The Plant Rx

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Archive for the ‘Cholesterol’ Category

Think eating a plant-based diet is crazy? How about this…

Posted by Jenn on January 24, 2013


Ian Before: 235lbs / 262 cholesterol / 145:110 blood pressure

Ian Before: 235 lbs / 262 cholesterol / 145:110 blood pressure

People have often described my diet as radical, drastic and extreme. Eating a plant-based diet to them, even if they agree it is the most healthy thing for you, is akin to asking them to undergo torture.  They have a myriad of responses to me, most of them echoing something to the effect of ” If I can’t enjoy my life then why bother”.   It’s unimaginable to me that they perceive my diet as so radical, drastic and extreme yet they don’t think that cracking open your chest while simultaneously slicing open your legs to take out vessels from your legs to graft to your heart isn’t? I’m beginning to think everyone should watch what is really involved in one of the surgeries, maybe then, they will understand the true meaning of the words radical, drastic and extreme. It is truly very hard for me to understand how anyone would choose bypass surgery over eating plants.  Then again, maybe they think it just won’t happen to them…

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Those thoughts bring us to our first success story of the year, Ian Welch from Florida.  Ian can tell you first hand the difference between the two options I described above. Ian’s story is becoming the norm rather than the exception these days due to the overwhelming consumption of the Standard American Diet (SAD).  Fortunately, Ian is alive and well and is able to share his journey with us. When I asked why him why he wants to share it, he says it’s because he wish someone had shared this knowledge with him.

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Ian tells his story:

Two years ago I could not have imagined my life today.  At the ripe old age of 40, I was diagnosed with heart disease, four major blockages that if left alone would end my life quickly.

On March 23, 2011 I had Quadruple Bypass Surgery.  I had my chest sawed open.  It was singularly the most influential event in my life and in hindsight I would not change a thing.

Ian after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery at 40 only years old.

Ian after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery at 40 only years old.

The first week out of the hospital my wife, Alicia, started us on a plant-based diet.  By December, I had lost 37 pounds and my cholesterol dropped 109 points.  Since then I have learned that eating a plant-based diet and avoiding oil can drastically improve your health.  My last carotid artery sonogram showed substantial reduction in plaque; essentially reversing 40 years of buildup in a very short period of time.  Not to mention the 20-25% weight loss.

The lightning bolt moments are as rare as a strike of electricity to the head.  They either kill you or offer you the opportunity to walk away; a second chance.  It is precisely these moments that need to be deconstructed because they happen in an instant.  These moments exist a lifetime as either regret or epiphanies.

The reality is; we have no way of knowing how we will exit this world.  For some of us, we will lead long full lives and gently succumb in our sleep at a ripe old age.  For others it will be a tragic exit, leaving loved ones to question how this could have happened.

However, the majority of us will face the challenge of fighting for our years and it comes down to a simple question.  Do you want to spend your last years in a gradual state of decline; mentally and physically?  Or do you want to challenge the odds and finish up on your feet? Your physical body has very simple needs.  It is a fact of biology.  Run your body on the core ingredients it needs, run it clean.  Don’t let your mind dictate what the body wants.  A foundation built on this simple approach will drastically move the odds of avoiding disease in your favor.

I had no plan and it ended in a hospital.  I do not want to go back to that hospital.  I share my experiences for the simple reason; I wish someone had told me sooner.  It took a life-threatening situation to become the person I am today and I like this new and improved Ian.

momdadoregon

Ian in Dec. 2011 after adopting a plant-based diet. 198 lbs / 153 Cholesterol / 105:75 blood pressure

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Ian Welch: In 2011, at the age of 40, Ian underwent quadruple bypass surgery. Ian completely transformed his life, adopting a plant-based approach to wellness. Ian is currently writing his book; “Heart Disease Saved My Life: Harness the Power of a Chronic Disease Diagnosis.” His goal is to provide others with a plan of action when faced with difficult circumstances. Ian lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida with his wife. He is an avid long distance runner & Bikram Yoga practitioner.  He maintains a blog at www.WholeFed.org.

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William Castelli, MD: Heart Disease Risk, Cholesterol and Lipids in 2011: What Do We Really Know?

Posted by Jenn on March 31, 2011


Cholesterol

Image via Wikipedia

2011-02-18 William Castelli MD Heart Disease Risk, Cholesterol and Lipids in 2011: What Do We Really Know? | Interview Transcripts.


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Top 5 things our plant-based health study taught this M.D.

