My wife and I recently watched a documentary called “Forks Over Knives”. The point of the film was that if you ate a plant-based diet (yep, no dairy or meat), you would lose weight, fix all your metabolic disorders, and probably would wind-up looking better to boot! On the surface, it would seem that the film was well grounded in facts – the four primary characters in the film were Doctors (three M.D.s and one PhD), while the one contrarian quoted was a professional with only a ‘Masters degree’ (4 docs vs. 1 Masters = Docs win in most cases). And to some extent, because I know the field, I would agree with a few of the points in the film. But what really ticked me off was that the filmmakers made the film too one-sided. Making a point is fine, but really, put in full disclosure!
In their haste to make a plant-based diet appear to be best thing since ‘sliced bread’ (pun intended), the filmmakers left out any mention of whether the patients in the film began exercise programs (even though they showed multiple clips of patients exercising). Further, the filmmakers neglected to mention that changing to a plant-based diet would markedly decrease the amount of calories consumed, thus, probably decreasing the patient’s weight just because they were taking in less food. Lastly, because a plant-based diet would eliminate most simple-sugars from the diet, just the reduction in sugar would probably result in all of the benefits claimed for this diet.
So, in the rush to advocate for a different type of food consumption, the filmmakers neglected to mention that if you put exercise in your daily routine, decreased your food intake, and removed most simple-sugars (especially sodas) from your diet, you would see decreased weight, better health, and you’d probably be better looking as well! Yes, you can get all of those benefits without changing to their supported diet!
So, before you jump on any health bandwagon, especially those propagated by any documentary, make sure you know the full story. There’s a chance that you can get the same benefits with methods that are easier to incorporate into your lifestyle and thus, will be longer-lasting.
Until next week, have a healthy and active week!
About the Author
Dr. J. Timothy Lightfoot, PhD FACSM RCEP CES, Omar Smith Endowed Chair in Kinesiology, Dept. of Health & Kinesiology, Texas A&M University.