Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button
Digg button
Stumbleupon button

Forks Over Knives Review

October 4, 2011 –

I have attached my preview of the “Forks Over Knives” Documentary below (You can also see it HERE.) I wrote this back in June and it is now out on DVD. I was the first in line and bought the companion book as well.

I have described Forks Over Knives and the synopsis of the story in my preview below. (You can also see a synopsis on the film’s website HERE.) What I would like to do here is describe my reaction to seeing the full film.

If you want to keep the peace, you are told to stay away from politics and religion in conversations. Well, i would add a 3rd one in there…diet. Tony Horton does a great job describing people’s passion over diet in his American Food Fight article. Ultimately, my concern is what is best for me. What works for me, may not work for everyone else. However, there are some universal truths. Diets laden in fat, sugar, and salt are not healthy. A Double Cheeseburger for a $1 is not healthy. Drinking a 6-pack of soda everyday is not healthy. This is the big stuff. Most people understand this. Whether they choose to act or not is another matter.

Where there becomes a bigger debate is around healthier food. Is chicken and fish good for you? Can I eat lean red meat every once in a while? What about eggs and milk? Forks Over Knives is not bashful about claiming that a Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet is not only the best diet for us, but yields the best prevention and in some cases reversal of debilitating diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.

Most of the documentary is driven by Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn who ironically both grew up on farms. However, their medical research has left them to the same conclusion…A Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet Wins on Every Front.

“People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease … People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored,” -Dr. Campbell.

The facts about the state of American’s health is not surprising. There are interesting statistics shown on how the intake of Sugar, Salt, and Animal Products have increased dramatical over the past decades in the US which has given an incredible rise in health care costs.

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.

— Hippocrates, father of medicine, 431 B.C.

The documentary highlights some individuals who have succeeded in reversing their conditions through diet  (including Ruth Heidrich who’s story is below) as well as individuals they follow through the documentary. As predicted cholesterol levels for down, diabetes medicines go away, and the fruits (no pun intended) of a Whole Foods Plant-Based diet are exposed once more.

So what about me? Documentaries are full if interesting facts and tid bits, but unless you take action, it isn’t worth much to you. I have decided to give this a go. I am doing extensive reading on this topic (more book reviews to come) and have decided that for the next 90 days, I want to see if this works for me. I started a little over a week ago. Frankly, the only thing that I am really eliminating is chicken or fish that I had once a day at dinner.  I have moved to a plant-based protein powder (review forthcoming) and will be joining Missy Costello’s 30-Day Vegan Cleanse starting later this month through Karma Chow. I am still taking Shakeology now (which does contain Whey Protein) but will remove that for 30-days for the full cleanse.

This is all about education and I want to form my own opinion. Frankly, I also want to see how my body reacts. Will I have more energy? Will I feel better? Will I feel stronger? I can guarantee that I will continue consuming 90+% of my diet from whole / plant-based foods. Will I bring chicken / fish back in? Who knows? I am not married to the outcome nor do I want to be become religious with my diet and say things like “I am a strict vegan.”

I am taking this challenge seriously, but I am not stressing about it. I think others stress about it for me when I tell them. You are going to what?! LOL!

Back to the movie! I highly recommend all of you watch this movie. Watch it On Demand. Buy it on Amazon or on the Forks Over Knives website and form your own opinion. We have a fairly large Facebook group right now (~100 people) who are taking on the challenge and we have had some awesome debates. We are posting recipes and asking questions. if you would like to be added to this group, just let me know.

And you can be assured there will be more to come from me on my journey over the next 90 days.

June 9, 2011 –

Forks over Knives is a new documentary that is currently rolling out across the country. Unfortunately, it has not come to a theater near me, but I am very intrigued to see this movie. As you probably know from my reviews of Food Inc, Killer at Large, and my 3-part series on what the great folks at Nourish Life are doing, the topic of nutrition and the American / Western Diet is very interesting to me. I ate what the American Industry fed me for the 34 years of my life and now I am absorbing all this great information on nutrition and diet like I am back in school again.

