Many large studies of nutrition have indicated lower rates of chronic diseases for study subjects following a vegan diet compared with an omnivorous diet. Yet, it is important to remember that vegans can get cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and other serious disorders. I see patients eating a vegan diet, usually for only a few months or years, that have important heart disease. Most vegans ate an animal-based diet for many years before they adopted their new plan. New vegans and those motivated by ethics may choose a lot of processed foods high in oils, trans fats, sugars, and added salt. Vegans need cancer screening just like everyone else, comprehensive lab studies, and imaging for silent heart disease to ensure optimal health.
The health outcomes over 25 years were compared from a large database from the Harvard School of Public Health in subjects eating a healthy (whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, teas, coffee, and vegetable oils) versus an unhealthy (juices, sweetened beverages, grains, sweets, fried potatoes) version of a plant-based diet. It is not certain how many of the participants were following a fully vegan diet. During the study, 8,631 subjects developed coronary heart disease (CHD). Adhering to a plant-based diet lowered the risk of CHD by about 8 percent overall, but this relationship was much stronger for those following the healthy pattern. Those respondents enjoyed a powerful 25 percent reduction in their risk of coronary heart disease while those eating the unhealthy plant foods actually increased their risk by as much as 30 percent! The bottom line is that a healthy vegan diet is a whole-food plant-based diet (WFPB) and not a junk food diet of processed options and fake vegan foods.