The image of rough and tough firefighters swapping war stories over tofu burgers and steamed greens may seem alarming, but for members of Firehouse 2 in Austin Texas it's vegan or bust. Deborah Bluementhal of The New York Times explains what prompted these "dinosaurs" to abandon their carnivorous ways:
A routine cholesterol test left Specialist Rae, 37, shaken. The American Heart Association ranks anyone with a level of 240 or more high risk; Specialist Rae's hit 344.
"I was floored, scared," he said. "I had no clue."
Spooked by the outcome of his test. Specialist Rae asked fellow Firefighter Esselstyn for advice. Esselstyn, 43, a former professional triathlete explained that meat isn't necessary for optimal health. Esselstyn a vegan had good reason to make his claim:
Firefighter Esselstyn knew through his father's work that a strict vegan diet would help. His father, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., had been a general surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and still conducts research there.
Dr. Esselstyn's 12-year trial with patients with what looked like terminal heart disease showed that a very-low-fat, plant-based diet with cholesterol-lowering medicine could bring striking improvement.
Heart disease "never need exist," Dr. Esselstyn said, but if it does, "it never need progress."
How could someone with a bad ticker drag me out, Esselstyn explains. This concern attracted other members of Engine 2 to veganism as well. The switch seems to be working. Recently Specialist Rae achieved a cholesterol score of under 200.
Austin is taking notice of their herbivorous firemen. Shouting terms of endearment as the red engine drives by. A local eatery even named a sandwich after them, "The Engine 2 Veggie Sandwich." They even have their own goofy website promoting their diet, with links to several articles about their efforts.
You might recognize the name of one of the firefighters. Firefighter Esselstyn's father Caldwell B. Esslestyn Jr., M.D. is a leading advocate of a consuming a vegetable-based diet to prevent and reverse heart disease. Dr. Esseltyn's work has been discussed here before. To learn more about his research click here, or check Dr. Fuhrman's book Cholesterol Protection For Life.