Last night we sat down to watch the recent documentary Forks Over Knives. The film makes a simple but rather revolutionary statement, 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.” The film follows The China Study (2006), a book arguing that diets centered on animal products are ultimately detrimental to human health, showcasing a massive study that took place in China where dietary patterns were correlated with different forms a cancer, cardiovascular and other diseases. The authors of the study, biochemist T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., and his son, Thomas M. Campbell II, M.D., promote veganism as a means of reducing and reversing disease. The documentary looked at the massive growth rate of cancers and heart disease in the United States, comparing it with other nations, connecting them with diet, and then showing how similar diseases have skyrocketed in countries that have adopted a Western diet heavy in meat and dairy.
The film also shows how a conglomerate of business interests has shaped United States government policy with regards to what Americans eat, how much of it they should eat, and why. Coming on the heels of pink slime revelations last week—that the USDA has agreed to purchase 7 million pounds of the lean beef trimmings treated with ammonia (to kill toxic pathogens) and use it as filler in public school children’s lunches–it only reinforced something I already knew.
Overall, the film convincingly argued that we should be eating an entirely plant-based diet, and I hope that more people will see it and take it to heart. It helps that what is intuitive about the diet–that too much meat is a bad thing, for example–is backed by serious science. From today’s Harvard Gazette:
A new study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers has found that red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality. The results also showed that substituting other healthy protein sources, such as fish, poultry, nuts, and legumes, was associated with a lower risk of mortality.
This study provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death….On the other hand, choosing more healthful sources of protein in place of red meat can confer significant health benefits by reducing chronic disease morbidity and mortality.
That said, the film doesn’t offer much nuance. There is little in the way of differentiating what kinds of meats people are eating, whether they are antibiotic and chemical laden, come from abused and traumatized animals, have a terrible environmental, health, and spiritual signature, and whether people are eating clean and healthy meats. The argument is that we would all benefit by going vegan, and I feel uncomfortable with one-diet-fits-all approaches (especially when so many vegan products are highly processed and full of soy). I’d love to see more about the studies that were performed, or studies that look at different animal-product based diets, but in the end, this is a film that I’d want my dad to see.
- "Verily! In the heavens and the earth, there are signs for the believers. And in your own creation, as well as in the creation of all the animals pervading the earth, there are signs for those who believe." (Qur'an 45:3,4)