Political documentary about Ky. legislative effort to recognize the health benefits of plant-based diet debuts in Louisville Sept. 17

A political documentary, PlantPure Nation, that tells the story of Kentucky efforts to recognize the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, premieres in Kentucky Sept. 17 at the Baxter Avenue Theaters in Louisville, Jere Downs reports for The Courier-Journal.

The documentary, set in Louisville and Frankfort, showcases the proven health benefits of plant-based diets, including “markedly lower levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose levels that result from 10-day ‘Jump Starts’ groups of people eating only plant-based foods,” Downs writes. It also follows the failed efforts of filmmaker Nelson Campbell and Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, to pass legislation to allow them to conduct a plant-based nutrition pilot project in Eastern Kentucky.

PlantPure Nation” follows Forks Over Knives, a highly viewed film on Netflix that shows the work of the Cleveland Clinic and Cornell University researcher T. Colin Campbell, father of Nelson Campbell, and demonstrates how a Western diet “laden with meat, dairy and oil products is linked to chronic disease and cancer growth.”

Colin Campbell is the author of The China Study, which compared the diets and health of 6,500 Chinese adults in and found “statistically significant correlations between meat and dairy consumption and mortality rates for more than 48 types of disease, including the seven most common cancers,” Downs writes.

Riner, 69, says the book inspired him four years ago to follow a plant-based diet and preach about the lifestyle at his Baptist church and at a homeless shelter in Louisville.

Riner and Nelson Campbell tried and failed to establish a two-week-long, privately-funded vegan meal project or “Jump Start” in a poor community in Eastern Kentucky.

The 2012 bill to authorize the pilot, House Bill 550, sponsored by Riner and Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, did not say it would be for plant-based nutrition, but would include “a science-based education component” and “a nationally recognized online nutrition education program.”

“They would not hear it on the House floor unless I agreed to amendments,” Riner, a state representative for 34 years, says in the film. “It was some of the most intense lobbying against a measure I’d ever seen.” The bill was converted into an order for a “comprehensive review” by legislative staff of studies and programs “that focus on the
nutritional habits of Kentucky citizens and the health outcomes of those habits,” including risk assessments through health measurements.

The bill requires the staff to interview a wide range of “persons knowledgeable about
the issue,” including interest groups as the Kentucky Farm Bureau, the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, the Kentucky Pork Producers Association, the Kentucky Poultry Federation, and the Kentucky Dairy Development Council.

“Kentucky’s economic role as a major meat producer renders many in the state legislature resistant to medical advances that recognize the role of plant-based nutrition,” Stumbo told Downs. “Since Kentucky is the largest cattle producer east of the Mississippi River and plays a prominent role in poultry and hogs as well, there are many who are unlikely to make the full jump toward a plant-based diet. While recognizing that, we must continue finding ways to improve our overall health and reduce obesity, the root cause of so many of our health problems.”

Downs reports that the advocates tried and failed to get a “factual statement” into the legislative record that said, “Numerous scientific studies now confirm that a whole foods diet comprised primarily of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and nuts without added oil, sugar and salt is optimal for human health, not only preventing a broad range of disease and illnesses, but also reversing some of the most dangerous chronic conditions.”

“We were shut out and not heard,” Nelson Campbell told Downs. But that inspired his documentary: “We wanted to demonstrate this health truth because you’ve got a lot of people in Kentucky who are sick.”

Riner is giving away $500 worth of tickets among his 41,000 constituents for the 7:30 p.m. showing of the documentary on Sept. 17. The film will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

The film’s debut coincides with the efforts of several mainstream medical programs in Louisville that support vegan nutrition, Downs notes.

KentuckyOne Health just graduated its first class of 10 critically ill heart patients from its new nine-week Ornish Reversal Program at Medical Center Jewish Northeast. This program “combines the vegan nutrition, exercise, meditation and cardiac rehabilitation strategy of Dr. Dean Ornish, who describes The China Study as ‘one of the most important books about nutrition ever written’,” Downs writes.

The heart patients had an average weight loss of 7.5 pounds. Three lowered their blood pressure medication, one who had diabetes came off insulin, and another is discussing coming off cholesterol medication after 25 years, KentuckyOne spokeswoman Alice Bridges told Downs. One patient dropped out.

Meanwhile, Baptist Health is getting ready to launch its Complete Health Improvement Program on Dixie Highway in Louisville, Downs reports.

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