“Forks Over Knives”

The other day, my yoga teacher invited several of her students to share in a potluck lunch and to watch a documentary called, “Forks Over Knives.”  The setting was beautiful, the company delightful and invigorating, and the documentary educational.  The movie

examines the profound claim 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. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering ….. researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

Dr. Campbell, a nutritional Biochemist at Cornell University had embarked on a research project in the late 1960’s to help bring high quality meat protein to the undernourished of the third world.  In the Philippines, he made a life altering discovery:  Children who lived on a meat based diet were more likely to develop cancer than children who lived on a plant based diet.

Dr. Esselstyn, a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, on his part, started to observe that many of the diseases he routinely treated were rarely found in countries where animal-based diets were not the norm.

Their separate but mutual discoveries brought them together and they have conducted many studies since.  One of the most comprehensive was conducted in China.  the 20-year China-Cornell-Oxford Project, led by Dr. Campbell, found that most degenerative disease can be reversed by changing one’s diet.  Remove the meat, the sugars, the dairy and you remove the tendency towards many cancers, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Through media, we have learned that we are at pandemic levels with cancers, diabetes, obesity and heart disease in our country.  Yet over the years, we have been taught that meat is the best source of protein and milk is the best source of calcium.  This belief system is so ingrained in us that many people are unwilling to change their diets.  Not only that, but many nutritionists still insist that meat and dairy are primary sources of protein and calcium.  Add to this the fact that fast food restaurants still dominate in our very busy world and empty calories (ie snacks, sugar filled cereals, and soda pop) continue to be a mainstay in most people’s daily lives, the truth of the matter becomes that we are all willingly poisoning ourselves.

the film [Forks Over Knives] advocates a whole foods, plant-based (vegan) diet as a means of combating a number of diseases. It 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.

When my husband was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (and by the time they “uncovered” what was ailing him, it had already spread to his liver), we were told to go home and try and make him as confortable as possible.  But our friends rallied and we learned of a clinic in Chicago, The Block Center on Integrative Cancer Care.  I believe that going there and completely changing our diet had a lot to do with the fact that my husband came back from death’s door to live another year, most of that year with good quality of life.  Had we foregone the chemotherapy, would he still be alive today?  Clearly, there is no way of answering that question.  His cancer was at a very advanced stage when found and he was at an age where the first two oncologists we saw basically gave the thumbs down.  Our choices were very limited by that point.

BUT there is no question in my mind that a whole foods, plant based diet is healthier than a fast-food, meat/sugar/dairy based diet is and there is no question in my mind that the chronic diseases that are so prevalent in our society are caused by the foods we choose to eat.  Unfortunately, the lower income citizens of our country have much less choice as to what is available for them to eat, and by turn, we see much chronic illness and obesity in that population.

Our country has a lot of work to do to turn this situation around.  It may take years, but we have to start somewhere.

With regard to sugar, which is found in most processed foods,  many of the symptoms related to withdrawal from other “drugs” are similarly experienced by individuals who remove sugar from their diet.  it takes two weeks for withdrawal of sugar from the system.  An individual can experience agitation, ill-temper, lethargy, headaches, a sense of depression.  But these really are just withdrawal symptoms.  If one recognizes this, one can control those symptoms and know that they will go away with a little time.  No need to get pills from your doctor!

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013



Sugar and Cancer


Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose)

grains of sugar

Have you ever noticed how much sugar gets “pushed” in our foods?  Pick up any packaged good in a grocery store and see whether it contains the word sugar in it.  Often, even when the product is not a dessert, sugar will be one of the first ingredients.

Labels, by law, have to list the ingredients that are in the product being sold.  What if the label states sugar: 0 grams? That’s good, right?  No.   If sugar is listed, even as 0 grams, it means the product contains sugar, just not a whole gram.  But it might contain as much as 99 mg.   I have found that even the brands that tout themselves as being healthy end up having some sugar somewhere.

I should add that some products come about their sugar honestly.  The product itself, ie, a canned fruit product, will naturally have sugar in it.  But a cracker will most likely have added sugar put in.  People like the flavor of sugar and marketing firms have done lots of tests that demonstrate that products with sugar are higher sellers than those without sugar.

Why did I become so interested in the sugar content of our foods?  Last December, my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to his liver.  This is a very scary diagnosis with grim prognosis.  What does one do when confronted with such a situation?  Hopefully, one has friends that kick into high gear and help with major amounts of research.  We did and this led us to the Block Institute for Re-integrative Cancer Care in Skokie, IL  www.blockmd.com

At the Block Center, we learned that cancer actually feeds off of sugar.  More and more research confirms this.  Conner Middelmann Whitney, a Nutritionist and writer for Psychology Today cites a study done at UCLA:

To assess the effect of fructose on cancer cells, UCLA researchers added glucose to one set of human pancreatic cancer cells and fructose to another set of cells. After letting the cells interact with the sugars, both fructose and glucose were found to increase cancer cell growth at similar rates but through different metabolic pathways. This is the first time a link has been shown between fructose and cancer proliferation.

“In this study we show that cancers can use fructose just as readily as glucose to fuel their growth,” said Anthony Heaney, the study’s lead author. “The modern diet contains a lot of refined sugar including fructose and it’s a hidden danger implicated in a lot of modern diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and fatty liver.” While this study was done on pancreatic cancer, these findings may not be unique to that cancer type, Heaney said.

We are recording pandemic levels of not only cancer, but diabetes as well in our country.  According to the International Diabetes Federation, global diabetes has hit new highs reaching 366 million people worldwide.  http://slatest.slate.com/posts/2011/09/13/international_diabetes_federation_global_diabetes_rate_hits_new_.html?from=rss

These figures seem extraordinary to me.  Isn’t it time that we stop and look at how we are apparently poisoning ourselves with the large amounts of sugar that we ingest every day?  The first step is to read those labels at the supermarket. The second step is to decide that you don’t want that much sugar in your system.  After that, other doors will open up to a more sugar free world!


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