The Weatherhead PET Imaging Center
Food and Heart Disease

Food and Heart Disease


Food has a powerful influence on health. What you eat, interacting with other risk factors, substantially determines the development of coronary heart disease. For people with coronary heart disease, following a good eating plan is a major component of reversal treatment, along with reducing other risk factors and taking cholesterol-lowering medications.

There are three principal mechanisms by which food influences coronary heart disease. The first is the effect of food on cholesterol levels measured in blood obtained after fasting for eight hours, as routinely done in clinical laboratories. The second mechanism by which food influences vascular disease is the surge of very low density cholesterol components and related fats (triglycerides) in blood immediately after eating that lasts eight hours (post-prandial lipid surge). This after-eating lipid surge impairs vascular function and contributes substantially to coronary artery disease. The third is the role of excess food on increasing body weight that increases cholesterol, insulin, blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Increased fasting blood cholesterol levels, an increased after-eating lipid surge, increased weight, increased insulin, blood sugar and blood pressure are all associated with increased risk of vascular disease, its progression and/or heart attacks. This section on food shows how to control and minimize these causes of coronary artery disease or its progression.

The principal components of food are fat, carbohydrate, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Most foods contain all or most of these components in varying proportions. However, for simplicity, most foods can be viewed as consisting principally of one of these components. These complex nutritional components can then be translated into easily remembered daily food guidelines. The simplest way of thinking about foods is to categorize them into the simplified functional categories of fat, protein, bulk carbohydrates, vegetables, and fruit, as shown in the attached tables.