Atherosclerosis (heart disease) Diet & Nutrition

Diet:   Mediterranean diet   Fiber   Cholesterol   Salt   Refined grains
Lifestyle:   Smoking   Weight   Stress
Nutrients:    Tocotrienols   Omega 3   Selenium   Vitamin C   Vitamin E   Vitamin Bs   Other nutrients   Herbs

Discussion: Dietary Modification

Diets that are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in flaxseed and canola oils, have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the person's blood than diets with lesser amounts. Research indicates that this may lower the risk of atherosclerosis. 3,4

Mediterranean Diet

Researchers studied patients with cardiovascular conditions, using is known as the "Mediterranean" diet5 (unlike the actual diet of the region, it didn't contain much olive oil). The test diet incorporated a high-ALA margarine. The patients on this diet had a significant 70% reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease during the first 27 months, compared to control group and again after nearly 4 years.6

Peas and beans were prominent in the test diet, as were fish, vegetables, fruit, cereals, and bread, and low in dairy fat, meat, and eggs. Although the researchers felt that the ALA component was partially responsible for the remarkable outcome, other factors in the diet could have been partially or completely the cause for the lower death rates. So, the success of this diet doesn't prove that ALA protects against cardiovascular disease.7

Leading researchers consider the evidence linking trans-fatty acids to cardiovascular disease as "unequivocal."

Dietary Fiber

A meta-analysis of the two decades of research on the relationship between coronary heart problems and dietary fiber indicated that whole grain foods are reduce coronary heart disease risk by about 26%.8

The fibers best connected to the lowered levels of cholesterol were in psyllium seeds, oats, guar gum (beans), and pectin (fruit).9 Soluble fiber (easily fermented in the colon) yields a modest lowering of cholesterol.10 Insoluble fiber (whole grains and vegetables) does not lower cholesterol as much but is tied to better protection against cardiovascular disease for men and women.11,12 Researchers have also found that 20 grams of additional daily fiber for several months lower cholesterol successfully.13

Eggs & food high in cholesterol

Aside from cholesterol considerations, foods with high cholesterol - such egg yolks - contribute to atherosclerosis risk.14 Therefore reducing egg yolk and other high cholesterol foods makes sense.

Consuming saturated fat increases serum cholesterol even more than eating eggs, which, if the diet is generally low-fat, may not increase serum cholesterol. A purely vegetarian diet (no poultry, meat, eggs, or dairy), along with ample exercise and stress management, is very effective.15

Salt consumption

Research suggests that high salt intake is a risk factor in overweight people, but more research was needed as of 1999.16 Research conducted in 2011 indicated that salt intake is a risk factor in all people and that not only high levels of salt may be implicated and that the then current guidelines of 2.3 grams daily may or may not be too high. 118

Refined grains, sugars

The risk of heart disease appears to be higher, particularly in overweight women, if their diet is high in non-whole-grain cereals (white rice, wheat, sugar, etc).17 Those who eat several servings daily of whole grains have less visceral adipose tissue (VAT) type of fate which appears to play a major role in triggering heart disease as well as diabetes.119

Discussion: Lifestyle Modification


Medical professionals agree that smoking is directly tied to cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis. Quitting smoking is one of the most important steps an individual can take in preventing disease.18, 19, 20


Obesity21 and a lifestyle without exercise, sedentary in nature, is tied to a higher risk of atherosclerosis.23 Like stopping smoking, managing one's weight is a major contributor to better health.24

Type A Behavior, Stress

Stress and type A behavior22 (impatience, irritability, aggressiveness) with aggressive physical or verbal action are linked with heightened risk for coronary heart disease.25, 26, 27, 28

Discussion: Nutritional Supplement Treatment


Tocotrienols fight free radicals which are implicated in oxidative degradation of LDL type cholesterol,29 Research has found that for those with severe atherosclerosis of the main artery bringing blood to the brain receiving tocotrienol supplementation (200 mg per day) reduced the lipid peroxides level in the blood. The process of lipid peroxidation means damage to cells because of oxidation and lower lip peroxide levels is an improvement. In addition, patients who took tocotrienols for a year or more had much slower development of atherosclerosis, and sometimes the size of plaque in the arteries was reduced.30

Omega-3 fatty acids

Fish oil, that contains abundant omega-3 fatty acids, is also connected to beneficial lowered risk factors for coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease in most studies.31-36 One double-blind study determined that 6 grams daily for three months and following, three grams daily for 21 months was very effective in reversing the amount of plaque, and number of incidents of heart events or stroke.41


Another nutrient that may yield positive results is selenium. 42,43 In one double-blind study, patients who had a heart disease event received selenium 100 mcg/daily for six months, although the benefit was not statistically significant. Some medical providers suggest that atherosclerosis patients supplement with selenium 100-200 mcg/daily.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C reverses the negative effects of elevated homocysteine levels on cells lining artery walls. This dysfunction may play a role in heart disease.45 Vitamin C also protects LDL.46. Some researchers suggest that consuming vitamin C is only valuable up to about 100-200 mg daily even though other research finds that supplementing with 250mg/ twice daily for at least 3 years has a 15% decrease in the development of coronary heart disease.47, 48

