Choosing Forks Over Knives: Doctors Advocate a Plant-Based Diet
Feb 29, 2012 03:47PM
By Linda Sechrist
Film Producer Brian Wendel’s concern for the many Americans suffering from multiple chronic diseases, as well as the strain this puts on our nation’s health care system and economy, sparked the idea for documenting what doctors researching the issue have to say about it. In his latest film, Forks Over Knives, these pioneering thinkers examine the claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases afflicting humanity can be controlled or reversed by avoiding the ingestion of animal-based and processed foods; more, they make a compelling case that switching to a whole-foods, plant-based diet can restore health.
Much of the foundational science showing why a plant-based diet of whole foods is not only best for everyone’s health, but also for the planet, comes from noted nutrition research pioneer T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. He has summarized his results in his book, The China Study, co-authored with his son, Dr. Thomas M. Campbell. His 1980 study of 130 Chinese villages, involving 6,500 adults and their families, directly tied the consumption of animal protein-based foods to the development of cancer and heart disease.
Based on his research, Colin Campbell, teamed up with Dr. Junshi Chen, currently a senior research professor with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in Beijing, specifically characterized casein, a protein found in milk from mammals, as “the most relevant carcinogen ever identified.” With concrete evidence in hand, and accounting for other diet and lifestyle factors, the pair went on to conclude that consuming whole, plant-based foods offers the best strategy for improving health and preventing serious diseases.
Other solid science presented in the film comes from Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., whose 150 scientific articles complement the 1995 publication of his peer-acclaimed book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, which summarizes the results of his long-term research on arresting and reversing coronary artery disease through nutrition. In his two decades of global research, Esselstyn, who directs the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, found that wherever people ate a plant-based diet, cancer and cardiovascular diseases were rare.
In many of the case histories and personal stories chronicled in Forks Over Knives, diet was used as a treatment for various diseases and cited as being more effective than prescription drugs. Anthony Yen and Evelyn Oswick, for example, attest how their lives were saved by switching to a whole-foods, plant-based diet after a lifetime of illness that included multiple heart attacks and surgeries, as well as chronic chest pain. Treatment under the care of Esselstyn succeeded in reversing advanced-stage heart disease in both cases. Today, they enjoy active lives full of friends, family and meaningful work.
Social media channels such as Facebook have been vital to spreading the word about the effective solutions presented by the Forks Over Knives film and companion book (complete with recipes). Wendel reports inspiring posts such as, “Your film changed my life,” or “I no longer require diabetes medication.”
Potential savings in costs to people and the planet are vast. Consider, for instance, that according to the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, if the entire U.S. population were to adopt a plant-based diet for just one day, the nation would save at least 100 billion gallons of drinking water, enough to supply every person in every home in New England for nearly four months.
Wendel foresees the ForksOverKnives.com website ultimately expanding into a news resource, linking people with information provided by leading experts in the whole-foods, plant-based world via various media platforms. It will also provide opportunities to blog with experts, listen to live broadcasts about food preparation and find resources to help individuals transition to a healthier, plant-based diet.
Linda Sechrist is a senior staff writer for Natural Awakenings magazines.