Vegan Health ArticlesHeart Attacks, Side-Effects, or a Healthy Diet
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From Michael Greger, M.D.

One of the laws of ecology is that you cannot do just one thing (because everything is connected to everything else). Yet, when physicians put people on statin drugs to cripple the enzyme that produces cholesterol within your liver, they hope there won't be any other effects. Unfortunately within the ecology of the body that too often is not the case. About one in six people on these cholesterol-lowering drugs experience other untoward effects,[1] and there is growing concern about the very rare (but very serious) life-threatening adverse reactions to this class of drugs. We've known about the potential for rare cases of these drugs causing muscle breakdown, but recently there's been increasing concern about rare cases of these drugs causing nerve breakdown--a so-called drug-induced polyneuropathy.[2] It seems that statins may also co-cripple the synthesis of a key energy-producing enzyme in nerve cells. Thankfully, one doesn't have to choose between the risk of getting a heart attack and the risk of suffering side-effects from life-long drug therapy. That's because David Jenkins has done it again.

Currently one of the world's most respected nutrition researchers (it was his team that invented the glycemic index), Dr. Jenkins has just published yet another study proving that a completely plant-based (vegan) diet alone can lower cholesterol levels as much as the combination of a low-fat vegetarian diet AND a statin drug.[3] Although, as drugs go, statins seem remarkably safe, users do risk (albeit extremely rarely) being written up as case reports with unpleasant names like "Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis from Atorvastatin." That one, published in the Journal of the AMA, described a horror story of a woman whose skin erupted in blisters and then started necrosing off. Patches of her skin started disintegrating and sloughing off after only four days on the statin drug. After two weeks on a morphine drip, thankfully, she pulled through.[4] Contrast that with the side effects of a healthy plant-based diet. What's the worse that can happen? Maybe less reading time on the toilet because you're not constipated anymore?

As the revered Moses Maimonides wrote in the 12th century: "No illness which can be treated by diet should be treated by any other means."


[1] Napoli C and V Sica. "Statin Treatment and the Natural History of Atherosclerotic-Related Diseases: Pathogenic Mechanisms and the Risk/Benefit Profile." Current Pharmacologic Design 10(2004):425-32.

[2] Anderson JL, et al. "Do Statins Increase the Risk of Idiopathic Polyneuropathy?" American Journal of Cardiology 95(2005):1097-99.

[3] Jenkins DJA, et al. "Direct Comparison of a Dietary Portfolio of Cholesterol-Lowering Foods With a Statin in Hypercholesterolemic Participants." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 81(2005):380-7.

[4] Journal of the American Medical Association 279(1998):1613-1614.

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We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.