Posted by Jenn on March 7, 2011


One truly amazing thing about life is that we have the opportunity to continuously learn new things. Learning new things rocks!  And, while we were pretty sure what the outcomes would be, this was no exception.

We are still 9 days away from the official end of the plant-based health study and approximately 12-14 days from having the final results available to us and published.  That being said, while contemplating the parameters for our next study and reviewing reader submitted ideas on things they would like to see us measure in the future, I got to thinking about all the amazing things that I’ve learned so far in this one.

Here are the top 5!


1. Psoriasis

There are a lot of  anecdotal stories out there on how a plant-based diet can be beneficial in the treatment of medical conditions and disease other than heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and certain cancers.  There is also some scientific research to back up those ascertations but much more needs to be done before it can be said with a great degree of certainty that this is indeed the case.

That being said, I have never seen it first hand.  Until now! Amber, one of the study participants, has struggled with psoriasis for quite some time – experiencing a number of patches on both her arms and legs.  She has tried a number of different things to keep this chronic autoimmune condition at bay, but while some treatments have helped, none have been close to a cure.

After 30 days on a diet completely free of meat and dairy products, Amber has experienced almost 100% resolution of her patches! I’ve seen it first hand and I couldn’t be more happy for her.  It’s one thing to read or hear about these types of things but it’s quite another to see it first-hand.

2. Probiotics

It’s important not to make blanket statements about medicines/treatments especially when there isn’t any substantial clinical evidence or experience to back it up.  When it comes to probiotics there is data out there but none directly pertaining to any benefits they may or may not have when someone is transitioning to  plant-based diet.

As in the situation above, I have heard anecdotal accounts of probiotics being helpful but not much otherwise.  During the course of our study several of the participants had some gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort as a result of moving to a plant-based diet.

Note:  This is common and it is apart of the natural detoxification process.

The participants who experienced the GI upset took probiotics to help with these symptoms.  Everyone who used them said they helped.  The degree to which they helped varied from substantial to adequate.  Thus, I would say I now know that probiotics can be a useful consideration in those experiencing GI issues as the result of a switch from a Standard American Diet (SAD) to a plant-based one.

3. Oil, oil, oil…

While everyone in the plant-based community agrees on the exclusion of meat and dairy products from our diet for prevention and reversal of disease, not everyone agrees on whether or not oils and highly saturated fat laden foods (i.e. nuts & avocados) should be omitted as well.

In fact, two of the foremost thought leaders seem to diverge on this as well: Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Dean Ornish. Esselstyn’s mantra  is “moderation kills” and he advocates a plant-based diet that excludes oils, nuts, etc even if they are technically “plant-based”.

Ornish, on the other hand, is much less strict on this issue and allows for their inclusion, although he still emphasizes a diet as low in saturated fat as possible (less than 10% of daily caloric intake).  That doesn’t exactly allow for much oil anyway being that olive oil for example has approximately 120 calories per tablespoon with 2 grams (or 14%) coming from saturated fat, 78% from monounsaturated fat and 8% for polyunsaturated fat. No matter how you looks at it, olive oil is 120 calories of pure fat per tablespoon.

Without delving into the argument of good fats vs. bad fats, etc. and the reason behind why Esselstyn has adopted this stringent mantra and Ornish has not, I wasn’t 100% sure of where I stood on the whole debate other than the obvious observation that less fat is better.

I now can say that this study (in addition to a few other poignant reasons I’ll discuss in an upcoming post) has resulted in me landing on Esselstyn’s side of the fence. The reason is due to the increased triglyceride levels in some of the participants despite the reductions in their total and LDL cholesterol.  I think it is likely that these triglyceride increases seen in some of the participants are the result of increased consumption of oils, nuts and other highly saturated fat laden foods.

Additionally, when first adjusting to the switch to a plant-based diet many opt for pre-packaged processed vegan foods such as vegan cheese, veganaise, and prepared vegan meals which are extremely high in saturated fat.  Further, when eating out at mainstream restaurants the vegetarian and vegan options (which tend to be few) are often cooked in lots of oil to enhance taste. This is done to ensure that these menu items are just as tasty as there SAD counterparts.

It is my expectation that once acclimated more fully to plant-based nutrition people will end up cooking more at home and becoming more astute regarding their choices and their triglyceride levels will eventually decrease as well.

How about this for a visual: Animal fat is a solid at room temperature whereas plant is liquid.  Imagine how well that solid stuff fares in your GI tract.

