Diet and Heart Disease

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic wondered what the effect would be of putting cardiac patients on the kind of diet that people ate in the few places in the world where heart attacks are unknown. The Cardiology Department of his institution referred patients to him—a group of patients crippled with heart disease—in order to do a study. For many of these patients, the cardiologists could do nothing more, except to predict their death in the not-too-distant future.

In the eight years prior to Dr. Esselstyn’s study, this group of 18 patients had had a total of 49 cardiac events: heart attacks, bypass operations, angina (pain), and so forth. He put them on an early version of a low-fat, whole-foods, plant-based diet. Since putting them on the diet, the group has had just a single cardiac event—and (just as if to prove the point) that was for the one patient that had strayed from the diet (and who therefore returned). Fully compliant patients fully recovered, and the recovery started immediately—no more heart attacks, bypass operations, and so on. 100% recovery.

Dr. Esselstyn’s results also showed that the cause of heart attacks—coronary artery disease (CAD)—was always halted and in some cases completely reversed by the diet. The story, with angiogram pictures, can be found in his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. A subsequent study (published in the Journal of Family Practice) was done to show that the good results could be obtained with a larger population and less physician contact. This is beyond our present concern, but you should scroll down to the second page in the article to see striking photos from the first study. The article is an external link. You can use your browser's back button to return from all external links (reloading the previous page), but you may then need to scroll to the place where you were reading. Here's an example. And here's the article.

Of course, from one viewpoint, this diet is starting to look like a panacea. And doctors are justifiably leery of panaceas. But it is solely a question of view point. If the rich American diet is “normal”, then cancer and CAD are distinct diseases. And their cures or preventive measures would be expected to be distinct. Since the low-fat, whole-foods, plant-based diet seems like a panacea, working to cure or prevent not only cancer and CAD but a long list of other diseases and maladies including diabetes, it is merely testimony that our rich American diet is not normal. It is in fact the underlying cause of these several manifestations of being on a diet that is not what we’re designed to be on.

It all fits together with the irrefutable scientific evidence (epidemiological, clinical, and experimental laboratory evidence) from doctors Campbell and Esselstyn. We’re designed to eat a whole-food, plant-based diet.

The view, which endures within the medical establishment, that CAD cannot be reversed or halted but only slowed down may indeed be true for people that remain on the rich American diet. But it is not true for people on a low-fat, WFPB diet.