So Caught Up in the Energy of the Evening--This is the Only Photo I Took--My Half-Eaten Delicious Whole Foods Boxed Lunch
Our "To (not) Die-For" Plant-Strong Whole Foods Pre-Movie Dinner included:
Middlle Eastern style seitan kabobs with grillled red onion and cherry tomatoes
Wild rice & lentil salad with currants, citrus and pomegranate
Red pepper hummus with veggie dippers--potato slices (a most excellent dipper), peppers, cucumbers
Vegan cocoa date bon-bon rolled in shredded coconut
Air-popped popcorn with herbs & nutritional yeast (yum!)
Forks Over Knives National Release - March 11, 2011
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For almost a year now I've been singing the praises of Lee Fulkerson's well-done & eye-opening documentary, Forks Over Knives. It tells the story of how our Western diet is responsible for the sky-rocketing rates of obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and type-2 diabetes in the U.S. It pulls no punches in explaining how our chronic diseases are really "food-borne" illnesses that need never exist--and if they do exist--how they can be reversed.
It's also the story of two pioneering crusaders, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr.--both raised on farms in the 1930's--who steadfastly put the food/disease research puzzle pieces together--and are on a mission to change the way we eat.
Esselstyn is the emeritus Cleveland Clinic surgeon/clinician who supervised the longest-running heart disease reversal study in the world--and Campbell is the eminent emeritus Cornell University nutrition researcher who conducted the lab & epidemiological cancer research that discovered the correlation between cancer cell growth and animal protein consumption--namely, meat & dairy.
Thanks to the Esselstyns, I saw a preview of Forks Over Knives last spring--and was wowed. My good friend Babs, watched it with us last year, and was equally wowed--while our husbands took a pass & watched some boring forgetable sport playoffs instead.
A documentary that's intelligent, understandable, lays out all the facts, yet is entertaining at the same time, is quite a feat! FOK does it all. And it has all the elements of a great flick: food, sex, power, money, politics, and triumphs!
I've already written a lot about the film--click here to read about it, so I'm not going to rehash it. Right now I just want to share the spirit of the evening--and the Q & A of the post-film panel--something you won't find anywhere else. The panel included:
- Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr.
- Rip Esselstyn
- San'Dera Nation, the young woman in the movie who reversed her type-2 diabetes.
- Evelyn Oswick, one of Dr. Esselstyn's original 18 heart disease patients. In 1985, her cardiologist told her he was out of treatment options for her, because her heart disease was so severe. Evelyn's been true-blue plant-based oil-free now for 25 years--alive & thriving.
Like a Cross Between a Rock Concert & the Academy Awards "Red Carpet" for Plant-Based Health Fans
This was the hardest ticket to get in town. The screening "sold-out" quickly--and by the time I tried to get a ticket, there were none to be had. Of my friends, only Mary, the librarian--with whom I work & who's now a plant-based fan--was able to score a ticket. Here's Something about Mary--she's a librarian and a nurse, and she thought I was a tad wacky with my plant-based no-oil diet. That is, until she took home our library's copy of Dr. Esselstyn's Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease to read. Her pantry's had a complete make-over. She's also a dynamite creative cook--so check back for some her no-oil plant-based culinary inventions.
A week before the film, Ann Esselstyn generously found a ticket for me, when one of their guests couldn't make it.
The theater lobby was packed, as we all waited for a half-hour to get into the theater. Looked like everyone had arrived early. I was hoping to run into some blog readers with whom I've corresponded--and who were lucky enough to get tickets. No way--not with a crowd of this size--in these tight quarters.
But then I did. How crazy is that? My Red Carpet Crew:
- The pediatric cardiologist: Out of the blue, I heard my name called, & it was Dr. A--the pediatric cardiologist who has been enthusiastically eating plant-strong for 18 months, and somehow stumbled upon my blog. Any plant-strong diet doubters out there, consider this--if a pediatric cardiologist has decided to switch his diet, and that of his family--that's a pretty strong statement & tells you something!
- Wendy, the creator of the Healthy Girl's Kitchen blog. She's a dynamo, who's been eating plant-strong for 18 months, and as a former Weight Watcher, she's on a mission to share her discovery: if you eat plant-based--the foods highest on the nutrient scale (think ANDI Rankings--click here to read more) you can eat as much as you want, feel fabulous, get healthy, feel full, lose weight effortlessly, and look great, to boot! I LOVE Wendy's blog--her enthusiasm is catchy--and she has delicious kid-friendly recipes, like all-fruit soft-serves, and even a killer dessert hummus--plus she's just plain fun to read! Check out her blog now!
- Dr. Caldwell and Ann Esselstyn--I even got to make my way through the crowd to say hello to them before the film started. I spotted their daughter Jane Esselstyn Hart, a nurse practitioner, from a distance. Jane is a dynamo, who is passionate about plant-based eating for disease reversal. She teaches healthy eating workshops for diabetes & erectile dysfunction. Click here
- Rip Esselstyn--ran right into him, while I made my way to my seat. If you don't know who Rip is? Click here to find out.