4. Sugar, sugar, sugar.  Pre-diabetes, and Hemoglobin A1Cs

I love sweet things!  Who doesn’t?  We all know we should do our best to limit our consumption of these items and some of us do better than others.  If you are vegan, most likely you already limit if not exclude the consumption of sugar because the majority of it is processed with animal bone char (charcoal made from animal bones). – –actually the explanation is much more convoluted than this, but this works for our purpose here.

The participants in our study were not restricted with regard to sugar consumption.  The aim of this study was to look at the benefits of a plant-based diet on a macro level and not get lost in the details.  Please note I am not discounting the importance of these details, we simply chose not to focus on these for the sake of study compliance.

The reason this is important is because of the increasing prevalence of  “pre-diabetes” here in the U.S. and the obvious role that large amounts of sugar found in the SAD contribute to this trend. Prior to our study beginning, 4 of the 7 participants had Hemoglobin A1C values that would classify them as pre-diabetic (>5.7).  After only 30 days all 4 of the participants lowered this value by .4!

Read the rest of this entry »

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How does a plant-based diet prevent disease? A short lesson

Posted by Jenn on January 31, 2011


There is an ever-growing mountain of evidence substantiating the numerous health benefits that a plant-based diet provides.

This colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of red blood cells in an artery shows a layer of endothelial cells (beige) surrounded by muscle (pink). by: Steve Gschmeissner / Photo Researchers Inc.

Peer-reviewed medical paper after peer-reviewed medical paper published in the most well-respected of journals have shown that a plant-based diet free of meat and dairy products is the single most powerful tool we have at our disposal to prevent and fight disease.

Not only can heart disease and diabetes be prevented but the disease progression can be stopped and reversed. If that wasn’t enough there is a multitude of research showing how the consumption of a plant-based diet’s can prevent cancer, dramatically reduce cancer recurrence rates, reduce cognitive impairment as we age (Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia) and reduce osteoporosis in addition to a myriad of others. This being the case, how exactly does something as seemingly simple and low-tech as one’s diet manage to do these things?

The short answer is this: via a gas called nitric oxide which is produced by our endothelial cells.  The problem with this very brief explanation is that most people have never heard of nitric oxide, much less endothelial cells. Consequently, that probably isn’t going to help most people understand how the very important the daily decision to eat a plant-based diet is able to accomplish such incredible feats.

What the heck are endothelial cells? and what the heck is Nitric Oxide (NO)? and how do they accomplish the mammoth task of keeping us healthy?

Endothelial cells are the thin single-layer of cells that line the interior surface of all blood vessels.  They are the cells that come in direct contact with blood flowing through our cardiovascular system.  A “healthy” endothelium can be best described as having like a Teflon coating on the vessels’ inner walls; this non-sticky quality enhancing the flow of blood.  An “unhealthy” endothelium, by contrast, acts like Velcro, grabbing white blood cells, platelets and cholesterol and packing them against the inner wall of the blood vessels narrowing them = causing the vessels to thicken over time, thereby inhibiting the flow of blood. This accumulation of “material” leads to the formation of  what are called atherosclerotic “plaques”.

healthy vs unhealthy endothelium

A healthy endothelium is not being covered by any plaque and therefore has the ability to release many beneficial substances into the blood stream.  An unhealthy endothelium  eventually narrows and thickens and resultantly loses flexibility.  The vessels can no longer expand as they should when the heart pumps blood through them. Pumping blood into stiff arteries containing plaque increases resistance to blood flow causing the heart to work harder. Your blood pressure must increase to pump the same volume of blood through these vessels.

That being said, what then determines the overall health of our endothelial cells that make up our endothelium? In other words what makes our endothelium non-stick or sticky?

That is where Nitric Oxide (NO) comes in. Remember, a healthy endothelium is able to release many beneficial substances into our blood stream.  (Note: we are born with a very healthy endothelium which means until we create an environment in which plaques are created, our vessels are healthy, slick and without plaque)  Nitric oxide is one of these substances.  Nitric oxide has a number of important functions.  One of its primary functions according to Dr. Louis J. Ignarro, the 1998 Nobel Prize winner in Medicine,

“…is to help keep the arteries and veins free of the plaque that causes stroke and to maintain normal blood pressure by relaxing arteries, thereby regulating the rate of blood flow and preventing coronaries (heart attacks)”.

He goes on to explain that,

“Nitric oxide is the body’s natural cardiovascular wonder drug”.

