Being a Vegan- President Clinton and Heart Disease

President Clinton is now mimicking President Eisenhower, not in terms of foreign policy, but becoming obsessed with diet as a cure for his heart disease.  President Clinton revealed that he has become a vegan, and is under the tutelage of Dr. Dean Ornish – a proponent of getting rid of all but about ten percent fat in the diet.

The results, as they were with President Eisenhower- are not likely to be different.  Eisenhower ended up eating almost nothing but Melba toast and grapefruit, obsessed with his cholesterol level, and having more heart attacks until the last one killed him.

What is the evidence that a vegan diet is healthier for a person than a diet with animal proteins? None. There is no evidence that a diet that is based around plants or a diet with low animal fat does little.

Some will cite epidemiologic data- a poor source for data less than a level one.  If you cite epidemiologic data you have to explain all the data—and often they ignore the “French Paradox.”  Or ignore that while the Japanese eat little meat and have few heart attacks – their average consumption has increased over 22 percent with no increase in heart attacks (often people cite data from post World War 2 Japan, and not current Japan – and then ignore the data about stroke rate). When all epidemiologic studies are examined – one cannot justify a plant based diet on those.

Some cite the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study claiming that an animal based diet had more mortality than a plant based diet – but few have read the study.  While Dr. Ornish jumped on this study, saying it justified what he has been telling people- apparently he didn’t read the study either.

This study divided people into two groups- the low-carb group received 37 to 60 percent of their calories from carbohydrates (that isn’t low carbohydrate by any standard). The meat group was not divided out for those who smoked and were overweight (a higher portion of the meat group smoked and were obese). The vegetable group had 30 per cent of their calories from animals, as opposed to 45% for the meat group (so not really a vegetable group).  Once again, an epidemiologic study  and it is flawed.

What we do know from science about low-density-lipoproteins is that they fall into two groups- one group is far more deadly than the other, causing the majority of atherosclerotic plaques.  That is the group with the high tri-glyceride levels is the one that is deadly. Of this there is no doubt in the scientific community.  When the Very Low Density Lipoprotein and apo B – leading to high low density lipoprotein – leads the the increased in artery plaque leading to heart attacks and strokes.  The lower the triglyceride levels then the lipoproteins secreted by the liver become the subspecies of intermediate-density lipoproteins, which are far less cause of atherosclerosis than the others.  Where does the triglycerides come from? Not animal proteins, but primarily carbohydrates.

Bottom line from science – the more triglycerides – result in atherogenic small, dense LDL proteins – and this happens from carbohydrate rich foods.

What about Greece, and Southeast Asia, and Japan (after world war 2) . These populations barely had enough food to survive.  They didn’t use refined carbohydrates – and ate whatever they could. It was not the low-intake of saturated fat that protected them, rather the relative lack of a refined carbohydrate leading to low triglyceride levels. Those studies, championed by the late Ancel Keys, are still cited.  This in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Back to President Clinton – a vegan diet will not save his heart. Saturated fat is not what led to the atherosclerotic plaques –  it may have been the abundance of triglycerides from highly processed and abundant carbohydrates. What he has done that will help him is, lose weight, have heart surgery, take medication –but  in terms of diet, President Clinton falls into what Eisenhower did, as well as every anorectic—when the only thing they can control is diet, they will fall victim to fads that sound healthy, are promoted by TV MD’s – but have no science to back them up.

If you want to be a vegan for health, there is no data to support that. In fact, vegans have a life expectancy that is less than pescetarians (fish eaters) and omnivores.President Clinton – a Vegan

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, then became a renowned weight loss surgeon, and a leading advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he advocates teaching people to improve their health through their food. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcom Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit


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