- Dr. Mladen Golubic & his wife. As I left the theater, I ran into Dr. Golubic, who is a brilliant physician/researcher with the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Integrative Medicine at the Clinic's Wellness Institute. Eight years ago, when Dr. Golubic was doing cancer research he presented a lecture at the hospital where I work, all about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. I remember specifically asking him about olive oil, "Isn't no-oil old-school? Dr. Walter Willett says olive oil is good for us. What's wrong with using it--especially, if you're already healthy?" He patiently explained the problems with oil to me back in 2003, but I chose to not listen--didn't want to give it up. It was Mladen who also told me about Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book, back in 2003, "Eat to Live". To read an interesting recent NPR story about Dr. Golubic, click here.
- Jim Perko, the executive chef for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Center--and many of the staff at the Wellness Center were also at the screening, according to Dr. Golubic. Mladen told me Dr. Michael Roizen wanted to be there, but had to be out-of-town on the night of the screening.
That's it for my ala Joan Rivers "Red Carpet" spiel.
Nothing Beats Watching Forks Over Knives in a Group
Best part about watching this film in the theater was listening to the audience's reaction. I had seen the film twice before, once with my friend Babs, and once by myself. I loved hearing how everyone was grabbed by the same scenes as I was:
- When Dr. Esselstyn says:
"Some people think the "diet" is extreme. Half a million people a year will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn onto their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme."
"The elephant in the room when we talk about stents and bypass surgery--those procedures don't protect from new heart attacks. Stents & bypasses are used to treat large arterial blockages. Yet according to many research studies only a small percentage of heart attacks are caused by the largest build-up of plaque. The rest are caused by the more numerous newer blockages that are far more inflamed and much more likely to rupture than the larger older, more stable plaques. So this is why those procedures don't treat the disease. They are treating the symptoms."
- When San'Dera Nation, a thirty-something who was overweight, hypertensive & diabetic before switching to a plant-based diet, says:
"When I approached my primary care physician about stopping my meds, the doctor asked me, 'What is that doctor trying to do? Take you off your medication?' I said, 'Yeah. I'm hoping that's the goal.'"
- When Dr. T. Colin Campbell explains his "light-bulb" moment when he realized that animal protein promotes cancer cell growth. He had replicated both an Italian & Indian study in his own lab--but with a twist.
Campbell knew from previous research that when animals were fed casein, a milk protein, at levels above 20% of the calories in their diet--cancer cells were turned on--and when they were fed animal protein at levels below 5% of their total calories, the cancer cells were turned off.
Campbell constructed a study that fed the same animals, first a diet of 20% milk protein, and then switched it to 5%--and kept it up--switching them back & forth. His light-bulb moment: "You could literally turn liver cancer cells on and off--like a switch--just by manipulating the level of animal protein in their diets. But plant protein, even in excess of 20% of calories, did not turn on cancer cells nor affect their growth." For a bibliography of Campbell's research, click here.
- When Anthony Yen, one of Dr. Esselstyn's original 18 patients explains one of the best--and little-known benefits of going on a plant-based diet. You'll have to see the movie to learn this one. Definitely, a crowd-pleaser!
- When Dr. Doug Lisle, author of The Pleasure Trap, explains:
The 3 reasons we get into problems with food are because we're biologically programmed to:
- Seek pleasure--from food & sex
- Avoid pain
- Do everything with the least amount of effort
So, bingo! We're perfectly programmed to eat fatty, sugary, salty foods because we're pleasure-seekers--and we want delicious-tasting (who cares about how healthy it is?) food the fastest way possible--because we're lazy. Hello, McDonald's & KFC! And these highly processed foods are all addictive. To learn more about this, click here.
The Best of the Q & A from the Post-FOK Panel
How long does it take before you can see the beneficial effects of eating a plant-based diet?
Dr. Esselstyn: After 3 weeks on a plant-based diet the endothelial cells in the linings of our blood vessels can recover. This can be seen on a very sensitive test after 3-4 weeks. But the changes actually begin immediately.
San'Dera, at the time the movie was made you were eating plant-based for 20 weeks and had lost 45 pounds. Can you give us an update?
It will be 2 years this May that I've been eating plant-based. My diabetes is gone. I've been off diabetes medication for 1 1/2 years, now. My whole home is now plant-based--although in the beginning, I cooked separately for my children. But, then I realized, how can I let my kids eat junk, while I'm eating healthy food. I didn't want outlive my children! So, now they eat like I eat. Look, I'm the parent--I'm the one who shops & cooks. My teen-age son is now a plant-based fan--the girls love his skin & his acne's all gone.
