Heart failure used to be considered a one-way street toward infirmity, chronic illness, and ultimately death, in half of the cases, within five years. But a new study published this week shows that a plant-based diet can dramatically improve outcomes and even reverse symptoms in cases of heart failure, which is encouraging to say the least.
In the past, plant-based diets have been shown to improve the health of patients with heart disease, but this new research showed it can also improve the outcomes of patients with heart failure, by increasing blood flow, strengthening the heart's ability to pump blood to the body and allowing patients to be more active, while "lessening the effects obesity, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and diabetes," the report finds.
Study: "Plant-Based Diet: A Potential Intervention for Heart Failure"
The study, first published in Cureus,
explains that plant-based diets have a positive effect even in patients suffering from advanced-stage heart failure, often defined as the inability of the heart to pump adequate blood to the body that it needs to function. "Heart failure is one of the most common causes of morbidity and mortality in the world," the study authors write. "The disease prevalence is more than 5.5 million in the US alone and 23 million globally, the authors Faris A. Alasmre
and Hammam A. Alotaibi
Heart Failure Affects More Than Half a Million People a Year in the US
"Annually, more than 550,000 people are diagnosed with heart failure in the US, and "half of them die within the first five years," the authors report. That's where intervention with a plant-based diet can make a difference. The authors looked back at data from studies from the year 2000 through March, 2020 and focused in on those patients with heart failure and risk factors for it. They then cross-checked patients who followed a diet that was either “vegetarian,” “vegan,” “plant-based diet,” and identified three studies used plant-based diets as interventions, and the results in all three studies reviewed were dramatic.
In the first study,
a plant-based diet improved exercise tolerance lowered their heart disease risk factors and after just three months on a plant-based diet, the patients lost weight, lowered their BMI, as well as their LDL (so-called bad cholesterol) and improved their symptoms of angina. In all, they reduced physical limitations, which is the first step in the road to recovery.
In the second study,
the researchers found that heart function improved significantly on a plant-based diet. Specifically, the left ventricle (which pumps blood to the body and brain) gained strength and improved its ability to pump blood from the heart through the body by 35 percent–during the 60 days of being on a plant-based diet. At the end of the 60-day period, "ejection fraction" as this is called, became "normalized," and exercise tolerance increased. Patients also saw significant reductions in total cholesterol (down 32 percent), triglycerides (down 14 percent), and LDL level (down 35 percent).
The third study measured whether patients who were put on a plant-based diet for 79 days, could change the outcome of congestive heart failure and again the improvements were dramatic. The patients showed a 92% improvement in blood flow from the heart, while the mass of their enlarged heart reduced in size 21%, a healthy sign. Their hearts' ability to pump also improved by 62% as blood flow per "stroke" increased from 22 percent to 42.2 percent. These are significant improvements for patients who in the past would have been treated with medicine to try to achieve the same level of gains. Results of all three studies proved so dramatic that clinical care workers are being recommended to put heart failure patients on a plant-based diet.
“A number of small studies in the past 2 decades show a consistent positive clinical and risk factor improvements in patients with heart failure,” the study's authors concluded. “These findings, although in small samples, can lead the way for more interventional studies with more rigorous design to shed more light on the effects of a plant-based diet on heart failure as a clinical intervention.”The studies were a small base of 50 patients, and review studies are not considered as reliable as clinical trials, but the evidence all points to the fact that plant-based diets can lead to dramatic and measurable improvements among cardiac patients experiencing heart failure.
More than one doctor has advocated that hospitals serve plant-based foods to patients but Dr. Saray Stancic
has made a documentary, CodeBlue, to bring attention to the fact that nutrition is not used in hospitals as a medical treatment for anyone admitted with heart disease.