9.29.2008

The China Study, Part III, Heart Disease.

Who wants to read about heart disease!?! Ok, ok, you can all put your hands down, everyone will get a turn -

"[Quote]... If you were to guess the location of the best cardiac care center in the country, maybe the world, what city would you name? New York? Los Angeles? Chicago? A city in Florida, perhaps, near elderly people? As it turns out, the best medical center for cardiac care is located in Cleveland, Ohio, according to US News and World Report. Patients fly in to the Cleveland Clinic from all over the world for the most advanced heart treatment available, administered by prestigious doctors.

One of the doctors at the Clinic, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. has quite a resume. As a student at Yale University, Dr. Esselstyn rowed in the 1956 Olympics, winning a gold medal. After being trained at the Cleveland Clinic, he went to earn the Bronze Star as an army surgeon in the Vietnam War. He then became a highly successful doctor at one of the top medical institutions in the world, the Cleveland Clinic, where he was president of the staff, member of the Board of Governors, chairman of the Breast Cancer Task Force and head of the Section of Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery. Having published over 100 scientific papers, Dr. Esselstyn was named one of the best doctors in America in 1994-1995. From knowing this man personally, I get the feeling that he has excelled at virtually everything he has done in his life. He reached the pinnacle of success in his professional and personal life, and did it with grace and humility.

The quality I find most appealing about Dr. Esselstyn, however, is not his resume or awards; it is his principled search for the truth. Dr Esselstyn has had the courage to take on the establishment. For the Second National Conference on Lipids in the Elimination and Prevention of Coronary Artery Disease (which he organized and in which he kindly asked me to participate) Dr Esselstyn wrote:

Eleven years into my career as a surgeon, I became disillusioned with the treatment paradigm of U.S. medicine in cancer and heart disease. Little has changed in the 100 years in the management of cancer, and in neither heart disease nor cancer was there a serious effort at prevention. I found the epidemiology of these diseases provocative, however: Three-quarters of the humans on this plant had no heart disease, a fact strongly associated with diet.

Dr. Esselstyn started to reexamine the standard medical practice, "Aware that medical, angiographic and surgical interventions were treating only the symptoms of heart disease and believing that a fundamentally different approach to treatment was necessary." Dr. Esselstyn decided to test the effects of a whole foods, plant-based diet on people with established coronary disease. By using a minimal amount of cholesterol-lowering medication and a very low-fat, plant-based diet, he has gotten the most spectacular results ever recorded in the treatment of heart disease.

In 1985, Dr. Esselstyn began his study with the primary goal of reducing his patients' blood cholesterol to below 150 mg/dL. He asked each patient to record everything he or she ate in a food diary. Every two weeks, for the next five years, Dr. Esselstyn met with his patients to discuss the process, administer blood tests and record blood pressure and weight. He followed up this daytime meeting with an evening telephone call to report the results of the blood tests and further discuss how the diet was working. In addition, all of his patients met together a few times a year to talk about the program, socialize and exchange helpful information. In other words, Dr. Esselstyn was diligent, involved, supportive and compassionately stern on a personal level with his patients.

The diet they, including Dr. Esselstyn and his wife Ann, followed was free of all added fat and almost all animal products. Dr. Esselstyn and his colleagues report, "[Participants] were to avoid oils, meats, fish, fowl, and dairy products, except for skim milk and nonfat yogurt." About five years into the program, Dr. Esselstyn recommended to his patients that they stop consuming any skim milk and yogurt, as well.

Five of his patients dropped out of the study withing the first two years; that left eighteen. These eighteen patients originally had come to Dr. Esselstyn with severe disease. Within the eight years leading up to the study, these eighteen people had suffered through forty-nine coronary events, including angina, bypass surgery, heart attacks, strokes, and angioplasty. These were not healthy hearts. One might imagine that they were motivated to join the study by the panic created when premature death is near.

These eighteen patients achieved remarkable success. At the start of the study, the patients' average cholesterol was 246 mg/dL. During the course of the study, the average cholesterol was 132 mg/dL, well below the 150 mg/dL target! Their levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol dropped just as dramatically. In the end, though, the most impressive result was not the blood cholesterol levels but how many coronary events occurred since the start of the study.

In the following eleven years, there was exactly ONE coronary event among the eighteen patients who followed the diet. That one event was from a patient who strayed from the diet for two years. After straying, the patient consequently experienced clinical chest pain (angina) and then resumed a healthy plant-based diet. The patient eliminated his angina, and has not experienced any further events.

Not only has the disease in these patients been stopped, it has even been reversed. Seventy percent of his patients have seen an opening of their clogged arteries..." [End quote]

Again, this is all from the book, The China Study [Google Books link], and if you want to read more of it, check out the link or go to the library like I did and check the book out.

2 comments:

John said...
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