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Vegans at Risk for Heart Attacks and Strokes

Doctors continue to remind us of the increased cardiovascular risk factors from eating red meat and other animal based products, and suggest we eat more vegetables to maintain good health. Environmentalists inform us how large production cattle ranches wreak havoc on the quality of our air and water, and urge us to go vegetarian. Animal rights activists protest the mistreatment of animals from dairy cows to egg laying chickens, in a concerted effort to promote total veganism.

With all of this anti-meat and animal rights campaigning, one might think eating animal products was just wrong, but new research suggests people who follow a vegan diet are at risk for developing blood clots and atherosclerosis, which are two conditions that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

The vegan diet is completely free of any kind of animal products. That essentially means a vegan ingests absolutely nothing that comes from or is produced by an animal. Never are eggs, butter, sushi or chicken broth soup for the soul found on the diet list of a vegan. A diet of nuts, seeds and vegetables sounds like it could top the list of what is healthy to eat, yet this type of diet tends to be lacking in several important nutrients. Iron, zinc, vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids are difficult to acquire on a vegan diet, and these are key nutrients in helping to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, a vegan diet is very low in fat and, as a result, these strict vegetarians tend to have higher levels of homocysteine and lower levels of HDL, the good cholesterol, both of which also contribute to the risk of heart disease.

All of these findings, which have appeared in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, suggest that to maintain a healthy heart, vegans must at least increase their dietary consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B-12. Good sources of these nutrients can be found in nuts, but are more prevalent in meat and oily types of fish like wild salmon and mackerel. While vitamin and mineral supplements do contain everything we need, health experts suggest it is best to derive nutrients from the source.

For most people of average health, eating a little meat and a lot of veggies makes sense. As for the environment, there are sustainable ways to raise fish, beef and pork without harming our precious natural resources. And for the animal rights activists, it is a seriously tough call. Your heart may break when you take that first bite of fish, but at least it will be healthy.

Also Read:

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December 29th, 2011

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(Page 1 of 1, 22 total comments)


#1:"Vegetarian"s a virtually meaningless term: So-called "V"s often eat eggs, dairy, fish, even chicken, & consume alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, processed foods, added oils, & sugar #2:"Vegan"s an equally meaningless term, for the same reasons as the 2nd list above. The real issue: Those who consume only fresh, whole fruits & vegetables, (raw, when appropriate), no added oil or sugar, do NOT suffer strokes, clots, or heart attacks. In fact, Drs Esselstyn, McDougall, Ornish have had great results REVERSING heart disease with THIS vegan diet.

posted Dec 15th, 2014 6:51 pm


not raising fish pork and so is the main reason to go vegan. is it ok if i take you and raise some kids in the cellar so i can kill them and get protein? always funny to watch a fuckin meat eater try and talk about vegan diets. how many pills u think youll be on when ur 70, fuckin bitch i know u fucktards wont post this either so just go and get fat bitches go die

posted Feb 14th, 2014 8:50 pm

Ben Faust

"Vegan" is a very generic term, and covers everything from a very healthful and nutritionally superior diet, to one that will leave you with health issues. After all, whiskey and potato chips are vegan. A whole foods plant based diet has been proven to decrease your chances of heart attack and stroke as well as most of the other diseases people commonly think are unavoidable. Thousands of people have been studied for over 20 years, and have developed NO deficiencies while on a 100% whole plant diet while taking no supplements besides B12 (which many meat eaters should take as well). This myth that dead animals and their fluids are necessary for optimal health has been proven completely false. Whether or not people eat meat, they deserve to know the truth so they can make a properly informed decision.

