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You Have More Influence Than You Realize

Many plant based eaters feel frustrated that their doctor, their spouse, their family, their friends, don’t share their plant based passion.  Below are two stories to make you realize that you have more influence than you think!

Dr. Michael Macknin, was the pediatrician for our daughter Jane’s three children. He was not plant based.  At every appointment he covered all his pediatric bases: “Are the kids in car seats? Are the batteries in your smoke detector?  Are your children drinking milk every day?” Three times a year, at each child’s wellness appointment, he asked these questions.

And three times a year Jane’s reply was the same, “You can remove that milk question from your list. We don’t feed our children cow’s milk. We give them oat milk or almond milk, not cow’s milk.”

Jane talked about plant based nutrition and about my husband’s work with heart disease at each visit.  Dr. Macknin listened and watched her children grow over the years: a daughter nearly 6 feet tall who won the Ohio High School state swimming 200 IM as a high school freshman and sophomore,  a 15 year old boy a fraction under 6’6,” and a 13 year old who excelled in everything.  Clearly no lack of milk in their diets.

Eventually, he attended one of my husband’s grand rounds at the Cleveland Clinic.

And then wonderful, open minded, open hearted, Dr. Macknin approached Jane, who is an RN  as well as recipe innovator, about working with him on a study for obese children with high cholesterol.

Jane, of course, was delighted and taught the nutrition and cooking classes to the plant based section of Dr. Macknin’s study. And as you can see from the summary of the study below, it was a roaring success!

Vegan diet benefits obese children, Cleveland Clinic study shows

  1. Michael Macknin led a study of obese children who were divided into two groups, and either fed a low-fat, no-oil vegan diet, or the American Heart Association recommended diet. Both groups lost weight. The kids eating the vegan diet, however, also showed significant improvements in systolic blood pressure, body mass index, total cholesterol, total low density lipoprotein (LDL, long referred to as “bad cholesterol”), c-reactive protein (another marker of inflammation), and insulin levels, compared to their baseline.

You can read the study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics February 2015.

This is a story for parents of all plant-based children because through their children and their own convictions, they can help improve the health of all children by teaching their pediatricians and any of their doctors the power of plant- based eating.  We all have more influence than we realize!

And another story that shows the power of an individual’s plant-based  convictions is Jim McNamara’s. Jim had a stroke when he was 55 along with a blocked right carotid artery. Around that time he noticed his left leg cramped when he walked and he’d have to stop to ease the pain. The pain became worse until he could hardly walk across the room and the cramping even woke him up at night leaving his left foot cold and tingling.  For relief he had to sit up and hang his leg over the side of the bed.

Finally 5 years after his original stroke when he found it too difficult to walk without pain, he went to the doctor.  They tried to put a stent in his leg but the blockage was so great they couldn’t do it and said they had to do a by pass in his leg.

However, before they could do a by pass, they had to clean out his left, partially blocked carotid artery. He was afraid but that went well. However, the by-pass in his leg failed. He was put on Coumadin and was told there was nothing else they could do.

About this time he went to his regular doctor who suggested from tests that it looked as if he had diabetes and should see a diabetic doctor.  At this point Jim said it was the lowest he has ever felt.

Then his wife, who had heard of my husband’s work, called him and the result: Jim and his wife came to one of my husband’s monthly 5 hour seminars at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.

Now 5 years plant based, Jim has lost 45 pounds, he walks 45 minutes a day, he is pain free, his psoriasis is gone, he has no toe tingling and no waking up at night, he is off Coumadin, his pre diabetic state is resolved, he is down to half of a half of his statins and plans to take himself off that last little bit with his doctor’s agreement if he meets his blood level goals. Which he is confident he will.

Best of all, Jim says, his wife is plant based, his daughter is plant based, his grand children are plant based, his brother –in law and sister in law are plant based and her 82 year old mother is off her diabetic medications. His brother in law commented:  “I’m glad you went through what you have because I sure feel good now.”

Monthly Jim shares his story at my husband’s Cardiovascular Prevention and Reversal seminars at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute to an absolutely rapt audience.

But all of the above is not what makes Jim feel so moved as a letter he received from his 34 year old nephew, who he hadn’t seen since attending his wedding four years earlier.  It is difficult for Jim to read the letter without choking up:


Uncle Jimmy,

I hope you are doing well!  I wanted to thank you because of the strength and success that you have had with your health.  Because of you, my recent news has been turned into a positive experience.  I was diagnosed as diabetic.  Rather than fear or anxiety or sadness, I have attacked it head on with diet and exercise.  Using a similar diet as you, the doctor is amazed.  I have avoided becoming reliant on drugs, something I think my doctor was resigned to.

So instead of drugs, my prescription is vegetables!

I just wanted you to know what an amazing role model you have been.

Thank you!



Jim’s comment: “That tingling in my toes makes it all worthwhile. You just don’t know who you touch.”

So for all of you, who may feel alone or frustrated that the people you care about aren’t with you, have confidence that you are sending a powerful message of the power of whole food plant based nutrition, and people you would never imagine are listening.

Ann Crile Esselstyn

Dr. Esselstyn Presentation About Reversing Cardiovascular Disease with Nutrition

“Just A Little” Can Kill You.

by Jeff Nelson

How strictly do you need to follow the recommendations of Dr. Esselstyn or Dr. McDougall to get protection from heart disease? 

