Bill Clinton's vegan diet revamp
August 18th, 2011
09:30 AM ET
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Editor's note: Tune in as Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores the signs, tests and lifestyle changes that could make cardiac problems a thing of the past on "The Last Heart Attack," Sunday 8 p.m. ET.

Dr. Dean Ornish who designed a diet and lifestyle to reverse heart disease will answer your questions Thursday, August 18, at noon EST in a Twitter chat. Tweet your questions to @CNNhealth using #LastHeartAttack or ask in the comments at CNN Health.

By the time he reached the White House, Bill Clinton's appetite was legend. He loved hamburgers, steaks, chicken enchiladas, barbecue and french fries but wasn't too picky. At one campaign stop in New Hampshire, he reportedly bought a dozen doughnuts and was working his way through the box until an aide stopped him.

Former President Clinton now considers himself a vegan. He's dropped more than 20 pounds, and he says he's healthier than ever. His dramatic dietary transformation took almost two decades and came about only after a pair of heart procedures and some advice from a trusted doctor.

His dietary saga began in 1993, when first lady Hillary Clinton decided to inaugurate a new, healthier diet for her husband. In a meeting, she asked Dr. Dean Ornish to work with the White House chefs, who were accustomed to high fat, French cuisine.

Read From omnivore to vegan: The dietary education of Bill Clinton

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Filed under: Dietary Restrictions • Diets • Health News • Sanjay Gupta • Vegan • White House


soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Hibberly

    It's true that a vegan diet puts less pressure on the earth's resource but what we eat is personal choice. If we choose a vegan diet then the key is to replace missing nutrients like iron and b12

    August 30, 2011 at 9:38 am | Reply
    • FiFiFI

      Recommend this for that all round good vegan diet http://www.spoonfedsuppers.com/healthy-eating/healthy-diet/vegan_diet

      August 30, 2011 at 9:40 am | Reply
    • andy

      I am a vegan for19years and I am as healthy as it get, Iron is plenty in any green Vegetables broccoli spinach, Lentils, peas, tofu, beans, nuts, seaweed etc too many to names and Vegan diet mainly on these how could any vegan lacks of Iron? let compare Spinach, cooked have 15.7mg, Lentils, cooked 2.9mg, Broccoli, cooked 1.9 compare to Chicken, breast roasted, no skin 0.6mg, Pork chop, pan fried 0.4mg, Milk, skim 0.1mg. The top iron sources are vegan. by Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D. check out vrg.org

      about B12? you can easily get it from Mushroom and you only need tiny bit of it. Yes I agreed it a personal choice but if it concerns global warming and killing millions of people and even billions then that choice is way too much, I chose vegan due to compassion for all beings on this planet including animals, plants, human and myself.

      September 4, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Reply
  2. Calum

    Sorry if this seems dim of me but I feel like it would not be helpful for strength athletes to be on a plant based diet.

    you do not get a 50 inch chest and 17 inch arms with out a high quality protein diet.

    August 30, 2011 at 8:23 am | Reply
    • jessica

      Jake Shields (UFC) is a vegan!

      August 31, 2011 at 9:36 am | Reply
      • RH

        Wendy Whoppers eats alot of meat,just sayin'.

        August 31, 2011 at 9:40 am | Reply
    • Peter

      Plants have just as much if not more protein than meat. Its just that it is in the form of what protein is made of. Amino acids. The body doesn't have to break it down since its in its elemental form already... Plant and vegetable protein is also not laden with foreign animal substances, its not considered a foreign protein and as such does not cause the inflammatory response that animal protein causes.

      August 31, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Reply
    • denise

      I won't call you dim, just ignorant. Look up veganbodybuilding.org for some examples.
      A healthy vegan diet is more than just giving up animal products. What's hard about it, is that it's contrary to the mainstream. The examples of vegans who quit because of health concerns not only did not have proper diets, but don't even have any scientific backing for their claims-esp. Lierre Keith! Weston Price is the big money in cattle!
      B12 is a bacteria, easily acquired and stored for a number of years. You'd have to be vegan without supplementing for at least 5 years for that to be a factor.
      Iron is found in abundance in plant foods, I went from borderline anemic to having excellent levels.
      Why all the anamosity? Omnivores love to call vegans preachy, yet everywhere it's discussed omnivores love to post ridiculous, hate filled statements.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:12 am | Reply
  3. Paris

    First: watch dvds FOOD,INC and FAT,SICK,AND NEARLY DEAD and SUPERSIZE ME.
    Then go online to vitamix.com and learn to eat fruits and veggies blended in delicious juice in a WHOLE food processor...not a juicer that separates out the important fiber.

