To the average viewer, this year’s Wimbledon Finals matchup is nothing shocking, but the two finalists share one historic characteristic in common: They follow vegan diets. Defying claims that plant-based diets hurt athletic performance, vegan athletes worldwide have proved otherwise, especially Mike Fremont, who turned 100 years old in February and celebrated with a run around Vero Beach in Florida.
Fremont adopted a vegan diet at the age of 69 after the centenarian athlete received a daunting cancer diagnosis and turned down the life-saving surgery in favor of a whole food plant-based diet. Now, the vegan runner holds the marathon distance world records for the single-year age groups of 88 and 90.
“I said no, I was going on a diet!” Fremont told Great Vegan Athletes. “In two and a quarter years the tumor began to bleed, and I was operated upon. The surgeon looked for metastasis in 35 places and found zero. In other words, my macrobiotic diet, [which became] a vegan diet, [which became] a whole-foods plant-based diet, killed the metastases!”
This week, Fremont joined the plant-based athlete and author Rich Roll to discuss his prolonged strength. Fremont claimed that being 100 is “the very best years” of his life. Roll asked the 100-year-old athlete what he credits his longevity to, and Fremont unwaveringly claimed his diet plays a major role in his good health.
“No question in my mind, absolutely, it is [my] diet that has determined my existence. My continued existence and my beautiful health,” Fremont told Roll on the show.
Fremont currently shows no signs of stopping. Fremont’s running partner Harvey Lewis – a 46-year-old ultrarunner and fellow vegan – told Great Vegan Athletes that he suggested a 5k run with Fremont for his 100th birthday. Fremont denied his request, and with a surprise, suggested twice the distance.
“I asked him about the Flying Pig Marathon and if he was interested in doing the 5k, as we have done it the past couple of years,” Harvey said. “He said, ‘I don’t feel it’s really a race unless we do 10k with a big grin.’ No arguing with Mike. 10k it is!”
Prolonging Life Expectancy with a Plant-Based Diet
Though a whole food plant-based diet is not a confirmed treatment for cancer diagnoses, a growing body of research indicates that following a vegan diet can significantly reduce the risks and symptoms of several cancers. This February, a study published in Plos Medicine Journal claimed that you could prolong your life expectancy by 10 years or even more if you start eating plant-based early enough. The report claims that a plant-based diet helps avoid risk factors for several fatal diseases.
Older generations have historically avoided plant-based dieting due to traditional meal preferences. However, the dial is turning as more information comes out highlighting the health benefits for those over 65. One survey found that 54 percent of UK consumers over 65 have set out to reduce their meat consumption, motivated by health benefits.
Other than cancer, some research has even shown that plant-based diets can significantly minimize the risk of heart disease in later life. Adopting a plant-centered diet from 18 to 30 can even lower heart disease risk 30 years later. In Fremont’s case, he shows it is never too late to adopt a plant-based diet, especially for older athletes.
Athletes Turning to Vegan Diets to Optimize Performance
Fremont and the Wimbledon finalists join an impressive cast of major athletes in the plant-based community. Notably, Phoenix Suns player Chris Paul continuously credits his plant-based diet to improved performance in life and on the court. This year, the NBA player made his 12th appearance on the NBA All-Star team
“When I first went plant-based, it was for performance purposes but once I saw how my body changed and how I felt — it was for life,” Paul said to GQ. “Years ago, I probably wouldn’t have even gone outside to run around with my kids and all the other activities because my body would be aching. Now, with the constant lifting and making sure that my body is always ready, it’s been a good lifestyle change for me.”
Two years ago, director Louie Psihoyos released The Game Changers documentary, showing the world how athletes do not need meat or dairy to perform professionally. Since then, high-profile athletes have converted to vegan diets to reduce inflammation, improve endurance, and better their overall health including Paul, Fremont, and many others.
For more inspiring plant-based eaters, visit The Beet’s Success Stories.