posted Dec 22nd, 2013 9:14 pm

Melissa Wood, ND

As a former recovering vegetarian, I would agree with this article. Initially, I became vegetarian because of the health benefits and because, as a natural health practitioner, this way of eating goes along with my philosophies on healing the body: it's natural and "allegedly" environmentally friendly. But after a year, my health suffered tremendously and it was very evident in my blood work. Now, I work with other vegetarians and people that were vegetarians to help them recover their health. This way of eating definitely can work for some people. It was definitely difficult for me to go back to eating meat. But I am careful where I buy it and do my best to stay away from meat processed in CAFO's and buy from local farmers instead. I realize again, that this will no be everyone's experience as I do know successful vegetarians and vegans. But for a lot of people, this way of eating will just simply not work and will result in health problems. I was one of them and now having seen others like me, I realize this type of eating isn't for everyone. So I would encourage everyone to do their research, monitory their bloodwork bi-annually and work with a health care provider that can ensure your health is improving.

posted Jan 14th, 2013 8:34 pm


Based on nothing but personal experience (no scientific research conducted or implied) I think that the decision to be a Vegan is a personal one and based on motivators that can not be generalized. I think that the issue of whether or not it is ethical to eat animals or not is a divisive one and and not solvable via debate - In other words, you are neither going to turn someone into a Vegan with a persuasive argument nor are you going to convince a Vegan to change their diet to include meat. In the end it is people will make up their own minds. What inspired me to comment on this article is the sense of division that it has created - I have trouble with any doctrine that claims a superior moral position and responds to questions by attacking the other point of view. If all of the benefits of a Vegan diet are there (many validated by scientific research) then the Vegans should look to this type of article as an opportunity to dispel myths and further educate the population on the benefits of the Vegan diet - claiming moral superiority in not consuming animals is not a sufficient argument.

In the end, it is where you draw the line on what you consume. I know "omnivores" that won't consume veal, etc. because of the cruelty involved and I know 'vegans" that try to live their lives without harming any animal. Given the use of animal products in our daily lives it is a tall order to achieve that lifestyle. I'm sure that at some point someone will speak out for the vegetable organisms that share this planet with us and cite the benefit of eating nothing at all :)

posted Jan 5th, 2012 4:54 pm


Who gives a damn about the academia. It doesn't help trying to sound intelligent when you talk about animals as 'food', as if they are nothing but objects to be consumed so your cholesterol level or whatever gets a tick. As far as I'm concerned if you don't give a damn about the murder of billions of animals just to satisfy your taste buds, then I don't give a damn about you. I'd much rather die of B12 deficiency than murder an animal to get it. But to be safe, I take a B12 sub-lingual. And people mock us vegans for the 'extremes' we go to. Seriously, if you cannot tap into SOME idea of an ethical lifestyle instead of blabbering on about 'sustainable meat', I wonder if you are not lacking in that ancient thing called compassion. Now if only I could create a supplement like that.....I might be able to overcome my misanthropy.

posted Jan 5th, 2012 9:37 am

The Vegan Scientist

I've read the paper cited in its original format as it appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. It is merely a *postulation* based on *omnivore* data.

There is absolutely no evidence clinical or epidemiological that suggests vegans are at risk of heart disease based on the risk factors attributed to omnivores, none, whatsoever.

This is exactly why it does not appear in a clinical nutrition research publication.

Vegans may or may not have unhealthy, low HDL levels. There is no data to support this claim.

However, other studies demonstrate that when LDL drops below 70, heart disease can reverse and heart disease risk extrapolates to zero(5 year risk). [1][2] Other researchers postulate that when LDL reaches these low levels, HDL becomes less of a factor.

Even within the paper cited, the author admits that vegans are at lower risk of heart disease than meat eaters and merely recommends addition of more Ω3-FA's and B12 supplementation would be beneficial.

The amount of data that shows the benefits of a vegan diet in heart disease reduction and heart health is vast. It is not postulation based on single nutrients, but data on the molecular, clinical and epidemiological levels.

The bias is apparent in this blog, when the take home message in the original research publication was for vegans to take a B12 supplement (which almost all do these days) and increase consumption of vegan foods with Ω3, and really if you want to raise you HDL eat coconuts, olives, almonds, macadamia nuts, avocadoes, drink some red wine, exercise, particularly long distance running, all of which is vegan and all selectively raises HDL. It's funny that the solution to this dillemma is to eat *more* healthy fat and not be less vegan.

