Coconuts are for nuts only.

I Should Use Coconut Oil, Right?

By Anne Ledbetter, EdD November 21st, 2014 News21 Comments

A quick Internet search reveals that coconut oil must be a super healthy food. The health benefit claims include: increased endurance, reversing Alzheimer’s, stress relief, weight loss, bone strength, skin care and more. Of course coconut oil belongs on my healthful food shopping list, right? Not so fast.

Beyond what folks selling products want us to consider, some vegans and even plant-based foodies believe that using coconut oil has got to be healthy because after all, a coconut is a plant. In their natural unprocessed state coconuts, corn and olives are all plants. However, a serving of highly refined plant (even organic) oil is quite different than taking a bite of fleshy coconut meat, eating niblets of corn, or popping an olive in my mouth.

This explains why many science based, optimal health advocates such as Dr.’s T. Colin and Thomas M. Campbell, authors of The China Study use a more specific term a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet. WF takes the level of food processing into consideration. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, advocates a no oil WFPB diet and lifestyle.

Dr. Esselstyn’s mantra is “NO OIL!” How can he be so emphatic? Could it be that vegetable oils have absolutely no: fiber, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, or essential fats? Is it possible that a lot of calories and an abundance of saturated fat lurk in the fatty “healing elixir?” Maybe it’s because oil injures the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, the ‘gateway to vascular disease.’ Matthew Lederman MD, co-author of Keep It Simple Keep It Whole, strongly supports the no oil WFPB diet as well.

If interested in learning more about coconut oil, be sure to check out Dr. Ledermans’s article from our Plant Based Nutrition Certificate Program. Dr. Lederman describes medium chain fatty acids (MCFA’s) and “why vegetable oils are better used for lubricating vehicles and skin than consuming as food”.

Dr.’s Campbell, Esselstyn and Lederman are T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies faculty.

Image Credit: Alex Masters / Flickr


No Whey! Man

No Whey, Man. I’ll Pass on the Protein Powder

By Guest Author November 7th, 2014 The Wheys of Dairy & Casein123 Comments

For the past fifteen years, I have been closely involved with the bodybuilding industry. I have an intimate understanding of how the industry operates. In a nutshell, it is sustained by the supplement companies that sponsor the athletes who represent them. This in turn inspires fans who admire the athletes to purchase the products they represent, thus creating a cycle that drives record sales and profits, all the while potentially harming the health of many involved in the industry later on down the line.

Two of my favorite professional bodybuilders, Nasser El Sonbaty and Mike Matarazzo, recently died in their forties, likely from diet-related health issues. In all probability, their deaths were a result of too much protein consumption, coupled with the use of performance enhancing substances day after day until their organs failed. Now they’re gone. This is not a rare occurrence in bodybuilding. Though bodybuilders exercise more than the average person, the rate of bodybuilders suffering from diet-related health problems is often more common than the general American public falling ill to diet-related diseases. Clearly, there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

If there is one thing in the sport of bodybuilding that is as common as weight training, it is the use of supplements. No supplement is more widely consumed than protein powder. The powders of choice among mainstream bodybuilders are whey and casein, which are proteins derived from cow’s milk. In fact, these are the substances of choice for most protein powder consumers worldwide.
Athletes from all walks of life embrace the consumption of excess protein under the assumption that more is better. Many companies (and entire industries) have gone to great lengths to convince the public that they need to seek out high protein foods and consume as much protein as possible, without any consideration of the health consequences that accompany excess consumption. The focus on consuming large amounts of protein is so engrained in our culture, there are often warnings given out by friends and relatives of those following a plant-based diet that protein will be hard to come by without consuming animal products. That is another way protein supplements squeeze their way into the diets of citizens everywhere, through the unwarranted fear that we won’t get enough of this specific nutrient, suggesting whey and casein as plausible aids in this quest.

Years ago, I learned from Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s book, written with his son, Dr. Thomas Campbell, The China Study, that casein has the ability to turn on and turn off cancer growth simply by adjusting the level of intake of that protein. This was determined through years of clinical trials, experiments, and tests, which yielded these results, and are outlined in detail in Dr. Campbell’s research. His findings show that when casein is consumed in large quantities, cancer cells increase in size, and when there is a cessation in consumption of casein, cancer tumor cells recede.[1] I later learned that elevated levels of protein can also cause kidney damage, liver problems, kidney stones, excess fat gain, contribute to the damaging of the lining of artery walls, lead to plaque build up in arteries, result in lethargy, diminish bone density, and cause a host of other health problems. If this is truly the case, as it has been revealed by Dr. Campbell and numerous other world renowned experts who came to the same conclusions through experimentation, observation, and scientific research, why are these products consumed at such high levels? With their direct correlations to increased risk of disease, why is casein, which has been linked to illnesses such as prostate cancer, more than any other protein, allowed to be sold in stores? Why are these products even produced? After all, who needs them, besides calves?

