Animal vs. Plant Foods and Heart Disease in Pictures--UPDATED

UPDATE: The following charts have been corrected. Germany and Switzerland are no longer listed twice.

We have been discussing Atkins and other high-animal fat diets. Consider these graphs from Dr. Fuhrman, which tell a pretty dramatic story about the difference between eating an animal-fat based diet and a plant-based diet.

Animal Fat vs Heart Disease
Animal Food vs Heart Disease corrected.jpg

Plant Food vs Heart Disease
Plant Food vs Heart Disease corrected.jpg

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Comments (14) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
John Gilpin - April 7, 2006 12:15 PM

Germany appears twice on the upper graph, Switzerland twice, fairly far apart, on the lower one.

Henry Abbott - April 7, 2006 1:03 PM


Good eyes. I have forwarded your comment so that hopefully we can get to the bottom of it.


Omar Wasow - April 8, 2006 1:39 PM

It would also be helpful to cite the sources of the data if possible.


Helena - April 9, 2006 4:23 AM

It would be interesting to see such a graph about general health. It is not that interesting if people do not die from heart disease because they already died from malnutrition in their thirties. It does seem to me that countries where people get almost no animal fats (Mozambique, Zimbabwe) are not countries where people have the best chance on a healthy life.

Susan - April 9, 2006 1:07 PM


Do you believe increasing animal fat consumption is going to improve the chances of people having a healthy life in those countries?

Have you read Eat to Live? Dr. Fuhrman suggests that such issues as poor sanitation, poverty and general malnutrition (from a lack of high-nutrient calories, not animal fat), high infant-mortality rates, high rates of infectious diseases, tuberculosis, etc, are what need to be resolved.

Even though we have the opportunity to create one, there has never existed in our history a society with all the benefits of good sanitation, good emergency medical care, refrigeration, clean water, flush toilets, AND availability of fresh produce all year, that also regularly consumes an extraordinarily high intake of unrefined plant foods.

Helena - April 10, 2006 12:07 PM

"Do you believe increasing animal fat consumption is going to improve the chances of people having a healthy life in those countries?"
That's not the point. I think these graphs do not prove anything, since people in the countries with the most plant foods may have less heart disease, they are generally much worse off than we are. In fact, the countries with the highest intake of animal fats seem to me to be the countries where people generally have the highest quality of life, according to the UN (see: )

I have read Eat to Live and I am a vegan, but not because people in Mozambique do not get heart disease on a terrible diet that has nothing to do with the diet Dr Fuhrman recommends.

Henry Abbott - April 10, 2006 1:25 PM


There's a lot more to this story, one important part of which is that when people come to the US from places with less heart disease, their rate of heart disease goes up. To me that's a clear sign that there's something in our diet that is causing the heart disease. The charts above, the China Study, and plenty of other research suggest animal fat may be one of the big bad offenders.

Dr. Fuhrman describes this and backs it up with data, and Dean Ornish just wrote about this on The rest of this post is one big quote from Dr. Ornish (you can read the whole thing here:

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing that recent immigrants reported significantly better physical and mental health (such as lower rates of obesity and high blood pressure) than their U.S.-born counterparts, despite having limited access to health care and little or no health insurance. The study found that people from other countries (African-American, Asian and Hispanic) who move to the United States become progressively less healthy the longer they stay in the country. Those who were U.S. residents for five years or more were 54 percent more likely to have high blood pressure and 25 percent more likely to have cardiovascular diseases, for example, than those who lived here less than five years.

In other words, moving to the United States can make you sick.

Why? The diets and lifestyles in many other countries are much healthier than in the United States. In our research, my colleagues and I found that an Asian way of eating (predominantly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and soy products) and living (moderate exercise, stress management and strong communities) may stop and even reverse the progression of coronary heart disease as well as prostate cancer. These lifestyle changes may also help to prevent or reverse diabetes, hypertension and obesity, as well as reduce the risks of the most common forms of cancer.

Susan - April 10, 2006 5:10 PM


Hmm, I guess I am not understanding the UN means by "quality of life". Does a high life expectancy equate to a healthy life?

The GNP of developed western nations includes the high costs of medical care. In the US spending on health care is rising many times faster than our GNP. (That cannot be said for all developed countries, though.) Factor that out and what is our GNP and our quality of life, really?

Unfortunately economic GNP data is built on the premise that our standard medical treatments of drugs and surgery is another valuable good or service the economy produces. To spend tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars on diseases that can be avoided, or reversed, and on insurance to cover them, inflates the GNP figures making us look like we produce more than we do. Add to that GNP the products of the food companies that produced the food that got us sick to begin with, and our GNP starts looking more like a sham.

The ramifications of the western diet reach widely beyond medicine and into our economies. So I am not convinced that their health index based in part on GNP is useful.

Helena - April 10, 2006 8:22 PM

Thanks for responding Henry. I do not dispute the fact that a plant based diet is healthiest of all. I think there is no question about that. I just think that these graphs do not prove that, or in fact might even be used for the opposite conclusion: like I said in my previous comment: countries with the highest intake of animal products rank highest on the quality-of-life scale.

John Gilpin - October 23, 2006 11:40 AM

Helena -- Being merely correlational, the graphs cannot *prove* anything. But they perhaps have more persuasive power than you recognize. Note, for example, that Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan -- all states with a very high standard of liviing -- have relatively low heart disease rates.

Henry -- I see you've fixed the repeats on the two graphs. Since fixes can be done, you might want to deal with the less-substantive problem of the spellings of Paraguay, Uruguay, and Ecuador.

Phil Beach, Jr - September 22, 2007 5:13 PM

I have been on a plant based diet for 15 years. Only on rare occasion do I consume any dairy or meat. If I ever do (less than 5 percent daily) the source will always be from raw dairy or grass fed beef from local farmers. In 1992 I suffered a near fatal heart attack at age 31. This plant based diet saved my life and continues to provide me with excellent nutrition, keeping me healthy and lean. I highly recommend eating a plant based diet to anyone who is not willing to place themselves at significant risk in contracting the many diseases that are associated with excesses amounts of animal food. The research from "The China Study" as well as research from other sources indicate that the risk of contracting diseases that are associated with animal food consumption is not significant at levels of 10 percent or less of total caloric intake. Ideally consuming nutrient rich food from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grain products and less than 10 percent from meat sources provides the optimal nutrition for the human body.

Best of heath to all,

Phil Beach, Jr.

Md. A.K. Shuvro - November 3, 2007 2:26 AM

Please sen me a graph

I can't find in please Sir help me.

It will be year vs USD

Roman - January 4, 2008 7:21 PM

What is the reference for these two figures? Are they adopted from a journal article? If not, why not? Shouldn't the analysis be exposed to peer review?

A commentor - March 13, 2008 2:07 PM

These look like graphs taken from Dr. William Harris' book The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism. However, the data are flawed because they don't take into account the overall life expectancy in these countries. That is, in many of the countries where plant consumption is high and death rates due to heart disease is low, they often don't live long enough to develop heart disease due to other factors - malnutrition, HIV AIDS, or other factors.

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