"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Before plant-based products became mainstream, there have been “forks instead of knives”

September 11, 2023 – More than a decade has passed because the documentary Forks over knives A study was published showing that the signs of heart disease in people could possibly be reversed by eating an entire foods, plant-based weight loss plan.

Last summer, one other medical journal published a confirmation of the health advantages of this weight loss plan, and a research team at Oxford University found that diets low in animal products had far-reaching Benefits for the environment in addition to.

The creator and executive producer of Forks over knivesBrian Wendel said he felt compelled to make the documentary despite having no filmmaking experience. The project became one in all the primary mainstream portrayals of the plant-based movement outside of books and medical journals. Wendel, now 51, said his goal was to visually represent the science and stories of how plant-based diets affect people's personal health.

“I just realized that there is a compelling argument that our most common chronic diseases, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, are largely preventable and often reversible with this lifestyle. If there was a pill as effective as a plant-based diet, it would be a headline,” he said.

The former real estate executive identifies himself as a vegan, but he focused the film on the whole-food, plant-based weight loss plan plan that features eating vegetables, fruits, beans, grains and nuts, and avoiding meat, dairy and fish. (Veganism, then again, means avoiding all animal products, including non-food ones, and frequently includes avoiding products tested on animals.)

A comprehensive overview appeared in July in JAMA network opened showed that 20 studies confirmed the numerous impact of plant-based diets on reducing the danger of heart disease and a variety of health indicators corresponding to cholesterol, blood sugar levels, blood pressure and weight. The review combined data from greater than 1,800 individuals who followed a plant-based weight loss plan for not less than 6 months.

The results reflect the groundbreaking results of The China Studywhich represented a vital a part of scientific knowledge, Forks over knives. Led by biochemist Colin Campbell, PhD of Cornell University, this study showed that folks living in rural China had a really different weight loss plan than Americans and that their health was also life-threatening. Compared to Americans, people living in rural China had the next characteristics:

  • Eat foods which have half the fat, a tenth of the animal protein, and thrice the fiber.
  • Had levels of cholesterol that were almost 80 points lower, averaging 127 milligrams per deciliter, which is well inside the healthy range
  • Significantly lower rates of many health problems, especially coronary heart disease.

Empowering people to alter

Forks over knives also brought the science to life by introducing many patients to plant-based nutrition advocate Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., who has personally counseled greater than 1,500 people on plant-based diets. He is now 89 and has no plans to retire. A former breast cancer surgeon, he began studying the link between weight loss plan and serious diseases, including heart disease. In the early 2000s, he began providing dietary counseling to people of their homes and tracking their health.

“The exciting thing is that we have patients here with a potentially fatal disease and, with all due respect to my colleagues in the cardiovascular community, none of the stents, drugs or bypass surgery have anything to do with the cause of the disease,” Esselstyn said. “The cause of the disease is not being treated. The reason for our results – or frankly the reason we succeed where others fail – is that we treat the root cause.”

Participants in his nutrition counseling program attend a virtually six-hour seminar and receive a private phone call from him just a few weeks prematurely.

By comparison, “a normal cardiologist spends between 10 and 12 minutes with his patient,” noted Esselstyn.

Even afterward, he stays in contact together with his newly indoctrinated plant-based followers, albeit less formally. His phone is clearly busy, because he peppers scientific explanations with anecdotes about his patients, often with the phrase, “I just spoke to her on the phone the other day.”

About a decade after Forks over knives was published, people sought Esselstyn's advice after seeing that the health problems of most of his patients improved rapidly, sometimes inside just a few days.

Richard DuBois, 72, of Horseheads, N.Y., was one in all Esselstyn's first clients, back when he was still counseling people from his home. (DuBois was not featured within the documentary.) DuBois, an avid marathon runner (he ran greater than 20), developed chest pains called angina when exercising, and a diagnostic procedure called an angiogram revealed that he had two major blockages of blood flow in his heart, one blockage of 80% and one other of 60%. He was scheduled to undergo bypass surgery, but he first drove six hours together with his wife to see Esselstyn after reading about him in a book: The China Study.

“We probably spent an hour or more with him discussing the science behind his work, after which [his wife] Ann, who's a key a part of the team, got here with an enormous bag of goodies and showed us the best way to do it – the best way to eat, the best way to read nutrition labels, the best way to avoid processed foods – after which they served us an incredible meal,” DuBois recalled of his visit with the couple in 2005.

He decided to try the diet for “per week or two,” felt better and lost weight, so he extended the trial to a month. His cholesterol and lipid levels dropped within that month, and he postponed and then canceled the surgery. He lost about 50 pounds, from about 190 to 140 pounds in 6 months. When he turned 70, he celebrated by running a 70-mile triathlon – something he would not have been able to do even at a much younger age due to his angina.

“A number of people say, 'Oh, I couldn't quit cheese or meat.' For me, the situation was this: I knew I had a major problem, and if I wasn't going to have surgery, I needed to take the weight loss plan very seriously,” DuBois said. “I used to be going to try it for per week, two weeks, then a month, and it got easier and easier. I made a decision early on that I couldn't fail.”

Plant-based products are becoming mainstream

In the more than 10 years since Forks over knives was released, “the world is now totally interested,” said Ann Esselstyn. Her son Rip Esselstyn, who also appeared in the film, eventually founded a plant-based company called PlantStrong, which offers educational events and conferences, among other things. At first, the conferences were held on the family farm in New York.

“When Forks over knives “When it first started happening, a parasol would have been enough to protect them all,” Ann Esselstyn recalls. “Today, we have 500 people at a plant-related event. Rip had to move the event off the farm because it had gotten so big.”

To date, Rip Esselstyn has released 230 episodes of his PlantStrong podcast, which have been downloaded 9 million times, and he has a line of foods available online and in Whole Foods stores. He jokes that plant-based products are so popular that he wouldn't be surprised if an organization tried to launch “plant-based water.”

However, many plant-based weight loss plan advocates indicate that reading nutrition and ingredient lists has turn out to be more vital than ever resulting from widespread interest in plant-based diets.

“I think there's been a lot of confusion over the last few years because marketing people have gotten in there and are touting junk food as a plant-based health food,” Wendel said. “The idea that people can switch to highly processed fake meats and cheeses has put some hurdles in the way of the momentum that whole plant-based foods have had because it doesn't make people feel much better.”

Wendel said he still follows essentially the identical eating plan as when he first became vegan. Like DuBois, he initially stuck to the weight loss plan for under just a few days as an experiment and never went back.

“I still do the same thing as always – lots of fruit and mostly starch in the middle,” said Wendel. “Whole foods, that doesn't change over time.”