Purpose * Plant-based nutrition achieved coronary artery disease (CAD) arrest and reversal in a small study. However, there was skepticism that this approach could succeed in a larger group of patients. The purpose of our follow-up study was to define the degree of adherence and outcomes of 198 consecutive patient volunteers who received counseling to convert from a usual diet to plant-based nutrition.
Methods * We followed 198 consecutive patients counseled in plant-based nutrition. These patients with established cardiovascular disease (CVD) were interested in transitioning to plant-based nutrition as an adjunct to usual cardiovascular care. We considered participants adherent if they eliminated dairy, fish, and meat, and added oil.
Results * Of the 198 patients with CVD, 177 (89%) were adherent. Major cardiac events judged to be recurrent disease totaled one stroke in the adherent cardiovascular participants--a recurrent event rate of .6%, significantly less than reported by other studies of plant-based nutrition therapy. Thirteen of 21 (62%) nonadherent participants experienced adverse events.
Conclusion * Most of the volunteer patients with CVD responded to intensive counseling, and those who sustained plant-based nutrition for a mean of 3.7 years experienced a low rate of subsequent cardiac events. This dietary approach to treatment deserves a wider test to see if adherence can be sustained in broader populations. Plant-based nutrition has the potential for a large effect on the CVD epidemic.
Though current medical and surgical treatments manage coronary artery disease, they do little to prevent or stop it. Nutritional intervention, as shown in our study and others, has halted and even reversed CAD.
In a 1985 program initiated at the Cleveland Clinic, we examined whether plant-based nutrition could arrest or reverse advanced coronary artery disease (CAD) in 22 patients. (1) One patient with restricted myocardial blood flow documented by positron emission tomography (PET) showed reperfusion on a repeat scan just 3 weeks after starting our nutritional intervention (FIGURE 1). (2) Within 10 months of the start of treatment, another patient with severe right calf claudication and a quantifiably diminished pulse volume experienced total pain relief and exhibited a measurably increased pulse volume amplitude. (2) Thus encouraged, we followed the small cohort of patients (adding cholesterol-lowering drugs in 1987) and reported results after 5 and 12 years of follow-up. (1,3) Of the 22 patients, 17 were adherent to the protocol, and their disease progression halted. In 4 of the 12, we angiographically confirmed disease reversal, (4) which can be striking (FIGURE 2). (4)
* The significance of these findings.
CAD remains the number one killer of women and men in western civilization despite 40 years of aggressive drug and surgical interventions. (5) These approaches can be lifesaving in the midst of a heart attack. However, the elective use of percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) shows little protection from future heart attacks or prolongation of life, (6) perhaps because it does not treat the major cause of this disease. Such palliative treatments also carry significant risk of morbidity and mortality and lead to unsustainable expense. (7)...
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