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Low-Fat or Whole Food?

Which type of plant-based diet has been shown to maximize cholesterol reduction?

September 30, 2010 |
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Transcript

A plant-based diet is best, but what kind of plant based diet? A review last year looked at all the randomized controlled trials to date. Using a meat-eating group as the control, it compared people eating like a Mediterranean-style diet that minimizes meat, versus a meat-free diet, versus a meat, dairy and egg-free diet. You can’t really directly compare all the studies, because they were on all slightly different diets, for different durations, studying different populations of people, but in general, people cutting out most meat cut out a quarter of their risk... Those cutting out all meat cut their risk of our number one killer in half, and those that eliminated dairy and eggs, did even better still.
But there’s kinda two popular styles of vegan diets, there’s those pushing very low fat versus those that encourage high fat whole food sources like nuts. Which one works better?
… A whole-foods vegan diet chock full ‘o nuts may wipe out as much as 80% of our risk of falling victim to the number one killer.

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.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

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 the other videos on cholesterol. Also, there are 1,686 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

Be sure to check out my associated blog posts for more context: Soymilk: shake it up! and Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk.

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/vegannp/ VeganNP

    The citation provided does not appear to match this presentation, and it sounds as if more than one article is cited. Is there a citation for the low-fat vs. whole foods vegan diet?
    Thank you.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      You are my savior! Thank you so much for pointing that out. You deserve a prize for finding the first error on the site! In fact if you want to email me your mailing address I’ll send you a copy of my new DVD as a token of my gratitude. I have corrected the citation source (thanks to you!). A group of my interns uploaded the source citations and one of them must have made a mistake. Please help me root out any other errors on the site (and I’ll send you even more free stuff :).

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/vegannp/ VeganNP

    I’m also curious about the low-fat vegan diet vs. the whole food vegan diet that included nuts. How low was the low-fat diet?
    Thank you.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      That is such a great question. Too often “low-fat” diets are anything but! In this systematic review, though, some of the diets really did dip down into the 10% of calories from fat range, which is low-fat by pretty much anyone’s standards.

      • Steve

        any added benefit to having a RAW whole food vegan diet?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

    Should’nt we be heart attack “proof” as Caldwell Essylsten puts it on a whole foods plant based diet??

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/sarmstrong/ SArmstrong

      I think Dr. Esselstyn would assert you are heart attack “proof” if your LDL cholesterol is under 80 mg/dL.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/shaadoe/ shaadoe

    So what is the optimal fat percentage in a whole food plant based diet.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/aguccionesbcglobal-net/ aguccione@sbcglobal.net

      Hi Shaadoe,
      What is “low fat”? Many a confusing conclusions from faulty clinical studies have caused many well-meaning dieters to lose faith in low-fat studies. The American Heart Association says 25-30% fat is low enough, but is it? In comes Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s to the rescue with his immensely important book: “The China Study”. His findings from rural China showed that only when dietary fat was reduced from 24% to 6% was there a clear association seen with lower breast cancer risk. But the reduction must not only be of dietary fat “but more importantly of animal-based food.” Judging from his” plant fat/ breast cancer death” chart, we may become heart-attack and breast-cancer proof with a 10-12% fat vegan diet which includes a handful of nuts/day. Get the book; there’s more goodies!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/working-at-it/ working at it

    great questions……looking forward to more discussion. I ate an Esslestyn diet for a couple of years, and never did manage to get my cholesterol under 150. I briefly managed to get under 150 on a Fuhrman diet, but still have not been successful long term. Would REALLY like to know how to be successful with this. Perhaps stress plays a role in keeping cholesterol high? Looking for answers……

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Hello working at it,
      If you are eating whole foods plant based and avoiding all animal products and processed foods while focusing on the most nutrient dense of those foods than your cholesterol should drop since your not taking in any outside sources of cholesterol. Cholesterol can only be produced by animals. Also, exercising at least an hour a day and eating ONLY when your hungry will significantly aid in lowering cholesterol levels and stress. http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/halving-heart-attack-risk/ Maybe do some rock climbing at a gym near by? I hate working out with the weights so all I do is rock climb, its great fun and it works your body hard!

    • Michele Keane

      We produce cholesterol whether we eat animals or not. Cholesterol that we produce is very important for many functions. Each person produces the amount your body needs. If you are not taking in dietary cholesterol, than you shouldn’t worry about it. There is a reason why your body produces 150 and that’s healthy for you. Statins lower your body’s natural cholesterol, cholesterol that your body needs, recognizes and has a purpose. Perhaps the damage statins do is because the body is now not producing the cholesterol needed for neurological functions, muscle contractions, etc. Cholesterol is not the problem if your body produces it. The cholesterol we take in is the problem.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/working-at-it/ working at it

    Thank you, Toxins, for your suggestions on ways to lower cholesterol! Yes, am fanatical about eating only whole unprocessed plant foods. Sometimes too many fruits, and Dr. McDougall says this can raise cholesterol….I do like sweet things (like dates!). Sometimes “stress eating” is an issue, and could always get more exercise. When I was younger I LOVED to rock climb; it’s definitely a good way to focus energy, especially when on the sharp end of the rope.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/ecoearthlymom/ ECOEARTHLYMOM

    Do you have any outlines to eating a wholefoods vegan diet? i have been doing the lowfat mcdoughall diet and weight watchers simple filling technie?? Maybe some websites to give me a new durection in weightloss??

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      The McDougall diet is really good. Id stick with that!

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/drdons/ DrDons

        I would agree that the McDougall diet is a great way to go. However the devil is always in the details. Two resources that I recommend for those looking to loose weight is Jeff Novick’s DVD, Calorie Density, which can be ordered off his website, http://www.JeffNovick.com. Jeff ties Calorie Density(much more important than calories) to exercise which is very important to understand. By adding more low calorie dense foods like vegetables and some fruits you will have more success at “fat” loss. I would also recommend John McDougall’s newsletter article, The Fat Vegan, it can be found in his December 2008 issue available on his website. Those resources should give you some ideas on how to proceed. Best wishes.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/greensmoothie/ GreenSmoothie

    For a clear understanding and how to immplement a plant based diet with good fats check out Dr Fuhrman’s nutritarian diet

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Also be sure to check out my associated blog post Soymilk: shake it up!

  • Lily

    Hi Dr. Gregor. I would love for you to address the claims of the “cholesterol myth” crowd and those researchers who say having high cholesterol is healthy. They cite studies such as this: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21951982

    Another website I read said here are at least 11 studies showing that high cholesterol is not associate with coronary heart disease, 11 more studies show high cholesterol didn’t predict likelihood of death.

    I think it’s important that you address these research studies, which conflicts with what we are being told as vegans. Thank you!

    • Toxins

      It is very well established that cholesterol is lined with heart disease. From the national academy of science, “Given the capability of all tissues to synthesize sufficient
      cholesterol for their metabolic and structural needs, there is no
      evidence for a biological requirement for dietary cholesterol.”…”a tolerable upper intake has not been set for cholesterol because any incremental increase in cholesterol increases [cardiovascular disease] risk”

      I highly recommend this video, and very rarely do i ever link to youtube.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bSdnQ1MKGo

      As well as some of these nutritionfacts videos.

      http://nutritionfacts.org/index.php?s=cholesterol

  • LittleQ

    then why are nuts not included in the reversal of heart disease….???