Pros: very well-researched and explained; engaging voice; great recipes
Cons: nothing significant- he uses no salt at all
“This powerful program will make you virtually heart-attack proof.” - Neil Barnard MD, president of the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine
“Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has directed pioneering research demonstrating that the progression of even severe coronary heart disease can often be reversed by making comprehensive changes in diet and lifestyle.” - Dean Ornish MD, president and director of Preventive Medicine Research Institute
“Dr. Esselstyn has always been ahead of his time...” - Bernadine Healy, former director of National Institutes of Health
Healy's words still ring true for many people six years after Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. MD published Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically-Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure, but plant-based nutrition has increasingly become part of the twenty-first century diet and lifestyle for professional or amateur athletes and people wanting to live healthier lives. Esselstyn doesn't stand medically alone, either, as a former surgeon, researcher, and clinician at the Cleveland Clinic for over thirty-five years (now forty-some).
His book draws from a twenty-year nutritional study, which in 2007 was the most comprehensive study of its kind. He persuasively argues that a plant-based, oil-free diet seriously undertaken can not only prevent and arrest the development of heart disease, but reverse its effects in many cases. If this is hard to believe, read the evidence in the clinical results of his heart disease patients' bloodwork over the first months and then decades. At least one was a medical doctor he worked with (see below). Twenty years later they've suffered no more symptoms, incidents or surgeries nor, often, needed medication. The few patients who dropped out continued to suffer heart disease and died fairly soon afterwards.
Esselstyn lays out the rules of his program, explaining that you cannot eat anything with a mother or face (meat, poultry, fish—eggs too), no dairy, oil of any kind, avocadoes or nuts if you have heart disease. You can eat all vegetables, legume, whole grains and their products, and fruits.
Cardiologist Dr. Joe Crowe, after experiencing a heart attack and knowing that his total cholesterol count of 156 mg/dl was lower than what most cardiologists find dangerous, he sought out his colleague for help and went on his program. Refusing medication he stuck to plant-based nutrition and reduced that count to 89. His angiogram after two and a half years was normal and his wife commented ten years later that the diet was simply like part of their family.
Esselstyn not only believes that total cholesterol should be below 150 to be heart-attack proof, but also that to treat heart disease your diet needs to start healing your arteries and heart rather than your relying on drugs which will most often necessitate more surgery and cause more health problems like stroke, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, adult-onset diabetes, and possibly senile mental impairment. He states that you'll be protected from things like impotence and cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, rectum, uterus, and ovaries, as well as never need to count calories or worry about unhealthy weight.
After a foreword by prominent scientist T. Colin Campbell (The China Study), Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease has two parts: The Heart of the Matter and the Joy of Eating. There are twenty-three chapters, fourteen of which include delicious, simple recipes by Ann Crile Esselstyn—over 150 of them. An insert of medical graphs and charts is in the middle of the book. Finally you'll find acknowledgments, notes, three appendices, and an index.
Esselstyn appeared in the recent documentary Forks Over Knives with Campbell and other medical doctors and his son Rip whose book The Engine 2 Diet is excellent. Rip's next book My Beef With Meat comes out next month. Caldwell Esselstyn acknowledges in his book Dr. John McDougall whose latest book The Starch Solution was just reviewed by me. McDougall, who suffered a heart attack at age eighteen, advocates starches more than Esselstyn the father, but not more than the son. I've been eating more starchy veggies, whole grains and legumes and adding no oils lately (I'm also a vegan) and do feel it's satisfied me more.
I highly recommend simply reading Esselstyn's book and also the others to see if it has value to you as a diet. If you are on medication and suffer heart disease, you should consult with your physician or seek more than one medical authority before dramatically changing your diet.