Review: “Forks Over Knives” Documentary

by Stephanie on March 29, 2013 · 0 comments

in Food & Nutrition

As part of my vegetarian/vegan challenge I am reviewing a couple of documentaries I recently watched that promote the plant-based diet.  I already posted a review of Hungry for Change so check it out!

Forks Over Knives covered the studies and findings of Dr. T Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.  They both took very different paths but ended up at the same discovery: major studies they conducted showed that eating a whole foods, plant-based diet with little or no animal fat can prevent and in some cases reverse most major degenerative diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and several types of cancer.

Dr. Campbell started out trying to create high quality animal protein to help the malnourished poor in third world countries.  During his travels he discovered that the wealthy people in these countries, who already had access to animal protein, had higher instances of disease than the poor in those countries.  The China Study is his famous work.  There is more information on the study here and also a book, but I will try to summarize the study to the best of my ability as well.


Basically the China Study looks at the mortality rates of over 50 diseases and the eating habits in dozens of counties in China over a 20 year period.  Counties that ate a diet higher in animal products had higher mortality rates than counties that ate more rice & vegetable diets.  As the “Western” diet of more processed foods and higher amounts of meat and dairy traveled across the ocean to certain areas of China, those areas’ mortality rates increased even more.  The findings consistently showed lower rates of disease and disease related death in areas that maintained a plant-based diet.

Now, I don’t know what kind of controls went into this study.  For instance, I assume the “Western” diet made it to mostly urban areas during the time of the study.  I don’t know if the findings accounted for differences in urban and rural living or if they only looked and changes within the same county over the time period.  I know the study has received a good deal of criticism over the years, but its findings are definitely interesting.

Admittedly I was more intrigued by Dr Esselstyn’s findings.  It is a study that I have read about before and, given my family medical history, definitely makes me think twice.


Dr. Esselstyn’s study was on the treatment of heart disease.  The patients sent to his study had often already undergone surgery and were sick to the point that medicine was not helping them.  He placed them all on a whole foods, plant-based diet.  He does not call it vegan, but that is what it is with the exception of the fact that his diet cuts out nearly all oils, even plant-based ones like olive oil.  His twelve year study showed that more than 80% of the people in his study showed no progression of their disease and a large percentage showed an actual reversal of their heart disease.


I also watched a related documentary called Forks Over Knives: Engine 2 Diet.  This stars Dr. Esselstyn’s son, Rip, who is a professional triathlete turned firefighter. He has taken his Dad’s diet principles and changed the lives of his entire crew and in this documentary he shares his plant strong diet with other families.  You can go to his website and find many of the grocery lists and recipes he discusses in the film, plus a lot more.


Probably the most thought-provoking thing in the whole documentary was when Dr. Esselstyn was addressing a common criticism he hears about his work.  This isn’t a direct quote because I can’t remember the wording but you’ll get the drift.

Some people call my suggestion of eating a whole foods, plant-based diet and eliminating animal products extreme.

I would think it is more extreme to cut into someone’s chest with a scalpel, spread their ribs, and put them on bypass, potentially several times.

Are you thinking about it yet?

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