|Born||August 29, 1915
|Died||February 21, 1985
Nathan Pritikin (August 29, 1915 – February 21, 1985) was an American nutritionist and longevity research pioneer.
Pritikin was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He attended the University of Chicago from 1933 to 1935 but did not achieve a degree. He became an inventor in the fields of chemistry, physics, and electronics in Chicago and Santa Barbara, California.
But his passion was nutrition and medicine. He would often sneak into medical conferences to hear physicians present their research. In the 1950s, he was diagnosed with heart disease. His doctors told him there was nothing he could do about it, which Nathan Pritikin questioned. He had read extensively about cultures throughout the world who lived virtually heart-disease-free lives, and he searched for what, if anything, these cultures had in common. One key common denominator was diet. These cultures tended to eat a diet rich in unrefined, naturally low-in-fat, naturally low-in-salt plant foods. So he created his own low-fat diet that was high in unrefined carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains, along with a moderate aerobic exercise regime. His dietary and exercise regime became known as "The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise" in a book co-authored by science writer Patrick M. McGrady, Jr., which stayed on the New York Times Bestseller List for 52 weeks and sold millions of copies.
When his own disease improved substantially, he established the Pritikin Longevity Center in 1976 and served as its director. Now called the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa, it offers controlled diet, counseling in lifestyle change and exercise in a resort/spa-type setting. Pritikin also served as chairman of the Pritikin Research Foundation.
In the early 1980s, he began to suffer severe pain and complications related to his decades-long fight with leukemia, which had been in remission for 27 years. He committed suicide on February 21, 1985.
The full context of his illness and end of life was described by Joe D Goldstrich, MD, on the blog of Dr. Michael Eades in the comment section of an unrelated posting on October 31, 2010.
"Concerning Pritikin: I worked with him in the 70s and 80s as the cardiologist and later medical director at the California Pritikin Longevity Center. He developed leukemia long before he began a low-fat diet. Interestingly, the leukemia was totally asymptomatic and in remission for over 20 years when he reluctantly saw a hematologist at UCLA. The hematologist was certain that Pritikin had hairy cell leukemia and that chemotherapy was indicated. Pritikin was convinced to take chemotherapy although it contradicted everything he believed and stood for. He had an extremely adverse reaction to the chemotherapeutic agent that included liver and kidney damage. He was quite thin to begin with and following the chemotherapy he lost about 30 pounds and appeared cadaveric. Pritikin traveled from California to a hospital in New York state under an assumed name for a second opinion. He was told that there was no hope and that he would most likely die quite soon. He said goodbye to his family and sent them out to eat dinner. He then severed both his brachial arteries with a scalpel and bled to death in his hospital bed. His autopsy was subsequently reported in the New England Journal (1985 Jul 4;313(1):52). His coronary arteries were perfectly clean despite his having had significant (and convincing to me, a pretty good clinical cardiologist) angina in the days before routine coronary angiography. Pritikin developed his diet initially to treat himself. His angina went away early on as he became a low-fat vegetarian. For all apparent purposes his diet served him well."
- Pritikin, Nathan and McGrady, Patrick M. (1979). The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise. Bantam. ISBN 978-0553271928
- Pritikin, Nathan (1981). The Pritikin Permanent Weight Loss Manual. Bantam. ISBN 0553204947
- -- (1983). The Pritikin Promise: 28 Days to a Longer, Healthier Life. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0671494476
- -- (1985). Diet for Runners: The High-Performance Diet that Gives You Supercharged Energy and Endurance ISBN 978-0671556235
- OAC/UCLA Document Archive - Nathan Pritikin Biography
- Today in Science History
- Nathan Pritikin: The Man Who Healed America's Heart (the Official Biography) by Tom Monte with Ilene Pritikin ISBN 0-87857-732-7
- Biography — Nathan Pritikin, Founder
- Soil and Health — Chapter Three Nathan Pritikin
- When His Health Deserted Him, Diet and Fitness Guru Nathan Pritikin Turned to Suicide, by Eleanor Hoover, People Magazine, March 11, 1985
- Martin, W (November 1991). "Nathan Pritikin and atheroma". Med. Hypotheses 36 (3): 181–2. doi:10.1016/0306-9877(91)90125-I. PMID 1787805.
- Hubbard, J D; Inkeles S, Barnard R J (July 1985). "Nathan Pritikin's heart". N. Engl. J. Med. 313 (1): 52. doi:10.1056/NEJM198507043130119. PMID 3889648.
- Nathan Pritikin papers - Online Archive California