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Caldwell Blakeman Esselstyn Jr. (born December 12, 1933) is an American physician, author and former Olympic rowing champion. He argues for a low-fat, whole foods, plant-based diet that avoids all animal products.
- As a physician I am embarrassed by the lack of initiative and obstructionist policies of my own medical profession toward healthier lifestyles. This is not surprising. Physicians lack training and knowledge of nutrition and are self-serving when they proclaim “patients won't follow plant-based nutrition.” Having counseled patients with severe coronary artery heart disease for over twenty years, I find the opposite to be true. Patients sent home to die by expert cardiologists after failing bypass or stents rejoice as they lose weight, eliminate angina chest pains, lessen their medication, lower their blood sugars, decrease or come off their insulin, revert their positive stress test back to normal, selectively diminish the plaque plugging their arteries, and resume a fully active life empowered by the knowledge that they, not their physicians, have become the locus of control for the disease that was destroying them.
- I believe that we in the medical profession have taken the wrong course. It is as if we were simply standing by, watching millions of people march over a cliff, and then intervening in a desperate, last-minute attempt to save them once they have fallen over the edge. Instead, we should be teaching them how to avoid the chasm entirely, how to walk parallel to the precipice so that they will never fall at all. I believe that coronary artery disease is preventable, and that even after it is under way, its progress can be stopped, its insidious effects reversed. I believe, and my work over the past twenty years has demonstrated, that all this can be accomplished without expensive mechanical intervention and with minimal use of drugs. The key lies in nutrition—specifically, in abandoning the toxic American diet and maintaining cholesterol levels well below those historically recommended by health policy experts.
- Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (New York: Penguin, 2007), ch. 1.
- [Responding to the argument that a plant-based diet is extreme] Half a million people a year will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn onto their coronary artery. Some people would call that “extreme”.
- Interview in the documentary-film Forks Over Knives by Lee Fulkerson (2011).
- There has to be a seismic revolution in medicine. Many of us are concerned that the medical schools are run by the pharmaceutical industry. You get all this marvelous training for illness. You become brilliant about diagnosing, and once something's diagnosed, you decide what drugs or procedures are required. Nobody asks, ‘Why do you have this hypertension?’ You don't suddenly wake up when you're 30 with hypertension. For the last thirty years, every time you consumed certain foods, your body took a hit. And it catches up to you.
- Interview in What the Health by Eunice Wong (Xlibris, 2017), ch. 2.
- In all of western civilization, there is nothing more common than coronary artery heart disease, and that is because of the foods that most people eat every day.
- Interview in the documentary-film The Game Changers by Louie Psihoyos (2018).