“Some people think the ‘plant-based, whole foods diet’ is extreme. Half a million people a year will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn onto their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme”
– Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.
“Normal” blood cholesterol levels in Australia are not normal or supportive of good health. These “normal” levels result in an enormous burden of heart disease and a population in which almost everyone has artery disease by age 65. The national goal of less than 5.5 is well up into the zone in which artery disease develops. The medical profession knows this and the official safe level for cholesterol following a heart attack is less than 3.8 approximately (the target being LDL<1.8). So, we have the situation where you can be reassured by your doctor that your cholesterol level of 5 is OK, suffer a heart attack later that day, and be told the next morning that your cholesterol needs to be less than 4 to prevent further heart attacks. A whole foods plant based diet can lower your cholesterol to a safe level without the inconvenience of having to have a heart attack first.
Changing to a whole foods plant based diet results in dramatic falls in blood cholesterol levels. The medical myth that diet has little effect on cholesterol stems from the fact that the current cholesterol lowering diet recommended in Australia is not effective. A diet rich in animal “protein” foods, with or without vegetable oil, will always raise cholesterol. In general, animal products raise blood cholesterol and whole plant foods lower blood cholesterol.
Blood cholesterol is complex. Your blood test results will include measurements of some of the individual lipoproteins, HDL and LDL. But there are further levels of complexity that should make us wary dismissing the risks of elevated blood cholesterol on the basis of “good cholesterol” levels and ratios.
Cholesterol lowering drugs and heart surgery are quick fixes for a complex diet related disease. The drugs only target fasting cholesterol, which although important, is only one part of the cholesterol-diet problem. Stents and surgery are seldom life saving and carry considerable risks.
The endothelium is the lining of our arteries and consists of a single layer of tile-like cells. The endothelium is central to artery health and disease. Anything that compromises the health of the endothelium has an immediate effect on the flow of blood to every organ. Atherosclerosis, the obstruction of arteries by cholesterol, is merely the end result of repeated endothelial damage. Every fat and cholesterol laden meal causes an inflammatory storm within the arteries that lasts for many hours and has a measureable effect on endothelial function.
Atherosclerosis is the thick cholesterol laden plaque that builds up on the inside of our arteries when we eat the typical Australian diet. Arteries do not simply gradually block up like a rusting water pipe. Heart attacks are most often the result of a sudden blockage in an artery that is only partially blocked with plaque. A whole foods plant based diet rapidly reduces the risk of heart attack.
Atherosclerosis is a whole body disease affecting every artery. Therefore any organ can potentially be compromised by impaired blood supply. A partially blocked artery may cause symptoms such leg muscle pain on exertion. A sudden complete blockage may result in a stroke. Diseased small vessels can cause dementia and kidney failure. Even in the absence of artery narrowing, an unhealthy artery may be unable dilate, resulting in erectile dysfunction.
Esselstyn, C. B. (2007). Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure. New York: Avery.
Dr Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. MD, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, carried out the longest and one of the most successful trials of curing heart disease with diet. He describes heart disease as a toothless paper tiger that need never exist. Have a look at a free Excerpt from Chapter One of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.
This is his website: Dr Esselstyn’s Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease Program – click on the Video tab to see a links to more videos that present his work, some of which are listed below.
- TEDxCambridge – Caldwell Esselstyn on making heart attacks history – (14 min. video) This is a shorter version of Esselstyn’s message, explaining the diet and heart disease link in a 14 minute TEDx talk.
- Dr Esselstyn at Medina Ohio – (1 hour 55 min. video) Dr Caldwell Esselstyn talks for more than an hour about how to prevent and reverse heart disease. In the last part of the presentation his wife Ann Esselstyn gives a quick lesson on how to prepare plant perfect meals.
- Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD: How to Reverse Heart Disease, Part 1 – (5 min. video) and Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD: How to Reverse Heart Disease, Part 2 (10 min. video)
- Dr Kim Williams: Exposes the True Cause of Heart Disease – (5 min. video)
- The Last Heart Attack – A Groundbreaking CNN Report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta (13 min video) NB Link no longer works to original full length CNN documentary so it has been removed.
- Dr. John McDougall Medical Message About Atherosclerosis (3 min. video)
- Watch the film: Forks Over Knives (on Netflix, or available for purchase)
- Dr Michael Greger videos:
- Eliminating the #1 Cause of Death – discusses William Roberts, MD’s proposal that cholesterol is the only risk factor for heart (artery) disease.
