Nathan Pritikin

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Nathan Pritikin
Born(1915-08-28)August 28, 1915
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedFebruary 21, 1985(1985-02-21) (aged 69)
Albany, New York
SpouseIlene (1923–2009)
Children4 sons, 1 daughter

Nathan Pritikin (August 29, 1915 – February 21, 1985) was an American inventor, engineer, nutritionist and longevity researcher.[1][2] He promoted the Pritikin diet, a high-carbohydrate low-fat diet combined with regular aerobic exercise.


The eldest son born to Jacob and Ester, Pritikin was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, he was given a scholarship to the University of Chicago and attended from 1933 to 1935, dropping out because of the Depression and starting his own business Flash Foto.[3] He became an inventor and a millionaire developing patents for companies such as Honeywell, General Electric and Bendix[3] while living in Chicago. He later moved the company to Santa Barbara, California in the 1950s. Pritikin retired in 1966 and devoted his attention solely to longevity institute.

Pritikin Diet[edit]

After being diagnosed with ischemic posterior wall heart disease in 1957 via an abnormal ECG and stress test combined with elevated cholesterol,[1][2] he began searching for a treatment. Based on studies indicating that people in primitive cultures with primarily vegetarian lifestyles had little history of heart disease and western cancers,[4] and medical data available during WW2 detailing rates of disease in various countries he created a low-fat diet that was high in unrefined carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, small amounts of lean meat and low-fat dairy products along with a moderate aerobic exercise regime.[5] His dietary and exercise regime is called the Pritikin Diet.[6]

The Pritikin diet is low in cholesterol and sodium and in total is 5-10% fat, 10-15% protein and 80% carbohydrate.[7] Protein consumption is limited to 3.5 ounces of lean meat daily which reduces total cholesterol and fat intake.[7] Pritikin promoted his diet to prevent and treat atherosclerosis, diabetes, gout, high-blood pressure and other diseases.[8] The American Medical Association have questioned the effectiveness of the diet for the diseases it is supposed to prevent and have warned that the low calcium and iron intake may make it unsuitable for pregnant women.[8]


Pritikin was diagnosed with leukemia in 1958, and it had been in remission until early 1980s when he began to suffer severe pain and complications from the disease and associated treatments. Despite this he was fully active until a few weeks before death. He committed suicide at Albany Medical Center on February 21, 1985.[1][2] Per a letter to the editor, at autopsy it is claimed that there was a near absence of atherosclerosis (only some fatty streaks), and that the heart's pumping function was completely uncompromised.[9][10]

Selected publications[edit]


  • Pritikin, Nathan. (1976). High Carbohydrate Diets: Maligned and Misunderstood. The Journal of Applied Nutrition 28 (3&4): 56-68.[11]


  • Live Longer Now: The First One Hundred Years of Your Life: The 2100 Program. Grosset & Dunlap. ISBN 0-448-11504-2 co-authored with Jon N. Leonard and Jack L. Hofer (1974).
  • The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise. Bantam. ISBN 978-0553271928 co-authored with Patrick M. McGrady (1979).
  • The Pritikin Permanent Weight Loss Manual. Bantam. ISBN 0553204947 (1981).
  • The Pritikin Promise: 28 Days to a Longer, Healthier Life. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0671494476 (1983).
  • Diet for Runners: The High-Performance Diet that Gives You Supercharged Energy and Endurance ISBN 978-0671556235 (1985).
  • Pritikin: The Man Who Healed America's Heart ISBN 0-87857-732-7 Tom Monte, Ilene Pritikin (1987).


  1. ^ a b c Jones, Jack (February 23, 1985). "Nathan Pritikin, crusader for fitness, kills himself". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Nutritionist takes own life". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). (wire reports). February 23, 1985. p. 3.
  3. ^ a b When His Health Deserted Him, Diet and Fitness Guru Nathan Pritikin Turned to Suicide, by Eleanor Hoover, People Magazine, March 11, 1985
  4. ^ Company, DIANE Publishing (1995-07-01). Alternative Medicine: Expanding Medical Horizons. DIANE Publishing. pp. 233–. ISBN 9780788118203. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  5. ^ Nathan Pritikin: The Man Who Healed America's Heart (the Official Biography) by Tom Monte with Ilene Pritikin ISBN 0-87857-732-7
  6. ^ Alters S, Schiff W (22 February 2012). Chapter 10: Body Weight and Its Management. p. 327. ISBN 978-1-4496-3062-1. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  7. ^ a b Leddy, Susan. (2006). Integrative Health Promotion: Conceptual Bases for Nursing Practice. Jones and Bartlett Publishers. pp. 434-435. ISBN 0-7637-3840-9
  8. ^ a b Willis, Judith (1982). "Diet Books Sell Well But..." FDA Consumer. 16: 14–17.
  9. ^ "Autopsy of Pritikin May Renew Debate". Los Angeles Times. 1985-07-04. Retrieved 2019-09-23.
  10. ^ Hubbard, JD; Inkeles, S; Barnard, RJ (4 July 1985). "Nathan Pritikin's Heart". The New England Journal of Medicine. 313 (1): 52. doi:10.1056/NEJM198507043130119. PMID 3889648.
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-12-01. Retrieved 2019-06-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]