Changing my diet has been the single most important thing that has happened for me. The more I read, the more I am motivated to keep eating whole grains, lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats.

“Forks Over Knives” specifically addresses vegetarianism as the key solution to many of this nation and the world’s greatest health issues. I would say that about 10% of my calories per day are meat, usually chicken. And this really occurs at dinner. All my other meals and snacks are vegetarian. I am not ready to give up meat yet, but after seeing this movie, who knows. Take a look at the trailers.

Official Forks over Knives Trailer

Forks over Knives Trailer #2

There are two other videos I would like to share from the Forks Over Knives website. The first is a video from the filmmakers discussing the movie, and the second is Bill Clinton taking about his move to veganism and how that effected him. Have a look.

Filmmakers discuss Forks over Knives Trailer

Bill clinton became a vegan, lost 24 lbs healing himself by not ingesting cholesterol

There is a very interesting person highlighted in the film. Ruth Heidrich is a cancer survivor not through chemo, but by adopting a plant-based diet. Her story is absolutely inspiration to hear. Here is a recent Q&A article with Ruth and how she went from cancer patient to finishing the Ironman Triathalon.

Source Article can be found HERE

From Cancer To The Ironman: How Food Makes the Difference

Ruth Heidrich Shares Her Success in Forks Over Knives And Everywhere Someone Can Benefit

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Ruth Heidrich, Ph.D., one of the star patients in the movie Forks Over Knives. Ruth provides insights into the making of the film and her ongoing work to educate others on the power of a whole foods, plant-based diet. If you have not seen this film yet, grab the first opportunity to experience it. You will see Ruth and several other patients revitalizing their health through diet, not drugs. In this dialogue, Ruth is RH, and I am JS.

JS: For those who are not familiar with your story, it would be great to have a short overview of your diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer and subsequent cancer-free life. I always think of you as the woman who beat cancer into submission with broccoli and oatmeal.

RH: Sitting in the doctor’s office awaiting the results of a breast biopsy, I was positive that this was going to be just a little blip in the road of life, that there was no way it could be cancer. I was a runner for 14 years, had even run marathons, and ate what I thought was a good diet, you know, chicken and fish, low-fat dairy, all the “good proteins.” I was the healthiest, fittest person I knew, in fact.

So when the diagnosis came back with metastatic cancer, I was shocked, stunned, and devastated! Then the denial set in. There must have been some mistake, so I got a second opinion, but same cancerous result. A third, fourth, and even a fifth, were no different — I was now a cancer patient.

Then there was a gigantic stroke of luck that turned out to save my life! John McDougall, MD, was starting a clinical research study to demonstrate that breast cancer could be reversed with a low-fat vegan diet. I immediately enrolled in the study because the choice of chemo/radiation versus changing my diet was clear — and a no-brainer for me.

At the same time, I happened to see the Ironman Triathlon on TV and thought, hey, I can do that! I knew I had the 26.2 mile marathon handled, so all I had to do was throw in a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike. Then I found out that no cancer patient had ever completed the Ironman, and no woman as old as I, 47 at the time, had ever done it. With my new diet, I felt stronger, faster, and was convinced that this new way of eating could not only reverse cancer, but when my high cholesterol dropped as well, I wanted to show people that this is the way all humans should eat. All this was nearly 30 years ago, and I’m convinced to this day that our lifestyle choices make the difference between thriving and dying.

JS: You have shared your story in many ways, including your book A Race for Life. What is it like for you sharing such a deeply personal story with the world?

RH: Back in the early 80s, very little was known about all of this. I felt like a real pioneer as I became the first vegan I knew and the first Ironman triathlete I knew. Because of all the benefits, both physical and, very importantly, the psychological, I wanted to tell the world what I was discovering. As it turns out, I guess I can’t help but share this story because of the immense gains to the health status of most of those sedentary people consuming the standard Western diet.

