( By Dr Ramesh Kapadia )

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The diet which has been recommended to bring about the reversal of atherosclerosis in coronary heart disease is a strict vegetarian diet consisting of fat upto 10% , cholesterol 5 to 10 mgs, proteins 10% to 15% and complex carbohydrates 65 % to 75% of the total calories intake. Even milk is considered a non-vegetarian food. 3-4 ounces of yogurt made from fat-free milk is permitted. The white of an egg is allowed. Diet consists mostly of fruits, vegetables and cereals. Healthy people can modify the diet if their cholesterol is below 200 mg.

Diet recommended by the current American Heart Association is less than 30% of the total fat calories and 300 mgs. of cholesterol. That means, less intake of meat, more chicken and fish and low fat dairy products. However, this diet fails to achieve the ideal of reversal of artherosclerosis in the coronary arteries. The life-style factors have long been implicated in the coronary heart disease ; but a specified diet, exercise and stress reduction were being tried on a piecemeal basis. Dr. Dean Ornish put them all together in a single experiment and evaluated the effects on the heart. The idea was that if people could benefit from one major change in their life-style, they could benefit even more by bringing about all the changes that were thought necessary . Surprisingly, changes in the blood cholesterol were not as closely linked to the improvement in the arteries as the convention medicine would like us to believe.

Robert Yoyall, a participant in the program of Dr.Dean Ornish, revealed a significant change in his atherosclerotic heart disease, even though his cholesterol dropped from 360 to 250 mg., which is fairly above the usually expected norm, thus emphasising the point that cholesterol is important, but it is not the whole story. The first-hand evidence that the lifestyle changes alone - no drugs, no surgery, - can set the heart disease patients on the road to improved health appeared in July 1990 edition of the British Medical Journal ‘The Lancet’ in a study conducted by Dr. Dean Ornish, ( a faculty member of the University of California at San Francisco).

Dr. Dean Ornish makes very important points :

  1. For reversal of severe atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries, a diet low, almost negligible in fat that is, less than 10% of total calories is recommended.

  2. Diet must be strictly vegetarian. Milk is also considered a non-vegetarian component ofthe diet. Only a small amount of yogurt from fat-free milk is permitted.

  3. Complex carbohydrates, i.e., carbohydrates derived from green vegetables, fruits, and cereals are to be taken in plenty. Refined carbohydrates, like sugar and jaggery are to be restricted.