If we have special protein powders created from cow’s milk for human consumption, it would only make sense that it must be because our society sees a very high rate of protein deficiency. But, that isn’t the case at all. In fact, a protein deficiency is almost unheard of in America and only exists in someone who does not consume adequate calories. The reason this is so, is because of the macronutrient make-up of food. Food is only made up of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and water (and sometimes alcohol). Some level of protein is present in all foods, and in significant quantities in specific types of foods such as beans and other legumes, nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, other vegetables and grains. The amount of protein required by the human body (5-10% of total calories per day) is relatively low in comparison to the other macronutrients. It is therefore impossible to be protein deficient when sufficient calories are consumed. This is how nature works. In reality, most people in developed countries, including those following a plant-based diet, eat too much protein, not the other way around.[2] We clearly don’t have a health or nutritional need for whey or casein protein powders, so why are they here, why are they so popular, so common, and why is their use so infrequently questioned?

Part of the answer lies in the world of bodybuilding and the magazines, books, websites, athletes, and other individuals that feed the industry. The community that I have been part of for so long is a key factor in keeping these antiquated ideas about protein alive. It is therefore my (and others’) mission to effectively dispel these myths by showing a healthier way to support fitness goals without the use of any substances that came from a cow’s udder. As a semi-retired bodybuilder and current health and wellness advocate and multi-sport athlete, I endorse a whole-food, plant-based diet for optimal results, even when bodybuilding. I aim to put the desire for elevated levels of protein to rest by showing how a relatively low protein, whole-food, plant-based diet can support all athletic endeavors effectively and efficiently. I have achieved great results as a plant-based athlete for the past two decades, and have sought to lead by example.

If health is your goal, clearly, your answer to cow-based protein powders should be, “No whey, man.” Let’s put this into perspective. If you had to buy a clearly labeled animal-derived fat powder and carbohydrate powder at the same time of purchase as a whey or casein protein powder, would you proceed with the purchase? Or would it seem so silly to get your required macronutrients from canisters of animal by-products, the cashier at the store would raise an eyebrow and question your sanity? Consider these questions the next time you think about buying powders made from cow secretions for proper nutrition. How about eating something from a garden instead? Not only is it a much healthier choice, but fresh produce is a lot more appetizing, too.


Campbell, T.C., Campbell, T.M. (2006). The China Study. Dallas, Texas: BenBella.
Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein? (2014). Retrieved from (link).
Guest Author Robert Cheeke
Robert Cheeke, bestselling author of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, and author of the new book, Shred It!, available on
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The Collapse of Cardiology

By Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D.

January 17, 20007 — Recent weeks have witnessed a collapse of the drugs and technology which form the present back bone of cardiology’s assault on the coronary artery disease epidemic. Is this a dark shadow over our cardiac health or could it be a time to rejoice?
Pfizer, in late December 2006 announced its long hoped for block- buster new drug Torcetrapib was killing more people in its test run than were dying in the control group. Pfizer had spent 800 million in developing this drug to raise HDL, “good” cholesterol and had openly forecast it would reap billions for the company once it came into production. But the research trial was clear and unequivocal with its results. Among 15,000 patients, 82 died taking Torcetrapib and 51 died taking a standard drug to lower cholesterol Additionally the Torcetrapib group experienced a greater number of cardiac events such as angina, heart failure, and a need for angioplasty. The independent monitoring group advised Pfizer to halt the trial and they complied. The unfathomable mysteries of human metabolism could not tolerate the assault of this drug. It was making vascular disease worse not better.

The double whammy for cardiology also developed in the second half of 2006. Reports from Europe in September 2006 indicated that patients utilizing the new drug eluting stents were suddenly having heart attacks and some were dying. While the number was small (0.5%), it was disturbing to cardiologists and remains frightening for patients.

When an artery to the heart is severely narrowed and causing symptoms cardiologists insert a balloon tipped catheter to the area of blockage and expand the balloon to widen the constriction. The benefit of this angioplasty is lost in 50% of patients because of recurrent constriction in 6 months. Placing a metal scaffold or stent improves the results to only 10% to 20% recurrent narrowing. Starting in 2003, stents were coated with a drug which diminished the rate of recurrent blockage after angioplasty. However, it is essential to maintain patients on an anti clotting drug for 6-12 months to prevent the stent from developing a clot or thrombosis. It now appears that after stopping the anti-clotting drug 1 in 200 or 0.5%or 5,000 nationwide and 10,000 persons worldwide will have a heart attack and 50% of these will die when the stent fails. These results have so upset cardiologists and the Federal Drug Administration that a national conference was called in December 2006 to review this disturbing news. Watching intently and participating were the stent manufacturers Johnson and Johnson and Boston Scientific. Billions of dollars are at stake.