Well, when my father was in his early 80s, he had chest pains due to arterial blockages, and he had a couple stents put in. It scared him and he spoke on the phone with both Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. John McDougall, and decided to go onto a lowfat plant-based program. He ate pretty clean and managed to get his numbers down and to get off cholestrol-lowering and other heart medications they had put him on.

For a few years he ate a pretty tight diet. But as time went on, when I’d visit my folks, I’d see that they weren’t really adhering to the lowfat plant-based diet as much as I thought they should. I saw peanut butter, sometimes my dad would eat something oily if they went out, or eat something at a friend’s dinner party he absolutely should have avoided. I told my mom to ditch the vegan mayo that I found in their fridge at one point.

When my dad was about 87, one day he started having chest pains, went to the hospital, and while sitting there talking with the ER doc — he had a major heart attack. Left anterior descending, aka the “widow maker.” His heart stopped and was restarted with the paddles. Because he was in the ER and 50 feet away from a cath lab when he had the heart attack, he survived. They rushed him in and ballooned the blockage, did a lot of miraculous stuff and he survived.

The cardiologist told him after that he shouldn’t have survived and would not have survived if he hadn’t been at the ER when it hit.

Before he left the hospital, my dad was also diagnosed with Atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) and they wanted to put him on a blood thinner like Warfarin (Coumadin). But my dad refused the blood thinner. (He had fallen a couple of times including hitting his head because he had post-polio syndrome which caused muscle weakness, and he didn’t want to fall and bleed to death, which coumadin can cause.)

After he got out of the hospital, this time my dad decided he had to go 100% with the diet. My parents hired someone to cook for them, and strictly followed Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. McDougall recipes (he selected recipes from their books and emailed the cook, she had the same books, and would cook a few days worth of food and drop it off a couple times a week).

Because this heart attack had been a huge thing which almost took him out, this time my dad didn’t deviate much or just “try to do his best” with the diet. He was determined 100% to not have heart problems again so he didn’t screw around with fake mayo or peanut butter or guacamole or any of the foods Dr. Esselstyn says to look out for.

The result was that my dad got off heart meds again, and he never had another heart problem for the rest of his life, which was more than 5 years. He died last year at age 93 from post polio syndrome (he’d had polio in the 1950s, had a complete recovery, then had it start to come back in the past decade, and became increasingly weak toward the end).

So what I took from my dad’s experience with diet, is that he had heart disease. Pretty serious heart disease, but probably also pretty typical. A lot of my parents’ friends, probably a majority of them, have died from heart disease. When my dad went on the Esselstyn/McDougall diet the first time (after the scare but before the big heart attack), he went on it full blast at first, then continued on it “mostly.” He got great results initially, then apparently felt things were okay and loosened it up some. He felt he could deviate from time to time, have more fat here and there than was recommended, like with fake mayo or a peanut butter sandwich or a rich meal at a restaurant. And he thought he had the heart disease at bay eating this way — but he didn’t. He had been very sick when he had his first episode when he got stents, blocked arteries, but his “mostly Esselstyn” diet didn’t end up protecting him. He ended up having that massive heart attack that would have killed him, if he hadn’t been lucky enough to be in a hospital.

But when he survived that major heart attack, he had really found religion and realized that doing the Esselstyn diet “mostly” wouldn’t protect him from dying of heart disease. When he got that second chance, he went all the way. And never had a heart problem in the next five years.

And my mom, once they had someone cooking and they were both only eating 100% McDougall and Esselstyn recipes, she lost a chunk of weight in this more dedicated “second phase” of eating this way. That told me they had finally “got it” because when you eat a clean, no-cheat Esselstyn or McDougall, you generally do lose weight if you have weight to lose, whereas if you’re adding the occasional oil/mayo/rich restaurant dinner/too much avocado and so on, of their “mostly” diet, she hadn’t lost much weight.

If you have had a brush with heart disease, or have a family history of it and have started following  Dr. Esselstyn or Dr. McDougall’s programs to combat the disease, my advice is to really follow the program, not “mostly.” Mostly can let you still die from heart disease, like my dad almost did.

I don’t mean that someone can NEVER have a piece of some treat or other on some special occasion, but that the “mostly” diet of going 80 or 90 or even 95% — may not protect you from heart disease as much as you need.

Cardiologist Explains: “The Number 1 Rule I Live By”

Thursday, July 9 – Ann and Jane Esselstyn on the Dr. Don Show

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Listen to the show on radio 3-4pm pst (6pm to 7pm est), M-F, on 1230 am, KAAA in Kingman and 1490 am, KZZZ in the Bullhead/Tri-State area.

The Dr. Don’s Show website and podcast archives (past shows soon to be available within a week of original broadcast):

FREE 2 and 1/4 hour course from Cleveland Clinic featuring Dr. Esselstyn

Faculty: Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD
Length: 15 minutes

Faculty: Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD
Length: 45 minutes

Faculty: Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD
Length: 45 minutes

Faculty: Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD
Length: 30 minutes

Vegan diet benefits obese children, Cleveland Clinic study shows — With Comment from Ann Esselstyn

Click here to read a remarkable story about this study.

Dr. Esselstyn on New US Cholesterol Guidelines

Click here to read Dr. Esselstyn’s comment.

An Evening with the Esselstyns

Watch — An Evening with the Esselstyns — 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Dr. Esselstyn appeared in Natural Awakenings Magazine

Click here to read full article.

Dr. Esselstyn Appeared in Chicago Tribune

Click here to read full article.




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