Nutrition and Supplementation for Coronary Heart Disease
Fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables contain many antioxidants and other protective nutrients. Research showed that women who had a high intake of fruit and vegetables had 20% fewer heart attacks than those on low intakes.
Fiber is an indigestible part of vegetables and fruits and is usually removed when processing food. Fiber in the diet keeps the bowels moving, helps eliminate some of the toxins in our food and can also lower the cholesterol. Fiber is made up of complex carbohydrates which are not absorbed and stay in the bowel. Unrefined grain fiber appears to be one of the best sources of dietary fiber. When grains are refined, the outer layer, or husk, is removed. Most of the nutrients and fiber are in this outer husk. Women who had a high intake of fiber in their diet had less coronary artery disease, reducing cardiac events by 37%.
In addition to fiber, whole grains also contain many vitamins and other nutrients which are lost when the grain is processed and refined. Women regularly eating whole grain foods had 25% less coronary disease than those eating few or no whole grain foods.
Nuts are the seeds for a new plant and provide all the necessary nutrients for the first few weeks of its life. They are a rich source of many beneficial fats, oils, proteins and vitamins. Women who ate more than 5 ounces of nuts per week had 45% fewer heart attacks than those who ate no nuts.
Alcohol raises the level of the good HDL cholesterol in the blood. Wine, especially red, also contains many beneficial antioxidants. Alcohol in moderation appears to have a substantial benefit in reducing heart disease – but probably not enough to make a non-drinker start drinking! However, it does mean that one does not need to stop having one or two pleasurable evening drinks – BUT no more! Women who were light to moderate drinkers had fewer deaths, mainly due to reduced coronary artery disease. Heavier drinkers had more breast cancer and deaths from cirrhosis of the liver. In a number of studies, two drinks per day reduced the risk of heart attacks by 30-50%. However, we stress that more than two drinks per day is bad for the heart, especially the heart muscle, but also the liver, pancreas and the brain.
Fish contain omega 3 oils which are very long chained polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from the plankton at the bottom of the food chain. These appear to have many beneficial actions with the body. With regard to the heart, fish oils appear to reduce the incidence of heart attacks, but most excitingly, they stabiles the heart rhythm and so have a major effect on sudden death (cardiac arrest is the cause of most deaths from heart attacks).
• Women who had a higher intake of fish in their diet had less coronary disease. Compared to women who did not eat fish, women who ate one fish meal per week reduced their risk of heart disease by 29%, 2-4 fish meals per week by 31% and those eating five or more fish meals per week had 44% fewer cardiac events.
• In the 44,000 men in the Health Professional Study, those eating some fish in their diet reduced coronary disease by 26%, but surprisingly, increasing the fish intake further made little difference.
• In the Chicago Western Electric study, 1,822 men were followed for 30 years. Those with the highest fish intake had a 44% reduction in deaths from heart attack. There is no drug which can reduce heat death by even a fraction of this number.
• In the Italian GISSI-P trial, 11,000 people were given either fish oil or dummy capsules after suffering a heart attack. The people taking fish oil had 20% fewer heart deaths and a 45% reduction in sudden cardiac death. Remember, Italians already eat a lot of fish, so more fish oils gave additional protection.
• Sudden death is reduced by 81% in men who eat fish regularly.
This is not a typing mistake: in the meticulously conducted Health Professional Study, taking fish oils reduced the incidence of sudden death by 81%. Because most heart attack fatalities are due to sudden death caused by ventricular fibrillation, such a simple preventive action as taking regular fish oils could save literally millions of lives worldwide each year.
A report confirmed heart benefit from taking vitamin C supplements. The report found that those taking vitamin C supplements had 28% fewer cardiac events (heart attacks and death).
This mineral appears to be important in the function of muscles (enabling them to relax), and also in the control of heart rhythm. A number of studies have shown magnesium to be beneficial:
• In a study conducted by the USA Centers for Disease Control, 12,000 healthy people (25-74 years) were followed for 19 years. Those who had high magnesium levels in their blood had 31% fewer heart-related deaths than those with low blood magnesium levels.
• Magnesium supplementation reduced rhythm disturbances when given to children undergoing heart surgery.
• After a heart attack magnesium given intravenously reduced the mortality by 24% and heart failure by 25% in 2,300 patients in the LIMIT 2 study.
• Magnesium and sudden death. A review of published data on magnesium suggests that sudden death is common in magnesium deficient areas and that heart magnesium levels are low in people who die suddenly. Heart rhythm irregularities occur with low magnesium levels and intravenous magnesium can reduce arrhythmias after a heart attack. However, few large scale clinical trials have been done to see if there is benefit in suing oral magnesium supplementation.
This mineral is low in the soil of a number of countries – New Zealand, Scandinavia, parts of the USA, Australia and China. In these areas, farmers routinely supplement their animals with selenium to avoid heart disease, muscle disease and cancer.
It appears that selenium is necessary for the full function of vitamin E, as well as having other important effects in the body. In areas where the levels are low there is a higher incidence of cancer and in a study in Arizona supplementation hugely reduced the risk of developing cancer. In China selenium has been used to treat heart failure in children (Keshan’s disease). Many people believe that selenium supplementation is a good idea in areas where selenium levels are low. Unfortunately, because it is a problem in only a few areas, there is not a lot of research being performed.
From these studies, it is obvious that if people had a nutritious diet plus supplements, we could make a huge reduction in heart disease. In modern medicine, there has no drugs which have anything like this preventive power. Heart disease could be dramatically reduced if people ate an ideal diet and took good nutritional supplements.