My message is clear and absolute: coronary artery disease need not exist, and if it does, it need not progress.
— Dr Esselstyn
Dr Esselstyn (Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr.) was bound to follow a career in medicine. His father was a distinguished physician, while his father-in-law was a breast cancer pioneer at the Cleveland Clinic.
The Story of Dr Esselstyn
Besides the interest in medicine running in the family, disease was also prevalent. Dr Esselstyn’s father and father-in-law suffered a range of diseases. Between the two of them, they had coronary artery diseases, diabetes, strokes, cancers of prostate, colon, and lung. Both were fervent followers of the toxic American diet.
About three years before my father died of heart disease in 1975, he said something that has stayed with me ever since: ‘Someday, we’re just going to have to get smarter about showing people how to live healthier lives.’ Everything in my professional experience underscored the importance of that declaration.
— Dr Esselstyn
Dr Esselstyn became a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. Despite enjoying his work and gaining some satisfaction from surgeries that relieve suffering, he was painfully faced with the fact that he was not able to cure the underlying causes of disease.
He then started delving through medical literature and noticed that chronic diseases were almost exclusively found in Western countries. In other regions, in particular Africa and Asia, chronic diseases were rare.
The deeper he delved, the more he found out about the connection between nutrition and disease. For example, Dr Esselstyn noticed that coronary artery disease was rare in places where cholesterol levels were generally below 150 mg/dL. As cholesterol levels increased (which was generally the case in Western countries), so was coronary artery disease more prevalent.
Dr Esselstyn pursued his research on nutrition, even though local dieticians and several senior cardiologists at the Cleveland Clinic were skeptical about diet having any relation to disease.
In 1984 he gave up meat and went on a plant-based diet. Soon after, his wife Ann also adopted a plant-based diet soon after her sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer at age forty-eight. Previously, she had lost her mother through breast cancer at age fifty-two. Within three months, Dr Esselstyn’s cholesterol levels dropped from 185mg/dL to 155.
Not satisfied with these results, he then deleted all sources of oil and dairy fat from his diet, which led to a further drop in cholesterol (119 mg/dL), without using cholesterol-lowering medication.
These results were spectacular. This direct experience motivated Dr Esselstyn to help others achieve such dramatic improvements.
In the introduction of his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Dr Esselstyn mentions the eighteen people with advanced heart disease who came to him in despair. They entered Dr Esselstyn’s nutrition program.
Many had been told by their doctors that there was nothing more that could be done for them. Basically, they had been given a death sentence.
It was, no doubt, because they had completely run out of options that they agreed to the demanding conditions I set for entry into the trial cure I had come to believe in.
— Dr Esselstyn
The program’s results were nothing short of spectacular.
Almost all of those who came to me, who had been told there was little hope, today – twenty years later – are alive, their arterial diseases receded. They stand as living proof of what is possible for you and anyone else who chooses to do what is necessary to become heart-attack proof. And they gave me the invaluable gift of confidence as I went on to counsel and treat hundreds of additional patients.
— Dr Esselstyn
Dr Esselstyn offers a different approach to disease. He does not focus on treating symptoms, and he is certainly not interested in slowing down the progression of heart disease. He is all about preventing the disease in the first place. For those who have it, there is a way to stop its progress or even reverse heart disease.
Truly remarkable, Dr Esselstyn’s work shows that a shift in dietary choices can make us heart-attack proof. His book is filled with stories of patients whose heart disease has been stopped in its progress or even reversed. The process by which diet impacts the arteries is also discussed extensively.
Whole food plant based nutrition eliminates plaque in the arteries, restores endothelial capacity, increases nitric oxide flow, lowers cholesterol levels, and rids people of their horrific chest pain (angina). These symptoms can all be reversed by making a dietary change.
Dr Esselstyn’s work shows, beyond doubt, that meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and oil are the wrong foods for humans. Their impact on the human body is one that enhances disease. Heart disease is the number one killer in the world. That very fact makes Dr Esselstyn’s message an urgent one.
A message that many, including former United States president Bill Clinton, have responded to with great success.
For more information about Dr Esselstyn´s heart disease program, you can visit his website or buy Prevent And Reverse Heart Disease. His wife and daughter, Ann and Jane, have written the Prevent And Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook. His son, Rip Esselstyn, is also very active and has written several plant-based health books, including the Engine 2 Diet, the Engine 2 Diet Cookbook, and Plant-Strong.