GoVeg: Heart disease is the number one killer in the western world and is now number two in China. If we combine heart disease with stroke, they are the number one killer in China. Are heart disease and stroke related conditions?

Dr. Xu: Yes, they are related. Both heart disease and stroke are blood vessel diseases. They are caused by artherosclerosis, degeneration of the blood vessels.


GoVeg: Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn says that heart disease need never occur and can be overcome by diet. Is he right?

Dr. Xu: Well, I don’t know about ‘never’, but a very great percentage of people with heart disease can reverse it through diet. The indications are that by following a low fat vegan diet at least 80% of people will achieve very good improvement. The other factor to consider is that if a person suffering from heart disease does not follow a low fat vegan diet, the condition will definitely get worse.


GoVeg: How does a low fat vegan diet help us to avoid heart disease and stroke?

Dr. Xu: As I said, both conditions are the result of degeneration of the blood vessels- artherosclerosis. This degeneration is essentially caused by blood lipids. Blood lipids are mainly fatty substances and cholesterol. It is blood lipids that mostly damage the blood vessel walls.

So the first thing to do to allow the body to start to heal is to stop eating foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol. A low fat vegan diet does this. Plants contain no cholesterol but the body produces its own and if we eat a diet high in trans and saturated fats it can stimulate our liver to produce more cholesterol so eating saturated fats is double trouble.


GoVeg: Is eating a low fat vegan diet enough to get the body to start self healing artherosclerosis?

Dr. Xu: It is a great start. In terms of avoiding artherosclerosis, there are a couple of other steps to take. B12 is important to blood vessel health as it helps the body to lower homocysteine which can damage the arterial lining.

It is also important to not eat too much salt as salt leads to fluid retention and this causes higher blood pressure. High blood pressure can also put strain on arterial linings and lead to damage.


GoVeg: This is a lot of information. Can you summarise?

Dr. Xu: Yes. Heart disease and stroke are caused by artherosclerosis (damage to the arteries).

The main cause of artherosclerosis is blood lipids- fatty substances and cholesterol.   Artherosclerosis can also result from high blood pressure putting strain on the arteries  Homocysteines can damage arteries as well.     This means that we must eat a low fat vegan diet. We should also not eat too much salt and we should make sure we have enough B12 in our diet.


GoVeg: How do we get enough B12?

Dr Xu: You can drink plant milk fortified or take a daily B12 tablet.


Dr Xu, who has a PHD in Physiology, has been working for PCRM since 2010, firstly in Clinical Studies, now on the Kickstart China Program (21 Day Vegan Kickstart). He travels widely in China to educate people on the importance of a low fat plant based diet.




The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine was founded by Dr Neal Barnard in the USA. After he graduated as a medical doctor in the 1980s, Neal Barnard’s work acquainted him with things that shocked and worried him- the use of dogs in medical experimentation was one. Another was the fact that many other doctors he met smoked and ate meat even though they knew both were unhealthy. It seemed to him that the medical industry needed more compassion and also needed to be more thoughtful about the causes of ill-health, rather than just treating the symptoms.

Dr Barnard started PFRM to practice medicine with compassion. It had two aims:

1. To support plant based eating with evidence based research

2. To fight against the use of animals in experiments in medicine and other fields.