Following testimony, experts contend that for patients with uncomplicated disease the benefits of the drug-coated stents outweighs the risks. For patients with more advanced or complicated disease patterns the outlook is less clear and more research data is required. What is clear is that everyone feels it may be necessary to prolong the period requiring the anti-clotting drug: Plavix from months to years or indefinitely. However Plavix is not without complications. It promotes bleeding, which may mean a gastrointestinal hemorrhage as well as easy bruising. The most desperate situations occur when a patient taking Plavix must stop it for dental work, hip or other major surgery and colonoscopy. Will they have a heart attack or die from a stent clot when Plavix is stopped? This scenario has occurred and is continuously encountered. It is as if a therapy for one disease now is painting patients into a corner from which they can not escape when other illnesses require surgical therapy.

This Gordian knot has lead leading cardiologists to question stent therapy.

Dr. Eric Topol, a member of the conference panel stated, “There’s a much more liberal use of angioplasty and stenting than there needs to be.”

The head cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente, Dr. Calvin L. Weisberger added, “A large pool of angioplasties and by pass surgery are being done with out scientific evidence.”

The hard science, which seems not to be prominent in all these discussions is that it is not the major blockages which are treated by angioplasty and stents which account for heart attacks. The small unstable juvenile arterial plaques are prone to rupture and cause over 85% of heart attacks, and they are not treated by angioplasty or by-pass surgery. Then why do cardiologists treat the blockages unlikely to cause the heart attacks? There is a lingering belief that somehow the patient will be improved by widening the opening, and there is the unspoken force of money – huge guaranteed money from doing these procedures.

Then there is the harshest critic of all- scientific research. Study after study indicates for most patients undergoing angioplasties and stents, there is no increase in survival and no decrease in heart attacks.

Why might this be a time to rejoice? The morbidity, mortality, expense and transient benefits of a high technology approach toward the coronary disease epidemic, has failed. It is time to realize that the answer to a faulty lifestyle epidemic is not drugs and technology – it is lifestyle. The epidemiologic evidence that coronary artery disease does not exist in cultures consuming plant-based nutrition is robust and overwhelming. There is clear evidence that cultures which switch from a plant based culture to a western diet develop an epidemic of coronary heart disease. Lewis Kuller, Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburg School of Public Health, based on his 10 year cardiovascular health study states “all males 65 years of age or older who have been exposed to the traditional western diet have cardiovascular disease and should be treated as such.

This toxic diet with its burden of animal protein, dairy, processed oils, white flour, sugar, and excess saturated and trans fats and free radicals marinates in our bodies injuring our delicate cellular matrix with every bite at every meal. Science shows us how this occurs. We depend mightily on the capacity of our endothelial cells, which comprise the single cell layer lining our arteries, to manufacture nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is the strongest vasodilator in the body. It causes blood vessels to enlarge, prevents blood flow from being sticky or sluggish, and inhibits arterial plaque formation.

The brachial artery tourniquet test quantifies the endothelial responses. The test requires an ultrasound measure of the diameter of the brachial artery below the elbow before and after an upper arm tourniquet stops blood flow to the forearm for 5 minutes. Normally when the cuff is released and the brachial artery ultrasound measurement is repeated the artery dilates or widens. This occurs from a healthy out pouring of nitric oxide from the endothelium. When volunteers consume cornflakes their brachial artery tourniquet test is normal. If they consume sausage, olive oil, or saturated fat they fail the test. The ingested fat so injures the endothelium that it cannot produce nitric oxide. Regular consumption of the toxic western menu is a cardiovascular disaster. The time is long overdue to challenge the failure of drugs and technology to stop the coronary disease epidemic.

The natural next question is can patients who have severe coronary artery disease arrest and reverse this disease by consuming a totally plant based diet?

Dr. Dean Ornish and this author have investigated this question through scientific peer reviewed study. Dr. Ornish reported his results at one year and again at 5 years. This author reported results at 5 years, 12 years and most recently at 21 years in a book for the public, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Avery /Penguin, February 2007. These studies indicate that fully compliant patients decrease the episodes of angina or eliminate them, decrease their cholesterol, decrease their weight, increase their exercise capacity, and arrest and selectively reverse their disease on follow up x-rays of the coronary arteries. Seeing these patients thrive beyond 20 years of initiating their plant-base therapy is the most powerful reason for wanting the cardiology community to embrace and utilize plant- based nutrition. There is no morbidity, mortality or added expense with plant-based nutrition and benefits endure and improve with the passage of time. Cardiologists say they doubt that patients will follow such a nutritional change. My experience in counseling hundreds of these patients indicates this concern is flatly not true. As a matter of fact, patients rejoice in the knowledge that they have become the locus of control over the disease that was destroying them and are distraught they were never told of this option by their cardiologist.

In summary, the dark shadow cast over cardiology, through failure of its miracle drug and the melt down of drug eluting stents with unforeseen clotting resulting in heart attacks and death should motivate us to look more closely at a proven therapy which is effective and endures and has the potential to eliminate the coronary heart disease epidemic, as well as other chronic western illness such as strokes, hypertension, adult onset diabetes, obesity, impotence and dementia.

Caldwell Esseltyn MD is a preventive cardiology consultant in the Department of General Surgery Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio, and the author of the forthcoming, “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” due out February 1, 2007.