August 25th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Gupta: Becoming heart attack proof

Editor's note: Watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports: The Last Heart Attack at 8p and 11p ET on Saturday, September 3rd.

While working on “The Last Heart Attack,” I had a chance to interview some extraordinary people around the country. Patients struggling with heart disease provided lessons that can sometimes be taught only after being smacked in the face with their own mortality. For example, I have never seen former President Clinton so candid. He was convinced he was going to die back in 2004, after feeling chest tightness during a flight back to New York on a small plane.

I interviewed cardiologists who believe we are so darn close to virtually eliminating heart disease. And, the truth is, it doesn’t involve spending any more money, investing in any more research or creating anymore tests. Rather, it will take a strict implementation of what we already know about diet and nutrition. It will also take brave champions to navigate through the clutter of confusing counsel, special interests and shoddy science.

One day, I had a chance to speak to a couple of those champions candidly while waiting for a shoot to begin - Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and  T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.  I had read Campbell’s book, "The China Study," years ago and remember how audacious he was in telling readers that most of what they believed about food and its relationship to health and disease was plain wrong. His findings changed the way people all over the world eat, including me.

And, I will admit, while I had trained my whole life to treat disease after it developed, I wasn’t medically trained in nutrition to be able to help prevent some of these diseases in the first place. Most of what I have learned has been on my own, since leaving medical school, and I think that is true for many doctors of my generation.

Simply put, Campbell’s research team found people who ate the most animal-based foods also had the most chronic disease. As important, people who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest. Campbell went on to describe the specific connections between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes and cancer. He also wrote of the ability to use nutrition to reverse these conditions – something that can start at almost any age.

Esselstyn took it a step further. “Sanjay, we want to make you heart attack proof.” Pretty audacious, I thought, but I couldn’t help but be engaged by this Cleveland Clinic surgeon, who was now devoting his life to preventing the diseases he made a living treating.“We are never going to end the epidemic of heart disease with stents, bypasses and medications,” he told me. That was music to my ears, because I didn’t want any of those things. Of course, it would involve essentially eliminating meat, dairy, eggs and oil – even olive oil. “Nothing with a mother, and nothing with a face,” the good doctor added.

Honestly, over the years, I have practiced the adage “eat to live,” not “live to eat.” Still, I knew it was going to be tough to carry out what he was asking. I started with a practical question for him. He was on the road traveling, and I was curious what he ate. “Thai food is always a good bet,” he told me. Sharon Kintz, who is a 66-year-old heart patient, joined me in Times Square to prove she could find a meal that satisfied her vegan requirements. Even former President Clinton says he is a vegan nowadays, and doesn’t at all miss the fast food for which he was once famous.

Virtually eliminating heart disease – it can be done, and truth is, we have known for a very long time how to do it. People have said to me as I was preparing this documentary – “Sanjay, you are advocating a radical change to the way we eat.” Perhaps, but if you really think about it, the way we eat now is in fact more radical. And when we look back on this time, a couple of hundred years from now, I guarantee you that our diet of today will be considered one of the most radical in history.

If we collectively ever want to get to the point where we have “The Last Heart Attack,” a good start would be to stop ignoring what we already know to be true.

soundoff (1,186 Responses)
  1. alimonyjones

    I ate Dr. Dean Ornish's diet for about two years, but I found that I had to have a small amount of red meat once a month or so or else I started to feel weak. Otherwise I felt great, looked great and was the healthiest I've ever been. I can highly recommend it.

    August 25, 2011 at 07:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Duane

      I have meat and/or dairy about twice a month, but I am very happy with my (otherwise) vegan diet.

      August 25, 2011 at 21:51 | Report abuse |
    • Ex-Vegetarian

      I was a vegetarian for awhile, but I became weaker & weaker until finally I couldn't even carry my purse, let alone carry home groceries. At that point I gave up and started eating fish, chicken or turkey each day. I tried taking various supplements, including L-Carnitine, while I was a vegetarian, but they didn't help. I wish I could find out what it is in meat that maintains muscle strength. And I wish I could buy it in pills.

      August 25, 2011 at 21:51 | Report abuse |
    • lisa

      ex-vegetarian – if you 'couldn't even carry my purse, let alone carry home groceries' while eating a balanced vegetarian diet (including eggs, milk, nuts, beans) and exercising regularly, there probably is an underlying health issue. Those foods contain more than enough protein.

      August 26, 2011 at 09:05 | Report abuse |
    • Roger

      I started vegan diet by Dr. E one year ago (similar to Dr. O’s diet without oil). My dietician specializing in vegan type of diet helped me to balance my diet that includes sufficient protein, B12, Iron etc. So far it's working great.

      August 26, 2011 at 23:03 | Report abuse |
  2. Anthony Paolantonio

    I became vegan 18 years ago. I did not do it for health reasons but for ethical reasons. However, since my transformation I have not had so much as a sniffle. I play tennis and handily beat opponents ten years younger.I have no joint pain, never a headache, a cold or the flu. T Colin Campbell gets it. Dr. Michael Klaper gets it. Dean Ornish Gets it. And now you get it. It's the future and hopefully it will help mitigate the enormous rising costs of health care while reducing our carbon footprint and relieving the unecessary suffering of our fellow species.

    August 25, 2011 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nick

      This all sounds like commie nonsense. Eat nothing with a face or mother....rediculous.

      However, I do agree that we are over fed and undernourished but the reason this doesn't catch on is because it is suggesting a radical change. Americans need to be slowly pushed toward change. Americans need to be educated as to why this is important. Americans need to learn to read and understand food labels. Americans need better options at the grocery store.

      Fortunately you already see it happening.

      For example...The food pyramid was replaced with that plate thing. Every grocery store I've been to in the last 2 years has ever expanding options for organic, whole grain, and low fat foods.

