Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Forks Over Knives Claims Eat Vegan or Die

I recently heard Dr. Esselstyn speak about his vegan-is-best food theory featured in the movie Forks Over Knives. The claims he made were hard to believe and I debated about watching the film because I’m not a fan of vegan propaganda. But curiosity got the best of me, so I bit the bullet and watched the entire movie.   

Forks Over Knives starts with news clips about how Americans are overweight and have medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Then asks the questions; 1) could food be causing these health issues? and 2) is there a single solution to all these problems? The solution . . . . eliminate all animal-based foods and adopt a plant-based diet. The film claims if people do this, all chronic diseases would be eliminated and/or reversed. This is quite a revelation. If it were true, wouldn’t it be widely publicized and promoted by the majority of doctors and health professionals in the nation?

According to Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Campbell, people have two options; 1) eat a vegan/plant-based diet, or 2) die of cancer, heart disease, diabetes or other health complications. What frustrates me as a food-consuming American is that they present these options as if there is nothing in between. It’s either a plant-based diet or death. Many Americans manage to live a healthy lifestyle by consuming a balance diet, including animal proteins, and getting adequate physical activity.

The carefully crafted script and images are aimed at convincing you their theory is correct. The people featured in the movie don’t use the word vegan instead substituting it with the term plant-based. When speaking of “traditional” dietary guidelines and the American diet, the film displays black and white commercials and public service announcements from the 1950’s and 60’s. I believe this is done in an attempt to discredit today’s dietary guidelines, which include meat, milk and eggs, by trying to make them look outdated. When the movie references the “western diet”, images of fast food restaurants appeared, not grocery stores or families eating at home, only fast food restaurants.

According to Dr. Doug Lisle, an evolutionary psychologist and author who speaks in the film, being fat is not linked to laziness. He believes fattening and fast foods are “drugs” that have control over us. With these statements, he takes the responsibility away from people making food choices.   

Certainly diet plays a role in our overall health. The vast majority of science, doctors, and dieticians recommend a balanced diet which includes dairy, meat and eggs. However, if you don’t agree with the doctors in this film, they say it’s because you’re part of the “big ag”, “big government” or “big medicine” conspiracy. As if the entire American food and medicine system is conspiring against them.

These two doctors life’s work is proving a vegan diet is best. If you choose to eat a vegan diet, that’s certainly your right. But it’s wrong to scare people into believing if they eat even the smallest amount of animal protein, they will be unhealthy and die. It’s irresponsible for the film to spread misinformation about the environmental impact of cattle and how animals are treated only to strengthen their message.

This film offers many of the same anti-animal agriculture messages featured in Food Inc., Fast Food Nation, King Corn and Supersize Me. I reviewed these films in my blog Food Inc. or Black Sheep.  

For another review, check out The Center for Consumer Freedom’s Taking a Scalpel to Forks Over Knives and the website An Epidemic of Obesity Myths.

One of the experts in the film is from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). This is an animal rights group, click here to learn more about PCRM.

People have the right to make food choices that work for them and their family. I hope you’ll trust your common sense and look at both sides of the story.


  1. Thank you so much for expressing your view on these ideas. I am a fellow dairy farmer and I am in complete agreement with you! While I respect other people's choice to eat how they wish, I get frustrated when they start pushing their agenda. Thank you for sharing your opinion through your blog and doing what you can to educate those around you. We need more spokes-women (and men) like you! :)

    1. Hahaha...You don't think that 'Got Milk?' isn't pushing an agenda?

    2. Got Milk? is an advertising campaign promoting milk. This film claims to be a fact-based documentary. I found it to be full of inaccurate information with the intention of misleading people.

  2. Brenda
    Have you read Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma? This movie sounds along the same line of thought.

    The book was very well researched and had a heedful script to produce visual images similar to what you are describing. Mr. Pollen did a lot of in-depth research and twisted his finding in a significant way against agriculture.

    To be honest while reading this book I asked my husband a lot of questions concerning corn subsidies, as I don’t have a great understanding about how they work. If people take Mr. Pollen’s word for truth on this issue alone, we are in big trouble.

    It bothers me that healthcare professionals feel comfortable promoting a lifestyle with out animal food recourses, meat, milk and milk products, eggs ect. Leaving out the significant nutrients these foods provide is unbalanced and there is a lot of research that will back up their importance.

    Don’t even get me started on ALL the by-products that agriculture provides!

    Good review post and awareness!

  3. Thanks for the comments Karen and Robyn. I'm familiar with Michael Pollen and his theories. It troubles me that many see him as a food expert when he has no experience working in agriculture or food production. He’s a journalist with a M.A. in English from Columbia University. His business is selling books.

