Forks Over Knives is a documentary on the subject of diet and how it can affect our health. The film focuses on how a whole foods plant-based diet can prevent and possibly cure a lot of the diseases and health problems that occur with the US population right now. We all know that there are problems with obesity in this country and it has started to affect even the children.
The documentary is written, narrated, and directed by Lee Fulkerson who has quite a lot of experience in the documentary field. The film opens with him wanting to take better care of himself after gaining weight, not sleeping well, and developing a habit of downing cokes and Red Bulls. He meets with a couple of doctors, Drs. Matthew Lederman and Alona Pulde, who run a practice based on switching patients to a plant-based diet. Fulkerson as well as another patient are put on the plant-based diet and their progress is seen throughout the film.
Forks Over Knives does not just focus on individual cases, but goes through the history and studies around the plant-based diet. The main two proponents for this diet are Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. of Cornell and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. of the Cleveland Clinic, who both came to the same conclusion about the benefits of this diet, though on different paths of discovery. Dr. Campbell comes from a nutrition background and looked at a trend in cancers relating to diet in China. Dr. Esselstyn ran a long-term study for those with severe coronary artery disease and what happened when they switched to the plant-based diet. Both Campbell and Esselstyn are heavily featured in the film as their studies make up the basis for the showing what can happen to people who switch to this diet. Their studies are the most convincing evidence that you should stop eating meat and dairy right now.
I enjoy documentaries probably more than the average person. I like to get a different viewpoint on some issues, learn something new, or learn more about something I vaguely already know about. I did like Forks Over Knives, but the scientist in me could not ignore the lack of statistically significant evidence. We all are exposed to being presented with new scientific studies on the news, such as “studies found that egg consumption increased cholesterol levels.” What we are given are correlations or trends, but that does not mean that one thing causes the other (causation). The studies that Dr. Campbell looked at in China were so broad and large in scope, that it would be hard to control all the other variables in people’s lives to statistically prove that diet was the cause of cancer. The evidence for the correlation is amazing, but there is a nagging part of my brain wanting to see the study and how everything was measured. Granted, the documentary was made to appeal to everyone, not the scientific community, but the general public may be more apt to take everything that is seen as truth without investigating on their own.
There were some things that the film was missing. Forks Over Knives did not discuss what you could drink on this diet. Considering the Fulkerson had a bad habit of drinking caffeinated and sugary drinks, I thought this should have been addressed. They also did not really explain what “whole foods” was in the whole foods plant-based diet. It was not a reference to the supermarket chain, Whole Foods, even though people were seen shopping there. The film also did not focus very much on exercise, just mainly the diet, even though some of the people who were featured in the film did work out on a regular basis. The film does not include any dialog on organic vs non-organic foods. I was curious to know if you ate only organic meat and dairy if this would have any beneficial effect on health, but there was no mention. The film pushes an entirely plant-based diet.
The film ran entirely too long and should have ended about a half-hour before it did. When you find yourself bored and fidgety to get out of your seat, you know the credits need to come soon. I also found the production value to be a little low especially at the beginning. The sound quality was lacking in some of the interviews. There were also way too many shots of meat being grilled and eaten. We get it! We should not eat meat!
Forks Over Knives has a great idea at its heart and the intent of the film is good. I think that the film provides a worthwhile conversation on the state of our health and what our diet is like today. The uber-carnivore will not like this documentary, but if you are open to trying new things, you might come away with a new outlook on what you should be eating. Although I thought it was missing some elements and there were some issues with the length and production quality, the documentary turns out to be an okay film that will open some eyes to a new way of life.
I give Forks Over Knives 3 “My flag is still flying” out of 5.