      I would argue that the country is already, slowly, moving toward a collective healthier lifestyle. It will take a couple of generations to see substantial changes (like with the stop smoking campaigns) but this is already happening.

      August 25, 2011 at 13:55 | Report abuse |
    • Your vegan program sounds like total nonsense

      I eat anything I want and I haven't had a cold in over a decade.

      Conclusion: Might have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with what I eat or don't eat.

      August 25, 2011 at 18:26 | Report abuse |
    • Started Last Sunday

      Don't listen to these guys. Thanks for sharing your story. Some people have to turn this into a debate. There's no debate. The data is out there. If you want to eat meat and take your chances, it's no different than smoking. Go ahead. That's your choice. Just remember, the study makes it very clear that heart disease is a food-born illness. You have a choice. This is not an article about ethics. It's about health.

      August 25, 2011 at 18:35 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Do you know any high-peformance professional athletes who eat no meat, and win consistently?

      August 26, 2011 at 00:07 | Report abuse |
    • mccccccc

      Mike, one good example of a vegan athlete is Carl Lewis.

      August 26, 2011 at 04:14 | Report abuse |
    • Angel

      Rich Roll, Brendan Braizer, Mac Danzig, Kenneth Williams, Ruth Hiedrich and more. Google it: http://www.veganathlete.com/vegan_vegetarian_athletes.php

      August 26, 2011 at 14:43 | Report abuse |
  3. Reader

    Thank you, Sanjay, for highlighting that the risks can be mitigated by nutrition. This notion of nutrition as a means to prevent health problems seems somewhat foreign to a surprisingly large portion of the healthcare community. Most docs think in terms of fixing existing problems, and usually solutions involve medication or surgery. Lifestyle is where the preemptive solutions lie. Don't forget regular exercise!

    August 25, 2011 at 10:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Sam

    I would have to say that it isn't the meat that is to blame for heart disease. When comparing the United States to countries in Europe or Asia, it's safe to say that they consume just about as much meat as we do. The fundamental difference is that most people in this country die of heart disease. It's easy to blame our countries LAZY lifestyle. Every city is built around the comfort of vehicles, enabling people to "park as close as possible", to the store, and therefore contributing to laziness. I would like to also assume that the way we treat our foods in this country has to do with it.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Angel

      Actually, the China Study pretty clearly shows that those other countries do not eat the same level of animal products that we do–when certain "pockets' in China did start eating that way, their chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease increased. Campbell has a good amount of data behind his research. While the processed crap we eat here also contributes (such as all the high-fructose corn syrup), a meat-centric, animal-centric diet is clearly shown to have adverse effects on coronary health.

      August 25, 2011 at 11:56 | Report abuse |
    • KH

      I will preface this response by saying that I am not a vegetarian, but rather live a flexitarian lifestyle where I think consciously about what I am putting into my body by relying mainly on vegetables, legumes and grains and eat around 8 ounces of meat from my local organic CSA per week. I get most of my protein from soy-based products, legumes, grains, and some dairy. I have never felt better physically (since beginning this lifestyle I have run marathons and ultras, something I never used to have the endurance to do) as well as ethically about where my food comes from and what it is doing to/for me.

      I think it is an incorrect statement to say that Americans eat as much meat as Europeans or Asians. Americans eat around 322 pounds a year, which is twice the global average, and comes out to over a pound a day – the individual recommended serving size of meat is 4 ounces! And if you look at the dining options entrusted by many of middle America, the meat portions are astounding and nowhere near 4 ounces. We are the home of the all-you-can eat buffets, 18 ounce porterhouses, buckets of fried chicken... hence our obesity far outreaching other industrialized countries (33% of Americans are obese). If you want to get technical and look at the data of per capita meat consumption as of 2002 (last reported by FAO), yes you are right America is not the #1 meat consumer – Denmark is. America comes in at 5th with Cyprus, New Zealand, and Luxembourg ranking above us, and no it isn't a money issue that some of the leading economies of the world don't come close to our meat consumption because China (as the second ranking economy in the world) comes in at 1/3rd of our per capita meat consumption. We each consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government’s recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein. It’s likely that most of us would do just fine on around 30 grams of protein a day, virtually all of it from plant sources.

      Yes exercise plays an important role in a healthy lifestyle and completes the package, but if you are already obese and just had your double cheeseburger for lunch, your capacity for going out for a jog is minimal. Where it starts is nutrition because you need a healthy diet to supply the necessary energy and nutrients (without the extra junk) to do more than just sit at the desk to go sit in the car to go sit on the couch.

      August 25, 2011 at 12:32 | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      "When comparing the United States to countries in Europe or Asia, it's safe to say that they consume just about as much meat as we do"

      Apparently in this case "safe to say" = "I have no clue what I'm babbling about so I'm just going to gas on for a while."

      Thank you for your opinion, Dr. Sam. We'll take it for what it's worth, which coincidentally is what we paid for it.

      August 25, 2011 at 18:43 | Report abuse |
    • Bruce Heinemann

      try to remember that we evolved as a species on meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds. We did not evolve on grains and starch and thus our bodies are not designed to process them optimally. Heart disease is not caused by saturated fat, meats, etc.. Its root cause is insulin resistance. IR doesn't just cause diabetes, it causes all sorts of metabolic diseases, including heart problems, stroke, etc. It is the SUGAR in our diets in all its forms that is killing us... We did not evolve on sugar from grains or starches.. we evolved on the saturated fat of meat... Fat does not make you fat, sugar in all its form make you fat and diseased. For a doctor's insights on this go to: mercola.com and read his archived articles about saturated fats and their healthy aspects and the real dangers of sugars....