There, that's it! Easy Peasy and you reap all the rewards of a vegan diet like reduced risk of heart disease, type II diabetes, gout, diverticulitis, kidney stones, thrombotic stroke, obesity, IBS, gall stones, cancers, of the colon, prostrate and liver.



posted Jan 3rd, 2012 10:08 pm


I believe many of these responses are more of an emotional response. Jill??s article gives a broad, summation of things to think about as we chose what we do eat or don??t eat. In a culture where people can be obsessed with image and diets, there is no perfect or fail proof way to go. Many people will just start a diet without really knowing much about the healthy way to do it. Some may think it??s ??cool? to become vegan b/c vegans are skinnier or have more self control or be more spiritually advanced, not taking into consideration that it may not be right for their body or that that is the ego talking. Veganism isn??t for everyone, just as one religion isn??t for everyone. Everyone??s body is different and we each have to find our own way. Knowing that there are benefits and cautions to everything is a truth. New resources, information, options and better access to healthy foods are still coming out. Knowing that there are more sustainable, humane ways food is raised, as well as access to them, is a newer thing for vegetarians who don??t eat meat for environmental reasons, for example. These days we have to realize the best diet is the one in which we listen to our body??s needs and make sure we are informed and getting the nutritional balance we need.
As far as being offended by the bite of fish comment, I find it hard to find the line of doing no harm when people swat at mosquitoes or hit butterflies while driving down the road at 40mph or eat gmo soy, buy products with packaging that contaminates water and takes up waste space, etc. I could go on and on with the ways we impact the environment and diet isn??t the only way to minimize your impact on the earth and its creatures. We aren??t going to be ??perfect?, whatever that is, we have to stop fooling ourselves and get off our high horses.
There is more power in thanking and praying for that fish, plant or egg or nut that is in your belly sustaining your human life than judging others on their personal views and eating habits.

posted Dec 30th, 2011 9:37 pm


Wow. This totally screams "I want to justify what I am currently doing despite overwhelming evidence that I can't." Aside from all of the bogus claims in the article, isn't a central pillar of yoga non-violence and Ahimsa? And when did killing someone for pleasure, convenience, or habit become something sanctioned under Ahimsa? Umm, that's right: Never.

Free speech is a wonderful thing, and I'm glad people have the freedom to say what they want to. But it is really discouraging when that speech is false and damaging.

And, as an animal rights activist, I choose to be vegan for moral reasons. I do it because it's the moral, ethical, right thing to do: to not cause unnecessary suffering. While so many of the author's claims about "optimal health" are sadly inaccurate, even if they were* true, I'm fine with being simply healthy even if I'm not "optimally healthy" if it means that I am not the source for violence and pain. It's just really cool that by opting out from demanding other's be killed for my pleasure, I happen to gain greater health. Karma? Possibly. The just and moral thing do do? Absolutely.

posted Dec 30th, 2011 6:16 pm


Thanks Mari and rk - you are perfectly right.
I am so fed up with misunderstandings and prejudices concerning a vegan lifestyle. Furthermore, it is hardly ever mentioned that being vegan is not only about nutrition. The nutrition this article is about is about being vegetarian.

It is a shame that neither the article's author not the researchers know the correct definition of the words "vegan" and "vegetarian". Please look it up, and please use these words in their original meaning. At least. Thank you.

posted Dec 30th, 2011 4:27 pm


Jill, the very abstract you linked to says "Omnivores have a significantly higher cluster of cardiovascular risk factors compared with vegetarians." Were you intentionally being misleading, or did you just not understand what you read?

Yes, vegetarians and vegans do have to be careful to include certain nutrients in their diet. But the potential pitfalls of a poorly planned diet are not the same as the diet itself being risky. Any vegan who has read a book knows they have to be careful about their B-12, vitamin D, and omega-3s.

