Jan 272012

Many of the food related films I listed in the post titled Zeitgeist try to present their material in an entertaining way. King Corn, for example. Or Supersize Me. Knives Over Forks takes a different approach; more straightforward. Just the facts. It’s stated in the title which one can translate as: “Healthy food instead of surgery.”

Very much like Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, the filmmaker makes himself a guinea pig to come to a self-determination as to whether the recommended treatment works. In this case, the treatment is what the film refers to as a “plant based diet.” They eschew the term “vegetarian” for good reason. “Vegetarianism” carries lots of baggage with it because to motives for vegetarianism are so varied. Someone might be a vegetarian for ethical, spiritual, economic, environmental, cultural, health reasons or all of the above. Most of these concepts can lead to argument.

In Forks Over Knives advocacy for a plant based diet: grains, vegetables, nuts is offered strictly for health reasons. The doctors, T. Colin Campbell a biochemist who has spent his career studying the effects of nutrition and Dr Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr. a cardiologist and heart surgeon make the case that animal based food—meat, eggs and dairy, are responsible for our poor health and that switching to a plant based diet can actually reverse conditions like heart disease and diabetes without resorting to drugs, or worse—the knife.

I suppose that one can be “fat, happy and living too long” but it seems to me that there is a lot of unhappiness, suffering and economic loss in the following statistics:

51% of Americans will die of heart disease, half by sudden death

47% of men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes

So will 39% of women

70% of Americans are overweight; 33% are obese

75% of America’s health care costs go to five diseases and conditions: heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, Type II diabetes, and obesity.

This doesn’t sound like much fun to me and will represent heartbreak and loss to many families. In the spirit of Transition, it doesn’t appear to be sustainable economically. How long can we afford to pay these unnecessary costs? Is changing to plant food that extreme?

If it is possible to make dramatic changes in ones health by adopting a plant based diet that doesn’t seem extreme to me. What does sound extreme, as Dr. Esselstyn points out in the film, is 500,000 people a year having their chests cut open, then their legs so that veins can be removed and grafted to by-pass damaged heart vessels.

So, Forks Over Knives lays out the evidence for you to consider. The principals, Drs. Campbell and Esselstyn Jr. are both near eighty, still looking good, still working and advocating for what appears to an absurdly simple solution to America’s chronic health problem.

One spinoff of Forks Over Knives is Engine 2 Immersion started by Dr. Esselstyn’s son, an former triathlete and an Austin, Texas firefighter:


  2 Responses to “Forks Over Knives”

  1. A lot of people reject vegetarianism or a ‘plant based diet’ because they don’t think they could be strict about it. They would really like to have a peperoni pizza every now and then and it were banned, they could not live up to the principle. A better approach for advocating this ideal may be to encourage the reduction of meat and animal products instead of an outright prohibition. A concious gradual reduction may be easier for some people. Also, I’ll bet that once people find other options that they enjoy, their proclivity to reduce meats even further would increase. They would feel better, have more energy, etc.

  2. Another interesting look at the industrial food industry….:


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