NO accomplishes this by controlling muscle tone of the blood vessels which directly impacts blood pressure control, inhibiting the aggregation of platelets and other particulate such as cholesterol and white blood cells.

Other functions worthy of note include: facilitation of proper kidney function, aiding in the transmission of messages between nerve cells, helping the immune system fight  viral, bacterial and parasitic infections as well as tumors, peristalsis, regulating inflammation, lowering of cholesterol levels and penile erection. Let’s discuss one of these functions in more detail to illustrate.

For example, erection of the penis during sexual excitation is mediated by NO release from the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels of the penis.  The NO release from the endothelial cells cause the blood to pool in the adjacent blood sinuses producing an erection.  Thus, if NO cannot be produced (or produced in sufficient amounts) as the result of a damaged endothelium, then an erection cannot occur. This is why difficulty getting or maintaining an erection is indicative of impending or active heart disease (= ample accumulation of plaque).  If you are currently experiencing impotence, it would be a very good idea to see your doctor such that he or she can discern the cause.

How a poor diet results in poor erections

Causes of endothelial damage  and resultant plaque formation:

  • Smoking – it decreases good cholesterol (HDL) and increases bad cholesterol (LDL) that damages your endothelial cells. Further, nicotine directly damages endothelial cells and the carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke damages the endothelium too.
  • A high fat, high cholesterol diet (particularly animal fat from meat and dairy products; plants do NOT have cholesterol) – LDL directly damages endothelial cells.
  • A diet low in fiber content (animal products do NOT contain any fiber) – High fiber foods absorb bile salts that your body uses in digestion.  Your liver manufactures bile from cholesterol.  Thus, high fiber foods are a natural way to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol.
  • Diabetes – When blood sugars are beyond the normal range it causes oxidative stress to the endothelial cells resulting in damage to them.
  • Being overweight or obese – Fat cells store vitamin D and vitamin D inhibits vessel calcification (plaques eventually get harder as a result of calcification). Thus, losing weight or being at a healthy weight keeps the vitamin D in your system allowing for utilization thereby preventing plaque calcification. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Alzheimer's Disease, Cancer Prevention, Cholesterol, Dementia, Depression, Diabetes, Heart Disease, In the Media, Inflammation, Stroke, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Bill Clinton Adopts a Plant-based diet (Video)

Posted by Jenn on January 3, 2011


Worth the encore! A must watch.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Should a Low-Fat Diet Be Plant-Based?

Posted by Jenn on December 20, 2010


(Source: Published in Journal Watch Cardiology; Journalwatch.org)

Is a low-fat diet that emphasizes plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) better at lowering cholesterol than a typical low-fat diet is? Researchers randomly assigned 120 generally healthy adults (age 30–65; 50% men; LDL levels, 130–190 mg/dL; BMI, 19–31) to eat one of these types of diets for 4 weeks.

The two diets were designed to be identical in total fat, saturated fat, protein, carbohydrate, and cholesterol content; to be consistent with AHA Step I guidelines; and to allow for calorie-intake adjustments to keep body weight constant. Meals either were eaten at the study center or were distributed in coolers to be eaten off site. Fasting blood samples were taken on 4 separate days: 2 at baseline and 2 at study completion.

As expected, body-weight changes were negligible in both groups during the 4-week study. However, compared with the typical low-fat diet, the plant-based low-fat diet yielded significantly greater declines in mean levels of total cholesterol (–17.6 mg/dL vs. –9.2 mg/dL) and of LDL cholesterol (–13.8 mg/dL vs. –7.0 mg/dL). Changes in levels of HDL cholesterol and triglycerides did not differ significantly between the two groups. LDL changes varied widely among individuals.

Comment: In the short term, a low-fat diet that emphasized plant-based foods had a greater total- and LDL-cholesterol–lowering effect than a typical low-fat diet did, even though both diets were consistent with AHA guidelines. A diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol that also includes lots of plant-based foods might increase the lipid-lowering potential of the diet.

— Joel M. Gore, MD

Published in Journal Watch Cardiology June 3, 2005

CITATION(S):

1.  Gardner CD et al. The effect of a plant-based diet on plasma lipids in hypercholesterolemic adults: A randomized trial. Ann Intern Med 2005 May 3; 142:725-33.

2.   Jenkins DJA et al. Diet and cholesterol reduction. Ann Intern Med2005 May 3; 142:793-5.

Original URL: http://cardiology.jwatch.org/cgi/content/full/2005/603/1

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