232: Heart Disease

Heart Disease 

Heart disease is one of the major diseases that many people are suffering from. Most people resort to medication but my guest today, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, will teach us how to reverse heart disease through diet. In fact, he has the longest running track record for success.

Early Years

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn was a Yale undergraduate and went to medical school at the Western Reserve University.  He took an internship at the Cleveland Clinic and decided to go into General Surgery. He has been associated with the Cleveland Clinic since 1968. He has also published the most amount of studies over the past 12 years with remarkable results.

After his training, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn went to become an Army surgeon two years after. From the training in Vietnam, he was offered a position in the Department of General Surgery in the Cleveland Clinic.

Career Shift

Halfway through his stint at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn felt increasingly disillusioned. I was doing a lot of surgeries connected with breast cancer and yet he thought he was doing absolutely nothing to the next unsuspecting victims.

“That led me through a bit of global research. In rural Japan in the 1950s, breast cancer was infrequently identified. In the entire nation of Japan in the late 50s, cardiovascular disease was virtually non-existent,” shares Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. 

Twelve-Year Study On Heart Disease

Shortly after, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn embarked on extensive research on everything there is to know about heart disease and how to prevent and reverse it. It was a long process, but ultimately, the study produced significant results on how we can reverse it naturally through diet.

“I was active as a surgeon, and I was not a trained psychologist. For the first five years,  I saw every one of these patients every two weeks,” Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn said. “We checked their weight and blood pressure. We saw significant progress. They lost weight, symptoms disappeared, and we reversed the disease.”

Significant Findings

The study confirmed that coronary artery disease is the leading killer in the United States. But it is rarely found in cultures whose diet primarily include lentils, grains, vegetables, fruit, and legumes. This is why Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn recommends a similar diet to his patients.

“The diet I chose was extracted from those nations where the disease is virtually non-existent like Okinawa in Japan, Euro-China, New Guinea, Central Africa and Northern Mexico. Those countries don't have the cardiovascular disease because they thrive on whole foods nutrition,” said Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn also says that many experts have agreed that heart disease does not primarily originate from genes nor stress, but rather from nutrition. During the five-year mark of the study, patients who followed a plant-based diet with 10% fat and taking cholesterol-lowering medication showed excellent results. Lipid levels fell, symptoms lessened, and tests showed that their heart disease became stabilized. Some cases even showed a reverse from heart disease.

Revision In Diet

When you have heart disease, it also injures the endothelial lining of the arteries. It turns out that food containing oils, dairy, fish, meat, chicken, sugar, and caffeine deplete mechanisms that protect the endothelium.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn also says that the typical Western diet also decreases the production of nitric oxide.  Nitric oxide is an essential part of the equation because it protects our blood vessels. 

“We have to have a safe and adequate amount of nitric oxide because it protects the wall of the arteries. It protects us from developing high blood pressure and hypertension as well as blockages or plaques,” said Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

Success Rate

Upon hitting the 12-year mark of the study, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn shares that he has gathered enough data to prove that changing to the right kind of diet works. Patients were asked to eliminate oil, dairy products, and all types of meat including chicken and fish.

A lot of patients went back to standard care or entirely did not need medication. The results of the study showed that arrest and reversal therapy stops coronary atherosclerosis. By complementing a plant-based diet with medication, it achieves better results than changing only the diet or combining modest diet changes and medication.

Recommended Diet

First of all, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn recommends cutting out oils and animal products from your diet. He says oils amount to 120 calories per tablespoon and it's just fat with no mineral and no fiber. Plus, he says fat destroys the endothelium.

“I recommend my patients eat green leafy vegetables six times a day. The amount of vegetables is approximately the size of their fist,” recommends Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. “Then add balsamic vinegar because it has acetic acid. It restores cells responsible for making nitric oxide.”

Among the vegetables that Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn recommends are:

  • Bok Choy
  • Swiss Chard
  • Kale
  • Collard Greens
  • Beet Greens
  • Mustard Greens
  • Turnip Green
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus

He also cautions against taking sugar like Stevia. Apparently, Stevia affects receptors in the brain.

“Eating fruits is okay but not fruit juice. In real fruit, you get fiber. When you separate the juice, the fiber separates from the sugar,” said. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. “I also recommend flax and chia seeds be included in your diet.”

Prevent & Reverse Cookbook

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's staple diet includes oatmeal, raisins, bananas, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. His lunch and dinner would be anything from soups to beans and rice, grains, and vegetables.

For those who would want to try his recommended recipes, I suggest getting his Prevent & Reverse cookbook which is available on his website.  Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn proudly reveals that his diet program is beneficial to everyone regardless of age. In fact, his oldest patient is 95 years old!

