Movie Review – Forks Over Knives – Documentary

Written by Grant Roberts. Posted in Nutrition News

Forks Over Knives purports to claim the majority of degenerative diseases can be controlled or even reversed by simply eliminating all animal products and following a whole plant based diet.

Strange isn’t it? That historical records provide no evidence of any human culture that subsisted successfully solely on a plant based diet.  Yet the reverse is true, with examples like the Inuit / Eskimo existing in vibrant health with low levels of cholesterol and no incidence of heart disease, thriving an all meat diet.

The documentary’s overly simplistic foundation is based on the heavily flawed The China Study, a vegan diet book by T. Colin Campbell a physician who is additionally featured in the film.

The message of the film is highly speculative, scattered, avoids logic, history and credible science with the singular goal of promoting veganism.  It is not my intent to author a review that is equally biased against the vegan lifestyle celebrated in Forks Over Knives. I support anyone who chooses a vegan lifestyle for ethical reasons or an educated decision formed with a complete understanding of the truth and consequences of nutrients.

Is it possible to lead a healthful lifestyle by avoiding all animal products?

Yes it is… but being vegan can be very challenging to avoid deficiencies insuring that all of the essential nutrients necessary for life are provided. This includes protein containing the full compliment of essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and of course hydration.

You may note the aforementioned list excluded the only other macronutrient group – carbohydrates. That is because carbs are in fact non-essential as the body can produce glucose independent of ingesting sugar, which is in essence what carbohydrates are… a source of energy and nothing else.

T. Colin Campbell correctly makes reference to heart disease being largely preventable through diet yet fails to explain that heart disease is in fact a recent phenomenon. Saturated fat from animal products appeared to have no ill effect on humankind until the 1950’s to the present? Is it just a coincidence that the 50- 60’s is about the time vegetable oil and margarine replaced traditional lard and butter with a host of other convenience foods. Nor does Campbell explain that since the 1980’s low fat craze in which there has been a general reduction in animal products… yet obesity, heart disease and diabetes has grown exponentially?

One sound byte that eluded the films editors was truthful… “Grains (are) used to fatten cattle”.  Grains are indeed foreign to cows and humans, so not only is our consumption of a balanced omega 3 to 6 diet ratio dangerously skewed by an overabundance of omega 6 found in vegetable oil and grain based processed foods, so to is our factory farmed animal sources exacerbating the problem (and why omega 3 is the hot new ingredient being added to everything from eggs to orange juice). The advice that should be dispensed is: Eat whole foods, natural grass fed meats and wild fish… basically think outside the “box” and stop eating processed foods – period.

In fact, Forks Over Knives provides no direction or advice as to how one may healthfully adopt the challenging vegan lifestyle or meet the nutritional requirements to support life nor does it discuss exercise, recovery or other lifestyle factors.

One need only consider history to understand that our evolution as a species is resultant of an omnivore lifestyle. Cave paintings thirty thousand years ago do not depict images of asparagus, corn or zucchini because they didn’t exist. Agriculture is a recent invention (approx 10,000 years) and since its unprecedented rise it is not only responsible for forming civilization, as we know it, but also the subsequent decline of human health. Cave walls are fittingly decorated with animals and spears because it was precisely the challenge, and the reward of animal protein and essential fats that formed our larger brains that enabled our rise to the top of the food chain.

So, I suppose the small mindedness of writer /director Lee Fulkerson and Campbell is understandable – yet inexcusable.

“Eating foods that contain cholesterol above 0 mg is unhealthy” T. Colin Campbell

As an aside you the reader might be interested to note that Cholesterol which is only found in animal sources is an essential component to life – without it we would die and that mothers’ milk is extremely high in cholesterol – so either nature is trying to kill us from the onset or Campbell is just a charlatan? I suggest the latter.

The message of Forks and Knives is based upon Campbell‘s selective observations of manipulated and the overtly omitted data. In his vegan diet book The China Study, he somehow draws a single theory from more than 8,000 associations delineated from recall questionnaires, guess-timation and observation resultant of a 19 year study funded by National Health Services. His anything but scientific response was  “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”.

Observational studies are simply irresponsible and potentially dangerous, they do not account for a multitude of variables. One could just as easily hypothesize that the subjects in The China Study were healthier than the American counterparts – therefore speaking English must be the cause of obesity and related diseases.

Campbell’s selective observations are surmised in one of his exaggerated graphs coupled with Campbell stating he can comprehensively turn cancer on and off by reducing animal protein from 20% to 5%.

His statement is based on a selective liver cancer experiment that was initiated in rats by introducing a carcinogenic toxin – namely Aflatoxin (AF). What the documentary does not tell you is that AF is a naturally occurring toxin that manifests as mold found in plant based foods – specifically whole grains such as corn, rice, wheat and peanuts.

Campbell then proceeds to tell the audience that the accelerant of cancer is animal based protein. What the audience is not told is that the protein in this case is specifically Casein found in milk. (Casein from the Latin word caseus for “cheese”).

Additionally, the audience is not told that casein (an unnatural animal based protein since humans subsisted healthfully for millions of years without another species milk products) has a similar molecular structure to plant based gluten and completely omits any reference to an abundance of evidence regarding plant based autoimmune concerns in wheat gluten, sugar, vegetable oil based man made trans fats, and processed carbohydrates as they pertain to cancer, insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease?

Campbell further omits other studies that show through similar testing that animal based whey protein protects against cancer. Instead Campbell fabricates a condemning unsubstantiated blanket statement inclusive of all animal products.

Campbell’s words: “while chemical carcinogens may initiate cancer process, dietary promoters and anti-promoter control the regulation of cancer foci, and it is nutritional factors, not chemical carcinogens, that are the ultimate deciding factors in the development of cancer”.

If… animal protein consumption is the cause of cancer, or a vegan diet is somehow superior to the omnivore diet – Campbell should be able to site at least one direct correlation; instead the film remains as meatless as its message.

The solution is and always will be a unified and active lifestyle supported by optimum nutrition the way nature intended.

The Forks Over Knives poster goes so far as to say, “this movie could save your life” … do yourself a favor and save the admission fee.

Grant Roberts – Trainer, Nutritionist and Realist

© 2011 Copyrights Grant Roberts, All Rights Reserved


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Grant Roberts

Grant Roberts is recognized as one of Hollywood’s most successful trainers/nutritionists and lifestyle coaches. Roberts received international acclaim following his work with actress Hilary Swank who captured an Oscar® for her performance in the Clint Eastwood film - Million Dollar Baby. Grants clients include Academy Award® winning actors, leaders of industry, world champion athletes, he is a consultant to the US military.

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