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Zombies won't get you; casein might

The same people who laugh at the credulous for declaring May 21 the end of the world may well fail to see Forks Over Knives because of their own credulous attachment to the belief that the garbage they're eating is necessary or justified.

It's too bad the documentary Forks Over Knives opens in Philly just today. That means most of us have just one day to get to a screening before the end of the world tomorrow.

Ha ha! Get it? Some people are so easily persuaded that they actually believe that will happen. But here's no laughing matter: A great many of us are so easily persuaded that we believe there's some kind of need for meat and/or dairy in human nutrition.

Forks Over Knives demolishes that myth, long promulgated by a conflict-of-interest-afflicted USDA (and lately, largely recanted) that for decades pushed the erroneous notion that there were "Four Food Groups" we needed to include in our everyday eating, half of which were meat and dairy.

The movie abounds with both scientific facts and compelling anecdotes adding up to make the case that a large number of people who will be headed for heart surgery could avoid it by altering their diets. Although the environmental benefits of this alteration are given somewhat short shrift in the film, which focuses strictly on health, they are intrinsically related: The livestock industry is junking up the planet just as its by-products are junking up our arteries.

Forks Over Knives shows graphically how the latter is occurring and how it stops, and reverses, with the elimination of meat and dairy (as well as added oils). It will come as no shock that exercise also helps.

So far the reviews are mixed-to-positive: In the Inquirer, Carrie Rickey gave a general thumbs up, but backhanded it as not that entertaining...

Movies are like food. There are popcorn pictures that entertain you and the spinach movies that are good for you. In more ways than one, Forks Over Knives is a spinach flick.

Meanwhile, the Daily News, sadly, punted with an out-of-town review, cut down to a few paragraphs, that boils down to:

Between the near-hagiographic treatment of these men and the hosannas of their supporters and patients who dropped pounds and cholesterol and blood pressure levels, "Forks Over Knives" makes you question that next burger.

It would have been nice to have one health-minded but nongovernment critique of Esselstyn and Campbell's approach. Yet, if "Forks Over Knives" gets viewers to think more deeply about what they put into their bodies, then it has done its job.

There have been other reviews expressing a wish for dissenting voices. But let's have some perspective: The movie's case relies on facts amassed by doctors and peer-reviewed scientists as well as individuals whose life experiences show the validity of this dietary approach. What credible authority should have been included as a counterweight? Dr. Atkins? Hmmm, not available. Weston Price, the dentist-turned-self-styled-nutrition expert? The liquor-and-tobacco front group Center for Consumer Freedom?

In short, what peer-reviewed data is out there making the case against, i.e. showing that a meat/dairy-based diet can reverse heart disease, or for that matter, is even necessary for humans? Answer: There ain't none.

But the mainstream reaction to the movie will likely still be mixed, for the same reason there's so much "rapture" coverage on serious news outlets: As a culture, we tend to gravitate toward what's fun and easy, rather than taking a hard look at what's important and necessary.

Roger Ebert, not exactly a slouch when it comes to judging movies, makes pretty much that case in his review.

Here is a film that could save your life. So you'd better stop reading now, because you don't want to go to the trouble. ... I am convinced this message is true. A plant-based whole foods diet is healthy. Animal protein is not necessary, or should be used sparingly as Asians did, as a flavoring and not a main course. This adds the advantage of allowing us to avoid the chemicals and carcinogens pumped into livestock and poultry. ... The facts are in. Didn't I warn you to stop reading?

Has Ebert been turned into a "believer?" Maybe, but the instigator was a wealth of scientifically proven data rather than a guy on the radio offering his personal interpretation of a literary work.

Sure, it's possible the world will end tomorrow. In fact, the odds of that are probably better than those of a cheeseburger having a beneficial effect on your health.

So if you can stand some facts that could potentially result in a lifestyle change, get out and see Forks Over Knives... before it's too late.