      August 25, 2011 at 18:57 | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      @KH "I think it is an incorrect statement to say that Americans eat as much meat as Europeans or Asians. Americans eat around 322 pounds a year, which is twice the global average, and comes out to over a pound a day"

      We have 365 days in our year and your numbers would calculate to .88lbs/day which is still higher than most of the world. However, we don't cosume the other proteins available to us that many countries take advantage of: Insects, and many of those on a nearly daily basis..

      August 25, 2011 at 20:14 | Report abuse |
  5. Eating Now

    Eat a bunch of weird plants my whole life and no good stuff? no thanks!

    August 25, 2011 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jennie

      It's your decision of course, but my father ate a diet of "good stuff" all his life but in his 50s had his first heart attack, then a stroke, then another heart attack, and more strokes then died. The last 12 years of his life were pure hell. I have been eating a plant based diet and exercising for over 20 years now and feel great and look great (for my age). It is not about living longer, it is about quality of life, and I believe your "good stuff' eventually distracts from rather than adds to a better quality of life.

      August 25, 2011 at 11:25 | Report abuse |
    • John Z

      My parents lived to ages 83 and 84. Their siblings were very close to that if not far beyond that before passing. Several lived into their 90's and one to 99. 6 kids in each family. One died of a heart attack at age 50 or so. The rest enjoyed longevity. Both sides of the families ate the worst foods today's standards could define. Everything was loaded with meat with a hefty helping of grease on the side. Smother everything in butter.

      One had diabetes, but I do not recall any of them having heart issues or procedures. It is not that I do not believe the basis of the article. I just do not understand how my family ate to the opposite standard and lived rather full lives.

      Perhaps the term moderation should be considered?

      August 25, 2011 at 13:07 | Report abuse |
  6. JJ

    No such thing as "heart attack proof". Plenty of healthy, active people who eat very well die from heart attacks as well.

    August 25, 2011 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Angel

      Define "eat very well."

      August 25, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      JJ -Sorry, but if you have a heart atatck you have a significant blockage in your arteries, causing your heart to have inadequate blood supply = heart attack = you weren't healthy!! You may have looked and felt fine otherwise, because sometimes people have no symptoms until they have thier heart attack – but you weren't "healthy" you had undiagnosed heart disease.

      August 25, 2011 at 12:39 | Report abuse |
    • Mahna Mahna

      My spinning teacher suddenly died one semester and she was very health conscious. She was very young - and just dropped dead.

      August 25, 2011 at 14:48 | Report abuse |
    • BIll

      I am not sure about this. I had a friend who was a vegetarian and, I would say healthy and in no way over weight. In his late 40's he had a heart attack and required triple bypass surgery. At that time, 10 years ago, he was tole that heredity had a part to play in his problems.

      August 25, 2011 at 15:12 | Report abuse |
    • Angel

      Vegetarians often do not eat "well." Cheese, dairy, and eggs are fat laden. Many vegetarians, and vegans, actually are junk-food-atarians. The label doesn't mean anything if all you stuff in your gob is refined sugar, flour, and processed foods, even if they are animal free.

      August 25, 2011 at 16:01 | Report abuse |
    • AggieRunner

      "Plenty" of healthy, active people die from heart attacks? That sounds like a scientifically sound, well-researched comment. Yes people die, even healthy people, and whenever anyone dies it is a tragedy. Yet I think making overall changes to diet and lifestyle will vastly improve the quality of life of the majority of the population – not to mention greatly reduce the cost of caring for the sick who in large part became so because of our unhealthy dietary practices.

      August 25, 2011 at 17:40 | Report abuse |
    • rob c

      Long distance runners die of heart attacks quite frequently, and often before age 60. 'Nuff said.
      There's no such thing as heart attack proof. Now pass the pork rinds.

      August 25, 2011 at 18:52 | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      Brian – rubbish you can have a heart attack from electrolyte imbalance, lack of salt, ventricular fibrilation and a host of other causes.

      August 25, 2011 at 19:46 | Report abuse |
  7. wayne

    The China Study has been thoroughly debunked. Why does this bad information persist?

    August 25, 2011 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • weight_proportionate_to_height

      And when was this data debunked? I'm sure the next nugget of info we get is that smoking isn't bad for us, but I might catch HIV from a door knob.

      August 25, 2011 at 11:55 | Report abuse |
    • Angel

      What credible source debunked the China Study? Reference, please.

      August 25, 2011 at 11:59 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Here's one critique of the China Study:


      The China Study is epidemiological, which means it proves correlation and not causation. Therefore, it's basically useless.

      August 25, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse |
    • Angel

      Sorry, I do not find a 24 year old freelance "everything" person to be a credible source that refutes the long term study done by Campbell and his colleagues in China and in the lab.

      August 25, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse |
    • Angel


      August 25, 2011 at 13:17 | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      @Bob- how do you determine that correlation is useless? It's far from useless. It's not definitive, but far less of our "medical knowledge" is definitive than people like to think. By the way, I am a medical doctor and have been trained in statistics (somewhat) and epidemiology.

      August 25, 2011 at 15:48 | Report abuse |
    • Hunter P

      The statement that a correlative study is "useless" is not appropriate, but it's definitely isn't conclusive and as Bob said, does not imply causation, and also it's arguably not enough of a reason to base something as serious as nutritional recommendations off of, however our government and medical industry have been doing it for decades so why would they stop now? BTW, there's plenty of other peer-reviewed studies, some even co-authored by Cambell and based off his same China Study data, which correlate plant foods with heart disease and cancer and show negative correlations with animal foods and disease. He likes to keep that quiet though. Most vegans close their ears when they hear how weak the evidence is against animal foods and how much evidence there is that animals foods have protective effects against these diseases. Everone thank Dr Gupta for again getting CNN.com to present a strong one-sided (biased?) opinion with no coverage at all of other theories or possibilities!

