Forks Over Knives

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Forks Over Knives
Forks Over Knives movie poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Lee Fulkerson
Produced by John Corry
Brian Wendel
Written by Lee Fulkerson
Starring T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D
Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D.
John A. McDougall, M.D.
Neal D. Barnard, M.D.
Rip Esselstyn
Music by Ramón Balcázar
Edited by John Orfanopoulos
Brian Crance
Michael Fahey
Monica Beach Media
Distributed by Virgil Films and Entertainment
Release dates
  • May 6, 2011 (2011-05-06)
Running time
96 minutes
Country  United States
Language English

Forks Over Knives (2011) is an American advocacy film that advocates a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet as a way to avoid or reverse several chronic diseases. The film recommends a vegan diet, but calls it "whole foods plant-based" to stress that processed food should be avoided as well as food of animal origin.[1][2][3][n 1]

The film was directed by Lee Fulkerson and produced by John Corry. Brian Wendel was the executive producer. The DVD was released on August 30, 2011.[5]


Through an examination of the careers of American physician Caldwell Esselstyn and professor of nutritional biochemistry T. Colin Campbell, Forks Over Knives suggests that "most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods." [6]

The film also provides an overview of the 20-year China–Cornell–Oxford Project that led to Professor Campbell's findings, outlined in his book, The China Study (2005) in which he suggests that coronary artery disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer can be linked to the Western diet of processed and animal-based foods (including dairy products).[6]

Director Lee Fulkerson stated in an interview with Canada's National Post that the diet described in the film is called "whole foods plant-based," rather than vegan (a term he deliberately did not use). He said that this is because it avoids the use of highly processed foods, as with a whole foods plant based approach, you "want to use minimally processed things."[4]



As of 31 July 2015, on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Forks Over Knives received a rating of 61% (23 Fresh, 15 Rotten), based upon 38 reviews.[7] On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 57 out of 100, based on 18 reviews, indicating "mixed or average" reviews.[8]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four stars and wrote: "here is a film that could save your life." He also suggests that "Forks Over Knives is not subtle. It plays as if it had been made for doctors to see in medical school."[9] Loren King of The Boston Globe gave the film three out of four stars and suggests that, "what An Inconvenient Truth did for global warming, Lee Fulkerson's persuasive documentary does for a vegan diet".[10] Carrie Rickey of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film three out of four stars and describes it as "an earnest and fact-filled work of food evangelism." [11]

Sean O'Connell of The Washington Post gave the film two out of four stars and argues that it is "an interesting and informative health lecture that's sandwiched into a dry, repetitive documentary" and said that "it's desperately in need of charisma, humor or personality to balance the steady stream of scientific facts we’re asked to absorb".[12] Rex Reed of The New York Observer gave the film 2/4 and argues that "I’m sure there is much to be learned from Forks Over Knives (the title means a healthy diet should be consumed with a fork rather than diverging from this path, which could lead to the knife or scalpel)."[13] Corey Hall of the Metro Times gave the film a "C" and states that "while it's impossible to dispute the basic premise that eating more vegetables is good for you, Forks adopts a staunch anti-meat and -dairy stance that leaves the door open for criticism."[14]

The film was awarded the Documentary/Special Interest Title of the Year in 2012 by the Entertainment Merchants Association.[15]

Scientific criticisms[edit]

The research presented in the Forks over Knives movie has been criticized by both nutrition researchers and health bloggers for using the lowest levels of scientific evidence for conclusions and decision making (i.e. animal studies, cohort studies and case control studies rather than randomized controlled trials or systematic reviews) and for picking and choosing only those data sets that support his views while disregarding others.[16]

Esselstyn has also been criticized for his dichotomous approach to nutrition (i.e.either plant-based or "the traditional American diet") and neglecting to evaluate diets free of junk food, red meat, dairy, fish, nuts, wheat, or combinations thereof.[17][18]

Numerous reviews of the science behind the movie have shown that conclusions drawn in the movie are not in line with standard statistical analysis practice. Harvard scientist Frank B Hu and Walter Willett state,

"Campbell questioned the validity of our findings because they contradict the results of international correlation studies on animal product consumption and disease rates... Correlational studies conducted within a country can usually provide more credible data than international comparisons because of relatively homogeneous populations and the possibility of collecting data on potential confounding variables at individual levels. A survey of 65 counties in rural China, however, did not find a clear association between animal product consumption and risk of heart disease or major cancers."[19]

Similar conclusions were reached by Orlich et al (2013), which was a large and comprehensive epidemiological study done in the US and looking at a very homogeneous population.[17] While this study gives strong evidence to the virtues of reducing overall meat consumption, it does not support the stronger conclusions made in the film and in Campbell's book that urge reducing fat and eliminating all animal products, except with regards to renal and endocrine related mortality – both of which showed a large reduction in mortality when animal protein was avoided.

