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Aspirin Levels in Plant Foods

Why people eating healthy diets may have aspirin in their bloodstream even if they don’t take any.

October 22, 2009 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Image thanks to comprock.


Inflammation plays a key role in a number of disease processes, including dementia, heart disease, and certain cancers. This is why doctors recommend some patients take an aspirin every day for prevention. Recently, though, researchers found that even people who don’t take aspirin have a certain level of aspirin, salicylic acid, in their bloodstream. Very low levels, but not all zero. How did it get there at all if they weren’t taking any?
Well, aspirin was originally extracted from the bark of the willow tree, so researchers started to wonder if it might be found in other plants as well, and it turns out aspirin is widely distributed throughout the plant kingdom—plants use it to prevent disease too.
So, if it’s found in plants, what about the blood levels of those eating plant-based diets? Vegetarians naturally have healthy low levels of aspirin coursing through their systems, because they eat more plants—as much as some people who take aspirin as a drug. The problem with the drug is that it increases our risk of bleeding, like hemorrhagic stroke. But some studies find vegetarians have lower risk of bleeding into their brain, so by eating a plant-based diet one might be able to get some of the benefits of taking aspirin, without some of the risks.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out theother videos on vegetarians. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Inflammation, Diet, and"Vitamin S"Fighting Inflammation with Food Synergy, and The Most Anti-Inflammatory Mushroom.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on vegetarians. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please check out my associated blog post Inflammation, Diet, and “Vitamin S”!

  • b00mer

    This is amazing! I recall at some point in the last few months a story on the evening news about an aspirin a day preventing certain types of cancers. I never started taking it because I generally don’t like pills and have a history of gastritis/ulcer issues (pre-vegan days). But oh ho ho, another piece of the puzzle comes out. Gotta love it.

    I realize now this is an older video. They definitely did not mention anything to do with this on the news. Only spoke of pills. What a shame.

    I also notice there are no comments on this video. That’s crazy! I find studies like this so exciting.

  • annon

    Do we know which foods have the highest concentration of aspirin?

    • Laloofah

      annon, I was wondering that as well, and recently found this. Assuming its information is credible, you may find it useful too…

      Salicylates in Foods

  • Laloofah

    And this story just appeared in the mainstream media:
    “Aspirin May Lower Deadly Skin Cancer Risk in Women”
    Of course, they’re talking about melanoma, and I saw no mention of veggies in the article. Just pills. Pity!

  • judd

    What is thoughts on an 81mg aspirin regimen, while on a plant based diet. Is it necessary.

  • test

    In which food Aspirin is naturally found ?

  • just me

    This is highly interesting. thanks

  • Flor Gutierrez

    I’d like to know if there is a cure for rosacea, i’ve being vegan for over 6 months and i got rid of the rest of my illnesses ( IBS, insomnia) but the rosacea persist and haven’t been able to leave the antibiotic prescribed, i’d appeciate your opinion. Thank you in advance

    • Colleen

      I have had the same experience with rosacea worsening while I’ve been very faithfully following a low-fat plant based whole foods diet for the last six months. In every other respect I feel much better. I wondered if it could be because I’v been eating more spicy seasonings, like chili powder and jalapeño peppers.

  • Daniel Bergman

    Hi Dr. Greger,
    I would appreciate if you could comment on this paper at some point:

    • Toxins

      The risk of stroke would be seen in those with hypertension from excess sodium intake. Sodium restriction is what is advocated here. Less then 1500 mg per day is a good cap. The study notes that “Nonetheless, vegans have the potential to achieve a truly exceptional ‘healthspan’ if they face this problem forthrightly by restricting salt intake”. The author also notes to increase potassium intake, b vitamins, whole grains, etc. which are classic signs that the “vegans” he is referring to are not the health conscious whole foods plant based vegans which is the diet recommended here.

  • Hana

    Rosace, helichrysum italicum is highly intiinflamatory for the skin.

  • Hana

    Doctors on TV only tock about exercise, no sugar of any form, baby aspirin, statins and never anything about plant based livestyle for prevention. Like a vegan should I still take the baby aspirin?

  • rick

    It appears that most doctors now prescribe some level of supplement with aspirin, typically 81mg. Do we have science that supports or refutes this?

  • LynnCS

    Can I say that I just love you, Dr. Greger…without explaining.