Researchers Find that Plant-based Diet Can Profoundly Affect Disease Outcomes
There was a special screening for the documentary film Forks Over Knives on April 16, 2015 at The Hoffman Medical Center in Torrance, CA. The film was released in 2011 and was directed by American independent filmmaker Lee Fulkerson. The film promotes a low-fat whole food, plant-based diet as a means of thwarting multiple diseases. Forks Over Knives was shot all over the United States, Canada, and China.
This superb documentary follows the careers of physician Caldwell Esseistyn and Professor T. Colin Campbell. The film suggests that “most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.” In the documentary the cameras follow “reality patients” who have chronic conditions from heart disease to diabetes. The patients are tutored by doctors, who teach the patients how to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet as a primary approach to treating their ailments. The triumphs of their journeys are revealed towards the end of the film.
The film also encapsulates the 20-year China-Cornell-Oxford Project (a study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, Cornell University and the University of Oxford, where T. Colin Campbell was one of the study’s directors). The study looked at mortality rates from cancer and other chronic diseases during the 1980’s in 65 counties in China. The data was correlated with 1983-84 dietary surveys and blood work from 100 people in each county. The research was conducted in those counties because they had genetically similar populations that tended, over generations, to live and eat in the same way in the same place. The study concluded that counties with a high consumption of animal-based foods were more likely to have had higher death rates from Western disease while the opposite was true for counties that ate more plant-based foods. That finding led to Professor Campbell’s conclusions that are outlined in his book, The China Study (2005). The book examines the relationship between the consumption of animal products, including dairy, and chronic illnesses, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancers of the breast, prostate and bowel. The authors conclude that people who eat a whole-food, plant-based/vegan diet – avoiding all animal products, including beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese and milk – and reducing their intake of processed foods and refined carbohydrates will escape, reduce or reverse the development of number of diseases. The study also indicates that “eating foods that contain any cholesterol above 0 mg is unhealthy.” In sum, the authors suggest that coronary artery disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer can be linked to the Western diet of processed and animal-based foods including all dairy products.
The lights go up as the film ends. I notice that the auditorium is jam packed with people of all ages and genders. A few moments then the lights are dimmed a bit as an assembly of guest panelists are seated on stage for inter-dialogue with the audience. Seated on stage before separate microphones are from left to right: Doctor David Wong, integrative physician who co-founded the Health Integration Center in 1978, and Board Chair of the Green Lifestyles Network; Dorit, Greenlifstyles.org creator and founder, as well as a gourmet vegan chef and diet creator; Erin Hoffman, a young woman who has just switched to a whole foods plant-based diet and has reversed high cholesterol levels, and Dr. Robert Swift, adult outpatient medical doctor, who approaches medicine with a holistic, integrative and nutritional approach to prevent and treat chronic diseases associated with aging. He is also the Medical Director for the Thelma McMillen Chemical Dependency program at Torrance Memorial.
A woman stands up and speaks into a microphone telling a story of how her mother had fallen and broken her hip. “I am worried about her diet and getting enough protein in her diet as a vegan and as someone suffering from depression,” she explains. The lady adds a question about a good source of vitamin B and B12. Dr. David Wong suggests Vitamin B for depression. Dr. Swift recommends a plant-based protein powder and a multivitamin. Mrs. Hoffmann also addresses the question and talks about the benefits of adding avocado to her diet, since high avocado intake was shown in a 2013 epidemiological NHANES study, funded by the Hass Avocado Board, to give individuals better overall diet quality, nutrient levels, and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. One preliminary study showed that avocado intake also lowers blood cholesterol levels. Specifically, after a seven-day diet rich in avocados. Dorit then talks about the high protein levels found in hemp, a fantastic nutritional source. She goes into detail about how it is important to mix up your diet plan and try to curtail it to benefit ones own dietary needs.
A young man takes hold of the microphone and ask s about sugar in our diet. Dr. Swift tells him that our daily dietary plan should consist of 7% sugar. “Most of us in America are consuming around 30% sugar in our diets,” Swift says.
More questions are peppered at the panel about how to stay healthy in a world of processed foods and high sugar content. Each panel member has suggestions for remedies: brown rice is better than white rice; olive oil is ok as long as it is not heated, but hemp oil and coconut oil are best; raw natural grains like Quinoa are better than sugary cereals; but, I find the most important advice about eating healthy comes from panel member Dorit, who talks about the damaging effects that media has with respect to our daily diet and health. “If you visit a high school or elementary school kitchen it is alarming the types of lunches that they are feeding our children. It almost as if the government has set out to destroy the health of our population starting as early as elementary school. I am concerned about the devastating and profound role that the media has played in the decline of our health in the Western World, and they should be held accountable for reaching for profits while having a destructive impact on our health.” Dorit says this and quiet hush falls over the audience.
Dr. David Wong responds to a question about the hormones and antibiotics that are fed to cattle. “As a rule of thumb, if it can walk, crawl, or swim, then you shouldn’t eat it,” Dr. Wong explains. Dorit emphasizes the importance of eating a variety of dishes and recommends the website for recipes at https://www.forksoverknives.com.
Dr. Robert Swift steps up to a microphone that sits on a podium off to the side of the stage. His voice ruminates throughout the auditorium. “The title of the film Forks Over Knives, in case you didn’t get it, forks symbolize eating healthy, knives represent the scalpel of the surgeon.” A buzz accumulates in the audience that turns into multiple conversations as the discussion has come to an end and the lights are turned back up. As the panelist step down from the stage they are surrounded by people with more questions.
Forks Over Knives is an important documentary with a message that should reach everyone living on our planet. In the United States, two out of every three people are obese, major medical operations have become commonplace, and health care costs have skyrocketed. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke are the country’s three leading causes of death. Consider what you can do today to make a difference both in your life and in the lives of those around you by seeking a healthier diet and lifestyles, watching your media calories closely, creating a nurturing and loving environment for plants and animals around you, and supporting organizations focused on making the world a better, kinder, safer place.SHARE THIS