Bill Clinton on Veganism and Heart Disease

August 5, 2012 in Featured News, Health & Lifestyle

Former President of the United States Bill Clinton speaks to attendees at The U.S. Conference of Mayors in Seattle

Former President of the United States Bill Clinton speaks to attendees at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Seattle, Washington, Nov. 1, 2007. Source: Robert Sorbo/Reuters.

Questioned about his radical new diet regimen, former President Bill Clinton cautions, “Some people say the plant-based diet I propose to prevent and reverse heart disease is ‘extreme’. Do you know what’s really extreme? Cutting open a person’s chest cavity and leg, removing blood vessels from the leg to transplant near the heart (a cardiac bypass).”

Clinton has been known for his mantra of “food, friends and fun” in politicking. Today he’s also known also for his assault on bad dietary habits. These personally put him at risk of heart disease – a fact which has millions of Americans waking up to the reality of their own habits.

In 2004, Clinton underwent a quadruple bypass surgery. In 2010, he had two stents implanted to reinforce veins used in the 2004 surgery. The former president considers his eating habits throughout much of his life to have contributed to his declining health. But his response has not been one of resignation. ABC calls Clinton the rock star of the DNC. Now he’s bringing celebrity attention to the cause of better eating habits for America.

It’s been just one year since Clinton announced he started a vegan diet in an interview with CNN’s Sanjay Gupta in August 2011. Veganism essentially boils down to not eating any animal products whatsoever. It sounds radical, but there is an intriguing body of research to back him up on this. Much of it is advocated in a little documentary called Forks over Knives.

According to the documentary, obesity plagues two-thirds of Americans.  The result is Children are being diagnosed with type II diabetes in record numbers. Cancer also is still one of the most highly-diagnosed disease in the country, despite advances in treatment and prevention. The National Cancer Institute reports that an estimated 1.64 million cases of cancer will be diagnosed each year.

According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a featured expert in Forks over Knives, the best solution to these and other high health risks is simple: a plant-based diet that foregoes the vices of our American dining habits. Essentially, that’s a vegan diet. Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University and Project Director of the acclaimed China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project.

Campbell has been at the forefront of nutrition research for more than 40 years. The China Project is considered the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted. The study was the culmination of a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine

Much of the intellectual ammunition in support of a plant-based diet derives from the China Study. The study comprised a remarkable effort of literally thousands of science students in China, originating with research initiated in the 1970s and continuing with analysis today. Researchers report that this massive research effort has provided a wealth of food-health relationships – over 9,000 correlations between what you eat and all of the afore-mentioned diseases.

Contrasting this documentary evidence, Raw Food SOS’s blog offers a powerful critique of the plant-based diet. Authored by ex-vegan Denise Minger, Raw Food suggests that many of the premises of the plant-based diet are just flat wrong, questioning research practices and flawed references behind the China Study. Many of the dietary suggestions, she admits, are good ideas, though there are quite a few ways to responsibly consume a healthier, balanced diet without radical change. Minger argues, Forks over Knives would make you feel like an egg is as bad as a bag of Cheetos.

Will Bill Clinton’s diet help him on his way to a healthy heart? Chances are good. It’s pretty much universally known and accepted that simply dropping some of the more insidious foods, like fried chicken, Chinese food, and greasy cheeseburgers, will allow for a healthier heart and lifestyle. So far it doesn’t look like Bill Clinton’s new diet regimen is hurting his enthusiasm for keeping things fun.