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"Forks Over Knives" - Science or Opinion?

The movie Forks Over Knives makes what seems like an airtight case for a vegan lifestyle. Nutrition Diva sorts the evidence from the ideology.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
2-minute read

Q. "What's your opinion on the movie Forks Over Knives? The evidence that animal products are bad for your health seems overwhelming.  How can nutritionists still condone eating meat and dairy products?"

A. First, we need to separate the evidence from the ideology. Like the book The China Study, the movie Forks Over Knives trots out a lot of research studies and makes what sounds like an airtight case for a vegan lifestyle. Unfortunately, no one gets to cross-examine the witness. In my opinion, the "scientific evidence" presented in this movie is extremely selective, one-sided, and in some cases, downright inaccurate.  That's what happens when you start with a conclusion and then go looking for the evidence to support it - instead of the other way around. 

Although the lifestyle the filmmakers are promoting may be healthful, make no mistake about it: This movie is not science. It's not even journalism. It's marketing. To be fair, people have certainly marketed worse things to the American people than a plant-based diet! But that's not really the point. 

See also: What's the Most Nutritious Way to Eat Vegetables?

 

That's my opinion on the movie. Here's my opinion on the vegan diet:

To be fair, people have certainly marketed worse things to the American people than a plant-based diet! But that's not really the point.

From a purely nutritional and biological perspective, I think that the optimal human diet probably would include some animal protein (and fat). However, most of us do not make food choices based only on our biological needs. Our diets also reflect cultural, aesthetic, ethical, religious, and/or logistical considerations.

I have the utmost respect for those who choose to avoid animal products for ethical or environmental reasons. I am happy to support those who choose a vegan lifestyle - for any reason - in making healthy choices. 

But I need to know more about a diet than whether it does or does not include animal products in order to evaluate its healthfulness. Both vegan and omnivore diets can be done well and both can be done poorly.  As a nutritionist, my primary concern is whether your diet is balanced, nutritionally complete, and a good fit for your lifestyle, preferences, medical history, and/or value system!

Meat crime scene image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.