A new U.S. study found that following a vegetarian diet doesn’t necessarily improve your heart health. And, if you’re not careful, it can actually increase your risk of heart disease, as I’ll explain in a moment.
Of course, this finding may surprise many so-called government health “experts,” dieticians, and “natural know-it-alls,” who tried for decades to convince us that following a vegetarian diet benefits your health. Especially your heart health.
However, as an anthropologist, I study the big picture, over time, of human eating patterns. And for millions of years, eating meat helped humans survive and evolve. So, today, the taste and texture of fats appeal to us. In other words, we’ve always needed fats to survive, and that’s why they taste good to us!
Plus, my research over the past 40 years shows that a vegetarian diet cannot provide you with optimal nutrition. In fact, by excluding meat, it becomes virtually impossible to get important bioavailable minerals, fat-soluble vitamins like D and E, and many B vitamins. Thus, it makes the need for high-quality dietary supplements that much greater.
Vegetarian diet does not guarantee heart health
For the new study, researchers with Harvard’s School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston looked at long-term data from 200,000 health workers among three, large, prospective U.S. cohort studies. (I’d like to point out that the fact these study participants were “health workers” doesn’t necessarily mean diddly squat, when it comes to any real understanding of the science or personal practice of proper human diet and nutrition.)
The researchers categorized the vegetarians within the cohort studies into three groups:
Overall plant-based diet
Participants followed an overall plant-based diet and reduced (but did not eliminate) animal food intake.
Healthful plant-based diet
Participants followed a vegetarian diet that consisted mainly of fruits, vegetables, nuts, oils, and whole grains.
Unhealthful plant-based diet
Participants followed a vegetarian diet that consisted mainly of refined grains, starches, and sugars.
During the study period, 8,631 people developed coronary heart disease. And there were some interesting distinctions between the vegetarian groups.
For one, high adherence to a “healthful plant-based diet” reduced the risk of heart disease by 25 percent compared with an “unhealthful plant-based diet.” On the flip side, highest adherence to an “unhealthful plant-based diet” increased the risk of heart disease by 32 percent.
So, those who followed a vegetarian diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains were less likely to get heart disease than those who followed a vegetarian diet of refined grains, potatoes, sugar, and confections.
And that finding makes sense…
As I often report, grain-based diets often include lots of sugar to replace the natural fats found in meats. And it’s certainly no secret that sugar consumption is the real culprit lurking behind obesity, Type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Making ethical, but smarter, dietary choices
I completely understand how ethical issues lead some people to avoid eating meat. Animal mistreatment and abuse is a horrible problem for humanity. And useless medical testing on animals needs to stop.
In fact, several years ago, I actively volunteered and advocated for that position with my colleague Dr. Neal Barnard and the Physicians for Responsible Medicine when I lived down the street from their offices in Bethesda, Maryland. There must be humane ways of treating animals. I hope we all can agree on that.
And if you avoid eating meat for ethical reasons, I certainly respect your decision. But you should not think you are doing yourself a favor when it comes to your health. In fact, you face a far greater challenge to achieve optimal nutrition ¾ which requires critical proteins, minerals, and many vitamins ¾ if you don’t eat meat.
In the end, my dietary advice for vegetarians is the same as for everyone else:
- Eat a more balanced diet with at least five portions of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Avoid sugar and refined grains.
- If you must eat grains, choose whole grains.
- Use nutritional supplements. Particularly supplement with 10,000 IU daily of vitamin D — a critical fat-soluble nutrient. To get these powerhouse nutrients, you can also incorporate healthy fats into your diet such as extra virgin olive oil, nuts, and avocados.
Bottom line: Eating a purely plant-based diet may be good for your conscience, but it’s not necessarily so good for your heart.
If you follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, you can find more nutrition tips in the May 2014 issue of my Insiders’ Cures monthly newsletter (“REVEALED! The biggest health scam in the history of nutritional science.”) Not yet a subscriber? You’re just one click away from the vital knowledge and insights the government, mainstream health, Big Food, and Big Pharma don’t want you to uncover.
For more natural, heart-healing strategies to improve your cardiovascular health, refer to my online learning protocol, Dr. Micozzi’s Heart Attack Prevention and Repair Protocol. Simply click here to learn more or enroll today.
“Healthful and Unhealthful Plant-Based Diets and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in U.S. Adults,” Journal of the American College of Cardiology July 2017; 70(4): 411-422