The documentary film PlantPure Nation tells the story of three people on a quest to spread the message of one of the most important health breakthroughs of all time. After renowned nutritional scientist and bestselling author T. Colin Campbell gives a stirring speech on the floor of the Kentucky House of Representatives, his son, Nelson, and Kentucky State Representative Tom Riner work together to propose a pilot program documenting the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Once the legislation goes into Committee, agribusiness lobbyists kill the plan. Undeterred, Nelson decides to try his own pilot project in his hometown of Mebane, North Carolina.
Background and Research
In his groundbreaking 2004 book, The China Study, and in the recent popular documentary film Forks Over Knives, Dr. Campbell detailed the weight of scientific evidence that a whole foods plant-based diet can prevent and even reverse some of the most deadly health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some forms of cancer.
A growing number of celebrities, athletes, TV hosts, and nutrition experts have promoted a plant-based diet in the past few years. And tens of thousands of people have documented their personal success stories since adopting a plant-based diet. But as more doctors and public officials become aware of the healing power of plant-based nutrition the question arises: Why don’t they share the information with their patients or the public?
On November 15th 2011, doctors T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn presented their research on the benefits of plant-based nutrition to the Kentucky State legislature. The house members were enthusiastic. With one of the highest levels of childhood obesity in the nation, Kentucky also suffers from high rates of heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. Soon after Campbell’s and Esselstyn’s presentation, Rep. Tom Riner introduced a bill to establish a pilot program that would document the health benefits of a plant-based diet. But once the bill went into committee, industry lobbyists launched one of the most intensive lobby efforts ever in Kentucky. As the bill’s sponsor Rep. Riner put it, the bill was watered down to “a shadow of its former self”, turned “from steel to Reynolds Wrap.”
The Main Storyline
A top-down approach that recognized the powerful healing effects of plant-based nutrition had failed again. But Nelson Campbell suspected there was another way to prove the merits of this idea. After the setback in Kentucky, he resolved to put his hunch to the test in his own North Carolina hometown of Mebane (population 11,562). He also took a documentary film crew with him.
Nelson hoped to demonstrate that a whole foods plant-based diet would lead to significant and measurable health improvements in just 10 days. He also wanted to demonstrate that such a diet would be easy to follow and indefinitely sustainable.
Using an approach consistent with the mainstream values of his hometown, he started small, offering ten-day “jumpstarts,” using freshly prepared plant-based meals and before and after biometric testing.
How would these rural people, many of whom were raised on southern comfort foods such as meat, potatoes, biscuits and gravy, handle a plant-based diet? Would they lose weight and get healthier? Would their families and friends accept their diet and lifestyle change? Could this be the spark of something even bigger? Can a nationwide health revolution actually begin in a town as rural and small as Mebane?
As Nelson is launching a movement in the most unlikely of places, his close friend in Kentucky, Rep. Tom Riner, continues his efforts to educate his legislative colleagues – eventually giving away over 300 copies of “The China Study.” Their success in both places motivates Nelson and Tom to join in an effort to right what is surely one of the greatest wrongs of our modern age. Together, they launch a plan to expose the forces that stand in the way of a wider recognition of the healing powers of a plant-based diet.
Beyond Mebane, PlantPure Nation explores the topical issues of the small family farmer, food deserts, modern medicine and the challenges of getting plant-based nutrition included in the political process.
Reception and Legacy
PlantPure Nation was shown in theaters in over 100 cities and is currently playing on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon. It was filmed across the USA and features Steve Forbes, Jr. (Editor-in-Chief Forbes Magazine,) Dr. T. Colin Campbell (Co-Author, The China Study,) Dr. Neal Barnard (Founder and President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine,) Dr. Michael Greger, (Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture, Humane Society of the United States) leading the list of world-renowned experts, doctors and authors who speak on the topic. The Production team includes Director Nelson Campbell and Producer John Corry & Writer Lee Fulkerson from the acclaimed documentary film Forks Over Knives. PlantPure Nation, however, is not a sequel to Forks Over Knives.