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Nutrition Column

Synopsis of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease

Western civilization has adopted a diet responsible for the deleterious effects of coronary artery disease. In the United States, over half a million people die of it every year. Why is it that heart disease is virtually non-existent in some societies and yet the number one killer in America? We live in a society where people consume low levels of fiber, and high levels of total fat, saturated fat, animal protein, cholesterol, and omega-6 fatty acids, all of which have been implemented in the development of heart disease.

Coronary bypass and angioplasty procedures are two surgical options commonly used by cardiologists to treat the symptoms of coronary artery disease. These procedures are expensive, do not address the causes of disease, have devastating side effects, and the benefits are short-lived. A study published in the journal of Circulation showed that in patients with chronic, stable disease, angioplasty offered no benefit in terms of death, heart attack, or the need for revascularization (citation below). In addition, patients undergoing bypass surgery have a 2.4 percent chance of dying and a 5 percent chance of sustaining a stroke or heart attack during the procedure. These surgical procedures utilize a mechanical approach to solve a biological epidemic that could be eliminated with the right dietary choices.

As a practicing surgeon, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. realized that he was not doing anything to cure the underlying cause of the disease, nor was he doing anything to prevent its development in other people. To fix this, he developed a nutritional plan similar to those in countries where coronary artery disease is nonexistent. Esselstyn’s study, discussed in detail in his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, placed twenty-two severely diseased heart patients on a low-fat (less than 10% of total calories), plant-based diet and small dosages of cholesterol-lowering drugs. In the eight years before the start of the study, they had experienced a total of forty-nine cardiovascular events, including events such as bypass surgery, angioplasties, strokes, and heart attacks. At the twelve year follow-up, their average total cholesterol was 137 mg/dl, significantly lower than the starting average of 245 mg/dl. Follow up x-rays of the coronary arteries showed that every patient had eliminated progression of their disease and eight of them actually reversed it. In comparison, every one of the six patients who were released from the study within the first fifteen months showed worsening of the disease. His research has shown that by following plant-based nutrition, coronary artery disease can be prevented by healthy individuals and reversed in the most diseased

There is absolutely no reason that heart disease should be the leading killer of men and women in the United States. In fact, it should not exist at all; and for a large part of the world’s population, it doesn’t. Yet for some reason Americans continue to succumb to the temptation of foods high in fat and cholesterol. Esselstyn’s study is only one in a growing body of evidence that shows that the key to completely terminating coronary heart disease is total elimination of dietary cholesterol and any fat beyond the natural amount found in plants. We have the knowledge that ensures that not one more person in the world will die of coronary heart disease. It is up to the public to decide what they want to do with it.

Written by Ryan Serrano with Eric Sternlicht, Ph.D. Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA.