Eat vegetables and avoid heart disease
Does a vegetarian diet really reduce the risk of heart disease and even reverse it?
Let's first look at two statistics. It is very rare - though not unheard of - for anyone with a cholesterol level below 150 to get a heart attack. In his book "The Food Revolution", John Robbins, who was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, writes that in America the average cholesterol of a vegan is 133. Therefore, just by looking at those two statistics we can speculate that if everyone in the world became a vegan we could practically eliminate fatal heart disease.
"The China Study", which involved thousands of Chinese who have been on low-fat plant-based diets for over 20 years, found that their average cholesterol was 127. Although they had low rates of heart disease, Dr T Colin Campbell, the author of the study, found that the Chinese who ate more animal products had higher cholesterol and higher rates of heart disease.
Campbell writes, "Even small amounts of animal products in rural China raised the risk for Western diseases".
In other words, even though the Chinese had much lower rates of heart disease than Americans, even among the Chinese themselves, those who ate the greatest amount of animal products had higher rates of heart disease than those who ate the least.
But perhaps the doctor who has done the most to teach us about the benefits of a vegetarian diet is Dean Ornish.
As many of you know, Ornish reversed heart disease in his patients without using surgery or medication. He achieved this by putting his patients in a programme that combined a low-fat vegetarian diet with exercise and meditation.
But this is what I find to be a eye-opener. Although the cholesterol of most of his patients dropped, Ornish wrote in his book, "Dr Dean Ornish's Programme For Reversing Heart Disease": "When people followed our programme 100 per cent, their arteries began to open up even when their cholesterol level did not fall below 200".
I find that to be remarkable because I had always thought that it was the drop in cholesterol that caused the reversal of heart disease. But apparently the vegetarian diet itself - even when there is no significant drop in cholesterol - may reverse heart disease.
And that is truly something to think about.