American Association of Clinical Endocrinology Annual Meeting

American Association of Clinical Endocrinology Annual Meeting

May 18, 2015
2 min read

Whole-food, plant-based diet key to reversing CVD

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Coronary heart disease is a “benign, foodborne illness” that can be stopped or even reversed by avoiding a typical Western diet, according to a presenter at the 24th annual American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Scientific & Clinical Congress.

Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., MD, director of the cardiovascular disease prevention and reversal program at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute in Ohio, said nutritional intervention — switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet with no oils — allows a patient with signs of CVD to make themselves “heart-attack proof.”

Caldwell Esselstyn

Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.

Esselstyn pointed to multiple studies showing a plant-based diet produced multiple positive benefits for vascular health, including increasing the body’s production of nitric oxide, reducing total and LDL cholesterol and enhancing endothelial progenitor cell levels. In addition, those who avoid eating meat reduce or eliminate intestinal bacteria known to metabolize lecithin and carnitine into trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which has been shown to promote vascular injury, Esselstyn said.

 “That cascade of events [leading to CVD] is totally interrupted,” Esselstyn said. “You do not have the LDL creeping into the subendothelial space. It’s not going to be oxidized. You’re not going to develop a foam cell, and you’re not going to rupture your plaque. You’re going to strengthen it — and not with a procedure, not an operation and not a pill, but you’ll do this with the dignity of simplicity. With food.”

Esselstyn, also the author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, said a proper diet for optimal health should include whole grains, legumes, lentils, fruits and vegetables — in particular, green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, arugula and Brussels sprouts, all of which are high in antioxidants.

“I want six times a day — never smoothies or juicing — for you to chew a green leafy vegetable and then anoint it with a balsamic vinegar, which is shown to enhance the activity of nitric oxide,” he said. “All day long, you are bathing this inflammation with nature’s most powerful antioxidants. Often, [the patient’s] angina disappears within days. Once they see this, you’ve got them hooked.”

“Every clinician should be aware of the fact that, given the right setting, there’s a very high chance that if they will send their patient to someone committed to lifestyle medicine, that they can stop this disease,” Esselstyn told Endocrine Today. “The way cardiovascular medicine is being practiced today … it will never, ever end the epidemic. It doesn’t cure patients. And it absolutely is financially unsustainable.”

The biggest challenge, he said, is motivating patients and clinicians to change their focus to diet. It is key, according to Esselstyn, for clinicians to spend time with their patients — perhaps several hours — to stress the importance of lifestyle and diet moderation.

“How can you in 5 or 10 minutes give patients all this background?” he said. “When a patient can register how important it is, what the physician is [saying], then they’re really not sloughing this off. [The patient sees] they’re setting aside hours for me. It has to be communicated.” – by Regina Schaffer


Esselstyn C. Oral presentation T42. Presented at: AACE 24th Annual Scientific & Clinical Congress; May 13-17, 2015; Nashville, Tenn.

Disclosure: Esselstyn reports no relevant financial disclosures.