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VegParadise Media Reviews

Forks Over Knives

Written and Directed by Lee Fulkerson

Executive Producer Brian Wendel
Producers John Corry and Allison Boon

Monica Beach Media, 2011
DVD $19.99


Forks Over Knives:

(Companion Book)

Edited by Gene Stone

The Experiment, 2011
Paperback, $13.95

When documentary devotees look back at films released in the last two decades of the 20th Century and the first decades of the 21st, they might overlook one of the most significant features to hit the screens in many years. Forks Over Knives does not report on scandals, political controversy, or ethnic wars. Instead it spotlights the public health crisis that affects everyone in the United States.

The film does not feature any national celebrities or Hollywood stars, but instead presents two unlikely grass-roots heroes who have been lionized in recent documentaries devoted to national health concerns. Its unlikely stars are two men in their late seventies who have amassed a legion of followers tuned in to their health message.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. are the movie's leading men who have joined forces to bring a life-saving message to the public. The doctors urge an eating plan that emphasizes plant-based, whole foods to replace a diet loaded with animal protein that contributes to many chronic conditions, especially diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Forks Over Knives Dr. Campbell explains during his research he was able to stimulate tumor growth in mice with casein, a milk protein. He reveals how a diet that emphasizes meat and dairy triggers cancer and other chronic diseases. He also details his work in the The China Study, the largest epidemiological study of its kind, revealing a dramatic relationship between diet and chronic diseases.

Author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Dr. Esselstyn explains his multiyear study demonstrating his subjects were able to reverse serious heart disease by changing what they ate and switching to a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle.

Evelyn Oswick shares her story of heart disease so dire her cardiologist sent her home to prepare to die after her two heart attacks. There was nothing more her doctor could do for her. She was one of the hopeless cases sent to Dr. Esselstyn who simply placed her on a whole-foods, plant-based regimen. Twenty years later she is alive to extol the merits of this program.

Anthony Yen tells about his agonizing chest pains and undergoing a quintuple bypass operation, but his case was considered so hopeless he was sent to Dr. Esselstyn. Twenty years later he is still alive and boasts "the flag still rises," a reference to the fact that he has no erectile dysfunction problems because of his plant-based diet.

One of the highlights of the film is writer-director-narrator Lee Fulkerson's personal story. He places himself under the care of Los Angeles Dr. Matthew Lederman who begins with a thorough physical examination and a series of blood tests before introducing his patient to the new plant-based lifestyle. Near the conclusion of the film, Fulkerson returns to Dr. Lederman after 13 weeks on his new diet plan and learns the great strides he's made in improving his health. The movie maker has lost 20 pounds. His blood pressure is normal and his pulse rate has dropped considerably. His cholesterol level plummets from 241 down to 154 while his LDL (bad cholesterol) drops from 157 down to 80.

Lee Fulkerson A few naysayers are given the opportunity to advocate the necessity for animal protein in the diet. Dr. David Klurfeld of the USDA talks about the bias of people who are promoting a vegetarian diet. Connie Diekman, past president of the American Dietetic Association, makes the case that eating meat is the best way to acquire protein. What the film does not mention is that Diekman served on the 2010 Advisory Panel of the National Dairy Council.

Cameos present people who achieved success with a whole-foods, plant based diet. Iron man athlete Ruth Heidrich overcame breast cancer and is still flourishing well into her seventies. Dr. John McDougall has achieved notable success with his patients by emphasizing a whole-foods plant-based diet as a health cure. Fighter Mac Danzig is doing quite well on his vegan diet. Firefighter Rip Esselstyn has not only persuaded firefighters to turn in this direction, but has also evangelized this program to the general public through his book Engine 2 Diet and his DVD The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue.

The real stars of Forks Over Knives are T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn. The production captures their selfless devotion to their cause. These two doctors have emerged as leaders in a health revolution. Through research and practical experience they have come to understand the benefits of a whole-foods, plant-based diet, and they are anxious to share this information with the public.

Along with interviews of real people who have achieved success with this dietary program, the film includes testimonies by experts to support the diet's health benefits. This well-constructed film employs numerous animations, charts, and graphs to simplify explanations. Lee Fulkerson shows considerable skill in telescoping all of this information into 90 minutes of screen time. Most compelling is his personal health story revealed in the film. The numbers don't lie. After 13 weeks he achieved some remarkable health improvements.

Buy the DVD or see it at a group screening, but don't miss it. It might save your life.

Forks Over Knives: the Plant-Based Way to Health is designed to be a companion piece to the documentary. With its 125 recipes, its purpose is to help ease the transition into a whole-foods, plant-based diet.

Forks Over Knives Featured are essays about the experts who appear in the film.

The section Eating the Forks Over Knives Way gives advice on Reading Nutrition Labels as well as Tips on Transitioning and Kitchen Tools.

Your Guide to Plant-Based Foods divides foods into categories:

  • Foods to Eat Freely
  • Foods to Eat More Sparingly
  • Lightly Processed/Instant/Ready-Made Foods That Are Okay to Eat
  • Which Food are Concentrated Sources of Vitamin C? Potassium? Calcium?

The 125 recipes cover Breakfast, Smoothies and Nondairy Milks, Appetizers, Soups, Salad Dressings, Sauces and Snack Ideas, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, and Desserts.

The book concludes with metric Conversion Charts providing calorie counts for fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and seeds, and sweeteners and other flavorings.

The Appendix offers books and websites to consult and presents information about the contributors.

Forks Over Knives: the Plant-Based Way to Health is a valuable supplement to the film for people who are anxious to proceed with a whole-foods, plant based program. Author Gene Stone has assembled a comprehensive, easy-to-follow guidebook that will help newcomers launch themselves on the road to health improvement.

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