By Pete Williams
I finally got around to watching Forks over Knives, the excellent food documentary released last year that examines the claim that many degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.
Like the movie Food Inc., which visited many of the topics explored by Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Forks Over Knives is something of a video version of The China Study, the 2005 book co-authored by biochemist T. Colin Campbell, who along with Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn is one of the two main people in the film calling for a plant-based diet and eliminating all animal protein.
Like Food Inc., and the lesser-known but equally effective InGREEDients produced by Tampa filmmaker David Burton, Forks Over Knives makes a compelling argument for getting away from processed foods and animal products, not just to curtail the obesity epidemic but also to prevent diabetes and many cancers.
Filmmaker Lee Fulkerson takes a page from the Morgan Spurlock “SuperSize Me” playbook, exposing his own horrific diet and showing the impressive bloodwork improvements in just a few months on a plant-based diet. Endurance athletes also are well represented. There’s Dr. Esselstyn’s son Rip, a pro triathlete-turned-firefighter who implemented a plant-based diet at his Texas fire station, and Ruth Heidrich, who overcame a grim breast cancer diagnosis with the diet and is still doing triathlons in her 70s.
As with any diet-based book or movie, there are critics. Given the health benefits of fish, some wonder if fish should be lumped in with the evils of meat and dairy. Esselstyn also advocates no nuts, seeds, or olive oil – all plant-based foods widely believed to have health benefits.
I’ll leave that for nutritionists to debate. My only objection to Forks Over Knives is that it might have left some of its best material on the floor.
After an interesting and exhaustive discussion of how animal proteins clog the arteries leading to the heart, the film briefly mentions that it’s the same process that’s inhibiting blood flow to other regions, namely the male hydraulics. Forks Over Knives features several people who discarded their diabetes medications after turning to a plant-based diet. It would have been powerful to hear from a couple of ED sufferers who ditched the little blue pills.
Speaking of urology, the movie is a compelling argument for using a plant-based diet to prevent prostate cancer. As someone who had a high PSA reading last year (false positive as it turned out but still a scary few weeks) I’m all for improving the odds.
But here’s where Forks Over Knives missed a great opportunity. It makes no mention of the most painful byproduct of eating too much animal protein: kidney stones. A year ago, I underwent two surgeries to remove a whopping 1-cm kidney stone.
Doctors do a terrible job analyzing diet, so I was left to figure it out myself. I identified the culprit as protein shakes, namely putting way too much – actually whey too much – protein powder in my post-workout recovery drinks. But after cutting whey protein 90 percent last February, my bloodwork still came back in April and again in October with too much animal protein in the diet.
I’m a high-risk candidate for another stone.
Not to minimize the impact of diabetes and obesity, but Forks Over Knives might have an even more powerful message, at least for men:
Guys, if you want to avoid the Urologist’s Triple Threat of erectile dysfunction, kidney stones, and prostate cancer, a plant-based diet is for you.