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PCRM Survey Shows Many Cardiologists Not Recommending Lifesaving Diets

cardiologistA new survey of cardiologists found that although many knew about the potential lifesaving effects of low-fat vegetarian diets for their heart patients, most did not recommend them on the belief that their patients would not comply. However, studies have shown that most patients on such diets rate them very positively and experience benefits beyond those of more modest diets.

Among the respondents, 82 percent said they routinely ordered dietary changes for their patients and 91 percent cited being “somewhat familiar” or “very familiar” with research supporting the use of very low-fat cardiac diets. However, 63 percent of the cardiologists said they never order or recommend this diet and 23 percent said they only sometimes order or recommend it to their patients.

The most common reasons for not recommending the diet were concerns about patient preference and the perception that the patient wasn’t likely to comply with the recommendation. Other barriers included lack of knowledge about research supporting the diet, lack of institutional support, and the concern that hospital kitchens could not provide the appropriate food.

Instead of recommending low-fat vegetarian diets, the cardiologists most often order a standard omnivorous diet. The problem with this approach was highlighted in the recent report from the Women’s Health Initiative, which found that minor diet changes didn’t lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Those modest results were due to the study participants making only modest changes in their diets. Only low-fat, vegetarian diets have been shown to reverse heart disease and provide maximal protection for patients.

“Patients hospitalized with life-threatening cardiac conditions should be advised by their doctor that they could head off another heart attack by switching to a low-fat vegetarian diet,” says report coauthor Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D., a senior nutrition scientist with PCRM and an assistant professor of health and wellness at the University of North Carolina. “Dietary changes reinforced by a doctor’s recommendation will make it even easier for patients to make simple changes that could add years to their lives.”


PCRM Online, March 2006

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