NHS cardiologist claims his 68-year-old mother’s vegetarian diet played a role in her death

An NHS heart doctor has claimed his mother’s vegetarianism contributed to her premature death.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist, said her health deteriorated because she cut meat out of her diet and became weak and susceptible to infection.

His mother Anisha, a former GP in Manchester, died in December of sepsis – a complication of an infection – at the age of 68.

Dr Malhotra said that, although she became overweight and unhealthy through eating ‘ultra-processed’ junk food, a lack of meat left her deficient of vitamins and protein which led to her poor spinal health.

Dr Aseem Malhotra says a diet high in processed vegetarian foods contributed to his mother's frailty because she became deficient in protein and vitamins, leaving her with lower muscle mass and a higher risk of infections (pictured while as a vegetarian)

Dr Aseem Malhotra says a diet high in processed vegetarian foods contributed to his mother's frailty because she became deficient in protein and vitamins, leaving her with lower muscle mass and a higher risk of infections (pictured while as a vegetarian)

Dr Aseem Malhotra says a diet high in processed vegetarian foods contributed to his mother’s frailty because she became deficient in protein and vitamins, leaving her with lower muscle mass and a higher risk of infections (pictured while as a vegetarian)

‘Even if you take away the rubbish diet, the problem with vegetarianism is you don’t get enough protein and you are at risk of a nutrient deficiency,’ he told MailOnline.

‘With my mum, the fact she didn’t get enough protein was the reason her muscle mass deteriorated and she became frail and vulnerable to infection.

‘That was a crucial aspect to her suffering at the end.’

Dr Malhotra said his mother developed high blood pressure while in her 40s and had a brain haemorrhage in 2003.

She also had arthritis as a result of being overweight and her spine became increasingly damaged over time, including repeated slipped discs.

When she died, his mother had discitis – inflammation of the tissue between the intervertebral discs in the spine, triggered by an infection.

Her mobility was further destroyed by sarcopenia, a decline in muscle mass he believes was brought on by a protein deficiency caused by her vegetarianism.

‘For most of her adult life, my mum was vegetarian and significantly overweight,’ he wrote in a column for i News.

‘Growing up, I witnessed her regular consumption of starchy carbohydrates and ultra-processed snack foods of biscuits, crisps and chocolate.

‘Our kitchen was flooded with these products.’

Acknowledging it wasn’t vegetarianism which killed his mother directly, Dr Malhotra argues the lifestyle choice isn’t synonymous with health and many people who don’t eat meat damage their bodies in other ways.

Dr Malhotra believes his mother (pictured together while she was in hospital), who was vegetarian for religious reasons, suffered from worse health because she didn't eat meat which could have given her vital nutrients to improve her strength 

Dr Malhotra believes his mother (pictured together while she was in hospital), who was vegetarian for religious reasons, suffered from worse health because she didn't eat meat which could have given her vital nutrients to improve her strength 

Dr Malhotra believes his mother (pictured together while she was in hospital), who was vegetarian for religious reasons, suffered from worse health because she didn’t eat meat which could have given her vital nutrients to improve her strength 

Dr Malhotra said being vegetarian does not necessarily mean someone is health and India, which has the most vegans and vegetarians of anywhere in the world, has high rates of type 2 diabetes, a condition associated with being overweight

Dr Malhotra said being vegetarian does not necessarily mean someone is health and India, which has the most vegans and vegetarians of anywhere in the world, has high rates of type 2 diabetes, a condition associated with being overweight

Dr Malhotra said being vegetarian does not necessarily mean someone is health and India, which has the most vegans and vegetarians of anywhere in the world, has high rates of type 2 diabetes, a condition associated with being overweight

Dr Malhotra, pictured with his mother, said: 'Growing up, I witnessed her regular consumption of starchy carbohydrates and ultra-processed snack foods of biscuits, crisps and chocolate' (pictured around 20 years ago - while his mother was a vegetarian)

Dr Malhotra, pictured with his mother, said: 'Growing up, I witnessed her regular consumption of starchy carbohydrates and ultra-processed snack foods of biscuits, crisps and chocolate' (pictured around 20 years ago - while his mother was a vegetarian)

Dr Malhotra, pictured with his mother, said: ‘Growing up, I witnessed her regular consumption of starchy carbohydrates and ultra-processed snack foods of biscuits, crisps and chocolate’ (pictured around 20 years ago – while his mother was a vegetarian)

Dr Malhotra last year slammed the World Health Organization for telling people to replace butter and lard with 'healthier' oils in the New Year

Dr Malhotra last year slammed the World Health Organization for telling people to replace butter and lard with 'healthier' oils in the New Year

Dr Malhotra last year slammed the World Health Organization for telling people to replace butter and lard with ‘healthier’ oils in the New Year

CAN GOING VEGGIE BOOST YOUR RISK OF HEART DISEASE? 

Vegetarian diets are widely touted as a healthier option than eating meat.

But eating a vegetarian diet isn’t always healthy and some may increase the risk of heart disease, scientists said in July 2017.

Experts warned cutting out meat can lead to a higher risk of heart disease – if vegetarians eat lots of refined grains, potatoes and sweets, and indulge in sweetened drinks.

Researchers from Harvard University designed separate diets which focused on plant food with a reduced animal food intake and a vegetarian diet that emphasised the intake of healthy plant foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

They also studied a third which was based on unhealthy diet of less healthy plant foods like refined grains.

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 

Vegetarians still become fat and may also lack the protein, vitamin B12 and iron – meat-derived nutrients – to strengthen their muscles, bones and immune systems, he said.

He gives the example of India, which has more vegetarians and vegans than the rest of the Earth combined, being dubbed the ‘diabetes capital of the world’.

This Dr Malhotra blames on increasing consumption of fatty processed wheat, sugar and vegetable oil products.

And he adds a majority of vegetarians don’t eat healthily – the Indian Dietetic Association found 84 per cent of veggies are protein-deficient, compared to 65 per cent of people who eat meat.

Dr Malhotra added in his column: ‘Sadly, [my mother’s] devout religious faith to avoid consuming animal products, combined with a high starch, high sugar diet, was ultimately to the detriment of her health. 

‘I very much hope that her premature and painful death was not in vain and we can learn that much of these ills are preventable.’ 

Dr Malhotra last year slammed the World Health Organization for telling people to replace butter and lard with ‘healthier’ oils in the New Year.

He said he was ‘shocked and disturbed’ by the advice, which the UN agency listed as a tip to prolong people’s lives.

WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE? 

• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count

• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain

• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options

• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts

• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day

• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide 

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

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