The Spectrum Diet : For Heart Health

More than an evidence-based diet.

You may have heard the remarkable news of former US President Bill Clinton reversing his heart disease.

Oh, and shedding 24 pounds in the process.

How did he do it?

He changed his diet. He eliminated meat, dairy, and processed oil.

In a recent interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Mr Clinton credited his improved health to following the advice of Dr Caldwell Esselstyn (Author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease) and Dr Dean Ornish (author of The Spectrum: A Scientifically Proven Program to Feel Better, Live Longer, Lose Weight, and Gain Health). Plant-based diets have been shown to have tremendous health benefits. It’s not just a political statement.

The Spectrum Diet and Lifestyle Program evolved from Dr Ornish’s extensive research into how diet and genes interact.

Foods are classified according to how healthy they are. Group 1 is the most healthy and Group 5, which includes french fries and hot dogs, is the least.

Depending on how quickly you want to achieve your goals, you choose from each of these groups, with the aim of eating primarily from Group 1 and Group 2. Dr Ornish does not believe in guilt and encourages people to satisfy their cravings without going overboard. The key is the quality of the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates we consume.

Why is the Spectrum Diet Different?

It distances itself from the “one-size-fits-all” approach of many other diets and encourages personalization.

More interestingly is that Dr Ornish is following a growing trend of mainstream medical professionals who are realizing that health requires a holistic approach. Aside from a balanced diet, Dr Ornish emphasizes addressing stress and incorporating exercise and meditation into your lifestyle. In fact, his book includes a bonus DVD of guided meditation by his wife, Anne Ornish. The idea of this “diet” is to assess where you are on the spectrum based on these three aspects.

The results of the Spectrum Diet have been quite impressive. The change in diet and lifestyle truly allows the body to address the disease it is facing and activates its innate ability to heal itself.

According to the book, 82% of individuals who are able to stick to the stricter end of the Spectrum Diet find that their heart disease reverses itself.

Read Dr Ornish’s detailed explanation of the Spectrum Diet.

More Study Results

Update – we are re-looking at this lifestyle program by Dr Ornish after reading The Telomere Effect. While his program is known for reversing heart disease, Dr Ornish wanted to see its effects on cell aging. In a 3-month study of men with low-risk prostate cancer, early-stage prostate cancer was shown to slow or be stopped. The men ate a low-fat plant based diet, walked 30 minutes six days a week, attended support group once a week, and practiced stress management with stretches, meditation, and breathing.

Especially interesting to the authors of The Telomere Effect is that the men’s telomerase increased. This is the enzyme that replenishes the telomeres which shorten with each cell division necessary for life. In line with other studies, this one saw a larger increase in telomerase in the men who experienced a reduction of negative and distressing thoughts about prostate cancer.

After five years, the men who continued on the program had lengthened their telomeres by 10%. This is significant as we previously believed telomeres continued to shorten as people aged. The Telomere Effect shows that lifestyle changes, including having a mindfulness practice that reduces stress and moderate exercise, can have a significant and meaningful positive impact on telomerase and telomeres.

For people interested in Dr Ornish’s program, this is one of the few behavioural programs that are covered by Medicare and some health insurance companies. You can find a certified provider and check if your insurance covers the costs on Dr Ornish’s website.

Like Dr Ornish said, those who are ill can use the program as “a pound of cure” and those who are healthy can use it as “an ounce of prevention.” When we change our habits, including our conditioning and thoughts, we change the expression of our genes.