      August 25, 2011 at 16:35 | Report abuse |
    • Angel

      How can Campbell keep peer-reviewed publications that have been in print "quiet"? This sounds very similar to Minger being bent out of shape that he didn't feel the need to provide her with the over 300 peer-reviewed articles and publications he had and saying "aw shucky darn" when he expected her to go out and do the research herself. If you have actual peer-reviewed articles that show that the China study and Esselstyn's work are not valid, where are those references?

      August 25, 2011 at 17:54 | Report abuse |
    • pasofino

      I believe the request was for a "credible" source debunking the China study. While it is clear that Denise Minger does not agree with the China study, her only qualifications appear to be that (a) she is opinionated, and (b) she is prolific.

      August 25, 2011 at 20:13 | Report abuse |
  8. Ved_Vyas


    Good to know, that after having gone to a highly expensive medical school to learn non-sustainable medicine you learnt
    what your ancestors (wise Hindus) have been practicing for millenia. This is one of the cheapest ways to get healthcare costs under control, save our natural water and land resources, feed more people, and get healthier at the same time. This is a holistic solution to many problems facing Americans. Hope you can explore and advocate this persistently for
    Americans. Discover Ayurveda and your Hindu heritage and do so publicly.

    From Ved_Vyas.

    August 25, 2011 at 11:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • wayne

      You assume that eating vegan in the Hindu style is more healthy, it is not.

      August 25, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      "You assume that eating vegan in the Hindu style is more healthy, it is not."

      Actually moron, it is

      August 25, 2011 at 18:46 | Report abuse |
  9. Bob

    I wouldn't mind eating according to one of these diets as long as I could smother the food with BACON AND CHEESE. That's what we call a "balanced diet".

    August 25, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • no_meat

      Then you'll become 'Blob' 🙂

      August 25, 2011 at 15:18 | Report abuse |
  10. Roger

    I have been in vegan diet since October 2010 to prevent another visit to heart surgery. So far angina disappeared. Within three months my HDL went down but recovered gradually. After six months HDL is higher than LDL. I am feeling just great before and after walking couple of miles a day. I started following vegan diet after watching CNN’s program last September and reading three books. Thanks to CNN, Clinton, Dr. E, Dr. O and Dr. C.

    I am still trying to convince my family I am doing the right thing. My doctors are not much of help "just eat everything in moderation" but they do a great job of testing and fixing problems. My nutritionist helped me to balance my vegan diet.

    I am still on high dose of statin just because my doctors don't like to change and myself don't know how vegan diet works over 5 to 10 years.

    August 25, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Adam

      @Roger- congratulations. This is why people should at least have the information- it works, not as an exception but as the general rule in those who do it, as far as I can tell. The power of this type of diet is stronger than our current "standard of care". By the way, I am a primary care doctor and I would certainly consider lowering your medication doses 🙂

      August 25, 2011 at 16:40 | Report abuse |
  11. Susan

    I am 41 and have had chest pain, discomfort for several years. I have metabolic syndrome, small particle size and very high triglycerides as well as PCOS. My overall cholesterol is normal and my blood pressure is normal. I figured why worry. Back to the chest discomfort and the other risk factors. I have three very small children. I want to try to have a better quality of life. I hate the chest discomfort because it leaves me in a perpetual state of worry and I am overweight and feel crummy. Even though we eat organic, we had a high amount of meat and fats. There has been no real education on how these foods work in the body for heart disease or really how to eat. To many of our cues are coming from fast food eateries and the ads for quick meals. At 41, I am now learning why we should eat a plant based diet and how that will relate to my health. The first few days were a scramble trying to figure out what to make but now I am on my third day and not craving fats, fast food and I am not finding myself extremely hungry or wanting to eat all the time. I am eating less and am not as hungry. I have to say a huge THANK YOU to CNN and Dr. Gupta for bringing up heart disease in this way and showing us a different way so we can enjoy our lives. By the way, I just finished Dr. Esselstyn's book "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease". Also, I have now enjoyed another book – something about why french women are not fat. That goes a step further in talking about the way the french culture views food and the way we do not enjoy it in America. It talks about getting back to more unprocessed foods and really enjoying your food from the first step of handling it, washing and preparing it, to finally enjoying it. I really missed the boat there. Instead it was a stressful event of gobbling down the food, not really tasting it, and not feeling full and wanting more of the fatty "yummy" taste – notice I did not mention the preparing part – the veggies and fruit prep was sadly missing before as well. Good luck to everyone out there.

    August 25, 2011 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Dogg

    Eliminating meat, dairy, eggs and oil is too radical to be practical on a large scale... moderation works and provides preventative healthcare measures as well... how can you measure the happiness a small-portion of perfectly cooked beef (along with a small salad) brings to my overall well-being? Simply put, you can be "happy and healthy" with proper nutritional moderation.

    August 25, 2011 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brian

      Not according to Dr. Esselsyn, and a number of other doctors (McDougall for example). Esselstyn's motto is "moderation kills!" He is quite adamant that the diet be followed 100% all of the time. Agree that it is a fanatsy that 1000% of the population would / could comply with this all of the time.

      August 25, 2011 at 12:42 | Report abuse |
    • HQ_CLE


      August 25, 2011 at 13:55 | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Not practical? It is absolutely practical. It just takes some education and realignment of thinking. The people that say it's not practical are just justifiably scared of trying to relearn llifelong habits.

      It is most certainly worth it.

      August 25, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse |
    • Veg Marathoner

      What I find to be "radical" is filling our bodies w/ drugs and enduring invasive medical procedures because we refuse to take responsibility for our own health and eat better.

      As for moderation, is it okay to smoke "in moderation" even though we know that it's harmful to us?

      That said, I do enjoy alcohol in moderation, even w/ the knowledge that it's frying my brain cells! 😛

      August 27, 2011 at 03:22 | Report abuse |
  13. Mr. Wild Game

    If the animal products you eat are form the wild then there is no problem with them. Quite healthy in fact.

