Review: Food Matters

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After watching Food Inc. and Julie & Julia on NetFlix, their system has decided that I like food movies. (It’s not rocket science, people.) So this weekend it recommended Food Matters. I had never heard of it, but the synopsis sounded promising:

With a staggering number of Americans suffering from obesity and other food-related maladies, this film takes a timely and hard-hitting look at how the food we eat is helping or hurting our health, and what we can do to live (and eat) better.

Sounds good so far, right? Sadly, I found it very disappointing.

Preaching to the choir

Some documentaries present information without comment, allowing the viewer to draw their own conclusions. Others — like Food, Inc.; An Inconvenient Truth; anything by Michael Moore — display a clear point of view, and advocate for that position. Either method can be effective.

But if you’re going the advocacy route, you have to make a decision: Who is my audience? Am I trying to change the minds of people who disagree with my point? Trying to convince the undecided? Providing support for those who already agree with me? Food Matters comes down hard in the last category.

Everyone interviewed for the movie is an advocate for a diet consisting primarily of raw plants, with high-dose vitamin supplements. Several of them present arguments based on “common sense” with very little, if anything, in the way of scientific of statistical support. They do mention a few numbers, in terms of how much of the diet should be raw for optimum health (80%, by the way) but with no reference to scientific basis for the claims.

I don’t sing that tune

I don’t favor a raw plant diet. So every time I heard a claim about how beneficial it was, I thought, “According to whom? What is the proof?” And the answer was … silence. I didn’t see any evidence presented to back up the claims.

If you already favor a raw plant diet — and if you do, welcome to the site, may I suggest a few recipes — then you might enjoy 80 minutes watching people tell you that you’re right.

Me? I want that 80 minutes back.

Comments

  1. Hey Drew! Whew, you really didn’t like that movie! I haven’t seen it, but I thought I should point out that I am living proof of the benefits of a plant-based diet. I am not 80% raw, lol, I like my cooked foods (!) but I am what you would call a “Nutritarian” meaning I aim to only eat foods that give me the most nutrient bang for the caloric buck. Every day, aside from my one cheat day a month, I consume only fruits veggies nuts and seeds. No added oil, sugar, no salt no processed foods, no wheat/grains or rice, no dairy meat etc. I have cheat days about once a month, as I said, where I eat whatever I want (I LOVE MEAT AND CHEESE AND CHOCOLATE! Thanks for the recipes lol HEHE) Hence the reason I am a subscriber and have been for so long.

    Your recipes and methods have helped me to make the most of my cheat days, that if I must have them, I should do it with real food as opposed to the boxed kind and do it myself! I made the switch to a plant-based diet April 2nd, 2009 and promptly lost every ounce of extra weight my body had to spare in about 5 months, to the tune of 45lbs leaving me at 114 lbs. I was even featured on http://www.diseaseproof.com!

    Within weeks of my switch, my acne disappeared, along with a whole plethora of health problems I experienced at the young age of 25 to include eczema, migraine headaches, a sleep disorder doctors had given up on finding a cure for (I was on meds to wake me up and put me to sleep each day) and a few months and a year later, my severe allergies, I used to need two allergy shots for each week, are now almost completely gone! I don’t even need allergy pills now, and this is quite recent. The allergies were the slowest to change.

    My point? I hate pushy people and movies as much as anyone and prefer people back up their claims with proof. I am proof that it benefits me, at least. BUT just because I am a nutritarian does not mean I look down on others who don’t share my views for the sake of being different. There is plenty of hard proof (I received a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell UNiversity last year) which focused on “The China Study” conducted over 20 years by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and others such as Cornell, Oxford and Chinese authorities that concluded over 8000 statistically significant conclusions between various dietary factors and the development of disease/cancers/atherosclerosis.

    Don’t hate on all of us plant-eaters hehe. Remember some of us are your loyal fans! ;D

  2. Jemoiselle, that’s great that you found a diet that works for you. I would never tell a healthy person that what they’re doing is wrong.

    But I will disagree with you that the China Study proves anything. The short version is that correlation is not causation.

    The slightly longer version is that the China Study was an epidemiological (or observational) study. Which means they just looked at people in an uncontrolled setting and recorded information about them. These studies can suggest areas for study by identifying two factors tend to appear together, but can’t actually prove that one factor caused the other factor.

    For the even longer version, check out Dr. Michael Eades’ explanation of why epidemiological studies can’t prove causation.

    Or for the really long explanation of why the China Study in particular doesn’t show what Campbell claimed it does, see Denise Minger’s critique of the China Study.

    And in all of these examples, note that none of them are saying that a plant-based diet isn’t good for you. They’re just pointing out that the China Study doesn’t prove anything.

    • Well-critiqued. I wish more people understood the relationship between causation and correlation.

