The search for a Fountain of youth was pointless. Today, if you’re looking for a Diet of Youth, don’t look for it in red meat. In fact, don’t look at any meat—or any animal products at all, including dairy and eggs. At least, that’s the message in “The Game Changers,” a recent film that has gained a popular following.
World class athletes eat plants
“The Game Changers” features remarkable record-setting athletes in cycling, weightlifting, distance running and more. It takes advantage of professional sports players’ bodily fluids and nighttime erections to demonstrate the biologic principles outlined in the film.
The bottom line is this: a whole foods plant based (WFPB) diet can add energy to your days and years to your life by overcoming the ills of consuming animal protein. Without belaboring the difference between how dietary protein is “packaged” between plants and animals, suffice it to say that molecular structures surrounding protein from animals trigger harmful inflammatory and carcinogenic processes that amount to life-shortening cardiovascular, metabolic and genomic changes in our bodies.
The film explains the fallacy that we need animal protein in order to develop our muscles. Simply put, the animals we eat are all vegetarians, and they have no trouble developing their own muscle and organ tissue—that we then cook and eat! In fact, animals are the “middlemen” between us and plants. If we cut out eating meat and instead eat fruits, grains, roots, legumes, and vegetables, we not only directly get all the protein we need, our bodies are evolved to get it in ways that promote life rather than shorten it. The featured athletes tell us that a WFPB diet is the surest way to maximum health and robust physical performance.
Dr. Dean Ornish
When it comes to prostate cancer, my own area of expertise, does the science hold up? One of the experts on the film is Dr. Dean Ornish, who came to fame in the 1990s for promoting lifestyle changes, including diet, to reverse cardiovascular disease. Then, in 2008, he and his colleagues published a study[i] that astonished the prostate cancer (PCa) world. With a small group of low-risk PCa patients who chose to hold off on treatment, the authors demonstrated that intensive nutrition and other lifestyle changes altered gene expression. At the risk of oversimplifying, the genes that promote tumor growth were “switched off” while those that combat cancer were “switched on.” Their cancers shrank, powerful dietary evidence in favor of the low-fat WFPD that was an important factor during the 3-month trial.
In “The Game Changers,” Dr. Ornish notes that consuming animal protein creates a 75% greater risk of death from all causes; more frighteningly, it leads to a 400-500% greater risk of cancer death, especially for prostate, breast and colon cancers! Are you starting to find a ½ pound burger or New York strip steak less appealing? Read on.
The China Study
A 2004 book, “The China Study” is titled after an enormous 20-year study by the same name. It was a collaborative effort among researchers out of Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine to research and collect data on the diets, lifestyles, and diseases of inhabitants of rural China. According to a summary of the book, “What they discovered shocked them: Eating plant foods may be one of the leading determiners of health in rural China, and eating animal protein may be one of the leading causes of disease in the Western world.”[ii]
“The Game Changers” arrives at the same conclusion, but in a much more film-friendly version that has enough entertainment value to hold the attention of its audience. It seems to be aimed primarily at men, perhaps because the idea of being a vegetarian runs counter to the macho hype suggesting that “real men don’t eat quiche” or any other diet that skimps on meat, particularly red meat. If you want to learn more, it would seem that you can either read the dense, scholarly volume on The China Study, or you can be a couch potato for 80 minutes and sit back while you see incredible athletes who eat a vegan diet performing superhuman feats of strength, combat and endurance, while outperforming their meat-eating competitors.
An imperfect documentary but a timely message?
Thankfully, eating meat or not eating meat is not necessarily as either-or as looks. A review of “The Game Changers” by registered dietitian/professional nutritionist Kelly Jones wisely points to the importance of tailoring one’s diet to the fitness needs and personal lifestyle of each individual. She uses the expression “intuitive eating for fitness,” and many of her clients are professional athletes. She identifies the pros and cons of the film, and cautions against making radical dietary shifts based solely on the material presented.
She does, however, support “plant-forward” eating. Among her key takeaways, she writes,
Swapping excess animal products in your diet for whole plant foods may produce both short and long term health benefits by increasing intake of carbohydrate, fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and other compounds (like dietary nitrates). It can also reduce saturated fat and cholesterol intakes, which can be beneficial to some people (but the degree to those benefits may be based on genetics and other lifestyle factors).[iii]
Given the near-epidemic incidence of obesity, diabetes and cancer in the U.S., information about the WFPD is timely and even crucial. “The Game Changers” and Kelly Jones offer the same message, but in different packaging—coincidentally analogous to protein being “packaged” differently by the documentary and the review. Whichever package you like better, I encourage doing your own thoughtful research and analysis, and getting as honest with yourself as possible. Are you as healthy and fit as you could be? Would you consider modifying your eating habits if you knew you could have more energy and live longer, while enjoying better quality of life? The science is there. We only have to look into ourselves for our personal answers.
NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.
[i] Ornish D, Magbanua MJ, Weidner G, Weinberg V et al. Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jun 17;105(24):8369-74.
[ii] “The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas Campbell.” https://www.shortform.com/summary/the-china-study-summary-t-colin-campbell
[iii] Jones, Kelly. “The Game Changers Review – Via a Plant Based Sports Dietitian. Nov. 6, 2019. https://kellyjonesnutrition.com/the-game-changers-review/