    August 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Reply
  4. Antje

    Let us have a laugh here : <>
    US cuisine is fat. There were hardly people with hearth trouble in France until US chains started selling US 'food' and US style drinks. There were hardly fat people to notice. Now with US food style around there are plenty people who cannot find fitting clothing at regulat stores.

    August 20, 2011 at 7:58 am | Reply
  5. Zlatni Retriver

    Those democrats. Always on the edge :) And dull like hipsters

    August 20, 2011 at 3:52 am | Reply
  6. Slobowitz

    Every vegan I know is a complete retard. Every one.

    August 18, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Reply
    • Franklin Duan

      We are talking about the health, meat and diary food just have too much poisons nowadays. They are not the same things as 10 years ago, too much growing hormones and antibiotics. Don't just watch the TVs and newspapers, they are highly sponsored by these food industries. Internet is more unbiased nowadays.

      In fact, when the time comes, sooner or later, for oneself, you would not really care about your healthy and food you eat, like Bill Clinton.

      August 19, 2011 at 12:55 am | Reply
    • Greg Bowers

      The United States has 4% of the world population but 50% of all heart by pass surgery and stints are done in the United States because of the unhealthy meat and dairy based diet that the majority of Americans eat.

      August 21, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Reply
      • abbyful

        You blame meat & dairy? Those are things that people thrived on for generations upon generations. Read "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" by Weston Price.

        The REAL culprit is a grain-based diet, loaded with sugar and preservatives, woefully lacking in healthy fats, and lack of eating adequate vegetables.

        August 22, 2011 at 9:41 am | Reply
  7. abbyful

    A vegan diet is NOT healthy. You cannot even get your required nutrients from the food of a vegan diet, supplements are a must.

    Vegan diets should especially be avoided for pregnant and nursing moms. Even on the poorest of diets of omnivores and vegetarians, you don't hear about their babies dying because the mom's breast milk lacks enough nutrients to even support life; but there are several such stories in the news each year about vegan babies.

    You can be healthy eating an omnivorous or vegetarian diet if you eat well. But your diet needs to include at least some animal products even if they are non-meat products (like eggs and dairy).

    Bill Clinton's health improved because he quit eating large quantities of donuts, hotdogs, and other junk food; not because he's eating a vegan diet. He would probably be healthier on an omnivorous or vegetarian diet instead of vegan.

    August 18, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Reply
    • Truth@abbyful

      I respectful have to disagree...I think Clinton's health improved due to Hillary being away so much with her secretaray of state responsibilities.

      August 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Reply
    • situationalawareness

      All vegan can be healthy, especially with the beans in his diet, as they have proteins, vitamins and fiber in high doses.
      While it may not be something you don't want to do, let's not pull the "not healthy" card. It's healthy being an omnivore as well, but not in the deteriorated state he was in. He fixed it, and he's decided to stay with that diet.

      August 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Reply
      • abbyful

        situationalawareness, I've read many stores about people abandoning vegan diets because their health was deteriorating. Vegetarian diets too, but much more about vegan diets. There are no viable plant sources for B-12, vegans must get it from supplements or shots, and even then the bioavailability is questionable, some vegans taking B-12 supplements still suffer from deficiency. It can take years for B-12 deficency to show up because our bodies store it, but the stores eventually get depleted if you don't eat any of it. Also, there are no complete proteins from plants, you can get close, such as eating rice & beans together, but it's not 100%. Meals such as eating rice & beans together for protein were born out of necessity to survive and lack of adequate food; people started eating that combination because they didn't have meat or meat was reserved for the men and women were second priority.

        Here's one example of health problems due to their diet (vegan) – http://voraciouseats.com/2010/11/19/a-vegan-no-more/
        Another (vegetarian) – http://crunchychewymama.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-im-not-vegetarian-anymore.html

        Nutrition author Nina Planck was formerly vegetarian, she gained weight and was sluggish, which was remedied by her resuming eating an omnivorous diet.

        Author Lierre Keith of "The Vegetarian Myth" was vegan for 20 years and destroyed her health, she eats animal products again, but some of the damage she's done to her body is permanent.

        A vegan diet simply isn't healthy.

