Meat and atherosclerosis


Clogged Arteries Can Be Cleaned With Vegan Diet
Having high cholesterol means living with a greater risk of suffering a heart attack. For every 1 percent increase in the amount of cholesterol in the average American’s blood, there is about a 2 percent increase in the risk of heart attack; conversely, every 1 percent reduction from the average cholesterol level reduces the risk by about 2 percent. Elevated cholesterol—anything above 150—promotes atherosclerosis, the buildup of cholesterol, fat, and cells in the arteries that feed the heart muscle. Incidentally, while the average cholesterol level in the U.S. is 210, the average vegetarian’s cholesterol level is 161 and the average vegan’s cholesterol level is 133. People with cholesterol levels below 150 are virtually assured of never having a heart attack, while nearly one-third of meat-eaters will die from one.

Heart researchers have found that a vegan (pure vegetarian) diet is the best for lowering cholesterol levels. Plant foods contain no cholesterol, whereas meats, eggs, and dairy products contain large amounts of cholesterol, saturated fats, and concentrated protein—all harmful substances. In contrast, soy protein has been proved to lower cholesterol, and the high fiber content of a vegetarian diet helps eliminate excess cholesterol from your digestive tract (meat, dairy products, and eggs have no fiber at all).

Even if you’ve been diagnosed with atherosclerosis, there’s still hope. Dr. Dean Ornish has demonstrated that the disease can be reversed without drugs and their sometimes dangerous side effects. In a landmark study, he put a group of patients on a completely vegetarian diet with less than 10 percent fat. They also had to engage in moderate exercise. Within a year, the plaques that had been growing in their hearts for decades actually started to dissolve. Patients’ chest pains disappeared, and their cholesterol levels dropped. Nearly 80 percent of people with severely clogged arteries who follow the Ornish program for at least a year are able to avoid bypass surgery and angioplasty. Says Dr. Ornish, “I don’t understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic, while it’s medically conservative to cut people open or put them on powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs for the rest of their lives.”

Although fish and fish-oil capsules have been promoted for their omega-3 fatty acids as a means of lowering heart-disease risk, these acids have highly unstable molecules that decompose quickly and unleash free radicals. Free radicals are damaging to living tissues and cells, but that damage can be prevented by antioxidants. The kinds of fatty acids found in vegetables, fruits, and beans lower free-radical activity while increasing antioxidant levels. When you choose vegetarian foods, you naturally and safely lower your risk for heart disease and other serious illnesses. You get twice the level of protection every time you eat.

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