A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Mostly through negative messages and scare tactics (all meats and meat products cause cancer, obesity is a death sentence, serving a child cigarettes on a plate, statin drugs are a fraud of mass proportions, etc.), positive messages emerge about the benefits of a plant-based, vegan diet. Large food and pharmaceutical companies collude with health organizations to keep information from the public. People interviewed claim to have cured their cancer and diabetes, sometimes in as little as two weeks on a plant-based diet. And the benefits go beyond improving individual health: Eating only plants is also beneficial to society (reduced health care costs) and the environment.
Positive Role Models
Kip is a good role model for doggedly pursuing answers. He doesn't give up when organizations and institutions refuse to talk and keeps digging to get answers. He's also a good model for the health benefits of switching to a plant-based diet, and for working hard to get his message out to as many people as possible.
Violence & Scariness
Some gory images of dead animals and animal carcasses being butchered and processed for sale, and of surgical procedures on people that show internal body parts and small amounts of blood. Animation shows a dead deer in the wild with microbes crawling on it. Lots of scariness and shock value from images like serving a child a plateful of cigarettes, pus pouring from a cow's abscess, and animated plane crashes with explosions to illustrate how many people die from cardiovascular disease.
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Products & Purchases
Many consumer products shown in stores as examples of food that's bad for you. Brief scene showing lots of Walgreens vitamins. Brief but prominent mention of Hampton Creek Foods, an egg-alternative company.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Sausages and cigarettes cook together in a pan. An adult serves a child a plateful of cigarettes. Children bite into hotdog buns filled with smoking cigars. Frequently compares eating meat and animal products to smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that What the Health is a documentary by the makers of Cowspiracy about the relationship between diet and health. Strong negative messages, mostly using scare tactics and brief gore, assert that eating any meat or animal product causes cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more. Positive messages about the many benefits of eating a plant-based (vegan) diet aren't as strong but are what the movie ends on. Some gore is shown in meat processing and in surgical procedures; the images may be upsetting to any viewer, but especially those who are sensitive or squeamish. The filmmakers use unabashed scare tactics, like saying that eating one egg a day is as bad as smoking five cigarettes a day, and animated images of plane crashes to show how many people die from cardiovascular disease. Smoking is used to compare how bad something is for your health. For mature viewers ready to engage with the tough subject, it's a good place to start a discussion about the benefits of a plants-only diet, scientific accuracy, the role big food and pharmaceutical companies play in our eating habits, and ways to evaluate claims that seem too good to be true. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Documentarian Kip Andersen isn't pulling any punches in his quest to convince us that all meat and animal products cause disease. What the Health provides a long list of the evils associated with eating meat, for individuals as well as for the larger world, with images that are often grotesque (serving a child a plateful of cigarettes) or gory (draining pus, anyone?). Unfortunately, so many scare tactics loaded heavily into the front of the movie leave the viewer feeling more browbeaten than informed.
Which is unfortunate, because he raises a lot of good questions about the sources of our information about diet and health, and about the relationship between prominent health organizations and big food and pharma companies. The positive, beneficial side of adopting a vegan diet is always there, but it doesn't come to the forefront until the very end. And by then, a lot of the claims have an infomercial, too-good-to-be-true feel that raises skepticism. Best for non-squeamish teens and up who are ready to take a hard look at what they eat and why, and who are ready to learn how to evaluate claims for themselves.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.