Coronary heart disease is a condition in which blood flow through the coronary arteries is disrupted and the heart muscle does not get enough blood. The condition mostly occurs in patients with atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries (a condition in which the arteries inside are lined with fat, cells, connective tissue and calcium). Although current medical and surgical treatment can cure coronary heart disease, it does not prevent or stop it. A change in diet, as shown by the study and other studies, has stopped and even reversed the course of the disease.
198 patients were advised exclusively on a plant-based diet and were also monitored. Patients with cardiovascular disease were interested in switching to a plant-based diet in addition to the usual medical treatment of the disease. Only patients who did not consume dairy products, fish, meat and added oils were considered.
The basic diet consisted of whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits. Patients were reassured by explaining that a balanced and varied plant-based diet covers their amino acid needs. They were encouraged to take multivitamin supplements and vitamin B12 supplements. They were also advised to add flaxseed to their meals, which are an additional source of omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids.
Basically, the change required avoiding all added fats and processed foods that contain fat, fish, meat, poultry, dairy, avocados, nuts, and large amounts of salt. Patients also had to avoid sweetened foods (sucrose, fructose and beverages containing them, processed carbohydrates, fruit juices, syrups and molasses). Later, caffeine was also ruled out.
Of the 198 patients with cardiovascular disease, 177 (89%) followed a diet. The disease recurred in the form of a stroke in only 1 patient who followed the diet (ie in 0.6% of cases).
In patients who did not follow a diet, the stroke recurred in as many as 13 of 21 (in 62% of cases).
Coronary artery disease, despite a 40-year tradition of treatment with aggressive drugs and surgery, remains the number one killer among men and women in Western countries (5). These approaches can save lives during a heart attack itself. But conventional coronary angioplasty treatment does not provide real protection against subsequent heart attacks or prolong life (6), probably because it does not eliminate the root cause of the disease. Treatments that only alleviate symptoms increase the risk of recurrence and mortality and are costly. The inclusion of whole plant foods as a method of treating the cause of coronary heart disease is a departure from common practice, but it is necessary to present this possibility to patients.
(5) Roger VL, Go AS, Lloyd-Jones DM, et al; American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Executive summary: heart disease and stroke statistics — 2012 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2012; 125: 188-197.
(6) Boden WE, O’Rourke RA, Teo KK, et al; COURAGE Trial Research Group. Optimal medical therapy with or without PCI for stable coronary disease. N Engl J Med. 2007; 356: 1503-1516.