    • I’m going to quote myself here “…over 8000 statistically significant conclusions between various dietary factors and the development of disease”.

      I didn’t say it proved 8000 facts, I stated they found “statistically significant conclusions”. I went out of my way to try not to get crucified and failed LOL. Sorry!

      Yes, in statistics, a result is called statistically significant if it is unlikely to have occurred by chance. The phrase test of significance was coined by Ronald Fisher, and I do think I understand the concept quite well 😉 It was my over-complication of my comment that was confusing, and for that I apologize! Perhaps this would have been better left completely unsaid. It was late, I had been a follower for a while and felt overly comfy, and BAM! My bad.

  3. Drew, I just purchased How to Cook Like Your Grandmother and starting from scratch. As a matter of fact they just showed up in the mail today. So far I have read just a few chapters and How to Cook Like Your Grandmother and have found that this is EXACTLY what I was looking for. I want to get back to basics and quit eating food my body doesn’t recoginze. I want to cook homemade food from scratch!!! I can’t wait to start cooking.

    my question is this:
    My How to cook like your grandmother book says it’s the 2nd edition. Is there a 1st edition???? I don’t see one on your website.

    I’m also open to other suggestions of books like these. these are exactly what I wanted.

    Thanks
    Linda

    • Linda, the second edition is an updated version, not a whole new book. It’s got some corrections and a few new recipes, plus there were no photos in the first edition.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying them.

  4. How odd… Netflix recommended the same movie to me this past weekend and I also watched it. I distinctly remember the guy saying that 51% of the diet needs to be raw foods. That’s much less than 80%, but still more than I tend to have on a regular basis.

    I was/am interested in what was said about vitamin C and the vitamin that helps prevent depression and to those who are recovering alcoholics (cannot remember which vitamin it was now).

    A lot of what was said was familiar, as you stated above, but I did not find it disappointing. I found myself wishing they’d presented more references for the data mentioned.

    • My guess is that vitamin is B1 (thiamine). Alcoholics tend to lack that due to poor nutrition so they have neuropathy and Wernicke’s encephalopathy, which is from severe depletion. B1 does a number of things in the nervous system and usually when dealing with a depressed alcoholic you want to get them off the alcohol and eating normally again since that can cause a lot of depression due to thiamine deficiency.

    • Natalie,

      He said 51% several times, which is an oddly specific number for a nutritional recommendation. Clearly what he meant was “more than half”. In the last five minutes, though, in his closing remarks he said that it should really be 80% or more.

  5. “then you might enjoy 80 minutes watching people tell you that you’re right”

    He he , I guess we all struggle against cognitive dissonance. I’m going to add some some cognitive consonance here and say great review.

  6. Hi Drew,
    So funny, I just got the Food Matters book from the library yesterday before reading this post! Strange.
    I get a little put off by the vegetarian / raw food suggestions. I find it to be intimidating and elitist, actually. I kind of wish someone would write a book (hint, Drew, hint!) for all the people that still want to eat meat but be humane about it, want to feed their children the best foods but not necessarily the most expensive organics (since most of it goes in the trash or to the dog anyway), and make me feel like I can still do my part for the planet along with seamlessly fitting into my lifestyle and being inexpensive. Is this possible?

  7. I’m all for raw plants, maybe even MOSTLY raw (let’s say, or lightly cooked) vegetables… but any diet that requires a high-dose vitamin supplementation is NOT a healthy diet! It doesn’t matter much if your main meals are low-fat twinkies, low-sodium jerky, or raw veg at that point, right?

    I believe in eating lots of vegetables, cooked so as to preserve nutrient values and fiber, of many colors — in the context of a well-balanced diet. If you’re going to demonize something, let it be grains. And trans-fats. And I can understand cholesterol-phobics (particularly with respect to beef, where there is a natural trans-fat as well as cholesterol), but I’m not one of them. But — again — if your diet requires drugs, it ain’t a healthy diet. Period.

    • Erm, refined grains. I find it hard to demonize the whole ones. And I eat the refined ones, too, so, um. You know.

      • But they’re not “drugs” they’re supplements.

        Umm, yeah. Because your regular diet doesn’t include everything the body needs. Hard to explain how that makes it more suited to us than a diet including fish and meat.

  8. Hey Drew, I forgot to ask you what you thought of the other two movies? :)

  9. Linda, click on the titles of them and it will take you to my reviews.

    • Sorry, sorry, I should have noticed that! Hormonal mental fog, that’s what I’m blaming. 😉 Once this kid gets here, at least I’ll be too tired to make idiotic comments… but I’ll keep stealing away to read.

  10. Drew,

    I like food movies but I have found that I like the food books better, Food Inc was a better book in my opinion. While I have not seen food matters or nor I am raw food eater, I like to imagine there are some benefits to it. I have seen one of my chef friend turned in to raw foodist and she says she enjoys it.

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