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Forks Over Knives

Movie (Documentary); Released: 2011

This 'Forks Over Knives' review written by Mark Jeantheau, Grinning Planet.

DVD cover for Forks Over Knives The premise of Forks Over Knives is that people can avoid or improve heart disease, obesity, Type II diabetes, and other serious health conditions simply by avoiding junk food and eating a plant-based, whole-foods diet. The film uses "plant-based diet" and similar terms, but what it really means is "plants-only diet"—vegetarianism is the explicit recommendation for optimizing health.

Throughout the film, scientists and doctors offer evidence that animal products cause disease, but the evidence feels cherry-picked and lacking in context of other disease factors. I wholeheartedly agree that diet is a central problem in Americans' bad health, but the film does not address GMOs, pollution, chemicals, lack of exercise, sleep deficiencies, chronic stress, smoking, excessive drinking, and other important disease factors as co-contributors to ill health. In Forks Over Knives, the boogieman in the pantry is wholly composed of animal products.

Americans do over-consume animal products, and that is not healthy. Americans also way under-consume vegetables, and that too is not healthy. The third section of Americans' Big TV Dinner Tray of Dietary Offenses is filled with junk food, particularly sweeteners. It is this overall dietary imbalance that is the first-order problem.

There's plenty of truth in this film—the deceitfulness of USDA nutritional guidelines, the industry-driven dietary disaster found in most school lunch programs, the influence of corporations on public science and policy, how high fructose corn syrup fools the bodily sensors that are supposed to tell us when we're full. And it correctly points out the superiority of a plant-based diet in terms of energy use, environmental impact, and morality towards animals.

But throughout, Forks Over Knives seems determined to pin all the blame for human health problems on consumption of animal products. Even within the narrow meat/vegetables question, it fails to discuss whether the positive health effects seen in people who switch to a vegetarian diet could simply be from eating many more vegetables rather than from the complete elimination of animal protein. More disturbingly, it asserts that human protein needs can easily be filled by vegetable foods but does not talk about the importance of amino acid balance, and the film does not let us know that long-term vegetarians can end up with nutritional deficiencies without a carefully designed approach.

A super-vegetable diet can indeed be a path to healing—the Gerson Institute's juicing therapies can cure cancer (though outpatients find it difficult to continue the program due to the expense and rigor). Similarly, for some health conditions, a nutrient-monitored vegetarian diet may indeed be helpful in reversing disease. But for the average person, dietary balance is the key. Forks Over Knives did not convince me that moderate amounts of animal protein can't be part of that balance.

My recommendation: Skip Forks Over Knives and spend that time working out a plan to move your consumption of animal products to lower levels and your consumption of fresh, organic vegetables to much higher levels. And then do it!

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Categories: Food movie, vegetarian movie, vegan movie.   Produced and directed by Brian Wendel, Lee Fulkerson, John Corry, Allison Boon.   Runtime: 61:17


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