Former heart surgeon, Dr Ellsworth Wareham, only retired 7 years ago, but unlike many recently retired doctors he’s going to be 103 in just 3 months time! In 2013, when he was but a young lad of 98, he was interviewed by Veggie Channel, and shared his secret to a long and healthy life which he believes is a vegan diet. The heart expert, who has been completely vegan around half his life, thinks that veganism is the key to ending the coronary heart disease epidemic in the US.
Wareham has never enjoyed animal products, despite the fact that his parents were farmers and meat was in abundance. Meat and dairy have just never appealed to him. ‘I never did drink milk by the glass,’ Wareham admits, ‘I would use it on my cereal, and of course my mother and later on my wife would use it in cooking… I was naturally inclined towards a vegetable type of diet.’
Like many other people looking to remove animal products from their diet, Wareham was initially concerned about cutting out the meat and dairy altogether in case he became nutrient deficient. After doing some research he discovered that a simple vitamin B12 tablet, alongside a vegan diet, would give him everything he needed and so he became a vegan.
Wareham doesn’t only have a message about his own personal health to share, though. Having seen cardiology, in particular open heart surgery, progress over his many years of work, Wareham talks of coronary heart disease. In the 1960s Wareham, with other surgeons, would go overseas to perform open heart surgery in countries whose doctors were unable to carry out the procedure themselves. Wareham notes that during this time he only needed to work on people who had congenital heart disease, a heart conditions someone has from birth, or valvular heart disease, caused by rheumatic fever. Coronary heart disease was simply not an issue.
When it comes to coronary heart disease, cholesterol is the most important factor to consider. Wareham suggests that anyone with a cholesterol below 140 and who stays active, something he does by gardening, is very unlikely to develop coronary heart disease.
Cholesterol is caused by saturated fat, and almost all fat found in animal products is saturated. Vegetables have little to no saturated fat. In addition to this, animal protein can contribute to raised cholesterol, as discovered by Dr. Colin Campbell of Cornell University. Wareham recommends, and used to recommend to his patients, a low fat, vegan diet for increased heart health. His own cholesterol is only 117!
Furthermore, Dr Wareham claims he only knows of two scientists who have successfully arrested coronary heart disease in their patients, namely Dr Esselstyn and Dr Ornish. Both of these medical professionals have done this with low fat, vegan diets.
The ex surgeon even had an answer for people who don’t like the taste of vegan food. He refers to a 2012 article in the Wall Street Journal that said all tastes are acquired except for breast milk, which essentially means you can teach yourself to like the taste of anything if you’re willing to! It also means that if you feed children healthy foods they will grow up enjoying it.
Dr Wareham is a living example of being able to live a long and healthy life on a vegan diet. Not only does his age dispel the myth that veganism leads to malnutrition, but Wareham has had the advantage of understanding the science behind dietary choices and his decision to be vegan should provide some comfort to those concerned about how healthy it is.
All in all, he’s a pretty cool chap.