The Effects of a Vegan Diet on Heart Disease



A number of studies report that eliminating animal products from our diet can help to protect us from heart disease. For instance, Jack Norris, Registered Dietitian and the President and Executive Director of Vegan Outreach, cites the Lifestyle Heart Trial, which was a randomized clinical trial conducted from 1986 to 1992.

People with moderate to severe coronary heart disease were randomized to an intensive lifestyle change group or to a usual-care control group. The intensive lifestyle changes diet included a 10% fat, whole foods vegetarian diet (mostly vegan), aerobic exercise, stress management training, smoking cessation, and support groups.

In the lifestyle changes group, the atherosclerosis in their arteries actually decreased 4.5% after one year and 7.9% after five years. In contrast, the atherosclerosis in the control group increased by 5.4% after one year and 27.7% after five years. Total cholesterol levels in the lifestyle diet group went from 225 mg/dl to 188 mg/dl after five years, and they had a 74% reduction in frequency of angina.

Twenty-five cardiac events occurred in 28 lifestyle change patients vs. 45 events in 20 control group patients.This Lifestyle Heart Trial indicates that a whole foods vegetarian (and probably vegan) diet can be effective as part of a lifestyle change to reduce atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Additionally, the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) cites research on the helpful effects of a vegan diet in preventing and even reversing heart disease, and the connection between cholesterol (found only in animal products) and heart disease.