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Far more than a polemic for veganism on ethical grounds alone

Forks Over KnivesBased in part on the results of a ground-breaking observational and epidemiological study on nutrition and degenerative disease in China, in the late 90s. by 2 leading scientists, one American and one Chinese, this film pulls no punches and does not pussy-foot around the links between obesity, diabetes, many cancers, coronary heart disease, osteoporosis and other degenerative conditions, and the typical Western industrialised McDiet. That is, a diet high in artificial processed foods, heavily laced with saturated and hydrogenated fats, corn syrup and other sweeteners, salt, meat and dairy produce from factory farmed methods, heavy on the additional growth hormones, antibiotics and fed on pesticide rich vegetation as the least offensive option. Several recent food scandals showed factory farming has also resulted in herbivores being fed ground up animal remains in order to boost weight, with predictable results.

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell

This is a documentary and educational film which takes that study, and others, hooking up Colin Campbell, one of the aforementioned scientists, and author of the mainstream book brought out from those findings, The China Study, with work done with seriously ill patients, treated by radical changes in diet, rather than pharmaceuticals, by clinician Dr Caldwell Esselstyn

Colin Campbell, co-author of The China Study (the book which rendered more suitable for lay readers, that study, which took several years) and clinician Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn go further than linking our additive rich, tampered with, factory farmed chunks of flesh rich diet as the prime cause of the rise in degenerative disease.

Their evidence heavy material convinces that whether heavy meat and dairy consumption is processed or of more natural, traditional provenance, it is the high protein concentration itself which is the problem. There are some sobering cross-over lab studies cited around high levels of protein switching on and low levels of protein switching off tumour development. Sure, these are lab rat studies, and we do always have to question the validity of studies applied to one animal being extrapolated over to another species, but, sobering and thought provoking.

This is of course not new material – there have been many, smaller studies, reaching the same conclusion. What is interesting about The China Study – and this film based largely around those findings, is that both Campbell and Esselstyn, nutritional scientist and clinician, respectively, are not vegans on ethical grounds, or banging a drum for their dietary beliefs through vested financial interests. Rather, both of them, originally from farming (cattle rearing) stock, CHANGED their views because of the evidence they found – Campbell from a life-time in nutritional research, initially espousing the we need more protein line, and Esselstyn working at the start with seriously ill heart attack patients who were so far down the line there was little that could be done for them except a dreadful cocktail of surgery or drugs which were not expected to extend life beyond months. Years later, survivors both from his initial cohort, and later patients, tell their own surprised and miraculous (to them) stories of the rapid and positive changes in health caused by moving to a plant based wholefood diet.

Dr Esselstyn

Dr Esselstyn

As this short, direct, fierce and sensible film wears on, other reasons for vegetarianism are woven in, beyond the compelling evidence for personal health. These include some references to the ethical arguments, the arguments around the waste of resources in terms of land as the clearing of rainforests to provide arable land so that the developed world can continue to eat itself to unwellness continues apace. They lay out information about starvation in some parts of the world happening precisely because resources are going to feed the animals that will feed the haves, rather than the land being used for plant material to feed the have-nots of mankind directly. There are also the economic arguments about the unsustainable costs of healthcare in the developed world, as more and more expensive pharmaceutical drugs are seen as the cure for, or control of, degenerative and debilitating conditions which have been caused by our poisonous diet.

Not to mention tie ups between the interests of big pharma, big agri, and politics.

The film makes the telling case that logic, ethics, evidence, environmental concerns all point to a simpler answer. In the words of that other politics of food prophet, Michael Pollan

Eat Food. Eat Less of It. Eat More Plants

This is not a film presented by sweet hangovers from the love and peace brown rice, flowers in the ringlets and lentils era – this is hard edged, well argued, with plenty of evidence from all sorts of surprising people, including a group of fire-fighters, medal winning runners and a rather well-muscled martial arts experts, that wholefood plants based diets are for seriously fit people. In fact, I thought this film was putting a stake through the vampire heart of the steak-and-pharma industries.

Forks Over Knives Amazon UK
Forks Over Knives Amazon USA