Pritikin Diet

Karen Frazier
Cooked Broccoli

Nathan Pritikin developed the Pritikin Diet in the 1980's. Motivated by his diagnosis of heart disease, thought to be incurable, he went on to develop a plan that was extremely low in fat. Remarkably, his heart disease was reversed. The Pritikin Diet was one of the first diets to tout the benefits of extremely low-fat eating. Since then, the Pritikin Longevity Center, directed by Robert Pritikin has continued to carry this vision forward.

The Premise of Pritikin

The idea behind this plan is that human beings have been genetically programmed to prefer fat, in fact, even binge on it, due to the necessity of calories for survival before civilization as we know it existed. In other words, fat was a necessary means for survival. Of course, in today's times, we have plentiful access to calories, and no longer need to up our fat stores to prepare for famine. So, we have this genetic predisposition to be aware of, and to fight against.

Pritikin hypothesizes that excess fat is the cause of many of the diseases that people get, whether it is diabetes, cancer or heart disease. His data shows that by cutting out almost all dietary fat, blood cholesterol will fall, and heart disease can be reversed or prevented. The diet alludes to what is known as Volumetrics, because Pritikin points out that if you ate over two pounds of broccoli containing little over 200 calories, it would surely lead to satiety. On the other hand, eating smaller amounts of fat laden foods leads to hunger and overeating. Therefore, individuals should stick to a diet that has a high satiety level.

By following the program, he maintains that people can "outsmart their fat instinct," as gradually the body becomes accustomed to receiving a reasonable amount of calories and feelings of satiety without the fat. When individuals have a reduced craving for fat, they will eat less of it, they will lose weight, and their blood lipid profile will improve.

Which Foods Are Emphasized?

After conducting satiety studies, Pritikin found that calorie for calorie, green vegetables, potatoes, oranges and fish have the ability to cause feelings of fullness, rather than hunger. Since these foods contain little, if any, fat, people are encouraged to eat them and other foods that also provide high satiety.

Whole grains are encouraged, as is a high degree of consumption of legumes and vegetables. Red meat and fats of all types are prohibited. This is a diet where there is no allowance for the occasional indulgence of cheesecake, chips or even pesto. There is no such thing as a healthy fat on this diet. Olive oil is out.

What Are the Benefits?

According to the case studies presented by the Pritikin Longevity Center, many people have lowered their cholesterol dramatically, and have been able to avoid bypass surgery. The Center also claims that individuals experience significant weight loss that most people are able to maintain, since they continue to experience satiety. Exercise is encouraged, and some people who have entered the Pritikin Longevity Center have undergone transformations from obese people who were disabled from this condition to individuals who are able to walk for miles, or even become mountain climbers.

Individuals should be committed to the Pritikin program, as even those who have experienced great success admit that it can be a challenge to make such dramatic changes and stick to them at first. However, as the case studies indicate, people who are able to do so can expect to experience and maintain a healthy weight loss.

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