JS: How did you become part of the film Forks Over Knives?

RH: I received an email one day, asking if I would be willing to have a camera crew come out and film me for a documentary that was being produced. This, obviously, would fit very well into the plan to help spread the word.

JS: What has it been like for you being part of this film? What are the highlights for you?

RH: Being part of the film was a great deal of fun. I got to show the film crew some of my favorite places to run, which included a heavily-wooded urban forest and a promenade along a beach in White Rock, BC, Canada. I also got to show off my home gym, my little organic garden patch, and how I throw together my rather large meal of raw fruit and veggies in less than 10 minutes! I also gave the crew copies of, not only my first book, but also Senior Fitness, which was about much more than just cancer.

JS: Some people on a standard American/Canadian diet, based on animal and processed foods, will go to see Forks Over Knives and be inspired to change their diets. But they may have no idea where to start or what to have for breakfast the next day. What advice would you give them to successfully launch a new eating plan?

RH: Well, I know it can be a challenge because I remember well going through those first few vegan days myself. I already loved oatmeal and when Dr. McDougall suggested apple juice instead of dairy, I thought that sounded pretty good.

For the other meals, substitution is the name of the game. For example, for spaghetti sauce, use little broccoli “trees” and nobody misses the meat. For most casserole dishes, the flavor is in the veggies and starches, so most people wouldn’t miss the meat there, either. Salads just need to be enlarged and with kale, spinach, or organic baby greens with balsamic vinegar as your dressing, you can make a whole meal out of just that.

And who can resist the allure of blueberries, apples, mangoes, bananas, kiwi, and probably any other fruit you can name. I know some might like a little “hand-holding” and that’s where CHEF comes in, my ebook that explains the theory behind eating this way, how to stock your larder, and recipes that are (C)heap, (H)ealthy, (E)asy, and (F)at-free.

JS: What are your favorite foods?

RH: I can sum it up quite simply — all plants! I guess I do enjoy fruit the most, though.

JS: Do you have any plans for future movies, books, or other big projects? Ideally, how would you like to continue spreading the word?

RH: Forks Over Knives is getting a lot of attention, but I’d love to do more. As for my next book, I’m collecting photos of running in the most exotic places in the world, for a book to be entitled “Running ‘Round The World” to show people how much fun running can be.

Ruth enjoys running in Mozambique. She wants to get others off the couch and out racing in nice settings.

Some of the highlights I’ve gotten so far are running in front of Komodo dragons, the Great Wall of China, the Sidney Harbour Bridge, with Zulu tribesmen in South Africa, St. Helena island (the one made famous by Napoleon), the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, running up one of the largest sand dunes in the world in Namibia, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and one of the scariest, running in Oman, a Muslim country where there were few runners, and much less women runners.

People don’t need to be sick, don’t need to be overweight, and can eat the most delicious foods in the world! We just need to get to them and that’s what I’m working on! And, if I might, I’d love people to check out my website, because it’s got lots of information, pictures, and even an “Ask Dr. Ruth” column, which is a lot of fun, too! So I do appreciate this opportunity you’ve given me and thank you very much!

Intrigued? Now you can use our Whole Foods Blog Finder to target informative, fun postings on plant-based nutrition. Quick information at no cost!

The last article I want to share is infamous critic Roger Ebert’s review of the film. Roger has had his share of medical challenges so his perspective comes from a more seasoned place than maybe other critics.

Forks Over Knives
Eat meat and die!

Release Date: 2011

Ebert Rating: ***

By Roger Ebert May 11, 2011

Here is a film that could save your life. So you’d better stop reading now, because you don’t want to go to the trouble. You are addicted to fat, salt, sugar and corn syrup. Your body has established a narcotic-like dependence on them, and you’re comfortable with that, just like smokers know why they keep on smoking. If you have to die 10 or 25 years sooner than necessary to smoke, if you need Viagra because your vascular system is compromised, or if you’re overweight, you can live with that.

