4 Diets That Are Scientifically Proven To Help Your Heart: A Cardiologist Explains

With heart disease as our Public Enemy Number One, you'd think it would be easy to choose a style of eating that promotes healthy arteries and freedom from disease. 

However, most people are confused about how to eat, as bookstores and the internet are crammed with seductive-sounding diets such as Paleo, The Zone, Atkins, and others. 

The good news is you can find out for yourself whether or not today's hot trend has any scientific support at www.PubMed.com. This site gives you access to the largest depository of scientific health information, the National Library of Medicine. 

In my opinion, the following diets are supported by research and science. 

The others? 

Well, you search and see what you find.

1. The Ornish Diet

Doctor Dean Ornish offered the first clue that heart disease could be reversed by diet by using advanced medical techniques. His program, The Lifestyle Heart Trial, was published over 20 years ago. It offered patients with heart disease a vegetarian diet with 10% fat, moderate exercise, stress management, smoking cessation, and group support. Heart blockages decreased at 5 years compared to a control group whose blockages worsened. The number of heart attacks was cut in half in the treatment group eating mainly plants.

2. The Esselstyn Diet

Doctor Caldwell Esselstyn began treating patients with advanced heart disease using plant based diets with less than 10% fat and group support beginning in 1985. He permitted cholesterol medication when necessary. In follow-up over more than 12 years, he published the absence of heart events in treated patients, improvement in vitality and sexual function. His book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease has even longer positive follow-up data.

3. The Lyon Diet Heart Study

This groundbreaking scientific trial studied over 400 patients with a prior heart attack. The diet included a Mediterranean style menu including more bread, vegetables, fish, fruit and less red meat and butter. Olive and canola oil were preferred and wine was permitted. The diet was about 30% fat. The patients following the Lyon diet had a 50 to 70% lower of recurrent heart disease such as heart attacks, death and hospitalizations during follow up over more than four years.

4. The PREDIMED diet

Recently researchers in Spain studied more than 7,000 persons at-risk for heart trouble. Two groups ate a Mediterranean-style diet (vegetables, fruits, poultry and fish, and low in red meat and processed foods), one richer in olive oil and one richer in nuts. They were compared to a group eating nearly 40% of calories from fat representing the average diet in the public. Both groups following the Mediterranean diet had a nearly 30% lower risk of stroke.

An eating style for healthy arteries and vitality is becoming easier to describe. It is rich in the “good” stuff, including plant-based sources of fiber, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It is low in the “bad” stuff such as fat and animal products (particularly red meat), sugar and salt.  I suggest exploring www.oldwayspt.org for more information. The current interest in the ”caveman” type eating plans awaits even a single study showing the effects on coronary plaque or events.


Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Dr. Kahn is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine and Director of Cardiac Wellness, Michigan Healthcare Professionals PC. He is a graduate Summa Cum Laude of the University of Michigan School of Medicine. He lectures widely on the cardiac benefits of vegan nutrition and mind body practices. He also writes for Readers Digest Magazine as the Holistic Heart Doc and his first book, The Whole Heart Solution, is available for sale now.

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