Esselstyn in May 2019
|Alma mater||Yale University (AB, 1956)|
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine (MD, 1961)
|Known for||Forks Over Knives|
|Children||Rip, Jane, Zeb, and Ted|
|Awards||Gold Medal, 1956 Olympic Games – Men's eight|
|Representing the United States|
|1956 Melbourne||Men's eight|
Esselstyn is the author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (2007), in which he argued for a low-fat, whole foods, plant-based diet that avoids all animal products and oils, as well as reducing or avoiding soybeans, nuts and avocados. The diet has been advocated by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Esselstyn was born in New York City in 1933. He graduated from Yale University in 1956 where he was a member of Skull and Bones. He also competed in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, winning a gold medal in the "eights" as a member of the American team.
Esselstyn received his M.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 1961. During this time he met and married Ann Crile, the granddaughter of George Washington Crile, founder of the Cleveland Clinic. Esselstyn was an intern (1961–62) and resident (1962–66) at that clinic. In 1968 he completed a tour as an Army surgeon in Vietnam where he was awarded the Bronze Star. Upon his return he rejoined the clinic and has served as the President of the Staff and as a member of its Board of Governors. He served as the President of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons in 1991. In 2000 he gave up his post at the Cleveland Clinic.
Esselstyn has served as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Nutrition Action magazine, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Esselstyn is also on the advisory board of Naked Food Magazine, for which he is also a regular contributor of articles espousing a plant-based diet.
Esselstyn promotes his diet with claims it can prevent coronary disease and cardiovascular disease. The diet excludes all animal products and oils and recommends foods such as fruits, vegetables, pasta, and especially cruciferous vegetables.
His work received media attention when former U.S. President Bill Clinton cited it, along with work by Dean Ornish and The China Study as the basis for his change of diet in 2010 and yet more in late 2011 when Clinton discussed his diet with CNN and other media outlets.
Harriet A. Hall has written that the claims made by Esselstyn are misleading and that the evidence on which it is based is "pretty skimpy". Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic said that his claims are unproven because there isn't data from rigorous clinical trials to support them.
In 2005 Esselstyn received the Benjamin Spock Award for Compassion in Medicine (he was the award's first recipient), and in 2009 the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Cleveland Clinic Alumni Association. In 2010 he received the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame Award.
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