Let’s Get Heart Attack-Proof!

Big news in the world of plant-based eating today:

The Journal of Family Practice just published a hugely successful study that Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and his team recently completed. It confirms what I’ve been preaching about for over 20 years now.

Many of you may be familiar with Dr. Esselystyn. He’s one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject of healing and reversing heart disease primarily through a plant-based diet. He conducted a famous study more than two decades ago that proved the efficacy of this phenomenon via a nutrient-rich, low-fat vegan diet. This study would be the basis for his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.

Prevent-and-Reverse-Heart-DiseaseThis new study was considerably larger, but still with equally compelling results. The study followed 198 consecutive patients counseled in plant-based nutrition. These patients with established cardiovascular disease were interested in transitioning to plant-based nutrition as an adjunct to usual cardiovascular care.

Here were the participant’s parameters for this study –

The Core Diet (followed by “compliant” patients):

Whole grains, legumes, lentils, other vegetables, and fruit comprised the major portion of the diet. A multivitamin and vitamin B12 supplement were encouraged. As was the use of flax seed meal, which served as an additional source of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Foods Prohibited:

Initially the intervention avoided all added oils and processed foods that contain oils, fish, meat, fowl, dairy products, avocado, nuts, and excess salt. Patients were also asked to avoid sugary foods (sucrose, fructose, and drinks containing them, refined carbohydrates, fruit juices, syrups, and molasses). Subsequently, the study also excluded caffeine and fructose.



Here are the results and particulars of the study as reported by our friends at vegsource.com:

  • Out of the initial 198, 177 individuals were compliant with the diet (89%).
  • Of this compliant group, only one individual suffered a recurrent event of heart disease. That is an event rate of .6% – the lowest recurrence rate to date of any study of plant-based diets and heart disease.
  • 21 individuals of the original 198 in the research group did not adhere to Dr. Esselstyn’s diet program. They went back to the standard American diet. 13 of these nonadherent participants – or 62% – subsequently experienced adverse cardiac events. (It is worth nothing that the individuals who did not eat the plant-based diet were still under typical cardiology care and received standard medical interventions like pills and procedures. Yet 62% of them still succumbed to more adverse heart events.
  • 62% got worse with a standard diet and standard medical care, whereas only .6% of the people who followed Dr. Esselstyn’s diet had any further heart problems.


Here’s the link to the actual study:


I hope every serious cardiologist around the globe will take a look at this. And perhaps more importantly, I hope all my friends over 50 will take a close look, as well. As we age, we just don’t have the same kind of resilience we once did to all of the various foods that damage our arteries. Plus, if you’ve been eating these kinds of foods all along, you’re going to have a much greater build-up of fat and plague in the ol’ arteries just from the accumulative years.

arteriesActual before-and-after x-rays of an artery healed from plant-based eating!

This shit is real, people…

So, can this style of eating really make you heart attack-proof? Hard to say 100%. But so far, it appears to offer us the greatest odds.

Interested in More Info?

If you haven’t seen it already, check out the documentary Forks Over Knives. It features the work of both Caldwell Esselstyn and T. Colin Campbell (author of The China Study), and shows a lot of compelling science that supports this concept.  (Scope on Netflix instant download and other places…)


POST NOTE: You’ll notice in Dr. Esselstyn’s “prohibited foods” recommendations above that he also includes nuts and avocados.  This is the only debatable aspect of the study in my mind.  Of course, I have YET to see a study that reversed heart disease that included any animal products.  But I have seen evidence that a similar diet-style that included some plant-based fats (nuts, seeds, etc.) could also work.  And this was from Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  See Fuhrman’s Huffington Post article here:


I admire both of these guys, but they happen to differ in this one area.  Both promote plant-based diets, but Esselstyn is more hardcore about avoiding ALL forms of fat, even those naturally occurring in nuts and avocado.

My advice is this:

1. Enjoy moderate amounts of virtually ANY kind of whole food plant-based fat source, like nuts, seeds, avocado, etc.

2. Try to avoid adding ANY form of oil to anything.  (I know this is tough.)  This includes olive oil, which by the way, is NOT a heart-healthy food, even though it is often promoted as such.  Will you be able to do this?  Probably not until you have to.  Oil is everywhere. But at least be aware of it.

3. For omega 3s, I don’t think there’s much harm in having a small serving of flax oil a few times a week (added to your smoothie, for example).  But we simply don’t require very much omega 3 – especially when we have lower amounts of omega 6 in the diet (more on this later).  Still, if you can get it from flax seed or chia seed, all the better.

4. The more at-risk you are (total cholesterol over 150, etc.), the more strict you have to be with all of these recommendations!

Will be posting more specifics soon…


Stay tuned –


  1. This is blog #18 in my 20-blogs-in-30-days series for June 2014.  (Yeah, I know it’s July 1 today. What can I tell ya?)

About Bobby Rock

Bobby Rock is a world renown drummer, the author of nine books, and a recognized health and fitness specialist with certifications in exercise, nutrition and meditation. He has recorded and toured with a variety of artists, released three CDs as a solo performer and is recognized as a top drumming educator. He is currently touring with rock icon, Lita Ford. Through speaking, writing and activism, Bobby remains committed to a number of animal and environmental causes. Bobby lives in Los Angeles.
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3 Responses to Let’s Get Heart Attack-Proof!

  1. Trevor says:

    I was aware of Dr Esselstyn’s ‘no oil’ philosophy.
    Do you avoid avocado and nuts in your diet? I thought these, in the ‘appropriate’ quantity, were often recommended as part of a vegan’s diet.
    I’m assuming taking my vegan flax seed oil capsules is a mistake also?

  2. Bobby Rock says:

    Hey Trevor –

    Just added a “Post Note” to the article regarding this. Scope it. You should be fine with your flax seed oil caps, although you probably don’t need too many each week…

    And yes, I do enjoy my fair share of avocados, nuts and seeds. Several servings per week, usually…


  3. Trevor says:

    Not wanting to labour the point, but how is it that experts in the field (Esselstyn vs Fuhrman) can have such differing views on nuts in the diet?

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