Vitamin E

Double-blind research has connected this antioxidant, which protects LDL from free radical damage,L49 to reduction of coronary heart disease.50 Studies suggest no long term benefit beyond 100-200 IU daily, although many medical professionals recommend and other research supports good effects with 400-800 IU daily51 In one double-blind trial, high cholesterol patients taking only 136 IU daily natural vitamin E for three years had 10% less atherosclerosis development compared to controls given placebos.52

B Vitamins

Most research reports high homocysteine levels (a non-protein amino acid) with high cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis53,54 although whether it is actually a cause is not supported55, 56 and connections to specific foods such as coffee or protein are not conclusive.57. Supplementing with B9 (folic acid), B6 or B12 lowers homocysteine (although the recommended amounts vary.58-61. Nonetheless, many researchers feel that these B vitamins are beneficial for heart disease patients.62 Of these nutrients folic seems to be the most important.64


Quercetin is a flavonoid (or bioflavonoid), is derived from compounds in plants which are not required for plant life, but which seem to help the plant maintain health. This flavanoid has the effect of protecting LDL cholesterol from free radical damage. 66 Consuming foods with lots of quercetin does lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease a little, but the study results vary greatly. Quercetin is found in onions, apples, black tea, and as a dietary supplement (as low as 35mg daily).67-71

Evening Primrose

Three-four grams daily of evening primrose oil have reduced cholesterol levels, which, in turn may reduce atherosclerosis risk.73

Chondrotin sulfate

It has been known since the late 1960's or earlier that chondroitin sulfate may reduce atherosclerosis and may also lessen heart attacks in patients who already have atherosclerosis. Animal research in 2008 seems to confirm this view.120

Red wine

A number of studies in the past found that drinking moderate amounts red wine, which naturally contains resveratrol, lessens death risk from heart disease due to its antioxidant effect. However, more recently, scientists have concluded that the detriments outweigh the benefits for long-term health.121 Alcohol metabolizes into acetaldehyde, a chemical that damages DNA and affecting many parts of the body. It also raises the levels of triglycerides in the blood and consumption can cause liver disease, high blood pressure,122 cancer,123 alcoholism, and at high intake, an increased risk of heart disease.


Low blood levels of lycopene, a carotenoid (plant colorant compound, high in tomatoes) have been found in patients with atherosclerosis, especially smokers, suggesting that lycopene may be protective.87 Later research substantiates this finding.124, 125

Discussion: Botanical Treatment

Herbs and their action

  • Garlic Reduces atherosclerosis, helps hardened arteries
  • Fenugreek, garlic, guggul, psyllium Lowers cholesterol
  • Green tea Blocks cholesterol oxidation
  • Garlic, ginger, ginkgo, peony, turmeric Decreases clotting
  • Butcher's broom, rosemary Stimulates circulation

Garlic has been demonstrated to lessen atherosclerosis and reduce cholesterol in a number of long-term, double-blind studies88, 89 although other studies contradict this. Garlic also appears to reduce blood clotting, and aged garlic extract has been found to be helpful as opposed to raw garlic.90-97 However, very large quantities of garlic are needed.

Ginkgo may also reduce atherosclerosis risk and reduce blood clotting as well as increase circulation to the arms, legs and brain.98-101

Other Herbs
Research consistently demonstrates that psyllium is effective in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride blood levels.106 Because green tea fights free radicals it may also help lessen atherosclerosis.108 Ginger has the capacity to reduce blood clotting with minimums of 1 heaping teaspoon daily.110-112

Related Health Condition: Atherosclerosis.


See research footnotes on atherosclerosis

More footnotes:
118. National University of Ireland, Galway (2011, November 23). Study calls sodium intake guidelines into question.
119. Tufts University, Health Sciences (2010, October 20). Eating mostly whole grains, few refined grains linked to lower body fat.
120. Effect of chondroitin sulphate in a rabbit model of atherosclerosis aggravated by chronic arthritis, J Pharmacol. 2008 June; 154(4): 843-851.
121. Wood AM, Kaptoge S, Butterworth AS, Willeit P, Warnakula S, et al. (2018). Risk thresholds for alcohol consumption: combined analysis of individual-participant data for 599 912 current drinkers in 83 prospective studies. Lancet. Apr 14;391(10129):1513-1523.
122. Biddinger KJ, Emdin CA, Haas ME, Wang M, Hindy G, et al. (2022). Association of Habitual Alcohol Intake With Risk of Cardiovascular Disease. JAMA Netw Open. 2022 Mar 1;5(3):e223849
123. Goding Sauer A, Fedewa SA, Bandi P, Minihan AK, Stoklosa M, et al. (2021). Proportion of cancer cases and deaths attributable to alcohol consumption by US state, 2013-2016. Cancer Epidemiol. Apr;71(Pt A):101893.
124. Lycopene, Atherosclerosis, and Coronary Heart Disease, Tiina Rissanen, Sari Voutilainen, Kristiina Nyyss\F6nen and Jukka T. Salonen, Exp Biol Med November 2002 vol. 227 no. 10 900-907
125. The anti-carcinogenic and anti-atherogenic effects of lycopene: a review, Adetayo O. Omoni, Rotimi E. Aluko, Department of Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Man., Canada R3T 2N2

Atherosclerosis Home
Diet:   Mediterranean diet   Fiber   Cholesterol   Salt   Refined grains
Lifestyle:   Smoking   Weight   Stress
Nutrients:    Tocotrienols   Omega 3   Selenium   Vitamin C   Vitamin E   Vitamin Bs   Other nutrients   Herbs