Hey, I’m not going all holier-than-thou on you. Think how fat I was for years. I knew the solution, I was weak and lazy. Over 12 years I was eventually able to lose about 70 pounds with a proper diet, but my current weight and superb physical condition can be attributed to my illness. I am unable to eat or drink anything, and my (therefore) perfect diet of canned nutrition has given me an ideal weight and incredibly good blood numbers. I don’t recommend that you get sick to get well, however.

What every human being should do is eat a vegetarian diet based on whole foods. Period. That’s it. Animal protein is bad for you. Dairy is bad for you. Forget the ads: Milk and eggs are bad for you. Skim milk is no better, because it contains proportionately more animal protein. What you’re trying to avoid is dietary cholesterol. You also need to cut way down on salt and sugar, and run like hell from high fructose corn syrup.

“Forks Over Knives” is a documentary in which Lee Fulkerson enacts a mirror image of the journey taken by Morgan Spurlock in “Supersize Me.” Instead of eating only at McDonald’s for a month and nearly killing himself, he eats a plant-based whole food diet for six months, gets off all of his cholesterol and blood pressure medications, drops a lot of weight, sleeps better and has more energy.

His film follows three other sick people: one with breast cancer, one given less than a year to live because of heart problems, one with murderously high cholesterol. All are well again after the vegetarian diet. The movie opens with a warning that no one should take such steps without consulting a physician, and I quite agree; I would not have depended on nutrition to cure my cancer, but I’m convinced that I would always have been healthier if I’d eaten correctly.

The film hammers us with information. It centers on the work of famed nutritionists Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic. Campbell conducted the awesome China-Oxford-Cor­­nell study, which fol­lowed millions of Chinese over decades and found that increases in their incidence of cancer and heart disease directly paralleled their adoption of a Western diet.

Short term studies show the same thing: When Nazis commandeered all the food animals in Norway and rationing forced Brits away from meat, disease rates plummeted. After the war, they moved up again. In the traditional Japanese diet, breast and prostate cancers are all but unknown.

These facts have long been established, not only by Campbell and Esselstyn but also by Dean Ornish, John McDougall and the researchers at Pritikin. There is a Catch-22. The federal government subsidizes such crops as corn, which is used for lethal corn syrup and to feed animals which we then eat. It puts bad foods in school lunches. The lobbyists of agribusiness control national farm policy. The government spends millions to subsidize an unhealthy diet. We are raising the first generation of children who will not live as long as their parents.

Over the years I tried vegan and low-protein vegetarian diets, benefitted from and enjoyed them. I found by experience that all one needed was a rice cooker, a knife, a chopping block, whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. I got all the protein and calcium I needed. I enjoyed it. But I was tempted. I strayed into the elysian fields of pizza, steaks, hamburgers and soft drinks. I once was blind and now I see.

“Forks Over Knives” is not subtle. It plays as if it had been made for doctors to see in medical school. Few doctors seem prepared to suggest proper nutrition as an alternative to pills, stents and bypasses. Although regular exercise, especially walking, is invaluable, the film shows only a little exercise and focuses singlemindedly on nutrition.

The bottom line: I am convinced this message is true. A plant-based whole foods diet is healthy. Animal protein is not necessary, or should be used sparingly as Asians did, as a flavoring and not a main course. This adds the advantage of allowing us to avoid the chemicals and carcinogens pumped into livestock and poultry. Fast food is lethal. Parents who feed it to their children are helping them get hooked on fat, salt and sugar addiction. The facts are in. Didn’t I warn you to stop reading?

P. S.: I have recently decided to ditch my canned nutrition and switch to a liquid diet based on fresh fruits and vegetables. Yes, I consulted my physician.