    August 25, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Mr. Wild Game

    Oh by the way vegans only have a lower risk of heart attacks, however, they can, and do, still have them.

    August 25, 2011 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Veg Marathoner

      By analogy, non-smokers only have a lower risk of lung cancer, "however, they can, and do, still have them."

      So why bother, right? Light it up, Mr. Wild!

      August 27, 2011 at 03:24 | Report abuse |
  15. NYCitizen

    It seems every other week one story comes out, soon to be followed by another that contradicts the first story! Like cholesterol levels and diet....until we learned that the higher your good HDL levels are, it protects you from your higher bad total, LDL and triglyceride levels. Then we learned that no matter how low fat your diet is, some people just produce hughe amounts of the bad cholesterol – no matter what they do. I think the key word is moderation. Eat basically what you want, but in moderation...if you don't do any exercise other than walking, that's really good for you too. Oh, and exercising; first we were told about a half hour on most days of the week, then 1 hour of exericse most days of the week, then last year it was you need more than an hour on most days, and just last week it was as little as 15 minutes most days of the week. Don't forget some people are genetically predisposed to heart disease too! No doubt all of the chemicals, preservatives and additives in our food plays a much larger role in acquiring diseases.

    August 25, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. NightLynx

    Regarding the stories about relatives who ate unhealthy food their entire lives and lived to be 99: yes, if you happen to be lucky enough to inherit all the right genes, you can get away with eating McDonald's and other junk food. But if you're unsure about your own DNA, following a plant-based diet and cutting out animal products and oils might make your particular genetics irrelevant. And let's face it, none of us can be sure.

    August 25, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. NYCitizen

    Man has been eating meat/fish/fowl since he discovered fire! Maybe scientists, doctors, researches should be looking at the chemicals, additives, and preservatives in our meet/fish/fowl and their correlation to heart diseases and cancer.

    August 25, 2011 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Duane

      Considering life expectancy was ~25-40 years during prehistoric times, it would seem any long-term effects of the diet they ate would not have had time to catch up to them.

      August 25, 2011 at 22:15 | Report abuse |
  18. joe

    I was a vegetarian for about 4 years. Have to say it was by far the worst diet years of my life. First, I got really light and weak. May seem like a good thing when you're a woman or 50 years old but it's not good to be skinnier and weaker than other 20 year old men. Secondly, I always had food on my mind because it was so difficult to find acceptable food and to get enough calories. Thirdly, I felt lousy. Fourth, if I mistakenly consumed any meat products such as a vegetable soup where they either lied or didn't know it was made with beef or chicken stock, I'd get sick for at least a day. Sixth, I couldn't be around meat cooking because it made me naseous. I could go on and on but you get the point.

    Today, I eat meat. I feel better. I feel stronger. I look better. I'm healthier. My immune system is stronger. No question about it. I would never go back.

    I'd much rather live 10 years less and live a great life then live as a vegetarian struggling every day. In fact, I bet that's why evolution had humans move into meat eating because it made for bigger, better more survivable humans.

    August 25, 2011 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AnotherL00k

      Interesting experience. I went veg 6 years ago, at the age of 20 as well, and I've put on about 40 pounds, mostly muscle. My benchpress has increased nearly 100 pounds without an ounce of meat. Definitely the strongest and healthiest I've ever been. I think it depends what makes up that vegetarian diet that actually makes the difference.

      August 25, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • MayV

      I'd be curious to know how well balanced your vegetarian diet was and if you were choosing adequate and complete protein sources.

      August 25, 2011 at 15:10 | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      You're a moron, and you were a vegetarian like my dog used to be a theoretical physicist.

      August 25, 2011 at 18:48 | Report abuse |
    • Duane

      I won't put down your attempt to find a healthy diet that worked for you. I will say that perhaps there were problems with it that could be fixed by seeking advice from a nutritionist or at least someone experienced with eating a balanced vegan diet. There seem to be many vegans who report having lots of energy (I have a lot more than I used to), so maybe it is worth another try.

      August 25, 2011 at 22:19 | Report abuse |
    • EF

      Instead of assuming that people who have tried a vegetarian or vegan diet unsuccessfully "don't know how to do it right", could we consider the possibility that they may be allergic or have intolerance to plant proteins like gluten and lectins? If that is the case, then of course you would waste away on this diet. Your body can't take on any nutrients. Let's not jump to conclusions about other people's failures, vegetarian and vegan just doesn't work for everybody.

      August 29, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
  19. Michael Hunt

    Mein Herz

    August 25, 2011 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Richard Cranium

    Mein Herz Brennt!

    August 25, 2011 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Mahna Mahna

    Eating meats is fine as long as you don't eat them in conjunction with carbohydrates which force the cholesterol into the cells instead of allowing it to be used to build a healthy nervous system. Grains are not meant for human consumption.

    August 25, 2011 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MayV

      "Grains are not meant for human consumption." Based on what evidence and vetted research??

      August 25, 2011 at 15:11 | Report abuse |
    • Carnivore

      He's right, actually. If we were meant to eat grains, we would eat them raw. We don't. The only way the human body can tolerate grain is to alter it in some way. We grind, ferment, sprout, and process the grain in several ways in order for the body to eat it, and even then a lot of people still can't tolerate it.

      August 25, 2011 at 17:53 | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      Stupidest comment ever. Take a class in biochemistry some time. You're babbling like the half-wit you almost certainly are.

      August 25, 2011 at 18:49 | Report abuse |
    • Angel

      I'll accept that logic only if you'll agree that we were only meant to chase down animals on foot and bite the meat off of them. Using tools to prepare grains doesn't mean that we are not supposed to eat them.

