Heart disease: a toothless paper tiger

Plant-Based Nutrition Support Group holds special events

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 29, 2015

 Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn discusses heart disease at Groves High School’s Little Theatre Jan. 27.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn discusses heart disease at Groves High School’s Little Theatre Jan. 27.

Photo by Cari DeLamielleure-Scott


WEST BLOOMFIELD/BEVERLY HILLS — Show of hands: who has been guilty of feasting on fast food for a meal?

Those who eat a “western diet” have probably chosen this option more than once, and people who indulge in this diet are at risk of damaging their endothelial cells — which line and protect the heart’s blood vessels — putting them at risk of heart disease, according to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr.

And while doctors can prescribe drugs and perform procedures to treat heart disease, the causation of the illness is what needs to be reviewed first, said Caldwell Esselstyn, a leading advocate in the field of a plant-based nutrition lifestyle.

“The answer to chronic disease really is going to be a lifestyle, and the thing that trumps it all is nutritional literacy.” 

Hundreds of metro Detroiters packed Groves High School’s Little Theatre Jan. 27 to hear Caldwell Esselstyn — along with his wife, Ann Crile Esselstyn, and daughter, Jane Esselstyn — discuss coronary heart disease and how to prevent and treat it through plant-based nutrition.

The talk was part of the West Bloomfield-based Plant-Based Nutrition Support Group’s  mission to reach individuals who have been diagnosed with, or are at risk of developing, heart disease and diabetes.

The group was founded in 2014 by Paul Chatlin, of West Bloomfield, after he opted out of bypass surgery and instead made a drastic change in his diet. Within the past year, the group has grown from 123 metro Detroit members to 684. In addition to monthly meetings with nationally renowned guest speakers, the nonprofit group hosts dinner events at local restaurants, nutritional and walking tours, and special events.

“I can’t say how exciting it is to see what I consider to be an absolute renaissance, and I’m so excited to be at the core of that renaissance here tonight,” Caldwell Esselstyn said about the support group. “If this kind of thing is replicated throughout the country, what’s going to happen to our health bill in this country?”

Within the past few months, former University of Michigan offensive lineman Marc Ramirez — who played from 1986-1990 — teamed up with Chatlin as an advocate for plant-based nutrition to reverse diabetes.

Before Caldwell Esselstyn took the stage, Ramirez told the group that during his time at the University of Michigan he was 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 305 pounds. Once he graduated, he continued to eat the same amount of food, but exercised less. Within a few years, Ramirez developed high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes, and at 43-years-old, he was taking five medications a day, he said.

After watching “Forks Over Knives,” a documentary that examines how plant-based foods can control, or even reverse, degenerative diseases, Ramirez and his wife made the decision to switch to a plant-based lifestyle. Sixty days after the change, he took his last medication, reversing his Type 2 diabetes, he said. He has been medication-free for three years.

“We call it a lifestyle because it’s not a diet, it’s the way you live,” Ramirez said at the event. Ramirez told the audience that it’s not every day a person gets to be in the same room as the one who saved their life, referring to Caldwell Esselstyn.

Coronary heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in western civilization, Caldwell Esselstyn said.

“If the truth be known, heart disease is nothing more than a toothless paper tiger” that doesn’t need to exist, or if it does exist, doesn’t need to progress, he said.

Caldwell Esselstyn has great respect for doctors in the cardiology field; however, he said, the causation of heart disease and nutritional literacy is not being shared by physicians. And in order for a “seismic revolution” to take over, people have to be willing to share how nutrition can help people avoid common, chronic diseases — heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, common western cancers, autoimmune diseases, asthma and osteoporosis.

It is a misconception, he said, that patients won’t alter their food habits to battle diseases. In order to make the change, people need to avoid oil, sugar, fish, dairy, caffeine — except for tea — fowl and meat. Instead, a plant-based lifestyle involves whole grains, legumes, lentils, vegetables and fruits. People with heart disease should avoid nuts, coconut and avocado, he said.

“It is absolutely unconscionable not to mention this option to patients,” he said.

During the recipe portion of the evening, Jane and Ann Esselstyn told the audience to sautee vegetables in water, beer, wine or vegetable broth in lieu of oil. And people should play with recipes to create a salad dressing without oil. When grocery shopping, people should read ingredients, because they are constantly changing, they said. 

“We hope all of you will feel very planted and will thrive in this fantastic group you’re a part of,” Ann Esselstyn said.

For more information about the Plant-Based Nutrition Support Group, visit www.pbnsg.org.