BIOGRAPHY: Larry Scherwitz, PhD

In a research career spanning more than 40 years, Larry Scherwitz, Ph.D.’s remarkable record as a behavioral medicine scientist includes long-time collaboration with Dean Ornish, M.D. on Ornish’s lifestyle program for reversing heart disease through diet, stress management, exercise, and social support. For more than 18 years, Scherwitz was Director of Research and Co-Principal Investigator on the revolutionary lifestyle program, which showed heart disease can be reversed through lifestyle along—without drugs or surgery. Originally called the Lifestyle Heart Trial (LHT), the research results of this first-of-its-kind heart disease reversal program have been published in prestigious medical journals from The Lancet to the Journal of the American Medical Association, and covered in lay publications from The New York Times to Time.

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Scherwitz continued research on Lifestyle Medicine as Principal Investigator on the European Lifestyle Heart Trial (ELHT) at two major medical clinics in Europe: a 350-bed cardiovascular clinic in Germany, and a 1,000-bed clinic in Holland. In this capacity, he trained interdisciplinary medical teams to administer the Ornish reversal program to heart patients. A certified Integral Yoga instructor, Scherwitz further contributed to the treatment of European heart patients by teaching them stress management skills, a key component of the Ornish heart disease reversal program.

Continuing to make pioneering contributions to the fields of heart disease and behavioral medicine, Scherwitz turned to his own trailblazing research, which revealed a newly identified risk factor for coronary heart disease: self-involvement—as measured by excessive use of the pronouns “I,” “me,” “my,” and “mine.” Not only did those who self-referenced the most develop heart disease, if they had a heart attack, they were more likely to die from it. While pursuing his self-involvement research, Scherwitz collaborated with Type A Behavior co-founders Ray Rosenman, M.D. and Meyer Friedman, M.D. at UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion in San Francisco.

Scherwitz’s research on self-involvement was honored when he was selected to be one of 20 scientists to present his findings to His Holiness the Dalai Lama at a special conference at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medicine Center in New York City. His pioneering, landmark research linking self-involvement to heart disease has been featured in popular publications ranging from New York Times health columnist Jane Brody’s “Personal Health” column, Time, and Newsweek to USA Today, Psychology Today, chapters in books by the Dalai Lama, and more. Psychosomatic Medicine is a sampling of medical journals in which his self-involvement research has been published.

In addition to his groundbreaking research on heart disease and research collaboration with Dr. Ornish—which continues today, Scherwitz has overseen multi-million dollar grants and research on psychosocial risk factors and heart disease, funded by the National Institutes of Health, while he was Assistant Professor at the University of California at San Francisco. He also directed cardiovascular research on major, nationwide population projects, including the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT), the Western Collaborative Group Study (WCGS), and the Coronary Artery Disease Study in Young Adults (CADSYA).

More recently, Scherwitz was Co-Principal Investigator, with Principal Investigator, Deborah Kesten, MPH, on 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, Scherwitz and Kesten’s research revealed it is a viable model for obtaining and maintaining weight loss (Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 2015; Explore: The Journal for Science & Healing, 2005), while others’ research on WPIE showed it to be an effective treatment for type 2 diabetes.

During his career, Scherwitz has published several research and lay articles on Lifestyle Medicine and behavioral/mind-body research in prestigious publications ranging from the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology to The Lancet, the American Journal of Epidemiology, and Psychosomatic Medicine. Lay publications from Newsweek and the New York Times to Psychology Today have written about his work. He has also co-authored two books based on cutting-edge research about timely topics: Make Weight Loss Last is based on Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE), a comprehensive, evidence-based, optimal eating program for treating overeating, overweight, and obesity; while Pottenger’s Prophecy: How Food Resets Genes for Wellness or Illness shows people how to re-create their health destiny based on the emerging field of epigenetics. As co-creator of the website, Scherwitz collaborates on articles, quizzes, and comprehensive programs for overcoming overeating, overweight, and obesity.

Scherwitz received his doctorate in Social Psychology from the University of Texas, Austin, and trained in psychophysiology at Harvard Medical School. He is married to Deborah Kesten, a nutrition researcher and award-winning author who has also been an adjunct professor and nutrition columnist.