21 Responses to “Forks Over Knives Review”

  1. Al says:

    The only issue I have with Forks over Knives is the ‘science’ used in the movie isn’t that great. Anyone who has taken a basic statistic course can go back and look at the correlations from the China study and see that there isn’t much data that makes sense. For instance one of the significant inverse correlations was between cancer and dietary fat (more fat=less cancer).
    I agree that eating veggies is great and getting more in the diet is good. However the movie points to protein as the root of all evil. I argue that it isn’t protein but instead simple sugars that case the diseases in our society. When one switches to whole foods they are eliminating the simple sugars which case DM 2, cancer, AD, CRF, wrinkles, obesity, and autoimmune diseases.
    Don’t blame protein (heck even the p90x diet guide says to eat lots of protein to ‘fat shred’). It’s the simple sugars that get you.

  2. Al says:

    Also when one blames fast food for obesity, they are usually thinking about the burger. However I argue that it is the soda (sugar HFCS), the bun (processed wheat), and fries (simple starch) that cause the obesity. Meat is meat is meat and meat…is good!
    (Author note: I realize that factor farm meat isn’t as healthy but it’s better for you then processed corn products.)
    Check out Fatheat (movie on netflix) for more information. It’s a good watch.

  3. Indo says:

    I have to agree with you, Al. I have not yet watched Forks Over Knives (that’s next!). I am currently reading The China Study and I’m about halfway thru. It’s taking quite a while because I am taking notes and looking at all of the references. He (Campbell) is an interesting guy, to say the least. He keeps claiming to be this Scientist, Researcher Guy(!) as if no one else on the planet knows how to conduct a proper study. He makes HUGE leaps in interpretation of data to support his hypothesis that animal protein is the Root of all Evil. And when he DOES present data that contradicts his, he says it’s due to improper study design or incorrect interpretation of the data! Any really good scientist comes up with a hypothesis and then everything to try to DISPROVE that hypothesis. Campbell is so married to his hypothesis that he fails to see any other point of view, or consider any other explanation. Example: With the rats who were given aflatoxin ( a known pwerful carcinogen) and then fes either 20% casein protein or 5% casein protein. He observed more foci of liver tumors in those that were fed 20% casein. OK. How about this—rats don’t normally obtain protein from cow’s milk. Is it conceivable that they have very ineffiecient systems for metaboizing that protein? Perhaps the metabolic products from metabolizing something that isn’t a normal part of their diet is what promoted dysplasia/neoplasia of the cells in the liver. Simple solution–repeat the experiment with another type of protein. Just because this happens in Fischer 344 Rats does not mean it happens in humans. What a koala bear calls lunch (eucalyptus leaves), we call poison. Repaeat the experiments in dogs, sheep, cattle, chimps and show me that it happens accross species and then I may start paying a little more attention to it.
    I have many more critiques of this book, but I willleave it at that. Even so, I will likely try the vegan thing for 30-60 days just to experience it for myself–but it may be tough because the nearest place that I can obtain vegan food is about 90 miles away!! We shall see…

  4. Indo says:

    And I am awaiting your review, Mike…you write objective reviews of things and I think your review will actually be of more use than the illustrious (and exceedingly biased) TC Campbell. His lack of clinical medical knowledge is, at best, annoying and at worst dangerous because he is giving th epublic a very one-sided bias of the medical field in general—claiming that doctors make their money by prescribing medications and are part of the problem.. WHAT?!! I would be a wealthy man if I was paid just a nickel for every prescription I have ever written!!
    Somehting else to consider–he states that our forefathers didn’t worry so much about this because they ate a primarily plane-based diet. Now that we eat so much animal protein, etc, we are all getting heart disease and cancer and all doctors want to do about it is prescribe all those unnecessary meds, etc etc. So…
    The average life -expectancy of our forefathers (say, around the early 1800s) was about 40 years. That’ when we were eating all of those great plants!
    Now it’s about 80 years (when were eating all of the horrible cows). How does he account for the 40-year improvement in life expectancy? It wouldn’t have ANYTHING to do with medical advances, would it? Antibiotics, better understanding of the causes of diseases, better operations, and on and on.
    I agree that there is a benefit to the vegan diet–but there is just no conclusive evidence that it does everything he states that it does; or that animal protein is quite as evil as he says.

