Nutrition in Healthcare: One Nation, Free of Heart Disease

    Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States today (1). It constitutes for a large range of conditions such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure and arrhythmia. With CVD on the rise, numerous medical professionals have sought out various ways to help prevent and reverse this condition. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, is recognized as one of the impassioned medical professionals whom has devoted many years in researching and discovering the most effective ways to prevent heart disease. Dr. Esselstyn has written several books, scientific publications and narrated documentaries discussing his findings on preventing and reverse heart disease. Esselstyn is a strong advocate in the promotion of treating heart disease, specifically coronary artery diseases (CAD), through nutrition intervention.

    Plant-based nutrition provides us with a pathway to escape the coronary artery disease epidemic (2). Eating a plant-based diet typically calls for consuming a variety of different fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and grains, while avoiding meat, dairy, poultry and other animal products. Esselstyn believes that coronary disease has no building blocks from the plant-based diet. He has found that meat, cheese, milk, butter, ice cream, eggs, fried food, oils and margarine ate the lethal atherosclerotic lynchpins (2). His research has found that plant-based nutrition achieved coronary artery disease arrest and reversal (3).

    In one particular study published in July 2014 in the Journal of Family Practice, Esselstyn followed 198 consecutive patient volunteers to examine the adherence and outcomes of converting their usual diets to plant-based nutrition (3). 177 of the patients adhered to the diet and reported that they were interested in transitioning to consuming a plant-based as opposed to their current CVD treatment methods. Dr. Esselstyn found that those who followed the diet  and responded to counseling experienced a low rate of subsequent cardiac events, proving his theory that plant-based nutrition has the potential for a large effect in reversing the CVD epidemic.

    Throughout the study, patients were educated in plant-based nutrition and shown how it can reverse CAD by a previous study conducted by Caldwell. They were told to avoid all oils, processed food that contain oils, fish, meat, fowl, dairy products, avocado, nuts, excess salt, and eventually sugary foods, caffeine and fructose (3). Following these guidelines for 3.7 resulted in the symptom reduction was seen in 105 of the 177 patients and disease reversal was displayed in 39. This study is one of the few that Dr. Esselstyn has used to back his beliefs on plant-based nutrition intervention.

    Along with Caldwell Esselstyn, the American Heart Association (AHA) is implementing an impact goal to improve the cardiovascular health of Americans by utilizing a functional diet.   The AHA hopes that their 2020 Impact Goal will reduce deaths from CVD and stroke by twenty percent. Dr. Esselstyn and the AHA believe that the greatest controllable determinant of heart health is diet. With the 2020 Impact Goal, the AHA anticipates to examine and enhance the diets of those diagnosed with some form of heart disease as well as educate children on the importance of healthy eating behaviors. Real Dietitian is thankful to have received an innovation grant from the AHA and eager to help make a difference in the future of heart health by expanding access to Medical Nutrition Therapy via phone appointment. Together, Americans can spread cardiovascular disease awareness and work to improve the quality of our diets and lifestyles so that future generations can thrive.

Read more of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s research.

Learn more about the 2020 Impact Goal from the American Heart Association.


  1. Leading Causes of Death

  2. Plant-Based Nutrition

  3. A way to reverse CAD?