Forks Over Knives

forks-over-knives

 

Forks Over Knives is a commercial for the vegan diet disguised as a documentary. Over the course of the film, the makers seek to convince the audience of the value of dropping meat and dairy from your diet and moving to a vegan diet. I gave the movie a careful, critical viewing, taking notes the whole time. These notes were taken while watching the movie, so there isn’t really a format or style at play here. I’m not advocating for or against the vegan lifestyle, what I am advocating is critical engagement with information. Don’t just blithely accept what you’re told because the people who are telling you these things are doctors. Remember the Millgram experiment ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millgram_study ).

Red flag #1: insinuated connection between unhealthy lifestyle and medicine.

First four minutes are spent driving up fear, beating the audience over the head with stats, disease and other such manipulative techniques to make the audience as scared as possible. This drives down the ability to think critically, and a willingness to accept what the audience is being told.

Red flag #2: attempted connection between non-human milk and poor health

There are other essential elements to meat than just protein. More can be found here: http://www.livestrong.com/article/518960-what-nutrition-does-meat-have/

The idea that too much of a thing means that any of a thing is bad for you doesn’t hold any water. All it means is that you have to cut down on the amount of that thing. In this case, a reduction of cholesteral and less red meat. It doesn’t necessarily suggest removing red meat from a diet entirely, just a reduction in its consumption.

The example with the Philippines has more to do with a population switching from a traditional diet to a diet that they’re not familiar with. A good example of this is the lower rates of lactose intolerance in those with a European lineage as opposed to those with an African or Asian lineage, both of which have much higher rates of lactose intolerance. Because of the greater dependence on dairy in the European populations, lactose is more easily digested. This historic dependence does not exist in Asians or Africans, thus explaining the higher rates of lactose intolerance. Moving from a traditional diet is always going to carry with it negative consequences.

This can also be applied to the Hawaiian example. This is very simple evolutionary biology. It’s also curious that no dissenting opinions or experts are interviewed or cited. Nor is it suggested that a reduction in red meats would be good. There’s also no distinction as yet between poultry, pork and beef.

Sugar is sugar. There’s no distinction in the sources of sugar, because the chemical is identical in every instance. Beet sugar is exactly the same as cane sugar and other such sugars.

The rat protein study only suggests moderation in terms of protein consumption.

First dissenting opinion at the twenty-six minute mark. And while it is true that you are able to receive the same amount of protein from plant based foods as animal based foods, it’s more expensive, more difficult and often requires dietary supplements. This is demonstrated by the movie’s sponsorship by Whole Foods, a not-coincidentally expensive grocery store. Even if Whole Foods wasn’t more expensive than other stores, it’s still less likely to be found in more rural and less affluent areas of the country. The sort of diet espoused in the movie just isn’t possible by a wide-range of America.

The overconsumption of anything is going to cause problems. I can’t speak to the cited issues with so-called ‘plant based’ and ‘animal based’ proteins. Though, common sense dictates that a protein is a protein, same as with sugars. From this article: http://www.tcolincampbell.org/courses-resources/article/animal-vs-plant-protein/ it seems that the best course of action is a combination of meat and plant based proteins, since meat proteins are more easily metabolized and more complete, while plant based proteins have other necessary elements like fiber. Generally speaking, both plant based protein and animal based protein carries with it positives and negatives; plants aren’t as complete as animal based, and animal based carries with it a higher amount of cholesterol.

The problem with high fructose corn syrup is that it’s found in so many different places and is so inexpensive. It’s still a sugar and a sugar is a sugar, so it carries with it the same exact problems as other sugars, no more and no less.

Actually, Dr. Lisle. The obesity problem in America is highly suggestive that the public is less active than it has been in the past. This is demonstrated simply by the higher rates of obesity themselves; people who are able to work off the calories gained over the course of time are less likely to be obese. A change in diet is good, but an increase in physical activity is what’s going to start burning off excess fat.

This is feeling more like a commercial than a fact-based documentary. The thing that’s striking me right now was mentioned in the rationalwiki article: that going vegan doesn’t necessarily carry a ton of health benefits, it’s that a vegan diet lacks most of the unhealthy elements from a diet that includes a more-than-healthy amount of junk food such that a poor person or family would be taking in. This is suggestive that fast food is bad, not necessarily meat and dairy.

