I just watched the documentary Forks over Knives. It was an amazing, informative, eye-opening documentary, but again…left me with more questions about food and diet!
The premise of the documentary is that we should all be eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet. This diet can prevent and even cure some of our top diseases (including the top killers like cardiovascular disease and heart attack) and others like diabetes, obesity and hypertension. The documentary follows the research of two doctors, Dr. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn. Who, through more than 40 years of research discovered that a whole-foods, plant-based diet is the best diet for humans for health, long lives and freedom from sickness and disease. But, of course, in North America, we’ve all grown up learning about the importance of protein and foods like milk and dairy, and those who adopt vegan diets are considered extreme. The documentary argues that these notions have been driven by the status quo and the meat and dairy industries and nutritional organizations and officials tied to these industries. Of course it has! That does not surprise me…at all! Everything is driven by industry and cash.
The documentary also follows patients with serious illnesses who are on a whole bunch of meds. One man is taking eight different medications, costing him $250/month above his health insurance. He has type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and some other conditions. He seeks help to treat his problems with food, and after several weeks on the whole-foods, plant-based diet he is able to reverse all of his conditions, come off the medications and has none of the symptoms that were bothering him.
The documentary also follows several patients with severe cardiovascular diseases. One woman was told by her doctor that she should basically just sit and wait to die (the things doctors say to people!!). These people were able to extend their lives far beyond anyone’s expectations, and in some cases reverse their diseases (arteries were repaired) with the whole-foods, plant-based diet. This evidence is obviously significant. I mean they followed several people and watched them get better on this diet, watched them go off their meds, and completely contradict what doctors told them. I think that anyone who is at high risk for heart disease or has high cholesterol, diabetes or hypertension, should not hesitate to adopt this diet.
During his career, the biggest study Dr. Campbell did was called the China Study, in which he went to China, and working with a researcher there, they studied several regions of China, diet and instances of specific types of cancer. After several years collecting and cross-referencing data, they discovered that those regions who subsisted on plant-based food had little to no instances of cancer, while those who had meat and protein heavy diets had high instances of cancer. They describe the findings as significant, meaning there was a clear link.
We cannot deny that in North America we have incredibly high rates of cancer, and those rates are escalating, including breast cancer and prostate cancer. We also can’t deny that those rates are much lower in other countries, like Japan, who have a very different diet (less processed foods, more vegetables). But, what about other factors? Does it depend on the specific foods we eat? I mean we know green tea, red wine, tomatoes have strong antioxidant properties, and specific foods are considered cancer fighting foods. They didn’t look at specific vegetables or foods in the China Study and the people in the american studies in the film, were eating the worst types of foods possible (processed and fast foods) so of course there is going to be a big change when adding in vegetables and whole foods for the first time. Does it follow that we remove all meats and dairy? I’m not sure. Another study done with rats showed that a diet with 20% casein protein caused liver cancer to form, while at 5% it did not form. That would indicate that too much protein is a problem.
For me personally, I eat limited dairy (goat’s milk and yogurt). I do eat eggs and fish, but no other meats. I’ve always been convinced that I need these for iron, protein and vitamins like B12, that cannot be found in plants. I also know that in Japan they do not have a vegan diet. They eat fish and meat, and still have the lowest rates of cancer and other diseases. That being said, it would be very easy for me to switch over to a complete vegan diet. Many of the meals we eat are vegan. But what about my daughter? I know there are vegan kids who are perfectly healthy, but I can’t shake those notions about protein and calcium from my head…especially for a growing body. I grew up on dairy…I did. Milk milk and more milk. But I also know there are a lot of problems with dairy, and many health issues that can be exacerbated by it.
The main issues the movie discusses are serious issues and right on point. North America’s poor eating habits (processed foods, fast foods, high sugar and very few vegetables and whole grains) are leading to billions of dollars being spent in health care as well as chronic illnesses, dependence on medications and early deaths. No one is jumping to fix these things or educate people on nutrition and it’s link to good health because there are industries, like the pharmaceutical industry, who are profiting from it. Meanwhile people are dying from a very preventable epidemic. The whole thing makes me so incredibly mad!
What do you think about a vegan diet? Is it the way to go?
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