Your article does a disservice because vegan readers will disregard it wholesale and miss the important message about getting those nutrients, and meat-eating readers will not get the messages about their "significantly higher" cluster of risks.

posted Dec 30th, 2011 4:05 pm

madeline yakimchuk

First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. Then they attack you. Then you win
- Gandhi

GREAT! So we are between phase two and phase three. The more we grow the more we should expect the attack phase.

posted Dec 30th, 2011 2:04 pm


Thanks Mari -I was going to post many of the same points but you beat me to it. Aside from the gross inaccuracies, this article treats adults like romper room children living in a fantasy scenario. Your understanding of who vegetarians/vegans are and why millions of americans are refusing to eat meat is quite sad. The only thing Mari missed that I would add is the gross misuse of GMO food fed to animals (now known to cause organ failure and sterility in animals) that then gets passed onto humans plus the outrageous amount of antibiotics. I refuse to eat meat simply because of the horrific abuse animals endure on a daily basis which to me is one of the most inhuman acts one can do. PLEASE educate yourself before posting this kind nonsense.

posted Dec 30th, 2011 6:52 am


any legit sources to back up the article? "All of these findings, which have appeared in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, suggest that to maintain a healthy heart, vegans must at least increase their dietary consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B-12. Good sources of these nutrients can be found in nuts, but are more prevalent in meat and oily types of fish like wild salmon and mackerel. While vitamin and mineral supplements do contain everything we need, health experts suggest it is best to derive nutrients from the source." Could you cite a link to the original source? Also, what "source" are you talking about? Vegetables and nuts are a "source." This is vague and unsubstantiated. Too bad you couldn't write something with a "source" (preferably an un-biased peer-reviewed source) to back up your vague statements. It would have been more interesting...

posted Dec 30th, 2011 6:51 am

Elsje Massyn

I love Mari's comments and totally agree with her. The main writer of this article is most probably doing a little propaganda for the meat-industry and is getting a large tip out of it. It doesnt matter how animals are bred, kept, fed. Vegans most of the time choose to go the veg & fruit way because of moral issues AND because they know that living a healthy vegan lifestyle means less to none visits to the doctor (there goes the medical aid) - vegans live longer - does not have to worry about sugar diabetes, heart diseases, obesity, depression etc.

I smell a rat and are sure that this article is propaganda in favour of meat-eaters & meat production corporations

posted Dec 30th, 2011 5:28 am


"Mari" is so correct. This column is pure bunk. I've been a vegan for over 20 years. I take a supplement of B12, but am not even sure that's necessary. I'm way up there in years and have no cholesterol or other problems, including heart.

posted Dec 30th, 2011 4:34 am


It's called 'fortified soy milk.' Problem solved: Go vegan.

posted Dec 30th, 2011 3:41 am

H. Nicole Anderson

Total rubbish! It sounds like it was written by the meat and dairy industry. Of course, we, the readers, do not know who wrote it as there is no author listed. The intent seems to be to get vegans to stop being vegan!

"Your heart may break when you take that first bite of fish, but at least it will be healthy." Nonsense!

posted Dec 29th, 2011 11:50 pm


Here is a link to the research abstract. You may purchase your own access to the study in its entirety for further reading.

Disagreements regarding agriculture, animal rights, environmental issues and nutrition are as prevalent in our society as holy wars in the middle east.

Thankfully they are not as destructive.

posted Dec 29th, 2011 11:00 pm


May I suggest that the Yoga Instructor sticks to writing content related to yoga, or alternatively takes classes in nutrition and/or how to read academic research.

The above summary by the yoga instructor is the most misleading summary on Dr. Li's work I have come across (see below for the abstract of the research article Jill Lawson is talking about). Normally, I would just shrug my shoulders and move on, but I think what Jill Lawson is doing is really dangerous because she is feeding her readers information that can lead to health problems and even death. Reading this nonsense in a publication that focuses on health and diet makes me wonder how good of a publication this can possibly be.

