Pritikin? diet

Related Terms

Calorie Density Solution, hunger satisfaction theory.


The Pritikin? diet is a low calorie, high bulk, low fat and low cholesterol diet. People who follow the Pritikin? diet generally eat foods that have an average of less than ten percent of daily calories from fat. It is almost entirely vegetarian, and those who adhere to this diet avoid processed and fatty foods. Regular exercise is also incorporated into the lifestyle modifications advocated by the Pritikin? diet.
Advocates of the Pritikin? diet claim that the eating plain will help people achieve a more optimal state of health. Weight loss is a secondary goal.
Nathan Pritikin created his diet plan after personal experiences following many different diets to treat his heart disease. Pritikin combined this eating plan with what he considered the best aspects of all the many diets he tried to lose weight and fight his heart disease. Anecdotal sources claim that Pritikin cured his health problems and was thus motivated to open the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa? in 1976.
Today, some people choose the Pritikin? diet because it does not restrict the amount of food that may be consumed in one sitting. Rather, the diet restricts the types of foods that may be consumed. For instance, an unlimited amount of broccoli may be consumed in a setting because this food has a low number of calories per pound. In contrast, a person who chooses to follow the diet may only eat a bite or two of a chocolate chip cookie at a meal because this food has an extraordinarily high number of calories per pound. Food restrictions are not based on fat or calories, but the average calories per pound for the ingredients of every meal must be less than 400. To achieve this, a vast majority of foods in every meal are generally very low in calories and fat.
Although some articles about the Pritikin? diet were published in peer-reviewed medical journals up to the late 1980's, no recent research has been conducted to evaluate the Pritikin? diet as a means of improving a person's health profile. However, the Pritikin Longevity Center? cites more recent research showing the benefit of lower fat diets to boost the perceived legitimacy of this eating plan.
The Pritikin? diet is a relatively well known diet that has been in existence since 1976. A research organization started by Nathan Pritikin and carried on by his son, Robert, after Nathan's death continues to actively promote the eating plan originally outlined by its founder.

Theory / Evidence

The consumption of low density, high bulk, low fat foods is not restricted because the overall caloric intake will be low regardless of portion size.
The primary premise of the Pritikin? diet is that individuals in industrialized nations consume too many processed, high fat, high calorie foods with too few nutrients. Advocates claim that these types of foods quickly fill people up, but provide too many fats and too few vitamins and minerals. Pritikin? advocates claim that most conventional diets contribute to the development of chronic and debilitating illnesses.
Processed foods are avoided on the premise that they contain many additives and artificial ingredients that do not promote a healthy state of being, while also adding many unnecessary calories and fats to the diet.
High fiber, low calorie, low fat, and non-processed foods are emphasized on the premise that a person will experience fullness and obtain many beneficial nutrients without all the negative effects of foods typical to the diets of most people in industrialized nations.
To support the validity of the diet, advocates of the Pritikin? diet point to the large number of studies that endorse a high fiber, low fat diet in combination with regular exercise as a means of staying healthy or, optimally, coping with many diseases linked to obesity.
Critics argue that the amount of fat consumed in the Pritikin? diet may actually be too low for the body to absorb many of the nutrients a person may eat. The body may not be able to use all of the of omega-3 fats and vitamins A, D, E, and K that a person may consume if their bodies do not get enough fats to deliver nutrients to the parts of the body that need them.
A 2003 article by Withnell described the author's personal experience in supposedly reversing his heart disease by following the Pritikin? diet for five months.
A 2000 article by Anderson et al. evaluated a variety of "fad" diets in order to assess their potential for long term effects. The authors concluded that high fat "fad" diets may worsen a patient's long term health benefits, even in the midst of short term gains. The paper stated that individuals probably derive the greatest benefits from "fad" diets that are low in fat and high in fiber.
A 1984 study by Brown et al. assigned patients with a thickening or blockage of blood vessels in the limbs to consume either the Pritikin? diet or a diet recommended by the American Heart Association. The data from the study showed that study participants experienced an improvement in cardiovascular profile, regardless of the diet they followed.

Author information

This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (


Anderson JW, Konz EC, Jenkins DJ. Health advantages and disadvantages of weight-reducing diets: a computer analysis and critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Oct;19(5):578-90. .
Brown GD, Whyte L, Gee MI, et al. Effects of two "lipid-lowering" diets on plasma lipid levels of patients with peripheral vascular disease. J Am Diet Assoc. 1984 May;84(5):546-50. .
American Heart Association. .
The Pritikin Center? and Longevity Center. .
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. .
Withnell A. The natural cure of coronary heart disease. Nutr Health. 2003;17(1):55-60. Review. .


The foundation of the Pritikin? diet is consumption of foods that are the least "dense" with calories; these foods tend to be high in bulk but low in calories. Therefore, people who choose to follow the diet tend to eat more fruits and vegetables than anything else. Some breads and pastas are acceptable, provided that they are not refined and do not contain any artificial ingredients. This diet encourages people to consume fresh food whenever possible. Consumption of processed foods is strongly discouraged.
Some followers of this eating plan choose to investigate the caloric content of everything they consume using the many charts created by Nathan Pritikin. However, most people simply follow the general premise that the caloric profile of a meal should always be on the very low end of the caloric spectrum. Very small amounts of a higher calorie food, such as a donut, are acceptable from time to time provided that all of the ingredients in a meal average out to less than 400 calories per pound. In general, though, the Pritikin? diet is centered on very low calorie food.
Because fats are dense with calories, they are consumed in very small amounts. Cooking oils are used sparingly, if at all. High fat meats are not consumed, though one serving of chicken or shellfish may be consumed per day.
Because the Pritikin? diet requires that foods be low fat and low calorie, the vast majority of the foods consumed are whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These foods are inherently high in fiber, which Pritikin? proponents claim will offer further health benefits. Secondary to these foods are dairy and other low fat proteins, such as tofu.
In general, the Pritikin? diet encourages readers to consume three full meals per day, in addition to three or four very low fat snacks.
Exercise is a central aspect of the Pritikin? diet. Individuals who choose the Pritikin? diet are encouraged to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.
Although not necessary, followers of the Pritikin? diet may purchase books and food products branded by this institution. A resort and spa founded by Nathan Pritikin offers complete immersion into the diet and exercise regimen of the Pritikin? lifestyle.
The Pritikin? diet does not offer certification for healthcare practitioners.