Bill Clinton's diet has changed so much since his McDonald's days that when CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked him in a recent interview whether he considers himself a vegan, the former president replied: "well, I suppose I am."
In the interview, a portion of which was released on Thursday, Clinton said he has cut dairy and meat, even fish, out of his diet.
"At Thanksgiving, I had one bite of turkey," he said.
According to CNN, Clinton has dropped 20 pounds and says he's healthier than ever. But the change only came about at the urging of a trusted doctor, and even then after two heart procedures. In 2004, Clinton underwent quadruple bypass surgery after experiencing tightness in his chest. Even after cutting down on calories and cholesterol, Clinton had to have another procedure last year. Doctors put two stents in one of the veins from the bypass surgery.
After the second procedure, Dr. Dean Ornish, who had once worked with White House chefs during Clinton's administration to get healthier foods in the president's diet, met with Clinton and gave him some advice.
"I shared with him that because of his genetics, moderate changes in diet and lifestyle weren't enough to keep his disease from progressing," Ornish told CNN. "However, our research showed that more intensive changes change actually reverse progression of heart disease in most people."
Ornish offered to work with Clinton, and Clinton decided he needed to really change the way he eats.
"I essentially concluded that I had played Russian roulette," Clinton told CNN, "because even though I had changed my diet some and cut down on the caloric total of my ingestion and cut back on much of the cholesterol in the food I was eating, I still -- without any scientific basis to support what I did -- was taking in a lot of extra cholesterol without knowing if my body would produce enough of the enzyme to support it, and clearly it didn't or I wouldn't have had that blockage. So that's when I made a decision to really change."
Working with Ornish and another doctor named Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., Clinton has cut meat, dairy, eggs, and almost all oils from his diet. He hopes to get his weight down to 185 pounds.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease caused 26 percent of deaths in America in 2006, making it the leading cause of death for both men and women. Every year, about 785,000 Americans have a first heart attack.