Vegan Health ArticlesResolving the Coronary Artery Disease Epidemic through Plant-Based Nutrition - Taking the Offensive
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From Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD

As I have reported earlier,28,29 a plant-based diet in conjunction with cholesterol-reducing medication eliminated progression of coronary artery disease over a 12-year period in patients with triple-vessel disease. Most of the 18 patients had experienced an earlier failed intervention of bypass surgery or angioplasty. All patients who maintained the diet achieved the cholesterol goal of less than 150 mg/dL and had no recurrent coronary events during the 12 years. At 5 years, angiography was repeated in most cases. By analysis of the stenosis percentage none had progression of disease, and 70% had selective regression.28 These data are compelling when one considers that the same group had experienced more than 49 coronary events during the 8 years before this study.28


Figure 4--Coronary angiograms of right coronary artery before (left) and showing 30% improvement (right) following approximately 60 months of a plant-based diet and cholesterol-lowering medication.

The recent case of a colleague is particularly telling. During September and October of 1996, a 44-year-old surgical colleague experienced occasional chest discomfort, yet neither electrocardiogram, stress echocardiography, or thallium scanning found evidence of disease. While eating the typical American diet, he had a total cholesterol of 156 mg/dL and an LDL of 97 mg/dL. He was lean, non-diabetic, and normotensive, did not smoke, and had no family history of coronary disease. His lipoprotein (a) and homocysteine levels were normal. On November 18, 1996, after his surgical duties, he became acutely ill with pain in the left arm, jaw, and chest. Immediate coronary catheterization found all vessels to be normal except for the left anterior descending artery, the distal third of which was diseased. Enzymes confirmed a myocardial infarction. However, no intervention was deemed appropriate.

This patient was aware of my ongoing study and was curious for more information. He and his wife consulted me for an in-depth review of the plant-based diet and techniques of this arrest and reversal study. He became the personification of commitment to the plant-based diet. Over the next 32 months, without cholesterol-lowering drugs, he maintained a mean total cholesterol of 89 mg/dL and an LDL of 38 mg/dL. The repeat angiogram 32 months after his infarction showed that the disease was completely reversed. (Fig.1)

Even though many people might find a plant-based diet initially difficult to follow, every patient with the diagnosis of coronary artery disease should at the least be offered the option of this potentially curative arrest and reversal approach. As this young surgeon's case illustrates, our plant-based diet approach can achieve total disease arrest and selective regression even in advanced cases. This approach is particularly compelling because patients can take control over the disease that was destroying them. If traditional interventional cardiology is a rear-guard action, our arrest and reversal therapy can be likened to a military offensive against atherosclerosis.

Limitations of this study are its modest number of participants and lack of comparable controls. Nevertheless, its size permitted the caregiver an opportunity for frequent patient encounters. These interactions enabled 75% of participants to achieve profound lipid reduction, dietary goals, and relief of symptoms which continued to improve throughout the study's 12-year duration. Patients essentially served as their own controls often achieving profound angiographic reversal of disease as reviewed in the angiographic core laboratory. Fig. 1-4

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We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.