      August 25, 2011 at 19:00 | Report abuse |
    • Carnivore

      It's not just the use of tools. It's the chemical alteration of the substance of grains. Malting, sprouting, or physically grinding grains to tiny particles has an effect on how our body processes them. Malting and sprouting grains alters the carbohydrates in the grain, breaking them down to simpler sugars, which are easier for our bodies to process. Grinding the grains increases the surface area, which allows for greater contact with the chemicals in our bodies which can act on the grains. The truth is that our digestive tract is not long enough to get much good out of grain unless we alter the grain first.

      We are not ruminant beasts. I agree that technology has both improved our ability to kill and eat animals and to process grain into a usable form. But it was the advent of fermentation which caused us to stop following the herds and plant grain, not our desire to eat bread. Beer, not bread, is the foundation of our modern society.

      August 26, 2011 at 09:56 | Report abuse |
    • Veg Marathoner

      So Carnivore, I guess you eat your meat raw, because that's how humans were meant to eat meat, unprocessed and unaltered in its composition?

      August 27, 2011 at 03:30 | Report abuse |
  22. J

    I'd love to know where he gets this perfect Thai food from- I've found it can often be just as greasy as other fast food!

    August 25, 2011 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Craig

    Sounds good but diet is not a magic bullet. My mother just passed away from a heart attack two weeks ago – and her diet for her entire life was mostly vegetables. I'm tired of people touting easy answers just to sell books or get TV time.

    August 25, 2011 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. palintwit

    Here in the Palin household we like to dig into a big steaming, hot platter of horse droppings whenever we can.

    August 25, 2011 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. common sense

    No one said you have to give up the "good stuff."
    But you have to balance it with the healthy yucky stuff.

    August 25, 2011 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Hunter P

    How ironic Gupta, you speak of navigating thru "the clutter of confusing counsel, special interests and shoddy science" yet you back up Esselstyn and Cambell as champions of this? Hardly even close. How about looking up "Erythrocyte fatty acids, plasma lipids, and cardiovascular disease in rural China" co-authored by Colin T Cambell, it concluded that "Within China neither plasma total cholesterol nor LDL cholesterol was associated with CVD [cardiovascular disease]". Or how about looking up "Correlation of Cervical Cancer Mortality with Reproductive and Dietary Factors, and Serum Markers in China" which also used data from the china study, it found that "consumption of green vegetables and animal foods were negatively correlated [with cervical cancer]" so huh, the Chinese women who ate more animal foods had less cervical cancer? Or how about looking up "Risk Factors for Stomach Cancer in Sixty-Five Chinese Counties" again using china study data it found that "Consumption of green vegetables, rice, meat, and fish was associated with reduced mortality" and even found a "a significant inverse association for meat" with stomach cancer. Or how about looking up "Fish consumption, blood docosahexaenoic acid and chronic diseases in Chinese rural populations" again using china study data and co-authored by Cambell, it found that "the highest blood cholesterol levels in the Chinese were associated with DHA and fish consumption but with the lowest risk [of heart disease]" and that it was "the largely vegetarian, inland communities who have the greatest all risk mortalities and morbidities and who have the lowest LDL cholesterols". Or how about looking up "Diet and Blood Nutrient Correlations with Ischemic Heart, Hypertensive Heart, and Stroke Mortality in China" also using china study data, this correlative study found no association between cardiovascular diseases and cholesterol and was conducted the same as Cambell's The China Study. The list goes on. Animal foods are necessary for good health. Stop promoting this speculative vegan BS as fact when it's nothing more than a theory with a ton of evidence against it.

    August 25, 2011 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Matthew

    This is a much better article. better than calling it 'esselstyns diet' because it obviously isnt. diet means 'regular food' and and these are simply age-old diets, for which esselstyn is a spokesman/advocate. still, respect to esselstyn for pushing the initiative.

    August 25, 2011 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Gary

    There are enormous differences in individuals. Some are genetically wired to resist heart disease, despite a "meaty" diet. Some detest vegetables and would rather die ten years younger than go through life with no pleasure in eating. There are many other variables. To suggest that this radical, one-plan-fits-all diet should become the propaganda du jour is ludicrous. The logical implication, of course, is that our school children need to be indoctrinated.

    August 25, 2011 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Veg Marathoner

      Speaking of school children, let's use them for my analogy: Some kids are "genetically wired" to get into top school despite not studying. Some detest school work and would rather pleasure themselves w/ TV and video games, darn the consequences. To suggest that all kids attend school and study is ludicrous. Right?

      Yes, genetics definitely play a role, along w/ other factors. But if you can tip the odds in your favor, wouldn't that be a worthwhile goal?

      August 27, 2011 at 03:38 | Report abuse |
  29. Carnivore

    What a crock this article is. The conclusions drawn from the China Study involve some seriously flawed science. The authors allowed themselved to use the data towards predetermined conclusions rather then analyzing the data to find what it actually told them.

    For some good commentary on The China Study and why Dr. Gupta's recommendations of eating no fat at all will actually increase your risk of heart disease, check out this article:


    Be sure to draw your own conclusions. Don't take my word for it. Think about this, though: Since the medical field started recommending low-fat diets to reduce heart disease and diabetes, the rates of both have actually increased. Is it really because we are stupid and can't follow instructions, or are the instructions bad?

    August 25, 2011 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Angel

      There's a huge difference between a low-fat whole food diet and eating Snackwells and other low fat processed foods, though. Most people in our culture who got on the low-fat wagon in the 80s and 90s are not eating whole foods. They are eating high-fructose corn syrup packaged in different ways to "mimic" food.

      August 25, 2011 at 17:59 | Report abuse |
    • Frank Dawson

      Dr. Gupta, I believe your heart is in the right place and your intentions are good. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say. Please familiarize yourself with Denise Minger's analysis of Campbell's China Study. She debunks his work and sheds much light on the truth:


      August 25, 2011 at 19:47 | Report abuse |
    • Carnivore

      @Angel, you're right that there is a large difference between eating whole vegetables and eating snackwells and carbohydrates as the main source of nutrients.

