‘Green Mile’ star, vegetarian, dies of heart disease at 54

Raises questions about the health benefits of vegetarianism

Michael Clarke Duncan as he appeared in Green Mile; Tom Hanks in the background.

Michael Clarke Duncan, most famous for his superb role in Green Mile with Tom Hanks, passed away on September 4 at the age of 54. Earlier this year, he appeared in the PETA video below—where he spoke of how much better he felt since becoming a vegetarian three years earlier.

A giant of a man at 6’5″– he reportedly weighed 360 when the Green Mile (with Tom Hanks) was filmed. In recent months, he apparently weighed closer to 280 and credits some of that weight-loss with his becoming a vegetarian in 2009.

Many people will now assume that his death may have been caused by his vegetarianism. But not me. For starters, we don’t know what kind of vegetarian diet was he eating. In the video below, he talks mainly about not eating meat, but he never mentions that he’d given up milk, cheese, eggs or seafood.

Apparently, his primary motivation for making the dietary change was his love of animals although he does mention health in this video. He also mentions that he read “Skinny Bitch” and “Skinny Bastard,” where he learned more about needless animal suffering.

So why did he die so young if he was eating a healthy diet? I can only speculate since I don’t really know exactly what he was eating. For most people who describe themselves as vegetarian, they continue to eat dairy, eggs, cheese and seafood. If they give up all animal products, they generally then call themselves vegan.

4Leaf focuses on what you DO eat—not what you’re avoiding. It’s what you DO eat that makes you healthy.

But many vegans also eat a very unhealthy diet. They avoid all animal products but don’t eat nearly enough whole, plant-based foods to protect themselves against disease. In the video, Michael talks about eating a lot of legumes, fruits and vegetables; but we know nothing about whether he also ate a lot of cheese pizzas.

We also don’t know whether he had a history of heart disease or if he was taking any cholesterol lowering medication. We do know that if he had been a patient of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn at the Cleveland Clinic, that he would have been told to give up ALL animal products & all oil and to cut way back on high fat plant foods like avocado, nuts and seeds.

Then, if had followed that diet-style faithfully, he would have had a 95% chance of reversing his heart disease. That’s the success rate that my friend Dr. Esselstyn has enjoyed for the past 30 years.

Whether his heart disease was diagnosed or not, we know that it existed long before this week, when he suddenly died. That’s because we know that heart disease can begin many decades before your first heart attack. Sadly, the first symptom of coronary artery disease is frequently a heart attack.

The numerals for consecutive daily blog #583 come today from Texas.

Like many others, Mr. Duncan was probably just another innocent victim of the lack of clarity about what we should be eating for optimal health. He would’ve gotten that clarity from Dr. Esselstyn. But now it’s too late.

Unlike cancer, heart disease is reversible in 95% of the cases at almost any age. As Dr. Esselstyn says, “it’s a toothless paper tiger that need never exist.” You won’t learn how to reverse heart disease from the American Heart Association but you will learn it here. In addition to the following 4 items, you may also wish to purchase Dr. Esselstyn’s book, Prevent/Reverse Heart Disease, on Amazon.

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to jmorrishicks@me.com

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at jmorrishicks@me.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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4 Responses to ‘Green Mile’ star, vegetarian, dies of heart disease at 54

  1. Elizabeth says:

    In the article you said, “Michael talks about eating a lot of legumes, fruits and vegetables; but we no nothing about whether he also ate a lot of cheese pizzas.” ?! Does anybody notice the error? We no nothing about. We KNOW nothing about. You should edit and error proof your articles. I’m very surprised to see that an author would make this mistake. We ALL make mistakes, but that’s what proof reading is for. Other than this error, I found the article very informative and educational. Thank you.

  2. Linda201 says:

    He was a wonderful actor whose every performance was memorable. It’s sad how whenever anyone who is vegetarian or vegan dies, people who eat the SAD always take the opportunity to slam healthier eating. What I haven’t seen discussed online is the likelihood that he was a steroid user, either now or for a period of time in the past. I’m not an expert on the consequences of steroid use but it stands to reason they can’t be good for one’s heart.

  3. Jean Myers says:

    If you would like to hear Dr. Esselstyn in person, consider attending the Healthy Lifestyle Expo October 12 – 14 in California with Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Michael Klaper, and others. It’s a fantastic conference that I have attended for many years. For more info see http://www.healthylifestyleexpo.com/index.htm

  4. Leo S. says:

    Another timely post. While it may take time to go through all the links and videos one should have a little better idea about diet and disease and the possibility of reversing many conditions. The following is an excerpt from “The Pritikin Promise” which discussed these problems about 40 years ago. This may explain what caused Michael Duncan’s heart attack and subsequent death.
    Dairy products can keep total cholesterol low while still allowing cholesterol deposits in the artery walls to form boils that eventually prevent blood from reaching part of the heart muscle. Studies suggest that a factor in milk lowers blood cholesterol levels (Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 27: 464-69).
    While there is positive correlation between the amount of cholesterol in the blood and the incidence of cardiovascular disease, low cholesterol levels influenced by the consumption of dairy products are misleading and cannot guarantee freedom from disease now or in the future.
    Also see Udderly Amazing which discusses dairy products and their role in disease.


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