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Cardiologists Going Vegan? Plant Based Diets Are Good for Your Heart!

The President of the American College of Cardiology, Dr. Kim Williams, is vegan and advocates for patients to adopt a plant-based diet. Surprised? I was too… until I heard his personal experience with heart health on a podcast:

After a routine blood test while eating a standard American diet, Dr. Williams noticed that his LDL (“bad”) cholesterol had climbed up to 170 points. At 49 years old, he considered the idea that age and activity level could be factors, but he had to admit that diet played a part. Within 6 weeks of cutting out all animal products, his LDL cholesterol dropped to 90 points.

However, it doesn’t end there. Sure, Dr. Williams is one person, but that could be a fluke, right? An article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition cited a study of over 5,000 Finnish men and women, which studied the participants’ intake of fruits and vegetables. The less produce participants ate, the more likely they were to develop coronary artery disease… so maybe not.

Even more, a study noted in an article on Forbes.com found that consuming a plant-based diet could reduce the risk for heart failure by 42% as compared with other, more “normal” diets. On the other hand, the other diets within the study– a “Southern” diet, “alcohol and salad diet,” the “sweets diet,” and the “convenience diet,” similar to the Standard American Diet– were not linked with any heart benefits but were instead detrimental to participants. An article within the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine even states that compared with stents, “a transition to a plant-based diet free of cholesterol proves to be a more effective treatment.”

Not convinced? I get it… you want proof. How about a medical journal? An article from the US National Library of Medicine‘s website within the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology states:

Our report adds to the growing body of evidence that plant-based foods are beneficial for cardiovascular health. This evidence includes several population-based cohort studies that have demonstrated an inverse relationship between increased consumption of plant-based foods and incidence of heart failure. Furthermore, plant-based diets may improve blood pressure, glycemic control, and obesity,, additional risk factors for heart failure.

Plant-based diets may slow the progression of atherosclerosis, a risk factor for heart failure, and may even reverse atherosclerosis. A plant-based diet may lead to a decrease in total LDL-C and LDL-C particles that are more resistant to oxidation. Oxidized LDL-C is cytotoxic to endothelial cells, promotes chemotaxis of monocytes and T-cells, which leads to endovascular inflammation and atherogenesis, and oxidized LDL-C attenuates the response of endothelial cells to nitric oxide.Accordingly, a recent case report demonstrated a whole-food plant-based diet’s ability to reverse angina without medical or invasive therapy.

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) induce myocyte hypertrophy, aortic stiffness, apoptosis, and interstitial fibrosis, potentially contributing to the progression of heart failure., Furthermore, ROS may reduce myocardial contractility,, and an inverse relationship between anti-oxidant uptake and heart failure has been described.,, Plant-based diets are rich in anti-oxidants and in part by reducing ROS may improve myocardial contractility. Animal based foods, with lower amounts of anti-oxidants,may lead to greater levels of ROS and may have the opposite effect. In addition, advanced glycation end-products, which are less prevalent in plant-based foods than in high-fat, animal rich foods lead to the formation of ROS and may further contribute to systolic, diastolic, and vascular dysfunction.

Ultimately, is a whole food, plant-based diet an answer to chronic disease? Maybe so. Check out this video featuring Dr. Williams, as well as several other doctors, below to find out the importance of proper nutrition. It’s a long one, so grab a drink and settle in for a minute! 😉

Interested in learning about more plant-based cardiologists? Find out more here on Dr. Heather Shenkman, Dr. Joel Kahn, or Dr. John C. Teeters and their experiences in switching to a healthy, vegan diet.

More resources:

Harvard Men’s Health Watch on “The Right Plant-Based Diet for You”

The T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutritional Studies on “The Quality of Your Plant-Based Diet Matters for Heart Disease Risk”

New Scientist on “Coffee and plant-based diets linked to lower heart failure risk”

The New York Post on “Plant-based diets can reduce heart failure risk: study”

The Cleveland Heart Lab on “Vegan & Plant-based Diets and Heart Disease: Simple Diet Advice for Heart Health in 2018”

Questions for you:

What are some of your favorite studies in heart health and plant-based diets? I’m always interested in finding new studies!

What are some of your favorite plant-based dinners lately? At the moment, we’re on an Instant Pot kick (I just figured out how to steam sweet potatoes in it, and it’s awesome!), but I’m on the hunt for new recipes!!

One Comment

  1. Sondy M Sondy M January 18, 2018

    Have you checked out Veggie Queen? She has a ton of plant based recipes for the Instant Pot.

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