Forks Over Knives

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I’m an ethical vegetarian. I came to eat a vegetarian diet because of my unease with having animals die for me. If I could live on a diet that didn’t require animals to die, then that was what I wanted to do. The health aspects of it, didn’t really come into it at all, other than me making sure I was getting all the nutrients I need in my vegetarian diet.

There are people out there, though, who are stressing the health rather than the ethical values of a vegetarian diet. ‘Forks Over Knives’ was the most prominent one I’d come across. The Forks Over Knives website has the basics, but it’s there to supplement the book and the documentary film. The film is on DVD but only in Region 1 format. I did a quick bit of googling and managed to find the film online.

It’s ninety minutes long and very much in the American style. It puts a persuasive case for a plant-based diet (they don’t call it vegan, I suspect because that might be too scary). They put the blame for heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure squarely on meat and dairy products and promise that any signs of these disease can be stopped and remedied by eating a low-fat vegan diet.

I don’t know enough science to argue the case with them. They quote studies that show a correlation between a diet with meat and dairy in it with the heart disease and cancer rates. However they don’t show a large-scale study where these diseases are removed by a vegan diet. They have stories of people who have apparently done this, but no studies on the same scale as the first. It also raises some of my hackles that it comes up with an ‘all you have to do’ solution. I hate those. I do not believe that there are any issues in the real world that have single, easy solutions and certainly not something as complex as the human body.

Still, it’s an interesting documentary and it certainly adds another level of motivation for me to stick to a vegetarian diet.

Edit: I found a critique of the documentary here on WordPress. It highlights some of the issues that were nagging me – correlation is not causation and the lack of big studies of the vegan diet.

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5 responses »

  1. I’m actually reading a book on nutrition at the moment because I felt I needed to know more and it’s very good at not advocating or demonizing an omnivorous diet, a vegetarian diet, or a vegan diet. One thing it does do is give guidelines on finding reputable sources because so many are actually advocating their own special diet or pushing an agenda. It does mention a number of studies with assorted results in the ‘meat is bad’ category, but there are others that show no connection. I think ultimately dietary/healtlh studies are almost doomed to failure from the get-go; the human body is far too complex for studies that only look at one aspect to cope with – there are just too many contributory factors not just in terms of diet, but you have to throw in lifestyle and genetics and environment all of which have their own factors as well. It makes me wish that diet/health wasn’t such a monumental money-making business because I do think there’s so much, for want of a better word, propaganda and product/agenda-selling bias that it’s often verging on mis-information and quite possibly does more harm than good.

    Oop, bit of a rant, sorry 🙂

  2. For the veggie stuff I can recommend the Vegetarian Society and/or the Vegan Society websites. You can get sane, reasonable advice on there. I’m trialling a vegan diet at the moment. I haven’t announced it widely yet because I don’t know if it’s going to work for me. Whatever diet you go for, however, cutting out the processed crap is always going to help!

    • Thanks, I’ll have a look. I’m not too bad on the processed food front, as it was rarely a part of my diet growing up. I do know I need to cut down on some thing and increase on others though. I’m not thinking of going veggie, but I do want to cut down on the meat I eat and find some decent substitute recipes and things; similarly I want to increase the fruit/veg ratio in a way that works for me (salads just don’t cut it sadly).

  3. Himself spent a few years in a department with a large number of nutritionists and concluded that they know very little with any certainty. If you eat no vegetables at all then you get scurvy is an established fact. Five portions of fruit or veg per day is entirely made up and has no basis in science. They have correlations, I believe, between fatty diets and over-weightness and between weight and heart disease etc., but are struggling to correlate fatty diets themselves with heart disease and its ilk. This was a few years back now, but I’ve not heard anything that suggests the scenery has changed here.

    • I remember reading that five-a-day is inadequate, but the most they thought they could get away with with the general public. I know from the little reading I’ve done into nutrition that as soon as they think they’ve found a factor that controls appetite or weight gain, as soon as they remove it, the body kicks in with something else.

      Unfortunately nutrition research is more politicised (at least in the states) than climate change research, so it’s difficult to get to the truth and more difficult to get it into public policy.

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