Referring to heart disease, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD, asks, “Why is there reticence to provide the public with guidelines that will spare them this disease or its progression?” in an article published in The American Journal of Cardiology. “The National Research Council position was that a dietary fat recommendation lower than 30 percent would be too frustrating for those attempting to achieve a significant reduction. Although it is uncertain to what extent people will adopt the advice, it is nevertheless scientifically and ethically imperative to inform the public what constitutes an optimal diet. We must tell the public the truth about what is best for their health, and let them decide their degree of compliance,” he asserts.
My video below explains how Dr. Esselstyn challenged an expert panel to answer these questions from patients: “I’ll do anything, but I never want to have heart disease” and “I’ve had a heart attack, and I never want another.” Answers ranged from having them “eat beans, beans, and more beans” to “time for the public to embrace a plant-based diet.”
The recommended plant-based diet is not the same as vegetarianism. Vegetarians often consume all sorts of less-than-healthful foods, such as oils, margarine, dairy products, and eggs. Vegans do, too, for that matter. “This new paradigm is exclusively plant-based nutrition,” Dr. Esselstyn explains. In other words, it consists only of whole plant foods. Why exclusively? Because, as reported in the Cornell China Study, there does not appear to be “a threshold beyond which further benefits do not accrue with increasing proportions of plant-based foods in the diet.” It appears the more plant-based foods and the fewer animal-based foods, the better.
In a separate paper published in The American Journal of Cardiology, Dr. Esselstyn acknowledges that he is “acutely aware of the castigation that accompanies recommending a plant-based diet—namely that the recommendation will be met with skepticism and hostility on the part of the general public”—though less so these days as millions jump on the plant-based wagon. But that hostility is “peculiar,” Dr. Esselstyn continues, “because many cultures sustain themselves with such a diet, enjoying its taste, texture, and variety, as well as its health-promoting qualities. However, dietary preference is deeply personal, and one can easily be offended. Nevertheless, the public has a right to know the truth as understood by experts in nutritive biology about what constitutes the safest and healthiest diet.” I couldn’t have said it better. The public has a right to know the truth.
“Some criticize this exclusively plant-based diet as extreme or draconian. Webster’s dictionary defines draconian as ‘inhumanly cruel.’ A closer look reveals that ‘extreme’ or ‘inhumanly cruel’ describes not plant-based nutrition, but the consequences of our present Western diet,” Dr. Esselstyn writes, adding that having a breastbone sawed in half for bypass surgery or a stroke that renders one an invalid unable to speak “can be construed as extreme, and having a breast, prostate, colon, or rectum removed to treat cancer may seem inhumanly cruel.” That’s extreme.
Michael Greger, M.D.
PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations—2015:Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet, and my latest, 2016:How Not to Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers.