Profession & Organization

  • International nutrition researcher
  • Award-winning author and health journalist

Deborah Kesten, MPH


Deborah Kesten, MPH, is an international nutrition researcher, award-winning author, and health journalist, specializing in preventing, managing, and reversing overeating, overweight, and obesity, heart disease, and other chronic conditions through diet and other components of Lifestyle Medicine. While in graduate school, Kesten was Nutrition Specialist on pioneering physician and author Dean Ornish, M.D.’s first clinical trial for reversing heart disease (called the Lifestyle Heart Trial), whose groundbreaking research was the first to show that heart disease can be reversed through lifestyle changes alone; the results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, on which Kesten is a coauthor.

Continuing her interest in the Ornish heart disease reversal program—in collaboration with Larry Scherwitz, PhD, Director of Research for more than 18 years on Dr. Ornish’s heart disease reversal program (and Kesten’s husband)—Kesten was Director of Nutrition on the European Lifestyle Heart Trail at cardiovascular clinics in Germany and Holland. In this capacity, she trained health care professionals and the lay public to follow the program’s dietary guidelines. After returning to the States, Kesten wrote the award-winning Feeding the Body, Nourishing the Soul (White River Press), recipient of the 1998 Independent Publishers’ Book Award in the Spirituality category; and other groundbreaking books such as The Healing Secrets of Food; and the more recent Make Weight Loss Last.

More recently, Kesten developed the evidence-based, pioneering, Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE) model and program, based on an integration of ancient food wisdom from world religions and cultural traditions with state-of-the-art Western nutritional science. Applying WPIE to overeating, overweight, and obesity, Kesten’s published research (Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, 2015; Explore: The Journal for Science & Healing, 2005) revealed WPIE as a viable “whole person” treatment program for obtaining and maintaining weight loss, while others’ research on WPIE showed it to be an effective treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Kesten has taught her Whole Person Integrative Eating program at California Pacific Medical Center’s Institute for Health and Healing in San Francisco; lectured about, and conducted research on, WPIE at San Francisco State University; and presented at forums and universities, such as the Integrative Medicine Forum at the University of California at San Francisco and Duke University. Kesten and her work have been featured in a plethora of print media, from Yoga Journal, Health, Veggie Life and Self magazines to Mind/Body Medical Journal and Spirituality and Health magazine, for which she wrote “The Enlightened Diet” column for two years. National electronic media coverage includes PBS’ Thinking Allowed, New Dimensions radio, and more.

As a health journalist and nutrition columnist, Kesten has authored five books, and published more than 400 articles, blogs, and columns on a multitude of nutrition, health, and prevention topics. Her honors include being selected as a “healer for the new millennium” by Healthy Living magazine, and presenting to the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy at a town meeting in San Francisco. She has focused her community service on the American Heart Association, San Francisco chapter, where she served on its Executive Committee, Board of Directors, and Communications Committee. Kesten has a master’s degree in public health (MPH) and is a magna cum laude graduate with a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Health Sciences. She is married to research scientist Larry Scherwitz, PhD, who specializes in Lifestyle Medicine and Behavioral Medicine.

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