Will this 78-year-old vegan bodybuilder make you reconsider your diet?

Former bodybuilding champion Jim Morris still has an amazing physique, which he credits to his veganism

In a move designed to distance veganism from its traditional image of malnourished-looking bearded men wearing sandals (with socks) who spend their mealtimes eating lentils, a 78-year-old vegan bodybuilder is trying to prove the diet can be healthy.

Jim Morris, a former bodybuilding champion who has competed against the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, has posed nude in the style of The Thinker Rodin statue, to show off his still impressive physique.

Mr Morris says that his health greatly improved after he retired from competitive bodybuilding in 1985 and became a vegetarian and then later a vegan.

He's posed on behalf of Peta, the pressure group that campaigns for animal rights. Vegans have a strict diet that excludes meat, eggs, dairy products and all animal-derived ingredients.

"The protein in animal products is so laden with fats and chemicals and all sorts of stuff that's harmful to you", says Mr Morris.

"When I was competing and stuffing down all of that sort of stuff, I had lots of digestive problems. I know as a fact I would not be here and I would not be in this condition now had I continued eating the way I was."

Despite veganism's uncool image, it has a number of glamorous adherents, including the singer-songwriter Bryan Adams, the model Petra Nemcova and the US TV host Ellen DeGeneres, who had a vegan wedding when she married Portia de Rossi.

The Peta ad encourages people to "muscle your way to better health" – and to a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and strokes – by going vegan.

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