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Integrative Nutrition Reviews: Forks Over Knives

September 26, 2011

This is part of our new Integrative Nutrition Reviews series, where we will consider books, movies, and other media related to health, food, and personal wellness. If you'd like to suggest a particular book or movie for Integrative Nutrition to review in the future, please comment!

"Let food be thy medicine." - Hippocrates, Father of Western Medicine

Hippocrates' message is intimately familiar to the Integrative Nutrition community, but what was once obvious to the ancient Father of Western Medicine is increasingly forgotten amongst modern eaters.

The 2011 documentary Forks Over Knives hopes to remind us.

The 90-minute film relates the medical findings of two doctors, T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn, both over-seventy years old but still vibrant and active. After years of research in health and nutrition, the MDs (who incidentally both grew up on dairy farms) found themselves on the fringes of their medical communities when they determined that their most effective treatment for the world's most common diseases was no pill or surgery, but the vegan diet.

Study after study, and patient after patient, the doctors found that not only could they treat the symptoms of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer with a vegan diet, but even reverse high-cholesterol and blood pressure, cure diabetes, and in some cases, send cancer into remission.

The patients, visibly healthier and whole-heartedly enthusiastic, back up the doctors' claims, citing not only improving health statistics, but also positive changes in their quality of life, mood, and energy as they adapt to the vegan lifestyle.

Unfortunately for the doctor protagonists, the message of healing through a plant-based diet has brought derision from some colleagues, and even outcries of "extremism." Wouldn't Hippocrates find the modern treatments of pills, shots, and open-heart surgeries far more extreme than veganism?

Interestingly, the movie uses the word "vegan" only once or twice, instead promoting a "whole foods, plant based diet" which is free of any animal products or dairy.

With a wealth of eye-opening statistics, the movie persuasively conveys the Why of adopting a vegan diet. Where it falls short is the How. The Standard American Diet is more prevalent in the world than ever, and for most people, the scary statistics are not enough. They simply do not know what foods to buy or how to cook them.

Forks Over Knives powerfully conveys the need to let food be our medicine, but now the world needs step-by-step instructions. Perhaps a sequel is in order.