Movie Review “Forks Over Knives” – Part One: Introduction

“Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything. “ Count Rugen in ‘Princess Bride’

Forks Over Knives

Forks Over Knives, released in 2011, is a movie about the modern diet which seeks to support “the profound claim 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.”

I have two friends who recently became Vegan. One grew up in the Seventh Day Adventist Church and has never eaten meat; the other has until now been a confirmed omnivore like myself. Both are in their mid thirties and both have adopted the Vegan lifestyle out of health concerns. One of these friends challenged me to watch this documentary, and I accepted the challenge.

Forks Over Knives is a documentary. For those of you who expect to be entertained by what you watch, you will most likely find viewing it to be pretty slow going. However, for those of you who are interested in what the film makers have to say, I believe you will be fascinated with the information which is presented, as was I.

I did not read any reviews before watching it so I could see it with as much of an unprejudiced eye as possible. Plus, before forming my final opinion I watched the documentary several times to be certain I understood its message clearly.

After having watched Forks Over Knives I felt it was a worthwhile exercise to write a review of it in order to help me better understand and be able to articulate my thoughts on the material presented, but also so that I could share my perspective with the readers of LukewarmLegumes who I believe will find the topic of interest and benefit.

Admittedly, I am a foodie and not a nutritionist nor trained medically and offer my perspective in that context. But even so I am certain, if you have read this far, you will be interested in my analysis. I am thankful for and highly respect the work of the two principles of this work: pioneering researchers Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

The documentary begins with a plethora of snippets about the Western Diet, its unhealthy character, and the prevalence of certain health conditions, in order to establish that we (particularly those in the United States) are facing a major health crisis. The documentary points out that we in the U.S. pay more for healthcare per person than any other industrialized nation in the world, “yet we’re sicker than ever.” Heart Disease: Diabetes: Chronic Fatigue, these are all health issues we predominately suffer from and they are on the increase.

This documentary suggests that there is a simple solution to all of these ills: switching to an exclusively plant based diet and eliminating all processed foods.


Here is a Synopsis of the movie from the Forks Over Knives website:

What has happened to us? Despite the most advanced medical technology in the world, we are sicker than ever by nearly every measure.

Two out of every three of us are overweight. Cases of diabetes are exploding, especially amongst our younger population. About half of us are taking at least one prescription drug. Major medical operations have become routine, helping to drive health care costs to astronomical levels. Heart disease, cancer and stroke are the country’s three leading causes of death, even though billions are spent each year to “battle” these very conditions. Millions suffer from a host of other degenerative diseases.

Could it be there’s a single solution to all of these problems? A solution so comprehensive but so straightforward, that it’s mind-boggling that more of us haven’t taken it seriously?

FORKS OVER KNIVES examines the profound claim 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 major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

Dr. Campbell, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University, was concerned in the late 1960’s with producing “high quality” animal protein to bring to the poor and malnourished areas of the third world. While in the Philippines, he made a life-changing discovery: the country’s wealthier children, who were consuming relatively high amounts of animal-based foods, were much more likely to get liver cancer. Dr. Esselstyn, a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, found that many of the diseases he routinely treated were virtually unknown in parts of the world where animal-based foods were rarely consumed.

These discoveries inspired Campbell and Esselstyn, who didn’t know each other yet, to conduct several groundbreaking studies. One of them took place in China and is still among the most comprehensive health-related investigations ever undertaken. Their research led them to a startling conclusion: degenerative diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even several forms of cancer, could almost always be prevented – and in many cases reversed – by adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet. Despite the profound implications of their findings, their work has remained relatively unknown to the public.

The filmmakers travel with Drs. Campbell and Esselstyn on their separate but similar paths, from their childhood farms where they both produced “nature’s perfect food,” to China and Cleveland, where they explored ideas that challenged the established thinking and shook their own core beliefs.

The idea of food as medicine is put to the test. Throughout the film, cameras follow “reality patients” who have chronic conditions from heart disease to diabetes. Doctors teach these patients how to adopt a whole-food, plant-based diet as the primary approach to treat their ailments – while the challenges and triumphs of their journeys are revealed.


In subsequent posts I will further examine the claims of this documentary, both in regards to the problem as it is presented and the proposed solution.

Watching this documentary just might transform your life.

Stay tuned.

Part Two: The Problem