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"Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease" [with
, book by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D.
Surgeon discovers how to defeat heart disease as the No. 1 killer without surgery or drugs.

Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., a renowned Cleveland Clinic surgeon, has devised a diet that not only prevents heart disease, but also reverses it by actually unclogging arteries that have narrowed, largely due to excessive amounts of cholesterol that have accumulated, resulting in arterial plaque buildup ("clogged arteries" or atherosclerosis).

According to the "Merck Manual of Medical Information," atherosclerosis is arterial buildup that can affect arteries throughout the body (brain, heart, kidneys, and other vital organs). People who maintain a total cholesterol of 150 or greater have some degree of atherosclerosis. Western medicine affirms that the "danger threshold" is 200, when in fact cholesterol over 150 allows plaque buildup on artery walls, according to Dr. Caldwell Essylstein. The reason for this is that a total cholesterol of 200 allows symptoms to surface more rapidly than 150. Individuals with atherosclerosis usually have it throughout the body, but symptoms may vary. Atherosclerosis in arteries leading to the brain causes strokes; in the heart, heart disease; in the ear, hearing loss; in the penis, impotence; and the list goes on. Further, Merck states that atherosclerosis is responsible for more deaths in the U.S. than all other causes combined, the vast majority being heart attack and stroke.

While dedicating the last 20 of his 40+ years in medicine to nutritional study, Dr. Esselstyn conducted one particular study involving 17 patients who had collectively suffered 49 cardiac events (heart attacks, strokes, etc.) prior to the study, necessitating aggressive treatments, including multiple bypass operations, according to Dr. Esselstyn in his 2007 book "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease."

These 17 study participants faithfully followed a "heart healthy" plant-based, lowfat diet formulated by Dr. Esselstyn. The results were impressive. There were zero cardiac events in the group within the 12-year study period, according to Dr. Esselstyn.

It is commonly known that high cholesterol leads to clogged arteries (atherosclerosis), which leads to heart attacks, strokes, and other severe conditions. Animal-based foods contain cholesterol. This includes meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Plant-based foods (fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds) contain zero cholesterol. Thus, eating a plant-based diet ensures that one is not consuming any cholesterol at all, which usually helps to keep cholesterol levels down without drugs.

Essentially, the diet is a low-fat plant-based diet, also called a "vegan" diet. Additionally, the diet prohibits all refined and processed foods. The diet encourages many portions of raw vegetables and fruits daily, including dark green leafy vegetables.

In discussing his zero-cholesterol, plant-based diet, Dr. Esselstyn warns us that "moderation kills," meaning that eating moderate amounts of cholesterol-containing foods can prevent us from maintaining a low enough cholesterol level (below 150) to avoid athersclerosis. Dr. Esselstyn says that cholesterol levels below 150 are commonly found in cultures where heart disease is very rare. This is lower than the popular cholesterol "safety" threshold of 200, which allows the progression of atherosclerosis.

"Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease" further points out that eating a strict plant-based diet is not always enough to reverse atherosclerosis. In addition, vegetable oils must often be eliminated from the diet. It is a well-known fact that saturated fats (even from a cholesterol-free source) lead to atherosclerosis. Dr. Esselstyn instructs his patients that all processed oils need to be eliminated from one's diet in order to reverse heart disease. Even monounsaturated vegetable oils caused triglycerides (a component of cholesterol) and blood sugar levels to elevate in a 1997 study conducted by Shuhei Kobayashi, Director, of the National Institute of Health and Nutrition.

In fact, Dr. Esselstyn writes that moderate to heavy use of olive oil, which is 14% to 17% saturated fat, can cause atherosclerosis.

Olive oil was dubbed "healthy" in the 1990's on the basis of the Lyon Diet Heart Study, headed by Dr. Michel de Lorgeril of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble. The study involved 605 participants, all of whom had survived a heart attack. The group was divided into two parts. Approximately half of the participants, 302, were instructed to follow a Mediterranean-style diet high in fruits, vegetables, bread, cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds. Also included in the Mediterranean diet were olive oil, low to moderate amounts of dairy products, fish, and poultry, only a small amount of red meat, eggs zero to four times weekly, and wine in low to moderate amounts.

The remaining 203 study participants became the control group and were given no particular diet to follow, except that they were asked to eat prudently. About a year later, study results indicated that those following the Mediterranean diet fared better than the control group. Four years later, the numbers were even more pronounced, indicating that those on the Mediterranean diet were 50% to 70% less likely to experience the cardiac problems encountered by the control group.

These impressive results brought worldwide attention to the Lyon Diet Heart Study, and olive oil was hailed as a health-giving food. What the study did not brag about was the fact that by the end of the study, 25% of the Mediterranean-diet participants either died or suffered a cardiovascular event (heart attack, stroke, etc.). Needless to say, the control group was even worse off than the Mediterranean diet group. The Mediterranean diet did not stop or reverse heart disease. It only slowed down its progress. The Mediterranean diet, while lowering cholesterol levels somewhat, still allowed high enough cholesterol levels to worsen the participants' heart disease because it included saturated fat (olive oil) and cholesterol-containing foods: low to moderate amounts of dairy products, fish, and poultry, small amounts of red meat, and zero to four eggs per week.

The average diet-compliant patient of Dr. Esselstyn experiences a dramatic drop in total cholesterol, from 246 down to 137.

The physical proof that Dr. Esselstyn's plant-based diet actually unclogs arteries lies in the angiograms taken of the study participants before and after, showing a widening of the coronary arteries, and thus a reversal of heart disease.

   1. "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease" by Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., © 2007
   2. "Merck Manual of Medical Information" by Merck & Co., Inc. © 2007