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Pritikin Diet Program

The Pritikin program is a famous diet and philosophy of health developed by Nathan Pritikin. In the minds of many people, the Pritikin Program is imagined to be a Spartan, no-frills, uninteresting, and-worst of all-unpalatable diet. The Pritikin Program is also thought of as a "last resort" program that participants join because they have no other choices left.

It is true that for people living and eating the way most Westerners do, the Pritikin Program might seem to be the hardest thing they've ever done. But this is because most Westerners live and eat in a way that is far from natural.

The Diet: The Pritikin Program preceded and is remarkably similar to the Ornish program, developed by Dean Ornish, M.D., and is similar to any healthy diet-being low in refined carbohydrates (sugar) but high in unrefined carbohydrates, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. These diets also exclude almost all processed grains, animal protein, eggs, and fat.

There are two reasons why Pritikin believed that the diet should be limited in the amounts of animal protein, fat, and refined carbohydrates it contains. First, these foods contain components that can be harmful, such as saturated fat. Second, eating these foods takes the place of healthier foods.

For decades, doctors and researchers have warned that the diets common to Western countries are more likely to contribute to artherosclerosis, diabetes, and cancer compared to the diets of indigenous peoples. Native diets are naturally rich in complex or unrefined carbohydrates and typically lower in animal protein, fat, and sugar.

The Pritikin Program is not necessarily a weight loss diet; however, most people involved in the program tend to lose weight (the average is 13 pounds during the first month). In addition, the Pritikin Program lowers cholesterol or triglyceride levels. For example, in the first month of the program, cholesterol levels often drop dramatically, such as from 235 to 175 mg/dl (from 6.1 to 4.5 mmol/liter). Similarly, triglycerides levels can drop from 174 to 130 mg/dl (2.0 to 1.5 mmol/liter).

The Pritikin Program is not a fad diet; it is a lifestyle modification program with the goal of reversing a lifetime of bad habits. The Pritikin Program is outlined in many books, including The Pritikin Program for Diet & Exercise and The Pritikin Permanent Weight-Loss Manual. Both of these books contain comprehensive explanations about the program for both the layman and professional. Both books also contain simple yet effective programs for daily exercise. The books also have the weight-loss program tiered for those who want to lose weight more or less rapidly. Finally, both books contain dozens of recipes that prove that the Pritikin Program does not always need to be dull, uninteresting, or unpalatable.

Numerous studies in the past few years have proven the safety and effectiveness of the Pritikin approach. Hundreds of other studies demonstrate the correlation between high-fat diets and degenerative disease, as well as the correlation between high-fiber diets and good health. Many colon problems have been treated with high fiber diets, including Crohn's disease. In one study, thirty-two patients were fed a fiber-rich, unrefined carbohydrate diet for a period of four years. Another group of thirty-two did not eat the fiber-rich diet. The fiber-rich group spent only 20% as many days in the hospital and required surgery only 20% as often as the control group.1

The correlation between high cholesterol and the risk of heart disease is well documented. Also well documented is the use of high-fiber diets to lower cholesterol. 


1. Heaton KW et al. Treatment of Crohn's disease with an unrefined carbohydrate, fibre-rich diet. BMJ 1979;2:764-66.

Copyright 1999 Healthnotes, Inc.

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Authors of the best-selling book The Natural Pharmacy

The information presented in from  Healthnotes Online and is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over-the-counter medication is also available. Consult your physician, nutritionally oriented healthcare practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications.

Book:  New Pritikin Program


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