"The Engine 2 Diet" reviewed by a Dietitian

Jim WhiteThe Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan That Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds
By Rip Esselstyn
Wellness Central (2009)

Reviewed by Jim White, RD, ACSM/HFI


Written by Austin firefighter and former professional tri-athlete Rip Esselstyn, this plan focuses on lowering total cholesterol and LDLs (called “lethal cholesterol”) while improving HDL (or“healthy cholesterol”) through a plant-based diet. Weight loss is the inevitable result from a lowfat, high-fiber diet.

Diet Plan:

This book recommends readers keep a plant-based diet of whole grains, vegetables, fruits,legumes, tofu and soy products while “abstaining from all animal-based products and refined foods” — and the author does mean ALL. In short, this is a vegan diet. The 28 days are broken into weeks in which the reader progressively purges from his or her diet processed foods, dairy, meats, eggs and oil (including olive and canola oils). For those readers who may need to “wean themselves off of unhealthy foods,” there is a modified Fire Cadet version. The book includes a weekly menu planner and more than 100 pages of recipes; lists of “E2-Approved foods” with brand names; a particularly good chapter on nutrition label reading as well as an exercise program with directions and photographs.

Nutritional Pros and Cons:

The author appropriately addresses the seriousness of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes and correctly points to some lifestyle choices that can lead to them. However, the Engine 2 Diet recommends the following macronutrient configuration:

Protein: 2 ½ percent to 6 percent
Fat: 9 percent to 15 percent
Carb: plant-based carbohydrates make up the rest of the diet (75 percent)

This extremely low fat intake would explain why the pounds “burn away” and the protein recommendations are well below 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommendations of 10 percent to 35 percent. The author also suggests a direct cause/effect of eating dairy products and Type 1 diabetes, which has not been proven. Nonetheless, he acknowledges eliminating the dairy food group may cause a decrease in calcium and addresses this by recommending plant-based foods that are good sources of this important nutrient. He promises the reader the palate will change over the course of the month so the desire for the unhealthy foods will decline, which may be optimistic.

Bottom Line:

I would recommend the book as a resource for vegetarians who are looking for interesting recipes, to a vegetarian wanting to progress to a vegan diet or to a self-proclaimed food “purist” wanting to decrease serum cholesterol with radical dietary changes to avoid the use of statins. The claim to decrease cholesterol and pounds if all the recommendations are followed is a foregone conclusion…but that is a big if because it will be difficult for the average reader to successfully sustain such extreme dietary changes. But the author’s friendly, positive and emphatic approach may motivate readers to take a stern look at their food intake and try to at least incorporate some plant-based meals into their diets.


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