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  • Gregg M. Yamada, MD FACC

My Opinion of the Ornish Diet Program (Part 1)

What is the Best Diet Program for Cardiac Patients?

Many people ask my opinion of the Ornish Diet Program. The Ornish diet is a good program, as are many others, because it helps bring awareness of the importance of diet and exercise in preventing coronary artery disease.

However, not everyone agrees with me. Take a look at an article published in Scientific American, 'Why Almost Everything Dean Ornish Says About Nutrition is Wrong'

I have referred dozens of my patients to the Dean Ornish Diet franchise in Hawaii and will continue to do so. Of note, my patients have given me mixed feedback about Ornish. Patients have initial success at losing weight and lowering their cholesterol, as anticipated on a vegan-type diet. However, they soon realize that it is difficult to continue the Ornish diet. This does not mean Ornish program will not work for you and if you are interested you should consider the program.

  • Although I refer patients to Ornish, I do not advocate the program.

Why the apparent contradiction? The intent of the program is good, but I feel that extreme diet programs are too difficult to maintain in the long term. I outline my approach in ‘Prevention’.

The ‘Common Sense’ Diet.

Obviously, there is no such thing as the ‘Common Sense’ diet, but you get the point.

If there were, it would probably qualify as the ‘Best Diet’.

  • Any diet/nutrition program that helps you lose weight, lower your cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure—will help reduce your risk of becoming a cardiac statistic.

  • There is no one size fits all. Rather, adopt the best parts of every diet program you have ever come across and create your own, easy-to-follow meal plan.

  • Any diet that is low in sodium, sugar, cholesterol/saturated fat; portion controlled; higher in fiber—grains vegetables fruits nuts can qualify as your ‘best’ diet.

Things You Already Know About Nutrition and Dieting:

  • You already know what you should eat more of…and less of.

  • You don’t need to buy a book or attend a program/class or pay anyone to teach you which foods are healthy and which are not.

  • You already know that portion control is just as important than the type of food you eat.

Here’s the Point:

  1. Adopt a common sense approach to your nutrition, using principles you already know.

  2. To get started, find several diet programs that appeal to you: for example, Ornish, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystems, Weight Watchers, Zone, American Heart Association, Mayo Clinic, etc.

  3. Adopt parts of these diets--which fit your lifestyle and preferences--and incorporate them in your meal planning.

  4. Take a long-term approach to your nutrition. Afterall, a diet that you can't stick with will have 0% chance of success.

Note: Understanding your heart condition is not difficult. Patients become frustrated and confused when doctors don’t explain things clearly. If you don’t understand what your doctor is talking about, then you won’t be able to ask meaningful questions. I hope that my posts provide you with a framework that you can build upon to become an active participant in your healthcare.

Stay Healthy!

Gregg M. Yamada MD FACC


Disclaimer: I hope you find my medical blogs to be pertinent, interesting, and thought provoking. The information provided is educational and should not be taken as medical advice. I am a doctor, but I am not your doctor. Please schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss these issues and to determine what is right for you.

© 2022. Gregg M. Yamada, MD FACC. All rights reserved.



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