I have been asked by many in the AFK Community if I have watched the new The Game Changers documentary that focuses on plant based proteins. If you aren’t aware, it is a new film on Netflix.  It was produced by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan.

The movie looks at the explosive rise of plant based eating in professional sports.  It follows the story of James Wilks – an elite Special Forces trainer and winner of The Ultimate Fighter as he embarks on a quest for the truth about meat, protein and strength.

This film has caused quite the stir….I already held suspicions before even watching it…wondering whether it was a covert marketing ploy to convince the public to switch to new plant based proteins.

I am seeing a MASSIVE rise of plant based ‘proteins’ hit supermarket shelves.  The plant based protein market is estimated to reach a value of USD $40.6 billion by 2025 (1). This is a BIG $ industry.

Potential financial rewards behind this documentary and plant based proteins

There are some big investors behind these new plant protein products including: 

Impossible food investors:
Serena Williams
Katy Perry
Jaden Smith
Trevor Noah
Bill Gates

Beyond Meat

Bill Gates
Leonardo Di Caprio
Don Thompson (former McDonald’s CEO)
Chris Paul (producer Gamer Changers)

I can tell you that within 30 minutes of watching this documentary… I felt like I was being marketed to….covertly.  

My first question was….are the producers benefiting financially from promoting a plant based protein diet?

A quick google search showed me that the executive producer: James Cameron (award winning film maker (Titanic, Avatar), and his wife have invested US$140million in plant based proteins, including a company (Verdiant Foods)  that produces pea protein (a key ingredient in Beyond Meat) with the goal of becoming the “largest pea protein fractionation facility in North America”.

I believe we always need to understand where is the funding coming from and who is influencing these documentaries or articles. 

This had now set the scene for me…

It’s not all or nothing?

The next thing that came to mind as I am watching is how it was a very all or nothing approach.  

You are either a vegan or a meat eater….with little conversation or acknowledgement that meat eaters can also eat a large quantity of vegetables / plant based proteins too. 

It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach…

Ironic link to sporting heroes?

I thought it a little ironic that the documentary discusses how people were sold the story that smoking was good for you by sporting heroes. “The tobacco industry turned to famous athletes, the ultimate symbols of fitness and health”.

For years the tobacco industry said their products didn’t cause cancer. Until the evidence began to show that it did.

I can’t help but think …this is exactly what this documentary is doing!!
A new industry is being created, they are trying to convert the masses, by saying that these famous athletes (the ultimate symbols of fitness and health) are eating it….you should do it too….

I would argue, that as a population, we won’t know the impact that the ultra processed isolated proteins will have on human health for the next 20-30 years. By then, the industry will be fully established and scullions of dollars made.

Listen to your body…

I understand the perspective that animal production adds significantly to global warming.

I understand that people care about the planet and our global health. 

I believe everyone has a right to choose which ever diet suits them best.  

We are all different.  

Some work better with meat, others with vegetables. 

You need to listen to your body and what works best for you. 

I believe that you can still love animals, care about the environment, honour your own bodies and consume the food that you need.

Do your research…

I am seeing these ‘PROTEINS” appear in any and every product, from drinks, dairy alternatives, meat alternatives, sports nutrition products, even in kids muesli bars.  These plant based proteins are usually derived from plant sources such as soy, wheat and pea.   The range is increasing at rapid rates.  

I want to impress upon you, … research your food sources…so that you can make an informed decision for your family. 

Research your plant based proteins

I understand that is very compelling watching these documentaries and knowing all these celebrities and sporting heroes are supporting the plant based protein movement. 

People are being sold on the plant based protein diet as it being a cleaner alternative, healthy, ethically and naturally sourced and less processed. 

What I would like you to consider is…..

What processing has been undertaken to obtain these isolated proteins?

Do these occur naturally?

What we need to understand is that the original sources of these proteins are great for us, they are a great quality protein and complete. They come together in a package of nutrients.  

To create soy protein or soy protein isolates they are chemically engineered to “isolate’ their protein.  All the other nutrients are stripped out. 

“Soy protein isolates have been known and produced for industrial purposes, mainly as adhesives for the paper coating industry, well before World War II. ISP’s for food use, however, have been developed only in the early fifties” (2).
You need to ask the question what are the typical ways in which these proteins are extracted? 

Often they are extracted using aluminium or hexane. Hexane is a neurotoxic petrochemical solvent that is listed as a hazardous air pollutant with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (3)

A research article in the Journal of Experimental and Clinical Toxicology ISSN: 2641-7669 (here) states low or acute exposures to hexane might cause “several human health implications such as polyneuropathy, muscular weakness, headache, dizziness, giddiness, slight nausea. It has been reported by Q’Quinn et al (1997) that hexane may cause some degeneration of the digestive system of animals. Hexane residue has been found toxic to humans and animals at relatively low concentrations as mentioned by Sparks et al (2006).

The proteins will still contain some of this residue. It is a chemically modified and highly processed product. 

If you are vegan I would recommend asking the question, how has the protein been isolated? Ideally, you should be looking for natural whole protein sources like beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.

Are isolated proteins a game changer….not in my book…

What did you think of the documentary?

What are you thoughts on isolated proteins?

Comment below.

(1) https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/plant-based-protein-market-14715651.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIkIPsxtf85QIVQSUrCh39GQ93EAAYASAAEgI4-vD_BwE

(2) http://www.fao.org/3/t0532e/t0532e07.htm

(3) https://www.cornucopia.org/2009/05/soy-report-and-scorecard/

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Frankie Bell - Additive Free Kids

Frankie Bell is the Managing Director of Additive Free Kids, a food coach, mentor and is one of Australia’s leading activists against additives in foods.  

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