- The Power of NO – Antioxidants protect NO synthase, the enzyme that produces the artery-relaxing signal, nitric oxide. This may explain why those who eat especially antioxidant-rich plant foods have improved flow-mediated dilation of the brachial arteries.
- Leafy greens, nitrates and nitric oxide
- Carnitine, Choline, Cancer and Cholesterol: The TMAO Connection
- Nonhuman Molecules Lining Our Arteries
- The Leaky Gut Theory of Why Animal Products Cause Inflammation – The effect of a single fatty meal on blood flow
- Dr Esselstyn’s FAQ page – answers all those questions about nuts, seeds, leafy greens and warfarin, etc.
- Heart Disease & Atherosclerosis – John McDougall, MD, includes links to numerous newsletter articles
- Abolishing Heart Disease – Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr, MD
- How to Create a Successful Plant-Based, Diet-Driven, Heart Disease Reversal Program in a Cardiology Setting – An Interview with Kim Williams, MD, Past President, American College of Cardiology (50 min. audio)
- Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn on Ending the War Against Our Hearts – Howard Jacobson podcast (1 hr 33 min audio)
- Eradicating Lifestyle Disease with Cardiologist Robert Ostfeld, MD – Rich Roll podcast (2 hr audio)
- Is Butter Really Back? Heart to Heart with Cardiologist Joel Kahn – Rich Roll podcast (1 hr 40 min audio)
- Esselstyn C. B., Gendy, G., Doyle, J., Golubic, M., & Roizen, M. F.
(2014). A way to reverse CAD? Journal of Family Practice, 63(7), 356-364b.
- Esselstyn C. B., & Golubic, M. (2014). The nutritional reversal of cardiovascular disease: Fact or fiction? Three case reports. Experimental & Clinical Cardiology, 20(7), 1901-1908.
- Esselstyn, C. B. (2010). Is the present therapy for coronary artery disease the radical mastectomy of the twenty-first century? American Journal of Cardiology, 106(6), 902-904.
- Esselstyn, C. B. (1999). Updating a 12-year experience with arrest and reversal therapy for coronary heart disease (an overdue requiem for palliative cardiology). American Journal of Cardiology, 84(3), 339-341, A338.
- Ornish, D., Brown, S. E., Scherwitz, L. W., . . . Gould, K. L. (1990). Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial. Lancet, 336(8708), 129-133.
- Ornish, D., Scherwitz, L. W., Billings, J. H., . . . Brand, R. J. (1998). Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease. JAMA, 280(23), 2001-2007.
- Tuso, P. J., Stoll, S. R., & Li, W. W. (2014). A Plant-Based Diet, Atherogenesis, and Coronary Artery Disease Prevention. The Permanente Journal, 19(1).
- Sherry Shrallow Recounts How She Beat Heart Disease With A Plant-based Diet – 2-part video interview with Sherry who had a heart attack at age 56. Part 1 (13 mins) describes her ordeal and how Dr Esselstyn’s book turned her life around. Part 2 (22 mins) discusses what we can do to make ourselves heart attack proof.
- Getting a Second Lease on Life – and Using It in a Big Way with Paul Chatlin – Howard Jacobson podcast interview. Paul was scheduled for bypass surgery when his cardiologist mentioned that nutrition might be an option – next he’s on the phone to Dr Esselstyn.
- How Strictly Must You Follow Healthy Diet? – Jeff Nelson (from VegSource) tells a cautionary tale about his father’s experience with heart disease – adopting a low fat plant-based diet after his first scare with heart disease but slowly allowing higher fat plant foods back into his diet until one day he had a major heart attack
- Interview with Chef Adam – Whole Food Plant Based Vegan + Reversing Heart Disease! – 15 min video interview with Anja Cass
- Barely Survived a Massive Heart Attack … I Never Want Another One! – Dave Willits, February 2015
- Two Heart Attacks at Age 29: A Story That Ends Well – Ivan Mejia, December 2013
- Heart Attack at 67 Led to Diet Changes … Now Off Multiple Meds and Feeling Better Each Day! – Patrick Greenaway, October 2013
- Jim Conway, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon – (video) talks about his heart disease reversal with plant-based nutrition
- Patient Googles His Way Out of Bypass Surgery – story told by cardiologist Robert Ostfeld
- Bill Zahlar: Suffered Massive Heart Attack – (video)
- George Goff: Triple Bypass Surgery – (video)
- Kelly Caraway: Choosing diet over drugs after a heart attack (written story)
- Dr Esselstyn’s Success Stories
Page created 13th January 2013
Last updated 1st August 2017