Physician Profile: Robert Ostfeld, M.D., MSc.

This physician profile is republished from the Spring 2015 edition of Good Medicine. Dr. Ostfeld will be presenting on a panel at our upcoming conference on the topic of nutrition in clinical practice. To learn more or register for the International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine: Cardiovascular Disease, visit


Robert Ostfeld, M.D., MSc., director of the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y., and associate professor of clinical medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, will be among the leading physicians and researchers speaking at the Physicians Committee’s International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine: Cardiovascular Disease on July 31 to Aug. 1, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

In this Good Medicine exclusive, Dr. Ostfeld answers questions about the state of heart disease and tips for preventing it.

What is the one thing someone can do today to improve their heart health?

When you go to the supermarket, I suggest you walk straight to the produce aisle. Select whole foods from the sea of green, red, yellow and orange. In my 11-plus years as a practicing cardiologist, outside of emergency surgery for a life threatening problem, I have never seen anything come close to providing the breadth and depth of benefits that eating a whole-food, plant-based diet does. When you eat this way, you bathe your body in nutrients. It is good for your heart, and it may prevent or improve dozens of other medical problems and make you healthier, every second of every day. Give your body the proper fuel and watch it flourish.

If there were a single pill that could improve heart disease, your complexion, erectile function, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, cancer, inflammatory diseases and other problems, would you be interested? It appears that it already exists, in your produce aisle.

What do you think is the No. 1 cause of the escalating heart disease epidemic?

I believe the No. 1 cause of the escalating heart disease epidemic is our toxic Western diet. Across the globe, populations that eat more of a plant-based diet have better health; whereas those that eat more of an animal-based diet do not.1 Accordingly, pathology studies have demonstrated that 65 percent of teenagers in the United States have early signs of cholesterol disease in the blood vessels that feed their hearts with blood.2 And it only gets worse. Heart and blood vessel disease is the No. 1 cause of death for both adult men and women in the United States.3

When we are born, our bodies are turbo engines. A bunch of animal products and processed foods later, we turn our bodies into clunkers. The good news, however, is that it is never too early to live more healthfully, and it is never too late. I have multiple patients in their 70s and beyond who have switched to a whole-food, plant-based diet and have seen profound improvements in their health. You can too!

  1. Esselstyn CB. Is the present therapy for coronary artery disease the radical mastectomy of the twenty-first century? Am J Cardiol. 2010;106:902-904.
  2. Stary HC. Evolution and progression of atherosclerotic lesions in coronary arteries of children and young adults.Arteriosclerosis. 1989;9(1 Suppl):I19-32.
  3. Murphy SL, Xu J, Kochanek KD. Deaths: Deaths: final data for 2010. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2013;61:1-117.


Thirty Years of Better Nutrition, Improved Research

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine was founded by Neal Barnard, M.D., on April 16, 1985.

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Physicians Committee, I would like to announce the opening of the Barnard Medical Center in the fall of 2015.

After years of campaigns to boost nutrition and ethical research standards across the country, we’re looking forward to branching out within our local Washington, D.C. community. The Physicians Committee’s dietitians, doctors, volunteers, and Food for Life instructors have worked together over the years on everything from nutrition classes to clinical research studies held at our office. Now, we’re adding patient care to our roster.

The Barnard Medical Center will be located in the Friendship Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C. We’ve hired several new staff members—including physicians, a nurse practitioner, and dietitians—and a few additional positions are still open.

Working with individuals one-on-one is a natural and exciting extension of our work to change national nutrition policies on using diet for disease prevention. Not only will we continue to lobby on Capitol Hill and launch nutrition programs in school cafeterias, we’ll also help individuals transform their lives in the doctor’s office!

Like the Barnard Medical Center on Facebook to stay up-to-date on the latest news and information!

Note: Barnard Medical Center is not yet scheduling appointments. If you are a member of the Physicians Committee or receive our free online community newsletters, you will be notified when we begin scheduling appointments!


2015 Dietary Guidelines: Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peas

Earlier this year, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released its recommendations. These recommendations are currently under federal review, with a modified version passing into law later in the year. The comment period—in which medical professionals, food industry representatives, and concerned citizens submit their feedback regarding the recommendations—ends this Friday. This is our last chance to make our voices heard!


In a previous blog, I broke down the basic good and bad points made in the report. But let’s take a look at some of the broader cultural implications:

Lean Meat

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has officially removed its recommendation for Americans to eat lean meat, and solid scientific evidence shows that people who avoid meat are healthier than those who consume it. There is a mounting body of research showing the ill-effects of meat consumption.

Saturated Fat

Saturated fat also took a big hit. At the Physicians Committee, we agree with the Committee’s recommendation to reduce saturated fat consumption, due to the harmful impact on heart health and other diseases. Nearly 90 percent of Americans consume more than the recommended daily limit of saturated fat and added sugar.


Unfortunately, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee erred in reversing the prior recommendation to limit dietary cholesterol. Physicians Committee doctors have been making a strong case for adjusting the 2015 guidelines to limit cholesterol—and why cholesterol is still a nutrient of concern.

Decades of scientific study have linked dietary cholesterol to cardiovascular disease, our country’s number-one cause of death, killing nearly 2,200 Americans daily.Telling Americans that “cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption” is likely to encourage consumption of meat, dairy products, and eggs—foods high in dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. Meat and dairy products are strongly linked to our country’s deadliest epidemics: obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Not only are chronic disease rates rising, but they’re being seen in younger and younger patients.

Let your voice be heard and help keep cholesterol warnings in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines! Submit your comments by Friday, May 8.