative and will improve health and athletic ability.
  • We saw a theatrical experiment that showed us how fats in a meal are transported to cells via the blood. Presented to us like it was a pathological problem.
  • 3 teeny weeny experiments that were supposed to support theirs. The first 2 were completely ridiculous due to the choice of ‘high fat’ and the third took a single marker of inflammation out of context and was sponsored by a vested interest.
  • James shows us a ‘large body of evidence’ that may support adding some nutrient dense plants to your diet but provide no evidence for eating nothing but plants.
  • It’s unlikely that beetroots out-perform steroids but you can try it yourself if you like. Remember though, it was a highly concentrated nitrate supplement. No reason to eat plants only.
  • A conspicuous lack of references when we’re introduced to the so-called inflammatory molecules in meat. Has anyone told the Maasai and Eskimo’s to stop being so healthy (prior to adding junk foods)?
  • Chronic inflammation is without doubt a serious factor in disease.
  • Antioxidants (AO), predominantly found in plants, have not been shown to reduce inflammation or disease.
  • AO are big business, driven by an oversimplified idea.
  • The real powerhouses of the AO world are those built inside your body from nutrients. The most nutrient dense foods are animals.
  • Your microbiomes are appropriate to your diet and lifestyle. One is not ‘more optimised’ than another. Unless you’re eating junk!
  • Lifestyle changes and a reduction in BMI (weight loss) have been shown to reduce CRP (an inflammatory marker associated with disease). They have cherry picked the vegan aspect from the enormous change in lifestyle from the paying participants.

Next time..

  • Meat is full of poisons
  • How the Adventist Church has got nutrition research by the short and curlies
  • Firefighters normally have an amazing diet but we change their game and helped save their lives because we’re basically Angels
  • We have some vegan doctors talk about their own studies
  • Please forget the words associated, linked, correlated etc, everything we tell you is basically evidence. Cough.

Thanks for reading.

Tim

With thanks to Nigel Eastmond.

Tim Rees

Written by

Tim Rees

Registered nutritionist (BSc mBANT rCNHC) writing about health, nutrition and sometimes myself. Passionate about regenerative farming, diet and the environment.

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