In particular, Orlich et al study picks out as most healthful the pesco-vegetarian, not the vegan diet, although vegan men specifically had the lowest all-cause mortality, ischemic heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality rates.[17]

Further analysis by Orlich et al significantly substantiated the film's claim that avoiding animal protein had protection against certain types of cancers, mainly colorectal. However, again, the most protection seemed to be a plant based diet that added fish consumption (pesco-vegetarian diet).

In this study, pesco-vegetarians (those consuming fish but no other animal products) had almost half the rate of death (0.57 Hazard Ratio) from colorectal cancers than those that ate a regular diet. Vegans also showed a statistically significant difference of mortality rate from colorectal cancers (0.84 Hazard Ratio).[17]


  • Alona Pulde M.D., Matthew Lederman M.D. The Forks Over Knives Plan: How to Transition to the Life-Saving, Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet, 2014.
  • Sroufe, Del. Forks Over Knives–The Cookbook, 2012.
  • Stone, Gene. Forks Over Knives: The Plant Based Way to Health, 2011.


  1. ^ Angela Hickman, National Post: "At first glance, it sounds like the film is simply espousing a vegan diet with a dressed-up name. But director Lee Fulkerson, who started the diet and chronicles his progress as part of the documentary, says there's more to it than that. 'Veganism just means anything that doesn’t have animal-based products in it. But you can still eat highly processed foods that are vegan,' he says, citing potato chips and french fries as examples. 'You want to use minimally processed things.'[4]


  1. ^ Loren King, "Documentary argues virtues of a vegan diet", The Boston Globe, 16 May 2011.
  2. ^ Jeannette Catsoulis, "Soul Food, Vegan Style", The New York Times, 5 May 2011.
  3. ^ Kasey, "Exclusive interview with Lee Fulkerson, writer and director of 'Forks Over Knives'", TDIV, 21 December 2011.
  4. ^ a b Angela Hickman (2011-05-16). "The food revolution of Forks Over Knives will not be processed". National Post. Retrieved 2014-09-04. 
  5. ^ Times, Seattle (2011-08-30). "New DVDs: 'Madea's Big Happy Family,' 'Forks Over Knives'". Retrieved 2015-09-09. 
  6. ^ a b "Forks Over Knives: The Official Movie Website (Synopsis)". Retrieved 2012-04-20. 
  7. ^ "Forks Over Knives – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-02-10. 
  8. ^ "Forks Over Knives: Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2015-02-10. 
  9. ^ Roger Ebert (11 May 2011). "'Forks over Knives' review". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  10. ^ Forks over Knives review. The Boston Globe. May 16, 2011.
  11. ^ "'Forks Over Knives': A bad-diet horror story". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 2011-05-19. 
  12. ^ Forks over Knives review, The Washington Post. May 13, 2011.
  13. ^ "New York Observer Review". Retrieved 2015-09-09. 
  14. ^ Hall, Corey. "Forks Over Knives Metro Times Review". Retrieved 2015-09-09. 
  15. ^ "EMA Recognizes Indie Films and TV Series," 2012 Entertainment Merchants Association’s Independent Home Entertainment Award, June 2012.
  16. ^ "“Forks Over Knives”: Is the Science Legit? (A Review and Critique) – Raw Food SOS". Raw Food SOS. 
  17. ^ a b c d Wang, Yiqun; Crawford, Michael A.; Chen, Junshi; Li, Junyao; Ghebremeskel, Kebreab; Campbell, T.Colin; Fan, Wenxun; Parker, Robert; Leyton, Julius (2003). "Fish consumption, blood docosahexaenoic acid and chronic diseases in Chinese rural populations". Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology 136: 127. doi:10.1016/S1095-6433(03)00016-3. 
  18. ^ Frank B Hu and Walter Willett (2000), Reply to TC Campbell. Am J Clin Nutr March 2000 vol. 71 no. 3 850-851
  19. ^ Frank B Hu and Walter Willett (2000), Reply to TC Campbell. Am J Clin Nutr March 2000 vol. 71 no. 3 850-851

External links[edit]