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Published on May 04, 2016

New study proves diet can reverse heart disease

Eating healthier foods is more beneficial than avoiding unhealthy foods

By Melanie Lawson, News4JAX

Ornish lifestyle

A new study shows eating more of the right foods is actually more beneficial than avoiding unhealthy foods especially for people who already have heart disease.

St. Vincent's heart patient John Edge is down 35 pound and counting.

"I didn't get here overnight and it's not going to go away over night," says Edge.

But it seemed like overnight that he committed to making a big change.

"I live in southeast georgia where we're weaned on cornbread and sweet tea and fried chicken," says Edge.

That lifestyle nearly killed him.

"I had open heart surgery in October 2008 within six months of that day I had my first stent. I think I had my last one sometime in October of last year. I don't remember because it was stent number ten," says Edge.

Coronary Artery Disease and Type 2 diabetes are just two on a long list of health problems. But in less than eight months he's off medication and feeling great.

I was on 200 units of insulin and I haven't had insulin in six weeks, says Edge,

He believes it's because of whole healthy food and exercise.

"It must be this program because it's the only thing I've done differently," says Edge.

Edge has embraced the Ornish lifestyle. It's plant based, no meat or fish. It's mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nonfat diary, and low but good fats. The Ornish diet is similar to a Mediterranean diet but more restrictive and the results are dramatic.

"It was really the first of it's kind to show that you could halt heart disease which they once thought was impossible and you can start to regress that plague buildup," says Registered Dietician Kat Pitoccheli.

Pitocchelli with St. Vincent's Healthcare said patients often get off medication, breath easier, and halt chest pain by embracing and sticking to the plan.

"Our participants start to feel better right away even within the first couple of weeks so the behavior starts to become sustainable," says Pitoccheli.

The Mediterranean Diet includes foods like salmon, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and even a glass of wine. Here's a meal that works.

The bulk of these are fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes along with a little bit of fat free diary, says Pitoccheli.

A spinach dip served with whole grain pita, bean and carrot soup, kale salad, and a fruit parfait with greek yogurt.

"Anytime you can center your dessert around fruit the better off you are," says Pitoccheli.

The food is all filling, Ornish and Mediterranean. It's food Edge enjoys eating.

"I don't want to eat rice cakes I want to eat real food and enjoy it and I've been able to," says Edge.

The study found that eating a western diet did not increase the risk of cardiovascular events but it's not a green light to eat unhealthy food. It does show it's never too late to change your diet and benefit from whole foods. For more information on the Ornish program go to or call 877-888-3091.

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