Bill Clinton's Dramatic Diet
In a recent televised interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, former President Bill Clinton explained how he lost weight. "I went on essentially a plant-based diet. I live on beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits... I drink a protein supplement every morning, no dairy, I drink almond milk mixed in with fruit, and a protein powder... It changed my whole metabolism, and I lost 24 pounds." Bill Clinton is following a vegan diet.
Clinton, who underwent quadruple bypass surgery in September 2004, explained his decision to turn to a vegan diet. He said, "I did it because after I had this stent put in, I realized that even though it happens quite often that after bypass surgery you lose the veins because they're thinner and weaker than arteries, the truth is that it clogged up, which means that the cholesterol was still causing buildup in my vein that was part of my bypass. I didn't want it to happen again. So I did all this research and it says that 82% of the people since 1986 who have gone on a plant-based, no dairy, no meat of any kind -- I eat very little fish -- 82% of the people who have done that have begun to heal themselves. Their arterial blockage cleans up, the calcium deposit around their heart breaks up."
The Vegan Way
A vegan is a strict vegetarian who eats no animal products at all. No meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, butter, or other dairy products, no honey from the bees. No animal products as ingredients either: no chicken broth in the soup, no lard in the refried beans, no mayonnaise on the veggie burger. Some vegans avoid all products derived from animals: no fur, leather, silk or wool, no gelatin in the hair-styling gel, no goose down comforter.
A vegan diet does include all of the grains and grain-based products, such as cereal, bread, crackers and pasta, as well as dried beans and other legumes, soybeans, peanuts, nuts and seeds, and all of the vegetables and fruits, and foods made by combining those ingredients. And then there are vegan versions of animal-based foods: vegan ice cream, vegan mayonnaise, vegan hot dogs, and the list goes on. A vegetarian diet differs from a vegan diet by including all of the vegan foods, and also eggs and/or milk (ovo-lacto vegetarian) and fish sometimes too.
Bill Clinton is correct in saying that his diet is backed by research. Epidemiological studies typically find lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in vegetarians, and intervention studies have shown a reduction in total and LDL-cholesterol levels when subjects switch from their usual diet to a vegetarian diet.
In The China Study, Dr. T. Colin Campbell explained how a mamouth 1980s epidemiological study of 367 variables across 65 counties and 6,500 adults led him to conclude, "People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease... People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease." Dr. Dean Ornish also has lots of data to show that his very low fat vegetarian diet reverses clogged arteries, and Dr. Calwell B. Esselstyn makes a similar case in his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure.
The components of a vegan diet that have a beneficial effect on lipid levels are the higher amounts of fiber, nuts, soy, and plant sterols, and lower levels of saturated fat. Of course, for the diet to produce maximum results, one has to be 100% compliant.
Vegans must be sure to eat enough protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Plant protein can meet protein requirements when calories are adequate and high-quality soy protein is consumed, but when lower quality protein from grains and beans is the main protein source or when calories are low, individual protein requirements can be higher. The iron in plant foods is not absorbed as well as iron from meat and so the recommended iron intake for vegetarians is 1.8 times those of non-vegetarians. Vegans must take care to eat enough calcium and vitamin D because they don't eat dairy products. The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study found that vegans had a 30% higher risk of fracture possibly due to their considerably lower mean calcium. Finally, vitamin B-12 must be supplemented in vegan diets because B12 is reliably found only in animal foods and fortified products.
Would you follow a vegan diet? Would you try it to treat heart disease?
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