Caldwell Esselstyn

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Caldwell Esselstyn
Born (1933-12-12) December 12, 1933 (age 82)
New York, New York
Residence Shaker Heights, OH
Nationality American
Fields Cardiology
Plant-based diet
Institutions Cleveland Clinic
Alma mater Yale University (AB, 1956)
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine (MD, 1961)[1]
Known for Forks Over Knives
Notable awards Gold Medal, 1956 Olympic Games - 8-oared rowing event
Spouse Ann
Children Rip, Jane, Zeb, and Ted
Caldwell Esselstyn
Medal record
Men's rowing
Competitor for the  United States
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1956 Melbourne Men's eights

Caldwell Blakeman Esselstyn Jr. (born December 12, 1933)[1] is an American physician, author and former Olympic rowing champion.

Esselstyn is the author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (2007), which argues for a low-fat, whole foods, plant-based diet.[2][3][n 1] He recommends avoiding all animal products, as well as reducing or avoiding soybeans, nuts, avocados and oils.[n 2] The diet has been advocated by former U.S. President Bill Clinton[7][8]

Esselstyn's diets have been criticized for being promoted as having health benefits that are not supported by sound medical evidence.[8]


Esselstyn was born in New York City in 1933.[1] He grew up on a cattle farm in upstate New York and attended public schools. He attended Deerfield Academy for high school[9] and graduated from Yale University in 1956[10] where he was a member of Skull and Bones.[11] He also competed in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, winning a gold medal in the "eights" as a member of the American team.[12]

Esselstyn received his M.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 1961. During this time he met his wife, Ann Crile Esselstyn, granddaughter of George Washington Crile, founder of the Cleveland Clinic.[9][13] Esselstyn was an intern (1961–62) and resident (1962–66) at the Cleveland Clinic.[1] In 1968 he completed a tour as an Army surgeon in Vietnam where he was awarded the Bronze Star.[14] Upon his return he rejoined the clinic and has served as the President of the Staff and as a member of its Board of Governors. He served as the President of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons in 1991. In 2000 he gave up his post at the Cleveland Clinic.[9]

Esselstyn is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Nutrition Action magazine, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.[15]

Dietary work[edit]

Esselstyn has conducted research into diet and heart disease and – in common with his contemporaries Dean Ornish and T. Colin Campbell – has devised a dietary program which he claims can prevent heart disease. Commenting on the diet, Harriet A. Hall has written that the claims made for it are misleading and that the evidence on which it is based is "pretty skimpy".[8]

Book and film[edit]

In 2007 Esselstyn's Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease was published, which discusses his patients' claimed reversals of atherosclerosis on the diet.[4] The book contains recipes from Ann Crile Esselstyn, who advises patients about cooking practices. The Esselstyn family and their four children have eaten a plant-based diet since the mid-1980s.[13]


In 2005 Esselstyn received the Benjamin Spock Award for Compassion in Medicine (he was the award's first recipient), and in 2009 the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Cleveland Clinic Alumni Association. In 2010 he received the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame Award.[13]


  • Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure (2007)


  1. ^ David S. Martin, CNN (2011): "The Esselstyn diet is tough for most Americans to swallow: no meat, no eggs, no dairy, no added oils."[4]
  2. ^ Philip J. Tuso, et al., The Permanente Journal (2013): "Esselstyn, who directs the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, recommends completely avoiding all animal-based products as well as soybeans and nuts, particularly if severe coronary artery disease is present."[5]
    Grace Dickinson, Philadelphia (2010): "His diet plan—which not only eliminates meat and dairy, but also removes all forms of oil, nuts and avocados— has reversed heart disease in many of his patients.[6]

    Caldwell Esselstyn, Philadelphia (2010): "The problem with tofu and all those soy products is that they are about 40% fat. If anything, I prefer a very, very light silken tofu occasionally.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d "Curriculum Vitae",
  2. ^ Michael Estries, "Samuel L. Jackson inspired to go vegan by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn", Mother Nature Network, April 17, 2014.
  3. ^ Patrician Sheridan, "Chewing the fat with vegan-diet advocate Caldwell Esselstyn Jr.", Pittsbourgh Post-Gazette, 1 September 2013.
  4. ^ a b David S. Martin, "The 'heart attack proof' diet?", CNN, November 25, 2011.
  5. ^ Philip J. Tuso, et al. "Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets," The Permanente Journal, 17(2), Spring 2013, pp. 61–66. PMID 23704846 doi:10.7812/TPP/12-085
  6. ^ a b Grace Dickinson "'This or That With Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.", Philadelphia, November 18, 2010.
  7. ^ Andrea Sachs, “Galley Girl: Bill Clinton Has a Healthy Appetite for Diet Books, Time, Jan. 02, 2012.
  8. ^ a b c Hall HA (November 23, 2010). "Bill Clinton's Diet". Science-Based Medicine. 
  9. ^ a b c A New Cardiovascular Approach:Eating for Life
  10. ^ Official Website: Biography
  11. ^ "C. B. Esselstyn Jr. Fiance of Ann Crile". New York Times. 1 May 1961. p. 33. 
  12. ^ "1956 Summer Olympics – Melbourne, Australia – Rowing" (Retrieved on May 15, 2008)
  13. ^ a b c "About Dr. Esselstyn". 
  14. ^ "About Dr. Esselstyn | Dr. Esselstyn's Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease Program". Retrieved 2015-12-16. 
  15. ^ "Scientific Advisory Board" (PDF). Nutrition Action. Center for Science in the Public Interest. January 2010. Retrieved 26 January 2011. 

External links[edit]