One of the most influential doctors in the cardiology field is a vegan and encourages his patients dealing with issues like type 2 diabetes and hypertension to follow his diet for improved health.
Dr. Kim A. Williams first became a vegan in 2003 after a cholesterol exam came out a little higher than expected at 170, up 60 points from the year before.
“I was basically eating chicken and fish, no skin, no fried food and no red meat,” he said in an essay published on MedPage Today. “I thought it was healthy. But it was low fat instead of low cholesterol, which is what I needed.”
At first he blamed his age for the results but then he decided to see what would happen if he changed his diet. He eliminated all meat from his plate, switched cow’s milk for almond milk and also boycotted all dairy. In six weeks, he got tested again. His LDL cholesterol had fallen to 90.
“It seems that the response to dietary cholesterol and other changes in diet are all genetically determined and quite variable,” he said, warning that not all results are that drastic. “One person might go from 170 to 150 by going to a plant-based diet. Another person might go from 170 to 90.”
From then on, Williams recommends to his patients what has worked for him but as he made that public in his essay, the response wasn’t all positive.
“I didn’t know it would create such a firestorm of everything from accolades to protests,” said Dr. Williams, who is also the chairman of cardiology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and president-elect of the American College of Cardiology. “The response was really loud, and much of it diametrically opposed.”
Some accused him of wanting everyone to turn vegan. Others that he was “influenced by industry.”
“Who is the industry that promotes vegan dieting?” he asked in rebuttal. “Maybe the people who publish books on it. But that wouldn’t be considered industry, I don’t think.”
Other aggravated doctors claimed Williams is basing his patient’s diagnostics on his own experience and that there’s not enough evidence that a switch to a vegan diet does have a positive effect on patients with heart disease or diabetes.
To the latter, Williams agrees. Although he has reviewed plenty of observational studies that have showed significant improvement in the health of non-meat eaters, Williams suggests that new, more narrowed studies should be done.
For now, though, the doctor’s orders remain clear even if some of his patients (and fellow doctors) don’t listen.
“I recommend a plant-based diet because I know it’s going to lower their blood pressure, improve their insulin sensitivity and decrease their cholesterol,” he said. “And so I recommend it in all those conditions. Some patients are able to do it, and some are not.”
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