In a recent interview with CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, Bill Clinton discussed his decision to maintain a vegan diet. “I like the vegetables, the fruits, the beans, the stuff I eat now,” he said, explaining that he feels good and has more energy.
As long ago as 1993, Hillary was encouraging him to change his unhealthy eating habits. She hired Dr. Dean Ornish, director and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, to work with the chefs at the White House to revamp the president’s diet.
But it wasn’t enough. In 2004, Clinton had to undergo quadruple bypass surgery. He committed to lowering his caloric intake, but last year he learned that he would need another angioplasty. After that procedure, Ornish taught him how a plant-based diet could improve and, in some cases, actually reverse heart disease.
In addition to improving his own health, Clinton is dedicated to promoting healthful diets for children. In a joint effort with the American Heart Association, the Clinton Foundation is promoting exercise and better lunches at 12,000 schools.
This is all great news. But not surprisingly, it’s sparked controversy between advocates of plant-based diets and those who feel veganism is unhealthy and unnecessary. Though some of the discussions in the comments section of the CNN interview are purely political (and even religious), many are quite thought-provoking.
Nancy Shutes of NPR’s health blog, Shots, reported on the CNN interview with obvious skepticism of Clinton’s diet choice. She mentions that studies have proven the benefits of a plant-based diet but points out, “many of those studies, though peer-reviewed, were conducted by researchers who are advocates of diets free of animal products. The former prez will need to keep an eye on his B12. Vegans and vegetarians can be short of this vitamin, which is present in eggs and dairy foods, and can become tired and anemic without it. They can also run short of iron, protein, zinc and calcium.”
This is not unfair reporting, it’s just obviously biased. It’s important to understand the risks of a poorly planned vegan or vegetarian diet, but what about the risks of an omnivorous diet? Any vegan will tell you how easy it is to get enough B12, and even if by some oversight we don’t… I’ll take being “tired and anemic” over a quadruple bypass surgery any day.