“The most severe, strict and extreme diet on the planet today is the one that 97% of Americans are eating every day. That diet is going to guarantee that before they perish, they would have some hideous chronic illness,” said Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

Additional Resources

My father died from heart disease, so this subject is close to my heart. For those who want to know more about heart disease, do check out a couple of my past episodes. 

I guested Dr. Jack Wolfson on episode 101.  In the episodes, he talks about how he saw many patients suffering from heart disease and introduced them to natural medicine. Also check out episode 167 with Dr. William Davis who says that having the right diet supports a normal, stable and a healthy blood sugar level.

On the other hand, if you want more information on diabetes and obesity, link to my website www.learntruehealth.com/ithrive. Sign up for the free 9-part docuseries and discover the truth about this fast-growing global killer.


Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., received his B.A. from Yale University and his M.D. from Western Reserve University. In 1956, pulling the No. 6 oar as a member of the winning United States rowing team, he was awarded a gold medal at the Olympic Games. He was trained as a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and St. George's Hospital in London. In 1968, as an Army surgeon in Vietnam, he was awarded the Bronze Star. 

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has been associated with the Cleveland Clinic since 1968. During that time, he has served as President of the Staff and as a member of the Board of Governors. He chaired the Clinic's Breast Cancer Task Force and headed its Section of Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery. He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. 

In 1991, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn served as President of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, That same year he organized the first National Conference on the Elimination of Coronary Artery Disease, which was held in Tucson, Arizona. In 1997, he chaired a follow-up conference, the Summit on Cholesterol and Coronary Disease, which brought together more than 500 physicians and health-care workers in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. 

In April 2005, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn became the first recipient of the Benjamin Spock Award for Compassion in Medicine. He received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Cleveland Clinic Alumni Association in 2009. In September 2010, he received the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame Award. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn received the 2013 Deerfield Academy Alumni Association Heritage Award In Recognition of Outstanding Achievement & Service, and the 2013 Yale University George H.W. Bush '48 Lifetime of Leadership Award.  

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has also received the 2015 Plantrician Project Luminary Award, the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award, and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award. 

His scientific publications number over 150, “The Best Doctors in America” 1994-1995 published by Woodward and White cites Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's surgical expertise in the categories of endocrine and breast disease. In 1995 he published his benchmark long-term nutritional research arresting and reversing coronary artery disease in severely ill patients. That same study was updated at 12 years and reviewed beyond twenty years in his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, making it one of the longest longitudinal studies of its type. 

In July of 2014, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn reported the experience of 198 participants seriously ill with the cardiovascular disease. During 3.7 years of follow up of the 89% adherent to the program, 99.4% avoided further major cardiac events. 

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and his wife, Ann Crile Esselstyn, have followed a plant-based diet since 1984. He presently directs the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. 

The Esselstyns have four children and ten grandchildren. 

Get Connected With Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn!

Official Website

Books and DVDs

Book by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn

Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook

Recommended Links:

I Thrive

Learn True Health – Episode 101

Learn True Health – Episode 167

Subscribe To Our YouTube Channel

Heart Disease – Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn & Ashley James – #232

Join the Learn True Health Community & Support Us on Patreon

Order High-Quality Supplements

Join Our Facebook Community Group

Visit Our YouTube Channel



Ashley James

Health Coach, Podcast Creator, Homeschooling Mom, Passionate About God & Healing

Ashley James is a Holistic Health Coach, Podcaster, Rapid Anxiety Cessation Expert, and avid Whole Food Plant-Based Home Chef. Since 2005 Ashley has worked with clients to transform their lives as a Master Practitioner and Trainer of Neuro-linguistic Programming.

Her health struggles led her to study under the world’s top holistic doctors, where she reversed her type 2 diabetes, PCOS, infertility, chronic infections, and debilitating adrenal fatigue.

In 2016, Ashley launched her podcast Learn True Health with Ashley James to spread the TRUTH about health and healing. You no longer need to suffer; your body CAN and WILL heal itself when we give it what it needs and stop what is harming it!

The Learn True Health Podcast has been celebrated as one of the top holistic health shows today because of Ashley’s passion for extracting the right information from leading experts and doctors of holistic health and Naturopathic medicine


Follow LTH on Social Media

Join The LTH Supportive Community!

Ashley's Top 10 Favorite Episodes


Related Posts

Let Our Doctors Teach You
The Foundations of Holistic Health
 ★ Free 7 Day Course ★
Ideal Food - Exercise - Sleep - Digestion
Adrenal Health - Food Quality
What Your Doctor Should Be Teaching You

Let Our Doctors Teach You

The Foundations of Holistic Health

Free 7 Day Course

Ideal Food - Exercise - Sleep - Digestion

Adrenal Health - Food Quality

What Your Doctor Should Be Teaching You

You have Successfully Subscribed!