Caldwell Esselstyn



Caldwell Esselstyn –completed his residency of general surgery at the Cleveland clinic hospital from 1962 – 1966. He served in medical hospitals in Vietnam from 1967-1968. From 1968 – 2006 he was the head of the section of thyroid and parathyroid surgery, and chairman of the Breast Cancer Task Force. He is now a member of the American College of Cardiology (Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., 2016).

In the late 1970s-80s, when he was chairman of the breast cancer task force for the Cleveland clinic, he felt he wasn’t doing enough to help women decrease their risk of breast cancer. So he started conducting global research into breast cancer and what he found struck him. He found that breast cancer rates around the world were significantly lower than breast cancer rates in the United States. However, when these populations migrated to the United States, their breast cancer rates increased, within a few generations, to that of the Americans breast cancer rates. He also noticed that the cancer of the prostate in Japan was extremely low compared to the United States. But he felt cancer may be too tough a subject for him to handle and decided to tackle heart disease. During the same research he found that there were many cultures that rarely develop cardiovascular disease and these cultures were plant-based. He and his wife began eating a plant based diet (Esselstyn, 2012).

At this point, he conducted a study at the Cleveland clinic with 24 patients. Of these 24 patients, 6 dropped out of the study and received standard care. According to Esselstyn (1999), 18 patients went on to “follow a plant-based diet with <10% of calories derived from fat. They were asked to eliminate oil, dairy products (except skim milk and no-fat yogurt), fish, fowl, and meat” (pg. 340). Esselstyn’s (1999) patients “were encouraged to eat grains, legumes, lentils, vegetables, and fruit” (pg. 340). Of the remaining 18 patients, one patient with “<20% left ventricular output died from a ventricular arrhythmia after the 5-year follow-up angiogram had confirmed disease regression”. Patients who followed the diet “experienced no extension of clinical disease, no coronary events, and no interventions” (pg. 340). In other words, the one patient who died during the study did not pass away of a heart attack, but of an irregular heartbeat, and upon autopsy it was determined that his cardiovascular disease was actually regressing.

According to Esselstyn (1999), “The successful results from arrest and reversal therapy in this group of patients suggests it should be offered to all patients with coronary artery disease” (p. 341).  Providing patients with the proper nutrition education can give them a sense of control over the disease that is ailing them. Esselstyn (1999) believes that “with such compelling long-term benefits, patients become empowered because they feel in control of the disease that was formerly destroying their lives” (P. 341).

Caldwell esselstyn quotes:

“collectively the media; the meat, and dairy industries; most prominent chefs and cookbook authors; and our own government are not presenting accurate advice about the healthiest way to eat”

“Genetics loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger”

“I’ll remind you one more time, I’ve treated a lot of vegans with heart disease”

“Heart disease is a food-borne illness”

“Having the USDA design your food pyramid is like having Al Capone do your taxes”

“As a physician, I am embarrassed by my profession’s lack of interest in healthier lifestyles. We need to change the way we approach chronic disease”

Caldwell Esselstyn’s Website can be viewed here:

Published work by Caldwell Esselstyn

Watch Caldwell Esselstyn explain how heart attacks occur and what we can do to prevent them. TEDxCambridge: Caldwell Esselstyn on Making Heart Attacks History. (2012, Jan 10).

Caldwell Esselstyn’s son is also a proponent of the whole foods plant-based diet, he is a firefighter and ironman athlete and has also written books on the topic. He drastically improved the life of firefighters he worked with in Texas. His website and books are listed below.


C.B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. (2016). Curriculum Vitae. Retrieved from

Esselstyn, Jr., C. B. updating a 12 year-year experience with arrest and reversal therapy for coronary heart disease (an overdue requiem for palliative cardiology). The American Journal of Cardiology vol. 84 (1999). 339 – 341

tedxCambridge (producer). (2012, January 10). Making heart attacks history: Caldwell Esselstyn at TEDxCambridge 2011. Retrieved from

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