  4. I may have to watch this out of morbid curiosity. Kind of like how you can't look away from a car wreck.

    I should send this "doctor" a picture of my freezer with 280 pounds of meat in it, and a picture of me beside it in all of my unhealthy 6'1 200 pound glory. If anything, I'm unhealthy in the opposite direction.

    By the way, I really like your site and commentary on things. It's now on my favorites list.

  5. Well said. Thank you for the kind words Marc. I appreciate you adding me to you favorites list!

  6. Don't get me wrong, I eat veggies quite a bit. I grow them on my own, I think my garden was 68' x 46' foot this year. But you just can't eat all vegetables and no meat and consider that healthy. He probably has never had a good cut of any kind of meat. The cut you get at your local grocery or Wal-Mart is basically all fat. Start with a quarter pound burger, and it ends up the size of a nickle.

    Oh and it's a pain in the butt to tend to a garden that large, especially when it's time to pick the beans and peas when it's hot and humid in a South Dakota July, but it gives me something to do.

  7. I am glad to read your review of the film. I can't watch these types of films because they just make me mad! I think being healthy is a mix of meats, fruits and vegetables and exercise. I am sticking with that...

  8. It is difficult to watch these types of films because they are so misleading. I appreciate your common sense approach!

  9. I just watched the film. I Do worry about their view on dairy as I'm an 18 year vegetarian and milk is an important (i thought) part of my diet.

    All in all, I think it was a great, unbiased food documentary, one of the better ones I've seen. Everyone should watch to see the HUGE facts discovered and patterns. And form your own diet.

  10. Thanks for your comment. You can feel good about consuming dairy because the nutrition benefits are well documented.

    Milk has been an important part of a healthy diet for generations. Research supports disease prevention and health promotion from vitamin D, calcium, protein, probiotics, whey and the overall package of nutrients that milk provides. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommends consuming 3 servings of dairy daily and increasing our vitamin D intake.

    Leading health organizations such as The American Dietetic Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, Action for Healthy Kids, and National Medical Association, to name a few, recognize the importance of dairy and encourage drinking milk.

    I agree people should consider a variety of sources and make the food choices that work best for them.

  11. This movie was just brought up by a person I know and I was appalled by the allegations he was spewing. Don't people realize that we are living longer than ever across the world due to better, more balanced nutrition? Moderation is the key to healthy living... too much of anything is not the best (I believe). Further, it is important to know where your food comes from, for example, we import a lot of vegetable products from countries that do not have to follow USDA protocols and use chemicals that are not regulated. People really need to stop and think, just a little...

  12. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I like how you think!

  13. Holstein HamburgerMay 6, 2012 at 7:56 PM

    I recently learned about this film from my parents, who bought into it hook, line, and sinker. They insist my dairy industry will survive just fine without them. They are sending me the film, and I will watch it soon. Apparently Dr. Esselstyn grew up on a dairy farm, and this added to the film's credibility for them.

    Their problem especially lies with the casein in milk. I did some of my own research and found this article talking about the heart health benefits of casein in milk. I also found this excellent critique of the film. It does run a bit long as it successfully disputes everything point by point!

  14. I must say, I thought this was a pretty interesting read when it comes to this topic. Liked the material. . . . . knives

  15. Wow where have you guys been there are all kinds of studies including one from Harvard University that link dairy products to certain types of hormone dependent cancers! These are not vegan Doctors! There is nothing misleading about these studies! They are in Peer Reviewed Medical Journals! Do a little more research!

    1. There is not widely accepted, documented, scientific proof that dairy products cause cancer. As I mentioned above, leading health organizations such as The American Dietetic Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, Action for Healthy Kids, and National Medical Association, to name a few, recognize the importance of dairy and encourage drinking milk. Milk and dairy products are healthy and nutritious. That's why the majority of medical professionals support the consumption of dairy products.

  16. Yep meat and milk will kill you. My Great grand mother lived to be 106. Her favorite saying about meatless diets "Oatmeal is for cookies!" She never had any major ailments and was mentaly firm till she passed. She died of internal injuries caused by first calf heifer that bolted in the barn. My grand mother is soon to be 100 and still going at it on the same farm. She nolonger works with the cows but does the gardens and small stock,
    Neither of these ladies ate fast food or even much prepared food most everything came from the farm except what they cant raise/grow,
    And I never met a 100 year old veagan...
    Like your blog and have faved it and sent link to several non farm friends. We need more people like you to help show the truth about american agribiz every one should know where their food comes from.

    1. Glad to hear your great grandmother had such a long life! Living proof that a diet including animal protein is healthy. I appreciate your comments and thank you for sharing my blog with others!


Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment! I’m opening the doors of our farm to share with you and enjoy engaging in discussion. Please be respectful in your comments. I reserve the right to remove posts that include name calling, slander, and vulgar language or contain links to websites that assault animal agriculture.

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