        August 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Reply
    • Evil Grimace

      I think everything works individually. There's no one right diet for everybody. For some people, being vegan does work – although I more than agree that a vegan diet on its own is not healthy unless you make a conscious effort for it to be, taking vitamin supplements and eating foods or milks that are fortified with vitamin b12. You can find that in some soy milks and yoghurts.

      I just know that vegetarianism doesn't work for me, as I have some metabolism issues that make it necessary for me to eat protein in regular doses, and beans just don't work very well. However, the traitorous former Evil Roommate is doing quite well as a vegetarian. Our systems are just different, and that means that what works for one of us doesn't necessarily work for the other.

      It's all a matter of what's good for us as individuals.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Reply
      • Franklin Duan

        Agree.

        Our feeling after meal is the most accurate feedback, esp. when comparing with the previous eating habit of heavy meat and dairy product, esp. when you are already sick and need good energy to recover. Top reason: I feel good. I feel energetic. I feel light.

        August 19, 2011 at 1:00 am | Reply
    • Franklin Duan

      It is the health, not the other things. In fact, when the time comes, sooner or later, for oneself, you would not really care about your healthy and food you eat, like Bill Clinton.

      Meat and diary food just have too much poisons nowadays. They are not the same things as 10 years ago, too much growing hormones and antibiotics. Don't just watch the TVs and newspapers, they are highly sponsored by these food industries. Internet is more unbiased nowadays.

      August 19, 2011 at 12:57 am | Reply
      • abbyful

        Buy from local farmers that raise pastured organic beef, lamb, goat, chickens, ducks, etc. Or hunt your own food.

        August 19, 2011 at 9:42 am | Reply
    • Franklin Duan

      It is not about nutrition. It is about the "poisons" in the food and how you feel after you eating them. Top reasons to continue your eating style are: I feel good. I feel energetic. I feel light.

      Our feeling after meal is the most accurate feedback, esp. when comparing with the previous eating habit of heavy meat and dairy product, esp. when you are already sick and need good energy to recover. The 21th century meat and diary are not the same things as 10 years ago, too much growing hormones and antibiotics.

      August 19, 2011 at 1:04 am | Reply
    • Cathy W

      abbyful, you are quoting ANECDOTES. Research does not support the idea that a high-quality vegan diet is unhealthy. That's like saying that just because Bill Clinton switched to this diet, and is healthier that it MUST be healthy. One person (or even a handful) doesn't prove ANYTHING.

      You don't know exactly what those people in all those stories ate, or didn't eat. There are plenty of vegans and vegetarians are unhealthy due to a poor quality diet full of processed foods. And, just because they CLAIMED they were eating a high-quality diet, doesn't mean they actually were. You are also obiously reading and remembering only what you want to see – I've seen dozens and dozens of stories of people who switched to a vegan diet and felt enormously better. Doesn't prove anything, does it?

      August 23, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  8. Snorlax

    If you look at the two pictures, Clinton today looks downright sickly, pale and weak due to his vegan diet.

    August 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Reply
    • situationalawareness

      If that's sickly looking, I'd sure hate to see your idea of "healthy".. wow

      August 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Reply
    • Wisdome1

      One thing for sure is Cliton is not a stupid retard. Top reasons for us to choose the food are: I feel good. I feel energetic. I feel light. Our feeling after meal is the most accurate feedback, esp. when comparing with the previous eating habit of heavy meat and dairy product, esp. when you are already sick and need good energy to recover. The 21th century meat and diary are not the same things as 10 years ago, too much growing hormones and antibiotics.

      August 19, 2011 at 1:07 am | Reply
  9. Monica

    Do you still like a good cigar?

    August 18, 2011 at 11:14 am | Reply
    • Bill Clinton@Monica

      Only if you've kept it in a dark and moist place.

      August 18, 2011 at 11:20 am | Reply
      • Fidel

        That is known as an all natural humidor

        August 18, 2011 at 11:24 am | Reply
  10. Ronald McDonald

    Your not looking well Billie Boy...I've given the secret service some Big Macs and alot of fries for you,just like back in the White House days.

    August 18, 2011 at 10:00 am | Reply
    • Franklin Duan

      Top reason: I feel good. I feel energetic. I feel light.

      Our feeling after meal is the most accurate feedback, esp. when comparing with the previous eating habit of heavy meat and dairy product, esp. when you are already sick and need good energy to recover.

      August 19, 2011 at 12:59 am | Reply

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