Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Broken Hearts Club

This is a more personal post than I normally like to share, but since February is national heart month, and I believe this post has an important and relevant message.

At the beginning of the month, I shared an amazing post from Dr. Ostfeld about how a heart disease patient changed his diet, and not only prolonged, but truly saved his life without any surgical interventions. Unfortunately, the story I’m about to share is it’s polar opposite, and happens far too often and to far too many families every single day in western countries.

While visiting Buenos Aires at the end of January, I received a message that a family friend had a second heart attack, and was in the hospital. I didn’t realize how serious it was at the time, however, I would arrive back in New York just in time for his wake and funeral. To say the least, it’s been a very sad and tiring time for my family.

Part of what makes this so incredibly sad, is because I believe his death was avoidable. Throughout my entire life, he ate an incredibly rich diet full of meats, dairy, and processed foods. He was always overweight and when I was young, he became the first person I knew to be diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. This didn’t change him in the least.

Than less than a year ago, he had his first heart attack, and an emergency triple bypass surgery. At the time, it seemed like he wasn’t going to make it. Yet, even to the astonishment of his doctors, he made what seemed like a full recovery. He was given a second chance; however, he didn’t seem to understand how serious his situation was. He refused to follow the doctor’s instructions to eat less saturated fat and cholesterol, and continued his sedentary way of life.

I even approached him and offered to talk with him and his wife about the impact that diet could have on his health. Unfortunately, he declined.

And now, he is gone. His wife, children, and grandchildren are now forced to cope with the results of his decisions.

While even Dr. Ostfeld writes that his story was one of the most remarkable transformations he’s ever heard of, there is a growing amount of evidence that shows that heart disease – America’s number one killer - is not only avoidable, but can also be reversed with a proper, plant-based diet.

Back in 1995, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, M.D. of the Cleveland Clinic published his bench mark long-term nutritional research on arresting and reversing coronary artery disease in severely ill patients. He then published a 12 year update in the Journal of American Cardiology, and then a 20 year update in his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. So what were these findings?

Starting in 1985, he took 24 severely ill heart disease patients and placed them on a very strict plant-based diet. He had a simple hypothesis; a low-fat plant-based diet could arrest heart disease (fat was kept to 10% of total calories). He came to this theory when he realized that coronary disease was essentially nonexistent in cultures whose nutrition assured a total cholesterol level of 150mg/dl or lower. Vegetables, berries and whole grains were able to be eaten without limit, fruits and juices were limited to a few severing’s per day. Fatty nuts and avocado were even more limited to a few times a week if at all. Oil, meat, and dairy of all kinds were completely off the menu. Two tablespoons of ground flax seeds daily was recommend for omega 3.

Between these 24 patients, they had 49 coronary events in the 8 years before the study. Out of those 24 patients who initially signed up for Dr. Esselstyn’s study, 6 were nonadherent and were returned to normal cardiac care. At a 10 year followup, those 6 patients who did not adhere to the diet had 13 new cardiac events.

The remaining 18 adhered to the diet. After 5 years, not a single patient had a repeat cardiac event and 11 of those 18 patients agreed to a second angiographic analysis which demonstrated that the heart disease was arrested in all 11 (100%). Further, in 8 of his 11 patients (or 73%), the disease had regressed. Angina initially reported in 9 patients was eliminated in 2 and improved in the remaining 7.

Evidence of reversing heart disease.

Similar results were reported in the 12 year follow up.

For comparison, in another study published in 2000, Richard M. Fleming, M.D. took 26 patients and placed them all on a healthy high carb vegetarian diet. Dr. Fleming planned on using a new technology known as a SPECT scan which enabled him to actually measure the blood flow within the coronary arteries.

His plan was to measure the before and after effects of diet. However after one year, Dr. Fleming discovered that ten of his patients decided against the vegetarian diet in favor for a high protein, low carb diet, which they believed would improve overall health. This gave Dr. Fleming the unique opportunity to compare the two diets on coronary health.

At the end of the year, those who stuck to the healthy vegetarian diet all showed a reversal of their partially clogged arteries – showing an average of 20% less atherosclerotic plaque in their arteries. Those who jumped ship to the low carb high protein diet significantly worsened, as the SPECT scans showed an increase of nearly 40% more artery clogging.

If you look at the provided scans, you can clearly see this. The yellow and red represent blood flow. On the top, you see the increased blood flow of a person following the vegetarian diet. On the bottom, you see the decreased blood flow of a person who switched to a high protein diet. While even Dr. Fleming admits more of this type of research is needed, it is suggestive, especially when taken in measure with Dr. Esselstyn.

If any drug had even come close to this type of result, it would be publicized everywhere. Instead, this life saving message has largely been ignored. One large criticism has resounded time and again, “Yes, these are excellent results, but the trial groups are far too small.”

So in 2014, Dr. Esselstyn responded with yet another new study. This time he followed 198 patients and 177 individuals were compliant with the diet (89%). Of this compliant group, only one individual suffered a cardiac event. That is a recurrence rate of .6% which represents the absolute lowest recurrence rate of any study on heart disease.

Out of the 21 individuals in the noncompliant group, 13 of them suffered adverse cardiac events. That is a rate of 62%. They were following standard cardiology care and medical interventions which included pills and various procedures. For those of you who like math that is a ratio of .6% to 62% meaning that Dr. Esselstyn’s work is 100 times more effective than that of the standard care given to most heart patients. 

These results are important because heart disease kills over 300,000 people annually and over 700,000 people suffer a heart attack every single year. Yet, as the results of these studies suggest, this needn’t be the case.

Please help me share this message. As Dr. Esselstyn says, “If the truth be known coronary artery disease is a toothless paper tiger that need never ever exist and if it does exist it need never ever progress.

Dr. Esselstyne and Dr. Fleming aren't the only ones getting these results with diet and lifestyle changes. Dr. Ornish, Dr. McDougall and Dr. Ostfeld among others are all doctors who have created programs that have proven to arrest and reverse heart disease. In fact, just this week, Dr. Ostfeld and his colleagues at Montefiore Cardiac Wellness Program published a study that showed a patient completely reversed their angina simply by adopting a plant based diet.

For more on Dr. Esselstyn, watch the excellent documentary Forks Over Knives or get his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.

Esselstyn, Caldwell B. “Updating a 12 -Year Experience With Arrest and Reversal Therapy for Coronary Heart Disease (An Overdue Requiem for Palliative Cardiology)” The American Journal of Cardiology, August 1999, 334-39.

            “A Strategy to Arrest and Reverse Cornonary Artery Disease: A 5- Year Longitudinal Study of a Single Physician’s Practice.” The Journal of Family Practice Vol. 41 No. 6 December 1995 560-68.

            “A Way to Prevent CAD?,” The Journal of Family Practice. Vol. 63, No. 7 July 2014 257.

            “The Nutritional Reversal of Cardiovascular Disease – Fact or Fiction?” Experimental and Clinical Cardiology. Vol. 20, No. 7, July 2014 1901.

            Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure. Avery Publishers, New York, 2008.

Fleming, R. M. “The Effect of High-Protein Diets on Coronary Blood Flow.”
Angiology Vol. 51 2000 1075-1083.

Ostfeld, Robert et. al. “A Whole-Food Plant-Based Diet Reversed Angina without Medications or Procedures,” Case Reports in Cardiology Vol. 2015, 2015.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

1 comment:

  1. wow this is great. Thanks for sharing this info!