The buildup of plaque in arteries is a leading killer in America. And it is widely believed that there is little to nothing that can be done to reduce the plaque once it is there.
In his book Eat to Live, Dr. Fuhrman explains that research and first-hand experience show heart disease is reversible:
Two things are necessary to predictably reverse heart disease: one is to become thin and superbly nourished, and the other is to get your LDL below 100. Reversal of heart disease then occurs.In studies, patients eating certain kinds of diets have demonstrated modest reduction in plaque (more on that below). Dr. Fuhrman has found that with the aggressive diet he advocates, greater reductions in plaque are common. "My patients demonstrate much more dramatic cholesterol lowering since the advised dietary program is based on nutrient density," he explains, "and reversals from 20 to 40 percent per year are typical in my experience. I even have a patient who reversed his carotid blockage from 80 percent to undetectable in one year on carotid ultrasound."
Dr. Fuhrman's book Cholesterol Protecion for Life covers a lot of this in depth. An updated and expanded version of that book will be out soon, and here is an excerpt:
Studies preformed by Dean Ornish and other investigators have documented the effects of a low-fat vegetarian (vegan) diet on patients with heart disease and found reversal of the condition occurred in the majority of patients. The reversal was modest, but nevertheless, no study previously showed diet could be so effective at preventing and reversing heart disease.
Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. of the Cleveland Clinic put together a program utilizing a vegetarian plant-based diet with the addition of cholesterol-lowering medication in 18 patients who had severe angiographically demonstrated coronary artery disease. All of these high-risk patients with advanced heart disease were noted to have no coronary events during the following 12 years, and on repeat angiogram, 70% were found to have regression of their disease and none had progression.1 When you consider these 18 patients had experienced 50 coronary events during the 8 years before this study, you have to agree on the effectiveness of combining plant-based nutrition with cholesterol lowering.
Dr. Esselstyn tracked these patients for 17 years, which is the longest ongoing research project of this kind, and not one of these people, who years ago had severe heart disease, has had any further cardiac complaints or heart attacks.
Dr. Esselstyn also tracked the long-term results in six of his patients that did not want to adhere to the diet and returned to the standard care of their cardiologists. They experienced 13 new cardiac events during the first 12 years.
Although Ornish and Esseltyn studied vegetarian diets, Dr. Fuhrman has found that when reversing heart disease is the goal, eliminating meat is hardly the only important step. The diet Dr. Fuhrman recommends in Cholesterol Protection for Life is more specific, and more aggressively heart-healthy. (In addition, Dr. Fuhrman's book advocates natural supplements--including delta tocotrienol, plant sterols, policosanol, and pomegranate extracts that can be helpful. On DrFuhrman.com you can read all about the supplements he recommends, complete with 16 references to articles in respected journals.)
High nutrient density makes a measurable difference. From an article on DrFuhrman.com:
Dr. Fuhrman's Eat To Live approach is the only dietary plan that has ever been shown in medical studies to lower cholesterol more effectively than cholesterol lowering medications. Other dietary programs, such as the Atkins diet plan, have been relatively ineffective at lowering cholesterol. Though the low-fat vegetarian diet did lower LDL cholesterol 16%, it raised triglycerides 18.7% and the LDL/HDL ratio remained unchanged, reflecting minimal overall improvement. The Eat To Live approach differed in that the LDL cholesterol was more significantly lowered without unfavorable impact on HDL or triglycerides, reflecting sizable improvement in cardiac risk factors.In a meeting the other day, Dr. Fuhrman said something that I found amazing: to his knowledge, no one in his care, following his recommended diet, has ever had a heart attack. (Of course, he has no way of knowing about the people who have left his care.) 15 years of practicing medicine. How many doctors can say that?
LDL Cholesterol Lowering Results Method % Decrease in LDL Cholesterol American Heart Association Standard Low-Fat Advice 6% High Protein Atkins' Type No significant change Low-Fat Vegetarian 16% High Olive Oil Mediterranean No significant change Cholesterol Lowering Medication Statins 26% Eat to Live - Fuhrman Type, Lower Cholesterol without Drugs 33%
For those desiring more than mediocrity, for true protection against heart disease and premature death, there is a clear-cut answer—Eat To Live. The most effective—and safest—way to lower your LDL cholesterol level is through this approach that could save your life.2
1. Esselstyn CB Jr, Ellis SG, Medendorp SV, Crowe TD. A strategy to arrest and reverse coronary artery disease: a 5-year longitudinal study of a single physician's practice. J Fam Prac 1995;41:560-568.
2. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Popovich DG, et al. Effect of a very-high-fiber vegetable, fruit, and nut diet on serum lipids and colonic function. Metabolism 2001 Apr;50(4):494-503.