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An Interview with Dr. Joel Fuhrman: Master of Fasting
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Fasting holds fascination—and fear—for many people. But it also provides some interesting potential opportunities for plaque control and reversal. In particular, fasting may present a chance for accelerated control, such as that at the very beginning of your program.

So we went to an expert in fasting, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, to get his take on just how fasting could benefit those of use with an interest in plaque control and reversal. Dr. Fuhrman is author of the Bible of fasting, Fasting and Eating for Health.

Dr. Fuhrman reports extraordinary results with fasting in those with symptoms of heart disease. In Fasting and Eating for Health, he states:

“I find most patients who choose to get well via aggressive nutritional approaches are angry that their other physicians did not give them this option before they were told they must have bypass or angioplasty. Patients must be given this choice of a very low-fat vegetarian diet and fasting because it is safer, cheaper, less invasive, and more effective at extending the patient’s life . . .

“Besides effectively lowering blood pressure, fasting removes and softens the cholesterol plaque that lines the blood vessels. . . Surgery, atherectomy, and angioplasty, the invasive approaches to coronary artery disease, will always remain ineffective at significantly extending life. This is because these procedures address only the localized blockage. This small area of diseased blood vessel, though it may be the source of chest pain, will not necessarily be the area that causes death should a person suffer a fatal heart attack. Concentrating on a localized area of coronary artery narrowing in a body full of vessels with diffuse atherosclerotic plaque is like trying to save a patient with advanced metastatic cancer by removing one surgically accessible mass.

“Fasting thins the blood and prevents blood clots, or thrombi. Platelets do not clot as easily during fasting, and the ability of the red blood cells to clump together is diminished. Therefore, the fast quickly lowers an individual’s risk of a heart attack.

“The potential of a total fast (water only) to induce biochemical changes within the body that prevent formation of a thrombus has been well documented. (Muliar LA, Mishchenko VP, Loban GA, Goncharenko LL, Bobyrev VN. Effect of complete fasting on the coagulative and antioxidative properties of blood. Voprosy Pitaniya 1984;4:20–23.) In one such study a fast was undertaken by 22 normal volunteers. The ability of their blood to clot and form a thrombus under fasting conditions was extensively analyzed. Fasting was discovered to lead to the reduction of blood plasma and red cell coagulation, deterioration of platelet aggregation, a rise of the oxidized hemoglobin content, and an increase in red cell resistance to peroxide hemolysis. In short, fasting lowers the risk of intravascular coagulation and thrombus formation.

“ Other studies have shown that after 36 hours of fasting there is a significant increase in the fibrinolytic activity of the blood. Fibrinolysis is the breakdown of clots. This activity continues for 24 hours after the fast is terminated (Miettinen M. Effect of fasting on fibrinolysis and blood coagulation. Amer J Cardiol 1962;10:532–534. Menon IS. Fasting and non-fasting fibrinolytic activity. Lab Prac 1967;16:469–470.”

Along with fasting, Dr. Fuhrman advocates a vegetarian approach to diet, a nutrition program based on minimal to no processed foods (he calls the nutrition advice of the USDA “a food pyramid that will turn you into a dummy”) and high nutrient density. He defines nutrient density as the concentration of phytochemicals, antioxidants, and total vitamin and mineral content per calorie. (The concept of nutrient density is detailed in Eat to Live, page 120, and is further developed in his new book, Eat for Health.) Foods that are preferable in this approach include raw green leafy vegetables like romaine lettuce, kale, spinach; solid green vegetables like asparagus, Brussel sprouts, cucumbers, zucchini, and peppers; non-green, non-starchy vegetables like eggplant, mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes; beans and legumes. It also includes the lower nutrient-dense whole grains barley, buckwheat, oats, brown and wild rice, and quinoa, as well as raw nuts and seeds. Absent from his program are meats (except small quantities of fish), dairy foods including cheese, and added oils.

Dr. Fuhrman points to the life extending properties of such eating habits as documented in Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s China Study (Campbell TC, Parpia B, Chen J. Diet, lifestyle, and the etiology of coronary artery disease: the Cornell China Study. Am J Cardiol 82(10B):18–21T) and the largely vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists (Kahn HA, Phillips RI, Snowdon DA, Choi W. Association between reported diet and all cause mortality: twenty-one year follow up on 27,530 adult Seventh-Day Adventists. 1984; Am J Epidemiol 119:775–787), as well as his own considerable experience.

Here, we pose a few questions to Dr. Fuhrman about fasting.

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