      I still do not believe that advising that society would be "heart attack proof" if everyone went vegan is irresponsible and irrational. There is simply not sufficient evidence that a vegan diet would have the same effect on all people.

      I think the key is reducing the sugar consumption of our culture, including grains. If you compare the rate of sugar consumption in our society to the heart disease rate, I'm sure you would see a much stronger correllation than you would comparing meat consumption and heart disease.

      I don't dislike vegetables, and I eat them at every meal. I especially like fresh raw veggies. However, I think villifying meat is a political choice, not a medical one. I have yet to see a study which convinces me that meat is the most responsible culprit for rates of heart disease. If you have one I would love to read it.

      August 26, 2011 at 10:02 | Report abuse |
    • Angel

      I never said that meat alone was the culprit, and I agree with you that the processed food is one of the biggest issues in overall health.

      Esselstyn, Ornish, McDougall, Fuhrman, and Barnard have long term results and many pee-reviewed works in credible publications that show that a whole food, low fat, plant based diet does improve cardiac health.

      August 26, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
  30. Spence

    Nothing with a mother or a face? You know they proved that plants feel pain a few years ago, so maybe we shouldn't eat them either. In fact, evidence supports that 0% of the non-eating population dies from heart disease.

    Sorry folks; tens of thousands of years eating meat > a few thousand years of eating vegetables.

    August 25, 2011 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tommyrock

      Where'd you get a statistic like that? Humans were eating plants before the Neolithic period. In fact evidence suggests that they ate more of that stuff than meat on a regular basis. Men were often less successful at killing game for a meal than women were at finding eatable fruits, vegetables and grains.

      August 25, 2011 at 18:29 | Report abuse |
    • Started Last Sunday

      Want to know what our ancestors ate? Go to the zoo and watch a gorilla.

      August 25, 2011 at 18:39 | Report abuse |
    • Veg Marathoner

      LOL...show me a plant that has a central nervous system or even a single neuron!

      Darn, why am I even replying to this moronic BS? There are well-informed comments from intelligent people expressing opposing points of views, and that's cool. And then there is "Spence."

      August 27, 2011 at 03:44 | Report abuse |
  31. wendy5

    i 100,000,000,000 percent agree

    August 25, 2011 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Tommyrock

    I eat very little meat and dairy and lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Still, even Paul McCartney underwent angioplasty last fall to clear some blockage. He's been veggie for decades.

    August 25, 2011 at 18:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • denutza

      Vegetarian isnt saying much..They still can eat french fries, dairy, etc. And are often

      If he were vegan, Id be much more complexed.

      August 25, 2011 at 18:38 | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      Actually, moron, that was a rumor that proved untrue. McCartney never had angioplasty.

      August 25, 2011 at 18:51 | Report abuse |
  33. denutza

    Im familiar with Dr. Esselstyn work...My one big question is why he nor anyone else
    has done a similiar study, but also include fat free meats like chicken breast, ham,
    and even include some fish.

    Theres a huge difference between meat loaded w/ saturated fat and 99% fat free.
    And its a heck of a lot easier to follow a diet based on it.

    August 25, 2011 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Veg Marathoner

      LOL, chicken breast, ham, and "some fish" are fat free? Are you in cahoots w/ Spence or something?

      August 27, 2011 at 03:47 | Report abuse |
  34. zoe

    Dr. Gupta, Isn't olive oil good for your heart? Plus – it's derived from olives... so why can't this be part of a plant based diet?

    August 25, 2011 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Angel

      The problem is the amount of fat that is healthy for you is far smaller than the amounts of concentrated oils we poor in pans, on food, and so on. You'd be better off eating olives, rather than the concentrated oils. The whole "healthy oil" marketing thing has led to no real change in habits, just a switch to a different oil.

      August 25, 2011 at 19:03 | Report abuse |
  35. christopher l booz

    dr. gupta as a doctor you are very instersting man adn i hope to be like you . my name is chris and as a high schooler stress can cause anmesia attack in th later life can that turn to a heart attack.

    August 25, 2011 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. BObthePrairieDog

    I LOVE vegans. I hope more people join them. When anarchy finally comes I will be rounding them up. All that corn fed, tender meat, should cook up real nice and tender. Ymmmm!

    August 25, 2011 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Bob

    Wait - I thought salmon was heart healthy, and olive oil was heart healthy? Now it's not? Or it is? Is not? Is?

    August 25, 2011 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. joe

    "AnotherL00k Interesting experience. I went veg 6 years ago, at the age of 20 as well, and I've put on about 40 pounds, mostly muscle. My benchpress has increased nearly 100 pounds"

    I don't believe it. I've been lifting weights for 20 years. There is no way on this planet that a vegan put 100lbs on his bench. No possible way. I don't care if you combined your incomplete veggie proteins to make complete proteins and ate 6 meals a day, you did not add 100lbs to your bench after becoming a vegan.

    What I read here are a lot of Vegans who are morally opposed to eating meat so they make up all kinds of lies to convince poeple to become vegans. I got suckered into the vegetarian lifestyle based on such claims. It's garbage. All anyone has to do is actually find a few real vegans and get to know them. They aren't big. They aren't strong. They aren't mentally sharper. They are almost without exception thin and light and scrawny. And for the most part they are quite odd although I'm not saying the vegan diet does that rather like religion it just attracts the weirdos.

    August 25, 2011 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Angel

      Somebody better call Kenneth Williams and tell him he's impossible. Call Rich Roll and Brendan Brazier, too.

      August 25, 2011 at 19:28 | Report abuse |
    • Duane

      I'll agree that vegans will tend to be lighter. I don't agree that translates into them being weaker. Look at all the fighters in the UFC who have taken up veganism. They aren't doing it to feel weaker, in fact most of them are reporting that they feel stronger and have more endurance than before.

