This week we watched a documentary called ‘Forkes over Knives’. It is essentially an advert for going vegan, or a ‘wholemeal plant-based diet’. After stating the problem, which is that 40% of Americans are obese, and over half take daily prescriptions, the documentary outlines the health benefits of cutting animal-based products out of your lives. The program describes the experiences of several unhealthy Americans who, after changing their diet, see a drastically changed lifestyle and health forecast.
The program is thought provoking and challenges much that we know or believe about a healthy diet. Our western ideology that protein must come from meat, and that a breakfast with a core of milk and eggs is best for you was all disproved by the documentary. In current times we often hear of the benefits of the vegan diet for sustainability and environmental reasons, but we do not often hear about the health benefits. Undoubtedly there is truth in the health benefits of the prescribed vegan diet. A number of case studies of patients with a variety of health concerns such as high cholesterol, obesity and even cancer showed staggering improvements after switching to the plant-based diet.
I am not completely convinced. The documentary followed a man who was overweight, had a dangerous cholesterol level, had trouble sleeping, felt tired constantly and a long list of other ailments. After changing his diet, he turned his life around. What the documentary didn’t tell us is the other changes that he might have made. He could have stopped drinking, stopped smoking and taken up running for example, all of which would certainly also have had a positive impact on his health issues. Another example of the vegan diet revolutionising health was in Norway during the period of the 2nd world war. The Nazis took all of their livestock away to feed their troops, leaving the population to essentially go vegan. During this period the number of heart failure fatalities significantly dropped in Norway, only to pick up again after the war. I am certain that the diet will have had an impact on this, but during the war there will have been a number of other society and lifestyle changes that may have caused this decline in deaths. Maybe I am just being a cynic, but I feel that it is almost too good to be true. Why have we not heard more about the revolutionary health benefits of the whole foods, plant-based diet.
We are currently under a great deal of pressure to live responsibly. I think that most people agree that a vegan lifestyle is a much more environmentally responsible way to live, and if people think that they are going to see personal benefits, such as a vastly reduced chance of heart failure, they are more likely to adopt that diet and lifestyle, which is undoubtedly a movement in the right direction.