The article is called "Chemistry behind Vegetarianism," and was written by Dr. Duo LI, who works at the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Zhejiang University,
Hangzhou, China. His "review summarizes the effect of a habitual vegetarian diet on clinical complications in relation to chemistry and biochemistry. Omnivores have a significantly higher cluster of cardiovascular risk factors compared with vegetarians, including increased body mass index, waist to hip ratio, blood
pressure, plasma total cholesterol (TC), triacylglycerol and LDL-C levels, serum lipoprotein(a) concentration,
plasma factor VII activity, ratios of TC/HDL-C, LDL-C/HDL-C and TAG/HDL-C, and serum ferritin levels. Compared with omnivores, vegetarians, especially vegans, have lower serum vitamin B12
concentration and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) levels in the tissue membrane phospholipids, which are associated with increased collagen and ADP stimulated ex vivo whole blood platelet aggregation,
plasma 11-dehydrothromboxane B2, and homocysteine levels and decreased plasma HDL-C. This may be associated with an increased thrombotic and atherosclerotic risk. It is suggested that vegetarians, especially vegans, should increase their dietary n-3 PUFA and vitamin B12 intakes."

In other words, vegans ARE much less likely to have all these diseases, and if they have deficiencies, they can be easily remedied by taking a couple of supplements. There is no such easy fix for omnivores. Omnivores, due to their diets, are at higher risk levels. Period.

By the way, this is where you can find the article written by Dr. Li. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2011, 59 (3), pp 777??784.

posted Dec 29th, 2011 8:56 pm


This is misleading. All the science to date seems to agree that meat eaters have a higher prevalence of both heart disease and strokes. This article is merely postulating what might cause those in a vegan, and as it says, vegans can add to their diet (flax oil, yeast extract and many other things not mentioned), whereas a meat eater can't - the causes of strokes and heart disease in meat eaters is what they eat, not what they possibly don't eat. Exercise, don't smoke, don't eat meat, eat fish = lowest risk. Not quite what this article says.

posted Dec 29th, 2011 6:35 pm


This article is so full of inaccuracies that I don't even know where to begin.

First of all, a link to this 'research' would be helpful. It's peculiar that it's completely at odds with pretty much all other meta-research findings about vegan diets that have been published in the last twenty or so years. Vegans that eat plant rich diets with lots of leafy greens are pretty much guaranteed to not have clots because of the anti-coagulation properties of vitamin K which is present in large amounts in food like lettuces, kale, spinach, broccoli, etc. Vitamin K is why patients are severely restricted from eating those foods when on a chemical blood thinner.

Secondly,the author seems to be ignoring that fact that B12 is not produced by animals but, rather, is an organism that used to be plentiful in our soil. Because of our propensity for over-farming and over-sanitizing, however, we have pretty much eliminated it, not only from our diets but from the diets of factory farmed animals. Most beef cows raised in this country receive their own supplements of B12 because they're not able to get it from their feed or from the earth. This should be a cause for concern for all humans whether omnivore or vegan. There are hundreds of thousands of omnis that are B12 deficient in this country so making it sound like this is a condition peculiar to vegans is inaccurate at best.

Thirdly, the author states "Iron, zinc, vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids are difficult to acquire on a vegan diet, and these are key nutrients in helping to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease." Wrong! In a nutrient rich vegan diet, these vitamins, minerals and fatty acids are fairly easy to obtain in more than adequate amounts. It's the excess fats, cholesterol, calcium from animal products and subsequent inflammatory cells that clog up arteries that cause heart disease. This condition doesn't happen from a varied, nutrient rich plant diet but has been linked in any number of studies to eating animal products. In fact, there are a number of studies available which show that heart disease can be reversed by a plant based diet that restricts most fats. You might be interested in reading work published by Dr. Esselstyne, Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. Barnard or Dr. Campbell. These medical professionals have not only conducted their own studies but continually monitor any and all medical research as it pertains to the effects of diet on human physiology.

Lastly, the author states "And for the animal rights activists, it is a seriously tough call. Your heart may break when you take that first bite of fish, but at least it will be healthy." This is offensive on so many levels that to address it in full would take far too long. Omitting the ethical aspects of eating animals, I'll just state that eating fish is NOT a healthy alternative, rather the opposite really. But if you believe that depleting the ocean of it's life while chowing down on animals whose bodies contain toxic levels of methylmercury..and PCBs is healthier than locally grown produce, well, good luck with your future brain health. You're going to need it.

posted Dec 29th, 2011 6:07 pm


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