We’re going back to the problems that were encountered with the Philippines and Hawaii studies. They completely discount evolutionary biology.

As of the forty-three minute mark, the positive health benefits of exercise have not been mentioned a single time. Still only one dissenting opinion. A moderate diet is also not even mentioned, let alone argued for or against. The profiled participants in the movie are also middle to upper class, but because class has only been mentioned once (and by an advocate of the vegan diet), the idea is put forward that even the poor and the working poor are able to afford a vegan diet. This is, once again, dishonest at best.

The documentary continually says that the plant based diet is better than the classic omnivore diet, and yet there isn’t any evidence put forward that suggests even a moderate amount of meat and dairy is unhealthy.

Dissenting opinions? What are those?!

What strikes me, during the MMA interview (no pun intended), is that there hasn’t been any evidence or claims put forth against either poultry, pork or fish. Every claim has centered on red meat.

Two dissenting claims in an hour, both from the same person.

When getting into the food pyramid, the filmmakers go straight for the appeal to ridicule, a logical fallacy that makes the opponent’s claims into something absurd, the effect being that the claim is what’s ridiculous, rather than the way that the claim is presented. So, rather than actually addressing whether the food pyramid is accurate or not, they fold their arms over their chests in a very self-satisfied way.

Another fun thing is the constant appeals to populism, being that the documentary makers are trying to empower the audience against the big bad government and the ‘bad’ doctors who are keeping this information from the audience. This builds up the audience’s egos and prevents them from critically examining the claims being made, suggesting that the audience knows better than either the government or the ‘bad’ doctors.

Rather than actually exploring the reasons given for why dietary suggestions are reformulated every five years (that being that our understanding of diet is still a science in its infancy and something that needs to be refined and retooled every so often), the filmmakers, irresponsibly I’d add, seize directly onto a conspiracy theory that the USDA is in the pockets of big business. This is the sort of claim that you’d see in other shoddy documentaries that are more interested in generating fear than informing the public like Waiting for Superman.

Three dissenting opinions in one hour and ten minutes, and finally from a second source.

“I criticized my own bias.” and then you seemed to stop doing that as soon as you developed a new bias.

“Academic freedom” is a lovely little canard, and one that has absolutely no bearing when it comes to science. Science is not decided by committee or by popular vote. Things that are true are true, and no claims of academic bias will change anything. If the doctor was removed from the committees or from the classes, then it’s because of problems that were not cited by the movie, because those problems would have worked against the narrative being created by the movie.

It doesn’t matter where money comes from, in regards to science. Science is science, and it cannot be influenced in one way or another by corporate funding.

I really do wish that I knew more about biology and cancer, simply because these claims about a vegan diet having the ability to somehow reverse cancer strikes me as incredibly inaccurate and incredibly dangerous. This goes back to the ‘science is science’ thing, being that, if this really was true, it would be shouted from the mountaintops and talked about everywhere that people will listen. This claim is nothing short of dangerous because of the potential for incredulous cancer patients seeing this and immediately going onto a vegan diet, armed with what they perceive to be the truth that their doctors are hiding from them.

DANDRUFF?! REALLY?! Being a vegan apparently makes you into a superhero.

In all, the movie makes a lot of claims that are not backed up, ignores sensible solutions and does not advocate proven solutions to weight loss and management such as exercise. The careful mix of proven science with pseudoscience paints the entire endeavor with the illusion of respectability, all while spoon feeding bad science down the gullet of the audience without even the minimum of evidence to suggest the problems with the claims that they’re putting out. Further, the claims about a vegan diet reversing cancer strikes me as dangerous and ill-conceived. Worse, the movie builds an ‘us versus them’ mentality that ensures a deepened gulf between average Americans and knowledgeable authorities.

For more from people who are more knowledgeable than I am about the claims made in the film, check out the following links:

http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/a_review_of_forks_over_knives/

http://rawfoodsos.com/2011/09/22/forks-over-knives-is-the-science-legit-a-review-and-critique/?blogsub=confirming#blog_subscription-2

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