Heart Disease

Heart disease is the number one health problem in the United States today, and according to the American Heart Association, it is the single leading cause of death. Most heart disease is diet-related—caused by diets high in animal products.

Meat, eggs, and dairy products are high in cholesterol and saturated fat. (No plant food in the world contains any cholesterol.) As these fatty substances build up inside the walls of arteries as “plaque,” blood flow to all areas of the body is impeded. This artery damage is called “atherosclerosis.” When too little blood reaches various regions of the body, normal bodily functions are impaired, setting people up for a number of diseases, most notably heart disease.

Here’s the good news: Now that we know what heightens the risk of heart attacks, we can take steps to prevent them. Studies have shown that a healthy vegan diet—rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—can stop and even reverse heart disease. People following a plant-based diet have 2.5 times fewer cardiac events, including heart attacks, strokes, bypass surgery, and angioplasty.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, one of the world’s most respected nutrition experts, has been able to make patients who were suffering from clogged arteries virtually “heart-attack proof” by putting them on healthy vegetarian diets and getting their cholesterol levels down below 150. The average vegan cholesterol level is about 133, while the average vegetarian cholesterol level is 161. And the average meat-eater’s cholesterol level is 210. Another nutritionist, Dr. Charles Attwood, points out just how strange it is that more is not done in light of this information: If people were being run down by trucks at the same rate that they’re dying from heart attacks induced by diets high in meat, eggs, and dairy products, drastic steps would be taken.

William Castelli, M.D., director of the Framingham Heart Study, the longest-running clinical study in medical history, says of the heart disease epidemic, “If Americans adopted a vegetarian diet, the whole thing would disappear.” Castelli told PBS that Americans have been “brainwashed to eat meat.”

A major study published in February 2005 reconfirmed the link between animal products and heart problems. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, concluded that among the 29,000 participants, those who ate the most meat were also at the greatest risk for heart disease. The researchers also reported that a high intake of protein from vegetable sources such as tofu, nuts, and beans lowers our risk of heart disease by 30 percent. Dr. Linda E. Kelemen, the scientist who headed the study, told reporters, “Not all proteins are equal”—while vegetable protein can help keep our hearts healthy, eating animal protein can put us in an early grave.

Source: Science Daily

Eating Fruits and Vegetables Can Change the Effect of Your Genes On Heart Disease

ScienceDaily (Oct. 11, 2011) — A long-held mantra suggests that you can’t change your family, the genes they pass on, or the effect of these genes. Now, an international team of scientists, led by researchers at McMaster and McGill universities, is attacking that belief.

The researchers discovered the gene that is the strongest marker for heart disease can actually be modified by generous amounts of fruit and raw vegetables. The results of their study are published in the current issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.

“We know that 9p21 genetic variants increase the risk of heart disease for those that carry it,” said Dr. Jamie Engert, joint principal investigator of the study, who is a researcher in cardiovascular diseases at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and associate member in the Department of Human Genetics at McGill University. “But it was a surprise to find that a healthy diet could significantly weaken its effect.”

The research, which represents one of the largest gene-diet interaction studies ever conducted on cardiovascular disease, involved the analysis of more than 27,000 individuals from five ethnicities — European, South Asian, Chinese, Latin American and Arab — and the effect that their diets had on the effect of the 9p21 gene. The results suggest that individuals with the high risk genotype who consumed a prudent diet, composed mainly of raw vegetables, fruits and berries, had a similar risk of heart attack to those with the low risk genotype.

“We observed that the effect of a high-risk genotype can be mitigated by consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables,” said Sonia Anand, joint principal investigator of the study, and a researcher at the Population Health Research Institute and a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University. “Our results support the public health recommendation to consume more than five servings of fruits or vegetables as a way to promote good health.”

“Our research suggests there may be an important interplay between genes and diet in cardiovascular disease,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Ron Do, who conducted this research as part of his PhD at McGill and is now based at the Center for Human Genetics Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. “Future research is necessary to understand the mechanism of this interaction, which will shed light on the underlying metabolic processes that the 9p21 gene is involved in.”

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