What if heart disease were a choice?

| June 14, 2016

What if there was a medicine that could prevent the process underlying heart disease from ever occurring and reverse it in those who are already suffering from it? Ben Bambery reveals the identity of this miraculous drug.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), chances are that you or someone you love will be killed by heart disease. I don’t wish to be blunt, but with a staggering 7.4 million people dying from heart disease every year, that’s simply the reality.

But what if heart disease were a choice? If you had the choice, obviously you’d choose that neither you, your loved ones, nor anyone else would have heart disease, right?

Well, amazingly, the latest medical research suggests that we may have discovered a new medicine that can prevent the process underlying heart disease from ever occurring, while also reversing this process in those who are already suffering severely from the disease. For ease, let’s call this medicine Drug X for now.

Researchers first began to get excited about Drug X after observing that in populations where Drug X occurred in high amounts naturally in diet, deaths from heart disease were as much as 100 times lower than in other areas. They postulated that something about Drug X was protecting people from the deadly, arterial plaque formation that hallmarks heart disease. These arterial plaques reduce blood supply to important organs like the heart and brain, sometimes even rupturing and cutting off blood supply completely (which is what happens in heart attacks and strokes), and researchers suspected that Drug X might prevent this process partly because of its ability to drastically reduce cholesterol, but also perhaps because Drug X could work directly on the walls of arteries to allow them to widen easily and permit more blood flow.

Research published in the medical journal Preventative Cardiology took things a step further by isolating Drug X and giving it directly to people who already had severe artery blockage. Researchers found that the size of artery plaques was significantly reduced in those taking Drug X, implying that Drug X could reverse heart disease even in those with severe progression of the disease. Recent research in the Journal of Family Practice in 2014 has linked this finding with reductions in heart attacks and strokes in those taking Drug X consistently over a 3.5 year period, finding that only 0.6% of study participants taking Drug X suffered a heart attack or stroke during the duration of the study compared to an attack rate of 10% in those not taking Drug X.

These are incredible findings. But if you’re not overweight, don’t smoke, and don’t have a family history of heart disease (all important risk factors for disease progression) maybe the risk of heart disease doesn’t apply to someone healthy like you?

Think again, because doctors have known for years that the building blocks for heart disease begin very early in life, some studies suggesting, for instance, that as many as 50% of otherwise healthy children have begun to develop the first signs of artery plaques by the age of fourteen! There is much more autopsy research to support this conclusion on young adults who have died in wars or car crashes (e.g. otherwise healthy), implying that if you, like me, are over the age of fourteen, then this potentially deadly process may have already begun within your own arteries.

Thank God for Drug X though! Proven to prevent heart disease almost completely in populations who consume lots of it in their diets while also being capable of reversing heart disease in those with severe artery blockage, it is likely that its effects could also extend to reversing the plaque formation in otherwise healthy people like you and me, protecting us from disease progression and saving us trouble in years to come.

What’s the catch? Well, like all medicines, there are certain side effects from Drug X. The main problem is that some people may develop vitamin deficiencies or anaemia, but this occurs relatively rarely and is easily treated by taking cheap vitamin and mineral supplements, like Cobalamin (vitamin B12) and iron. In terms of more significant side effects, research has also shown that those taking Drug X may have reduced cancer risk, reduced diabetes risk, reduced dementia risk, weight loss, and improved mood –you might feel that those don’t need treating though.

So what is this mysterious, miraculous Drug X? It’s a whole-food, plant-based, vegetarian diet.

This means eliminating red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products, while replacing these with whole-food, plant-based alternatives, such as chickpeas, lentils, beans, tofu, nuts, and practically anything else you like that isn’t in the list above and is (generally) not deep-fried or too processed[1]. As a guiding rule, the closer it is to how it was when it was growing in or out of the ground, the better.

Drug X is taken orally, absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract, altered by the liver as part of what’s called ‘first-pass’ metabolism, and then enters the systemic blood stream where it takes specific and varied cellular action on different parts of the body, including, it seems, the parts of the body involved in arterial plaque formation, cancer, diabetes, dementia, mood, and many other things.

If Drug X were a pill, and could claim to benefit you in even a quarter of the way medical science is suggesting that whole-food, plant-based vegetarian diets can, I’m sure you’d want to get your hands on it for yourself and your family as soon as possible.

You might love the taste of meat; I do too. But with a growing body of medical research highlighting the many benefits to be gained from eating whole food, plant-based diets, now might be a good time to have a think about what ‘medicine’ you want to put into your body three times a day, every day, for the rest of your life.

So now that you know that when it comes to heart disease you might have a choice after all: what will you choose?

The inspiration for this blog and many of the medical studies referenced within are explored in Dr Michael Greger’s ‘How Not To Die’ (easily findable on YouTube). Please watch for yourself and see what you think.

[1] If eliminating meat, dairy and eggs seems too extreme, even considering the huge benefits that seem to be on offer, taking steps to reduce intake and increase consumption of pulses, legumes, nuts, and vegetables is a strong first step. Any reduction comes with strong environmental and ethical pay offs as well.




  1. Max Thomas

    Max Thomas

    June 16, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Buon Appetito

    Respecting Ben's good sense and professionalism, it strikes me that during the last century or so, the death rate has fallen dramatically and life expectancy has increased by many years. More recently, heart disease and related 'affluence' disorders are placing a heavy burden on limited 'health' resources. Sadly, much of this illness is preventable if we would only make better lifestyle choices. But I am reminded of a proverb, and I hope someone will correct my rubbish Italian, that goes like this: "Perché mangiare come un povero per morire sani?" Why eat like a pauper only to die healthy?

    • Max Thomas

      Max Thomas

      June 17, 2016 at 12:02 am


      Ben says that eliminating meat, dairy and eggs from the diet and increasing consumption of pulses, legumes, nuts, and vegetables comes with strong environmental (and ethical) pay-offs. The implicit assumption here is that intensive cropping and horticulture on a scale sufficient to feed millions, are environmentally benign. That is roughly analogous to a trained agriculturalist claiming that complementary medicines come with strong benefits to community health.