      August 26, 2011 at 02:14 | Report abuse |
    • Veg Marathoner

      Two words: Robert Cheeke.

      Professional body-builder and looks every bit like one. Vegan since high school, before he began his body-building career. One heck of a great guy too...I've heard him speak in Boston and also seen him at the Seattle Vegfest.

      August 27, 2011 at 03:53 | Report abuse |
  39. John

    I like how my neighbor who was a lifelong vegan and fitness nut (marathon runner etc) died of cancer at 52, and my grandparents who smoke and drink and shove Big Mac's down their gullets every day are still around in their 80's.

    August 25, 2011 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Veg Marathoner

      John, meet Spence (see above). You guys are a match made in heaven!

      August 27, 2011 at 03:55 | Report abuse |
  40. Frank Dawson

    Dr. Gupta, I believe your heart is in the right place and your intentions are good. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say. Please familiarize yourself with Denise Minger's analysis of Campbell's China Study. She debunks his work and sheds much light on the truth:


    August 25, 2011 at 19:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Jeffrey

    All I know is, once bacon becomes a vegetable I'll be a vegetarian.

    August 25, 2011 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Frank Dawson

    If you want to help people with correct dietary and fitness advice, I suggest you read more about the Paleo movement. Try the following blogs to get started: Mark's Daily Apple, Archevore, or Free the Animal.

    August 25, 2011 at 19:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Dan

    What a load of propoganda garbage! Go read Good Calories, Bad Calories; The Paleo Solution, or the Primal Blueprint. Gupta's post is nonsense.

    August 25, 2011 at 20:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Veg Marathoner

      Paleo diet, LOL...so easy, even a caveman can do it, right? Want to audition for a future GEICO commercial?

      August 27, 2011 at 03:59 | Report abuse |
  44. huxley

    i wonder if its ok to eat fish or white meat, no skin chicken breast. Those are usually very low in saturated fats and cholesterol compared to red meat. I could live with a highly vegetable diet supplemented with some fish + white meat chicken diet easily. However, purely vegan diet i find harder to stomach.

    August 25, 2011 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Bluemoondrop

    I think everyone would be better off cutting the grains out of their diet than animal proteins. Our meat industry sells some pretty disgusting animals though, we can't eat GOOD meat every meal people. Less meat, healthier meat (healthier planet geeez), but I don't buy this no-animal nonsense =/ I'd like to, ethically, but I don't think that’s what is "right" for humans, biologically.

    August 25, 2011 at 20:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Mark

    When I start seeing studies saying Vegans live longer I'll go for it.

    August 25, 2011 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • VegHead

      Read Esselstyn's book on preventing and reversing heart disease–he's not lost a patient who stayed on his plan. Read Ornish's results. Read Neal Barnard's results (who, by the way Sweet Pee, has done some awesome work on diabetes and plant based, low fat diet). Joel Fuhrman. There is plenty of real patient-based study in the US that shows this works.

      Not into reading? Get Forks Over Knives and watch it.

      August 25, 2011 at 22:26 | Report abuse |
  47. RB

    Article for idiots by idiots.

    As mentioned above, read Good Calorie Bad Calorie or Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. Go to his website. Read Protein Power by Dr. Eades. Go to his website. Go to the website of Dr. William Davis out of Wisconsin. Read Mary Vernon. Read The Great Cholesterol Con by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick.

    Forget the garbage vegan nonsense you are reading. Truly make yourself healthy. Blood/Lipid test verifiably healthy. Keep eating your low fats and "good grains" and watch your triglycerides soar and your small particle LDL along with it.

    The quack TV doctor here should still consider himself uneducated when it comes to nutrition. Don't endanger your health by following this nonsense.

    August 25, 2011 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JB

      Yes! This article is spewing conventional wisdom that has no evidence to back it up.

      August 25, 2011 at 23:06 | Report abuse |
    • Stephanie

      Agreed. Also see The Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet. http://perfecthealthdiet.com/

      August 26, 2011 at 08:55 | Report abuse |
  48. sweet pee

    I notice you didn't mention diabetes much. A vegetarian diet is a hi carbohydrate diet. Hi carbohydrate diets are implicated as the primary source of diabetes which in turn leads to weight gain, nerve damage, gangrene, and heart attacks. My girlfriend and I both practice low carb diets to control our diabetes. Our numbers are in the high 90s to low hundreds. A vegan friend who is eating a normal healthy vegan diet has blood sugar numbers in the 400s which indicate significant chance of heart attack in a very short timeframe.

    Simple test if you doing okay on a vegetarian diet. Measure your blood sugar. If you are normal ranges (70-80 before meal, under 140 at +1 hour and 80-90 at two hours. If you are above that, you are heading for diabetes, probably brought about by the vegetarian diet.

    August 25, 2011 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • VegHead

      I'm curious what your vegan pal eats. You can eat bags of sugar and be vegan. As a diabetic, surely you know that eating brown rice is totally different on the glycemic index than if you eat white rice. Saying all grains are high in carbs is misleading and not really accurate when it comes to how grains and plant foods actually impact blood sugar.

      Simply put "real" food that hasn't been screwed with is the best thing to eat, no matter who you are.

      August 25, 2011 at 22:22 | Report abuse |
  49. JB

    I recommend that everyone reads Good Calories, Bad Calories. No other book on nutrition has shaken my knowledge and practices to the core. Basic premise: it is high-carb diets, and not high-fat diets, that are the source of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Read it, understand the science behind it, and be amazed!

    August 25, 2011 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Tom Hartman

    I see a lot of people who don't want to accept the verified results of heart patients who followed this diet lol

    August 26, 2011 at 00:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

August 2011
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