Which dietary modifications are used in the treatment of coronary artery atherosclerosis?

Updated: Apr 09, 2021
  • Author: Sandy N Shah, DO, MBA, FACC, FACP, FACOI; Chief Editor: Yasmine S Ali, MD, MSCI, FACC, FACP  more...
  • Print

High intakes of red or processed meat were associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality, and cardiovascular disease mortality in a study by Sinha et al. The baseline population was a cohort of half a million people aged 50-71 years from the National Institutes of Health-AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) Diet and Health Study. [95]

A meta-analysis by Ferdowsian and Barnard suggested that plant-based diets are effective in lowering plasma cholesterol concentrations. In a review of 4 types of plant-based diets studied in 27 trials, a vegetarian or vegan diet combined with nuts, soy, and/or fiber demonstrated the greatest effects (up to 35% reduction in plasma LDL-C, followed by vegan and ovolactovegetarian diets. Diets that included small amounts of lean meat demonstrated less dramatic reductions in levels of total cholesterol and LDL. [96]

The ATP III recommended a multifaceted lifestyle approach to reduce the risk for CHD. This is the approach of therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLCs), and its essential features are as follows:

  • Reduced intake of saturated fats (< 7% of total energy intake) and cholesterol (< 200 mg/d)

  • Therapeutic options for enhancing LDL lowering, such as plant stanols/sterols (2 g/d) and increased viscous (soluble) fiber intake (10-25 g/d)

  • Weight reduction

  • Increased physical activity

To initiate TLCs, intake of saturated fats and cholesterol is first reduced to lower LDL-C levels. To improve overall health, the ATP III TLC diet generally contains the recommendations embodied in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2000. One exception is that total fat is allowed to range from 25-35% of total energy intake, provided saturated fats and trans fatty acids are kept low. A higher intake of total fat, mostly in the form of unsaturated fat, can help to reduce triglyceride levels and to raise HDL-C levels in persons with the metabolic syndrome.

In accordance with the Dietary Guidelines, moderate physical activity is encouraged. After 6 weeks, the LDL response is determined; if the LDL-C goal has not been achieved, other therapeutic options for LDL lowering, such as plant stanol/sterols and viscous fiber, can be added.

After maximum reduction of LDL-C levels with dietary therapy, emphasis shifts to management of the metabolic syndrome and associated lipid risk factors. Most persons with these latter abnormalities are overweight or obese and sedentary.

Weight therapy for patients who are overweight or obese enhances LDL lowering and provides other health benefits, including modification of other lipid and nonlipid risk factors. Assistance in the treatment of these patients is provided by the Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults from the NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative (1998). Additional risk reduction can be achieved by simultaneously increasing physical activity.

At all stages of dietary therapy, physicians are encouraged to refer patients to registered dietitians or other qualified nutritionists for medical nutrition therapy, which is the term for the nutritional intervention and guidance provided by a nutrition professional.

Moderate alcohol intake (20 g/day or less) in men is associated with a reduced incidence of coronary heart disease events. [97] The mechanism(s) of this benefit is not well understood. Although alcohol may have cardiovascular benefits in women, [98] even moderate intake of alcohol in women has been associated with a significantly increased risk for breast cancer. [99] Heavy alcohol intake is associated with an increased incidence of coronary heart disease events, as well as with cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia, and other adverse health effects and obviously should be discouraged.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!