    Finally (whew!),
    Getting into a religious/theological debate is not wise at times, but I have trouble getting my head around the idea that God provided a source of food for humanity that actually (according to Campbell) kills us. Baskets full of fish may as well have been baskets full of cyanide…could have just as easy been baskets full of gluten free wheat!

  5. Coach Mike Coach Mike says:

    Al and Indo – I have never seen a topic draw more passion than this one. As I said int he article, everyone gets the really bad foods. The debate becomes around the “good foods”.

    I am engineer not a doctor, but given my background I do have an analytical mind. I am slowly making my way through The China Study (it is not a quick read).

    And Al, you are right about sugars. Soft Drinks are the #1 source of calories in America. If someone wants a burger, who I am to say hey shouldn’t. I ate them for 34 years. But Americans should start appreciating for the QUALITY of their food.

    And I am with John. – I am trying it for 90 days. I am 2 weeks in, and you know what? So far I feel good. Dare I say, I am enjoying it. :)

  6. Indo says:

    Can’t wait for your review!!
    As I said above, I want to try this, too! But it will be difficult logistically. Still, I am gonna find a way to make it work.

    The main issue I have with The China Study is Campbell’s lack of Objectivity. He want so badly to be RIGHT that he ignores or attempts to discredit half of the information/research out there. And then he whines about other researchers and doctors who don’t take him seriously. I was reading the section this AM about Type I Diabetes. He goes on and on about several studies which show a link between ingestion of cow’s milk and development of Type I Diabetes. At the end of the section he complains that some think that this is CONTROVERSIAL, but says that there is no controversy: 5 studies show a link, but 5 studies show no statistical significance between ingesting cow’s milk and diabetes. He goes on and says that those studies don’t mean anything because they don’t show a DECREASE in the incidence! AND he goes on to blame government and agricultural businesses for the support of this alleged controversy which, in his mind, does not exist. WHAT?!! He claims to be this experienced, expert research scientist (and just about claims that no one else knows anything but him) who SHOULD understand that any research project involves a HYPOTHESIS {ingestion cow’s milk correlates positively with development of Type I Diabetes} and then research that (ideally) favors the NULL HYPOTHESIS—there is NO LINK between the two. Statistical analysis is performed on the data collected and one can either say “YES”–there is a statistical relationship between the two (and then state the likelihood that that relationship exists with either a 95% or a 99% confidence—-generally stated as “Statistical significance=0.05″ or “0.01”. One does not need to show a DECREASE in the incidence of anything. Either the relationship in question exists, or it doesn’t.
    Back to the statement made by Campbell—so IF half the studies SHOW a relationship (5 out of 10 studies) and half the studies show NO RELATIONSHIP—the findings are statistically INSIGNIFICANT and happen by chance alone) THERE IS A CONTROVERSY IN THE HYPOTHESIS THAT THE DEVELOPMENT OF DIABETES IS RELATED TO INGESTION OF COW’S MILK. There either IS a relationship; or there is not. He believes any study that supports his views and tries to refute any thought/study/belief that does not. Furthermore, he goes on to blame doctors, the govt, agribusiness, anything who thinks he may be wrong. It is definitely not an easy read, and I am glad that you have an analytical mind. Too many people read this book and believe that his word is gospel just because he wrote the book! A guy named Hitler wrote a book. So did a guy named Marx. And we know what happened with all of that!
    (Not that I am comparing Campbell to either of them, but just using the illustration to show how easily people can be swayed just because someone says it’s so—rather than analyzing and thinking about what the author is actually saying.
    No doubt that there are benefits to a plant-based diet–but maybe not as much as Campbell tries to claim…

  7. Indo says:

    BTW, I welcome these type of discussions because we all can benefit from them. I stopped posting in the challenge because i was told that I was “sabotaging” the group! No. I was trying to have some intelligent conversation/discussion about this book…

Leave a Reply