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Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. is a highly acclaimed doctor at the Cleveland Clinic, which is the top ranked hospital in the country for cardiac care, according to US News and World Report. Where he really became famous was with his study that began in 1985 and sought to understand the effects of a plant-based diet full of whole grain foods.
If you're thinking about becoming a vegan solely for health reasons, Dr. Esselstyn should be one of your heroes because without him we might not know exactly how healthy it is to stop eating meat and dairy products and start focusing on a varied diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
I highly recommend picking up a copy of his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure, which documents much of his research. His study results are also mentioned extensively in Dr. Campbell's The China Study, another of my favorite recommendations for people considering a plant-based diet for health reasons.
What Dr. Esselstyn found was that by sticking to a low-fat, plant-based diet, patients with severe coronary artery problems were able to lower their blood cholesterol levels dramatically (from an average of 246 mg/dL to 137 mg/dL.)
Also, the patients on the diet stopped experiencing heart problems and their arteries actually began to unclog, reversing the damage of heart disease!
He conducted this study by gathering a group of 23 people with coronary disease who had suffered through 49 heart issues over the past eight years (including angina, bypass surgery, heart attacks, strokes, and angioplasty.) The study lasted five years, and Dr. Esselstyn met with his patients every two weeks to discuss their food diaries, record blood pressure and weight, and take blood tests.
The diet was free of all added fats and almost all animal products (at first they were told to eat skim milk and nonfat yogurt, but a few years into the program Dr. Esselstyn told them to remove milk and yogurt as well.)
Within the first two years of the study, five people dropped out of the study. Of the remaining 18 people, 12 years after the study, only one had experienced a heart problem. This person had strayed from the diet for two years, experienced chest pain, and then went back on the diet, which eliminated the chest pain.
Amazing, right? Those are the same people who had gone through 49 coronary events before the study. Now they had none! It is amazing, but it makes so much sense. A healthy, plant-based diet is what humans were made to eat, not all these crazy meat and dairy-based diets.
Guess what else happened with those patients... their heart disease not only stopped progressing, but it actually reversed as well!
Of the 18 members in the study, eleven of them had their hearts x-rayed, and Dr. Esselstyn found that 70% of them had new openings in their clogged arteries. This is absolutely astounding data since these patients did not take any medicine and simply followed a healthy diet.
There are so many stories of this diet working for people, but let me tell you one of a diet that didn't work.
You remember that five people dropped out of Dr. Esselstyn's first study, right? Do you know what happened to them ten years after the start of the study? They had ten new heart issues!
Of course, I am not excited that those poor people had to deal with the heart problems, but I am excited that the evidence is so clear.
Good diet... no heart disease.
Bad diet... heart disease.
We have so much more control over our future than we think we do.
Now, I know that changing your diet is a drag, especially if you are older and know exactly what you like to eat, but let's think about it this way...
If someone came up to you and offered you a pill that would almost guarantee that you would never have a heart attack, stroke, chest pain, or any other heart problem, as long as you took it faithfully every day, would you take it? How about if that pill didn't cost you any additional money and might even save some?
You would be crazy not to accept this life-changing pill.
Think about how much more enjoyment you would get out of life if you were healthy to the end, instead of dealing with chest pain and heart attacks at every turn of the road. You'd be strong and healthy and able to do simple things like take long walks with your spouse, take your grandchildren to the zoo, relax on your porch with a good book, or adventurous things like hikes, traveling the world, and anything you could desire.
The magic pill is what fuel you put in your body.
Eating a plant-based diet is the antidote to heart problems, and it's not hard to do.
You might be in a place where you could take it slowly too... maybe you are young and haven't seen any of the effects of your eating habits yet. So you could just change a few meals a week, or one a day. See how you feel and then take away a few more.
The adjustment to any new eating habit can take some time, but wouldn't you admit that it might be worth it?