Dr Kim Williams, the president of the American College of Cardiology, recently proclaimed that cardiologists can put themselves out of business if they just tell their patients to go vegan. He asks “Wouldn’t it be a laudable goal of the American College of Cardiology to put ourselves out of business?”
Following the old dictum “physician heal thyself” Dr Williams first went vegan to treat his own cholesterol problem. His cholesterol has been going up and up, and he found that going on a low-fat meat-centered diet was not enough. He had to go vegan and discover first hand the power of plant foods to treat the most common health problem in America, high cholesterol that leads to heart attacks. After only six weeks his cholesterol dropped down, way down, to where he wanted it.
He found that only when the dietary cholesterol was eliminated from his diet, did he reach a healthy cholesterol level in his blood. He was able to eliminate the cholesterol from his diet by avoiding dairy and animal products. Instead of eating chicken and fish, he started eating vegetable-based meat substitutes, like veggie burgers and sausages made from soy and other plant proteins, plus nuts. He also switched to almond milk from cow’s milk.
He said his enthusiasm for plant-based diets was also based on the medical literature. He cited observational studies of tens of thousands of people, that found that people following vegetarian diets lived longer than meat eaters and had lower rates of death from heart disease, diabetes and other diseases. And he pointed to research carried out by Dr. Dean Ornish, the pioneering cardiologist, who found that patients, who were put on a program that included a vegetarian diet, reversed the coronary plaque build up in their arteries and had fewer heart attacks.
Wanting to apply his research and own experience, he says that he “has made a habit of telling patients who are obese and plagued by metabolic problems like Type 2 diabetes to try eating… less meat. I recommend a plant-based diet because I know it’s going to lower their blood pressure, improve their insulin sensitivity and decrease their cholesterol and so I recommend it in all those conditions.” And, he even likes to discuss some of his favorite vegan foods with his patients as well. He says that one of his favorites is “an Italian sausage that is hard to distinguish from real meat until you check your blood pressure. I encourage patients to go to the grocery store and sample different plant-based versions of many of the basic foods they eat. For me, some of the items, such as chicken and egg substitutes, were actually better-tasting.”
According to Dr. Dean Ornish, “We tend to think of advances in medicine as a new drug, laser, or surgical device, something high-tech and expensive. Yet, the simple choices we make in what we eat and how we live have a powerful influence on our health and well-being.” The most influential trend in medicine today, growing exponentially, is the emerging field of what is known as “lifestyle medicine” – lifestyle as treatment, not just prevention.
Besides Williams and Ornish, other leading cardiologists have been putting patients on a vegan diet, advocating what amounts to vegetarian nutritional medicine as well. For instance, the Editor in Chief of the American Journal of Cardiology, Dr. William C. Roberts, also proclaimed the vegan diet as best for heart health.
But, don’t feel too bad about putting your doctor out of business. There will still be a few diseases for him to handle. It’s just that now he’s going to have plenty of time in his schedule for recreation! For more information on how a plant-based diet leads the way to a healthy heart see our postings on Spring Clean Your Heart, and Interview with a Cardiologist.
Please note that any changes to diet should only be made in consultation with a medical doctor.