Michael Greger, MD, is a physician and lecturer who held this talk in 2003. He speaks about why a man who had been vegan for 40 years died of a heart attack and all about omega-3s and vitamin B12 and why these two nutrients are so important to all vegans and everyone else.
Can vegans die of a heart attack? Yes, it happened to a man who had been vegan for 40 years and vegetarian since birth. Can vegans die of the same diseases that plague people eating the standard Western diet of meat, dairy, and eggs? Of course!
Dr. Michael Greger tells us why and how to prevent this. As vegans, we can prevent many illnesses and diseases, but a vegan diet is not foolproof. In today’s society, we may need to supplement certain nutrients because our produce is washed, our water supply is chlorinated, and the soil is deficient in certain nutrients.
This lecture presents some amazing facts, documentation, statistics, and a wide range of scientific data. It is very informative; I didn’t know about many of the issues until I saw the video. A must-see for everyone, including vegans and vegetarians.
We have to differentiate between Dr. Greger’s way of speaking and the facts that he shares. You can skip some of the talk, but I would recommend that you watch the segments listed below.
FINDINGS (from about 2000–2002):
05:30: In 2001, he studied the latest data comparing meat eaters versus vegetarians and vegans and was shocked: vegetarians and vegans were not better off!
06:50: Finding number one: meat eaters live just as long as vegetarians.
12:55: The German Heidelberg Study showed that the vegetarians live longer than the vegans and those who ate meat on occasion outlived them all. A second study showed that vegetarians have twice the rate of hip fractures as compared to meat eaters and twice the risk of dying from neurological diseases (Table 14:37).
WHAT IS COUNTERACTING THE NATURAL BENEFITS?
15:00: Vegetarians and vegans often have a poor diet. Instead of seeds, they usually consume oil, which causes them to have a poor ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. The other major problem is that they fail to address a possible vitamin B12 deficiency. It is important to note that a B12 deficiency is common for everyone over age 50, not only for vegans or vegetarians.
21:30: The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. The Mediterranean Group had a ratio of 4:1, and the control group 20:1! Why does this ratio make a difference?
24:30: Dr. Greger explains why this difference causes heart attacks. See also the flow chart for EPA and DHA — and AA (27:00).
27:20: A good ratio is 1:1 and up to 4:1 is still acceptable. About 100 years ago, we had a ratio of 1:1, but then the industrial production of oil was stepped up and the ratio began to increase. Inflammation is produced by having too much AA (diagram at 29:15)
29:45: Meat eaters had a ratio of about 7:1, vegetarians had 10:1, and vegans even 15:1. Fish would give a better ratio, but flaxseed is the best.
Our recommendation: Check out Erb Muesli, which has a good ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 and can balance out an entire day of poor diet choices. It provides 100 % of the recommended daily requirement for omega-3 and only a little omega-6 (exact amounts are listed in the third nutrient table below the recipe). It’s best to not use (vegetable) oil and to eat natural whole foods!
31:00: Fish contains EPA and DHA, but flaxseed is the most concentrated source of omega-3s and also helps protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
40:00: Homocysteine blocks our arteries when the levels are too high. We should aim for less than 10 micromol/liter. In a study from 2001, meat eaters had an average level of 12 micromol/liter, vegetarians an average of 16 micromol/liter (threefold risk of dying from a heart attack), and vegans an average of 19 micromol/liter. And in 2002, vegans had an average level of 27 micromol/liter (table 44:10). Homocysteine is also toxic to the brain. If we have levels of 14 micromol/liter or greater, our risk for Alzheimer’s disease increases fourfold.
44:40: There are three ways to get our levels of homocysteine down: the first is to increase our intake of vitamin B6, the second is to increase our intake of the dietary component choline, and the third is to increase our intake of folate or vitamin B12. However, it is always necessary to get enough B12. Plants don’t contain B12! Either you have to eat B12 fortified foods or take supplements. It used to be thought that plants contained B12, but a faulty test was used that didn’t differentiate between active B12 and inactive B12 analogs that our body can’t use.
48:30: In some cases, it is also necessary to take a DHA supplement.
57:00: To get enough vitamin D in winter, it is important to eat foods fortified with vitamin D (shitake mushrooms contain vitamin D in small quantities) or take vitamin D3 in liquid form. In northern latitudes, it’s hard to get enough vitamin D from the sun during the winter.
59:00: Calcium isn’t a problem for vegans if they eat natural whole foods, but they need to consume the same amount as meat eaters. They can’t get away with less calcium as the myth goes. Eating 3 cups of kale or any dark leafy greens, for example, is enough to get the recommended amount of calcium.
1:01:00: In one study, those who drank the most milk had the highest number of bone fractures. Iodine may be lacking in some areas.
Eat greens every day and drink enough water.
1:12:00: We used to get vitamin B12 in the water we drank, but now we have clean water that doesn’t contain B12.
The headlines and search terms for this article are as follows: Vegan dies of heart attack!, Do vegans get heart attacks?, Do vegans get heart attacks? — Is going vegan good for your heart?, Do vegans get clogged arteries?, Are vegetarians less likely to have a heart attack?, and Do vegans live longer? In reading this summary, you’ve already received the answers to some of these questions, but to get more answers we recommend that you read this article: A Vegan Diet Can Be Unhealthy. Nutrition Mistakes.