Evelyn, tell us some more about how you got started in the study.
I'm one of Dr. Esselstyn's original patients & I've been eating plant-based now for 25 years. Back in 1985 my doctor told me to just go home and prepare to die--but then, as an aside he told me about the study Dr. Esselstyn was conducting at the Cleveland Clinic. When he told me about his crazy diet, I said, "I'd rather die than eat that way." But then I started to think--do I really want to die & leave all I've worked so hard for--a wonderful family--a beautiful home--to my husband? And I knew he would remarry. So, after a week of thinking about it, I called Dr. Esselstyn and said I wanted to participate in his study. He told me that I was the last person he ever thought would call him back. Essie, was fantastic, but you had to do things exactly as he prescribed, or he'd show you the door. There were no half-way measures with Essie. We met with him every 2 weeks--he looked at everything we ate--and checked our lipid levels. He know whether or not we were following the program.
If this research on diet & heart disease is so compelling, why isn't this the first thing doctors tell us about? Why doesn't everyone know about this?
Dr. Esselstyn: Doctors have been cautious, and that was appropriate, until this heart disease prevention/reversal diet evolved and the proof was established. Now, 25 years later we know it works. Given the lack of time & the reimbursement issues that physicians have these days, it will likely become increasingly difficult for doctors to offer this option, because it involves behavior modification & needs hands-on support. But, they shouldn't feel that they have to be the ones to supervise the behavior modification & provide the diet support necessary for this program. There are others who can be trained, and are better able to provide the support necessary to help patients make these major lifestyle changes.
But, what about people with on low & fixed incomes? People who couldn't possibly afford to pay for the kind of food you need on a plant-based diet?
Rip: Rice and beans are cheap. Eating plant-based is absoluely affordable. I've worked out a $305/month food budget for two--eating plant-based & even shopping at Whole Foods. That's $5/day per person. That's affordable. It involves buying in bulk, using some frozen fruits & vegetables--and I'm not talking about organics--conventional produce is just fine, if that's what you can afford.
San'Dera: Eating plant-based is cheaper than even buying bulk chicken & pork chops. You can easily spend more than $15 a day at McDonald's, Burger King, & Wendy's. I don't spend anything like that on plant-based at home.
Do you think it's possible that some people are meant to eat meat?
Dr. Esselstyn: emphatically, "NO!"
What about the supposed health foods, like non-fat yogurt, olive oil, and chocolate?
- Yogurt comes from a cow, and it's protein comes from casein, and at a level even greater than what's found in milk. Read more here and here and here about dairy and yogurt
- Olive oil is the most concentrated source of fat on the planet, at 120 calores per tablespoon. 20% of its fat is saturated, and as for its purported antioxidants, you can do much better with fruits & vegetables that are zero fat, and have far fewer calories. Like berries & leafy greens. The olive oil as "health food" story, is a great example of marketing over science! If you think it's such a nutrient powerhouse, click here to see exactly what its nutrient content is. To learn more about olive oil's "issues" click here.
- Chocolate should be reserved as something you eat occasionally, for entertainment--and not something you eat daily! Unsweetened unprocessed cocoa can be a daily food.
San'Dera, what do you eat daily? How soon was it until you started to notice any changes?
I eat brown rice, pasta made from brown rice or whole wheat, lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, salads, and fat-free hummus. I noticed a change in how I felt within 3 days of changing my diet. Especially, the energy. I stopped taking my diabetes medications after 3 weeks on the diet.
OK, what about people who are healthy, without diabetes, who aren't overweight? Could they be on more of a flexitarian diet?
Dr. Esselstyn: Certainly, a plant-based no-oil diet is a no-brainer for someone who is ill. But look down the line--when exactly do people start to develop dementia or heart disease? It's years before the event actually occurs. Consider how the people in your family have died, or how they spent their final years. We know that eating this way will prevent heart disease. And we know from ample research that what's good for the heart is good for the brain. There's nothing more troubling to see than someone who lives with dementia for 10-12 years. My bias is to start eating plant-based now! Recent research from the Mayo Clinic has also shown the importance of diet on the health of the brain's blood vessels--and how the brain's health is dependent upon nitric oxide. Click here to read more.
Mark Your Calendars for the National Release of Forks Over Knives on March 11, 2011
To read more about the program Dr. Esselstyn runs at the Cleveland Clinic, click here.
To read more about Dr. Campbell's research, click here.
To read more about Ann Esselstyn's plant-based pantry & cooking tips, click here.
"The greatest gift that you could possibly give to your family--you can make them aware of this incredible power to avoid life's most painful events. You just don't have to have those kinds of events."
-Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn-
Please be patient with me (brother-in-law Dave & others). I've got lots of non-Esselstyn medical research to share--but I really wanted to post about this special FOK screening event first.
And, boy do I have some killer recipes to share, too! Last night's dinner was some of our best eating, ever!