US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Movie review: Forks over Knives

By Patrick McCormick | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
Directed by Lee Fulkerson (Monica Beach Media, 2011)

Lee Fulkerson’s version of an old medical joke would go something like this. “Doctor,” the patient complains, “when I eat the standard American diet, I get cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, a ton of chronic diseases, and I have to take a bucket of expensive pills every day.” “Well,” the two sage physicians in Fulkerson’s documentary reply, “stop eating animal and dairy products and processed foods and shift to a plant-based diet of whole foods. That will shrink your tumors, clear your arteries, lubricate your joints, improve your sleep, wean you off your meds, and cut the nation’s runaway health care bill by 70 percent.”

But Fulkerson’s documentary about the threats posed to our personal and national health by a Western diet rich in animal and dairy products isn’t funny. For although doctors T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn have amassed a very strong case in favor of cutting meat and dairy from our diets, it is a prescription that is unlikely to go down easily for many of us.

Americans (including this writer) have grown accustomed—if not addicted—to a diet rich in animal protein, processed carbohydrates, and refined sugars of every sort, and the news that we need to cut back on this stuff is pretty unsettling. Most of our farmers and agribusinesses have grown dependent on corn and grain subsidies that fuel our addiction to cheap meat and dairy, while the USDA has been deeply influenced by corporate interests committed to selling us more and more animal and dairy products. So just saying “no” to burgers and malts is quite tough, indeed.

Forks over Knives is one of those films that will force you to think a bit about the stuff we put in our mouths and the ways supposedly healthy food can sicken a nation and inflate its health bill. Jesus may have been right that it’s not what we eat that makes us holy. But in this case it is what makes us unhealthy, unwealthy, and unwise.