Heart Disease

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The Lifestyle Heart Trial

The Lifestyle Heart Trial was a randomized clinical trial conducted from 1986 to 1992 (1). People with moderate to severe coronary heart disease were randomized to an intensive lifestyle change group or to a usual-care control group. The intensive lifestyle changes diet included a 10% fat, whole foods vegetarian diet (mostly vegan), aerobic exercise, stress management training, smoking cessation, and support groups.

In the lifestyle changes group, the atherosclerosis in their arteries actually decreased 4.5% after one year and 7.9% after five years. In contrast, the atherosclerosis in the control group increased by 5.4% after one year and 27.7% after five years.

Total cholesterol levels in the lifestyle diet group went from 225 mg/dl to 188 mg/dl after five years, and they had a 74% reduction in frequency of angina. Twenty-five cardiac events occurred in 28 lifestyle change patients vs. 45 events in 20 control group patients.

This Lifestyle Heart Trial indicates that a whole foods vegetarian (and probably vegan) diet can be effective as part of a lifestyle change to reduce atherosclerosis and heart disease.


1. Ornish D, Scherwitz LW, Billings JH, Brown SE, Gould KL, Merritt TA, Sparler S, Armstrong WT, Ports TA, Kirkeeide RL, Hogeboom C, Brand RJ. Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease. JAMA. 1998 Dec 16;280(23):2001-7. Erratum in: JAMA 1999 Apr 21;281(15):1380. | link