“Forks Over Knives” is a documentary in which Lee Fulkerson creates a food and health film a la “Supersize Me.” Instead of eating only at McDonald’s for a month and nearly killing himself though, Fulkerson eats a plant-based whole foods diet for six months and basically saves his life. As expected, we see him go off his cholesterol and blood pressure medications, drop a substantial amount of weight, sleep better and increase his energy. We also see three other ailing people: one with breast cancer, one given less than a year to live because of heart problems, and one with absurdly high cholesterol, all well again after adopting a plant-based diet.
Theorizing that most of our major health issues (including heart disease, cancer and diabetes) can be prevented, and in some cases reversed, the film presents facts, figures, statistics, and evidence supporting a whole foods plant-based diet free of animal protein and dairy. The work centers on decades of research conducted by Dr. T. Colin Campbellof Cornell University and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic. Campbell is best known and widely respected as the author of the massive China study, which followed millions of Chinese over decades and found that increases in their occurrence of cancer and heart disease directly paralleled their adoption of a Western diet. The film condenses and highlights The China Study as well as Esselstyn’s hands-on case study of the direct correlation between food and chronic disease. Along with interesting anecdotal theories behind the digestive system, the pleasure seeking principle, and governmental, subsidy-and-agribusiness-loving, policy.
“Forks Over Knives” is not subtle. It hammers information and acts as if it had been made for doctors to see in medical school. And let me forewarn you, the first half hour doesn’t do much to grab the viewer’s attention. But for the initial five-minute collage of news soundbytes about how horrible the standard American diet is, there’s little in the beginning of the documentary to really make you sit up on the edge of your seat and draw you in as the last hour does. In other words, it’s desperately in need of a Morgan Spurlock charisma, humor and personality to balance the steady stream of scientific facts coming in. But stick with it. It is poignant, timely, and relevant. It is humble, low-key and refreshingly non-preachy. It positions itself as a documentary about health, and simply proposes the plant-based, whole foods diet as the road to a long, active life. Combining the work of two esteemed doctors into a condensed synopsis of an hour and a half, along with real-life case studies of people who have dramatically improved their health after just a few weeks on a plant-based diet, is something that’s invaluable for the spread of this message which could do so much to change our country’s health.
Now available on Netflix.