Once upon a time there were doctors that thought that a Total Cholesterol number under 250 was healthy. Later, doctors lowered the acceptable Total Cholesterol to 200, but nevertheless, the cardiologist profession has “ballooned”, with plenty of heart surgeons booked with stents and angioplasty procedures to open up clogged arteries.
Meanwhile, the Framingham heart study revealed that 35% of all those that had heart disease had total cholesterol levels between 150-200, which falls well into the “acceptable” level for the American Heart Association and just about every cardiologist there is.
Other doctors that are faithful plant-based diet advocates have found that total cholesterol of 199 may be normal but certainly isn’t optimal. Dr. Caldwell B Essylstein, one of our favorite people in the Plant Based world, studied a group of 18 heart patients that agreed to a total plant-based diet (fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains) over a period of 12 years. All patients had total cholesterol of under 162 and all but one patient that adhered to the prescribed diet had no cardiac incidents. Quite astonishing.
Dr. Dean Ornish conducted a similar study* with a set of patients except that the study included a control group that made only moderate changes. Stenosis (narrowing of the the artery) improved by 4.5% in the group making the diet changes (as well as stress reduction techniques) but worsened by 5.4% in the control group.
A full-on vegan diet is tough and not enough studies have been done on a low-fat diet that is a bit more moderate. However, the experts mentioned in this article strongly believe that if you have heart disease or a family history of heart disease, you may need to adhere to a strict low fat vegan diet (no oils), as tough as it might be for former meat eaters. But wouldn’t a longer, healthier life be worth it?
*From “Intensive Lifestyle Changes for Reversal of Coronary Heart Disease,” by Dean Ornish, MD; Larry W. Scherwitz, PhD; James H. Billings, PhD, MPH; K. Lance Gould, MD; et al, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, December 16, 1998.