Celebrating Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr.

Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. (affectionately known as "Essy") is a name synonymous with groundbreaking research in nutrition and heart health. His journey from an Olympic athlete to a leading physician and researcher has been marked by a relentless pursuit of knowledge and an unwavering commitment to improving human health. Let's take a moment to honor his incredible accomplishments, both professional and personal.

Medical Career and Research

Dr. Esselstyn began his illustrious medical career after graduating from Yale University and earning his medical degree from Western Reserve University. He was trained as a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and at St. George’s Hospital in London. He was awarded the Bronze Star as an Army surgeon in Vietnam.

Associated with the Cleveland Clinic since 1961, Dr. Esselstyn has chaired the Clinic’s Breast Cancer Task Force and headed its Section of Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery. He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

In 1991, Dr. Esselstyn organized the first National Conference on the Elimination of Coronary Artery Disease in Arizona. In 1997, he chaired a follow-up conference, the Summit on Cholesterol and Coronary Disease, which brought together more than 500 physicians and health-care workers in Florida.

In April, 2005, Dr. Esselstyn became the first recipient of the Benjamin Spock Award for Compassion in Medicine. 

Pioneering Plant-Based Nutrition

Twenty-three years ago, while chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Breast Cancer Task Force, Essy grew disappointed in the way he and his colleagues were treating cancer and heart disease. Relying on pills and procedures despite their side effects and risks, Dr. Esselstyn says he and his peers were doing “nothing to prevent disease in the next unsuspecting victim.” This was particularly frustrating given that research studies had already suggested an obvious culprit. The fatty American diet was, in all likelihood, responsible for heart disease and many Western cancers, which are infrequently seen in parts of the world where much less fat is consumed.

Targeting heart disease, Essy's experiment started at home. He and his wife, Ann Crile Esselstyn, adopted a plant-based diet, cutting out meat, fish, fowl, dairy, and oil. “It means a lot to patients to know their doctor is making the same changes they are,” he said. 

In 1995 he published his bench mark long-term nutritional research arresting and reversing coronary artery disease in severely ill patients. That same study was updated at 12 years and reviewed beyond twenty years in his book, "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease", making it one of the longest longitudinal studies of its type. In July of 2014 he reported the experience of 198 participants seriously ill with cardiovascular disease. During 3.7 years of follow up, there was a staggering 89% adherence to the program, of which—and even more incredible—99.4% avoided further major cardiac events.

Many attribute the success of Essy’s research study to the time and personal attention he devoted to the patients. He met with each patient every other week for the first five years of the study, every month thereafter. 

See full list of published articles HERE.


Olympic Athlete

Before his medical career took off, Dr. Esselstyn showcased his dedication and discipline as an athlete. He competed and won a gold medal in the 1956 Summer Olympics as the No. 6 oar, rowing for the United States, which is a testament to his perseverance and commitment to excellence in all areas of his life.

Family Man

Beyond his professional achievements, Dr. Esselstyn is a devoted family man. He and his wife, Ann, have been married for over 60 years and share a deep commitment to health and wellness. Together, they have raised four children, including Rip Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn, who have both followed in their father's footsteps as health advocates and authors. The Esselstyn family's collective efforts have had a lasting impact on public health and nutrition.

Advocate and Educator

Dr. Esselstyn's passion for health extends beyond his research and practice. He is a dedicated educator and advocate, tirelessly working to spread the message about the benefits of plant-based nutrition. He has given countless lectures, participated in documentaries, and engaged with communities around the world to promote healthier lifestyles.


Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's legacy is one of innovation, compassion, and transformative impact. His work has saved lives, inspired changes in dietary guidelines, and continues to influence the field of medicine. His dedication to his patients, his research, and his family serves as an inspiration to all.

As we celebrate Dr. Esselstyn's remarkable achievements, we are reminded of the profound difference one person can make through passion and an unwavering commitment to the well-being of others.

At PLANTSTRONG, everything we do—from creating delicious and convenient products to providing valuable support and resources—stems from Essy's groundbreaking research. We honor and celebrate Dr. Esselstyn's legacy every day by empowering individuals to achieve optimal health and well-being through the power of plants. His dedication inspires us to continue promoting a lifestyle that transforms lives and improves health worldwide.


Want to learn more from Dr. Esselstyn?

PLANTSTRONG Podcast Episodes:

How to Build an Endothelial Fortress

9 Ways a Plant-Based Diet can Reverse Cardiovascular Disease

2020: Father's Day Q & A 

Make Yourself Heart Attack Proof


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