A Nutrient Rich Diet and Avoidance of High-protein Diets is Crucial to Women’s Heart Health

October 27, 2017 by Joel Fuhrman, MD

Women must be warned. Heart disease can be more deadly for women than men. 39 percent of women who have heart attacks die within a year, compared to 31 percent of men. During the first four years after a heart attack, the rate for a second heart attack is 20 percent for women and 15 percent for men. Heart disease actually kills more women than men.1 Yet, there is indisputable evidence a healthy nutrient-rich diet is key to avoiding this deadly disease as explained in my book, The End of Heart Disease.

Clearly, physicians are not doing enough to intervene in this disease process and are not giving heart disease patients the information needed to protect themselves. Once significant heart disease exists, we know that the likelihood of those patients having future cardiac problems is great.

With the high-protein/high-animal product diet craze continuing to flood the internet, the media and market, it is more important than ever for women to be informed that popularity and media excitement is not a criteria for valid information. The risk of cardiovascular disease rises as a woman eats less high-nutrient produce and more foods of animal origin. A Swedish study following 43,396 women found that the more closely they followed a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet pattern, the greater their risk of cardiovascular disease over a 15-year follow-up period.2

High-protein diets can generate ketosis, which predisposes one to electrolyte imbalances and cardiac arrhythmias. Women must be aware of the dangers of these type of diets. We already have medical studies carefully discussing the mechanism via which the popular high-protein diets can lead to sudden death. One such report was written and the physiology described in the medical literature after a 16 year old girl died after following the Atkins diet for two weeks.3

We now know that it is not merely the saturated fats in animal products that are risky, but that there are additional issues:

  • New research has associated carnitine with cardiovascular disease via gut bacteria.4-6 Carnitine is an amino acid only found in animal products.
  • Animal products promote weight gain and are nutrient-poor compared to whole plant foods.7
  • Egg consumption, although not raising blood cholesterol levels much, may be dangerous for those at risk for cardiovascular events, such as diabetics. Eggs are associated with greater areas of atherosclerotic plaque in healthy individuals.8-9
  • Animal protein elevates IGF-1, which is associated with both cancer and cardiovascular disease.10-11
  • High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have now been linked to premature death.12-13 Choosing meats that are somewhat lower in saturated fat is simply not enough.

Cardiovascular damage from popular diet trends has continued unabated, in spite of an overwhelming amount of evidence of their harm, and in spite of the clear message from all respected health authorities to eat more fruits, vegetables, beans, and less cheese, butter and red meat.

The message in my book The End of Heart Disease is similar to many health authorities, but is stronger and more effective. It gives people the specifics of what they need to reduce the heart disease risk to almost zero and to effectively reverse atherosclerosis.

I have reviewed over 20,000 scientific studies in the medical literature, and the evidence is overwhelming. Heart disease is totally avoidable. There is no controversy in the science on this subject. A vegetable-based diet, not a meat-based diet, is more effective for weight reduction, and it can preclude the possibility of heart attacks from occurring—ever.

When you normalize risk factors (cholesterol, body weight, blood pressure, and nutrient deficiencies) with nutritional intervention, rather than drugs, you accomplish significantly greater risk reduction. With a high nutrient diet style there are other favorable biochemical changes that take place as well. . As weight drops, blood sugar, triglycerides, blood pressure and cholesterol all drop dramatically. The body is flooded with protective nutrients that protect the blood vessels from disease and rupture.

Fortunately, even those people who have advanced heart disease can avoid future heart attacks and reverse and remove atherosclerosis. It is never too late to make the lifesaving, and delicious change to a Nutritarian eating style. Make the choice to protect yourself right now.

  1. Go Red for Women: Causes and Prevention of Heart Disease [http://www.goredforwomen.org/about-heart-disease/facts_about_heart_disease_in_women-sub-category/causes-prevention/]
  2. Lagiou P, Sandin S, Lof M, et al. Low carbohydrate-high protein diet and incidence of cardiovascular diseases in Swedish women: prospective cohort study. BMJ 2012, 344:e4026.
  3. Stevens A, Robinson DP, Turpin J, et al. Sudden cardiac death of an adolescent during dieting. South Med J 2002, 95:1047-1049.
  4. Koeth RA, Wang Z, Levison BS, et al. Intestinal microbiota metabolism of l-carnitine, a nutrient in red meat, promotes atherosclerosis. Nat Med 2013.
  5. Wang Z, Klipfell E, Bennett BJ, et al. Gut flora metabolism of phosphatidylcholine promotes cardiovascular disease. Nature 2011, 472:57-63.
  6. Tang WH, Wang Z, Levison BS, et al. Intestinal microbial metabolism of phosphatidylcholine and cardiovascular risk. N Engl J Med 2013, 368:1575-1584.

  7. Vergnaud AC, Norat T, Romaguera D, et al. Meat consumption and prospective weight change in participants of the EPIC-PANACEA study. Am J Clin Nutr 2010, 92:398-407.

  8. Spence JD, Jenkins DJ, Davignon J. Dietary cholesterol and egg yolks: not for patients at risk of vascular disease. Can J Cardiol 2010, 26:e336-339.

  9. Spence JD, Jenkins DJ, Davignon J. Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque. Atherosclerosis 2012, 224:469-473.

  10. Kaaks R. Nutrition, insulin, IGF-1 metabolism and cancer risk: a summary of epidemiological evidence. Novartis Found Symp 2004, 262:247-260; discussion 260-268.

  11. van Bunderen CC, van Nieuwpoort IC, van Schoor NM, et al. The Association of Serum Insulin-Like Growth Factor-I with Mortality, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer in the Elderly: A Population-Based Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2010.

  12. Lagiou P, Sandin S, Weiderpass E, et al. Low carbohydrate-high protein diet and mortality in a cohort of Swedish women. J Intern Med 2007, 261:366-374.

  13. Levine ME, Suarez JA, Brandhorst S, et al. Low Protein Intake Is Associated with a Major Reduction in IGF-1, Cancer, and Overall Mortality in the 65 and Younger but Not Older Population. Cell Metab 2014, 19:407-417.


Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is a board-certified family physician, seven-time New York Times bestselling author and internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing, who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods. Dr. Fuhrman coined the term “Nutritarian” to describe his longevity-promoting, nutrient dense, plant-rich eating style.
For over 30 years, Dr. Fuhrman has shown that it is possible to achieve sustainable weight loss and reverse heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses using smart nutrition. In his medical practice, and through his books and PBS television specials, he continues to bring this life-saving message to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.