Pritikin Diet Review: Criticism of Low Fat Diet

Pritikin Diet Review: Read How Pritikins Low-Fat Madness Could Kill You


The Pritikin Permanent Weight Loss Manual

by Nathan Pritikin ©1981

Review written by: Dr. Kendra Pearsall

Dr. Pearsall’s Scorecard (3 out of a possible 10) customer reviews* N/A  
Popularity: number of Amazon reviews and books sold 3  
Accuracy of nutrition information 6  
Well written, organized, engaging, understandable, original 5  
Advocates foods that are whole, natural, clean, organic and raw 3  
Advice on other weight factors (hormones, food allergies, toxicity, lifestyle) 0  
Uses a holistic weight loss approach, addressing the body, mind, and spirit 1  
Sensible meal plans and tasty, healthy quick recipes 3  
Detailed exercise advice includes weight training and cardio 3  
Easy to follow for life 0  

Reviews effective weight loss products e.g. supplements, videos, techniques

Author is an experienced, credentialed professional in the weight loss field 2  
Research studies support the efficacy of the program 0  
Advises how to individualize program for your unique biochemistry 0  

*(Note: There were no Amazon reviews for this book but 117 people were selling their copy of the book starting at one cent. This indicates that the book is not a keeper.)

Grade: F 3/10 Pritikin advocates a low-calorie, ultra low-fat diet which is the road to disaster.


In the late 1950s, Nathan Pritikin was diagnosed with heart disease which spurred him to go on a low-fat, high-fiber diet and begin a moderate exercise program. He was able to cure his heart disease with his program and in efforts to help others he developed the Pritikin Diet Program and opened the first Pritikin Longevity Center in 1976.

The Pritikin Diet is a low calorie, low-fat, low protein, high carbohydrate diet of about 700-1200 calories a day. It is almost completely vegetarian, and encourages the consumption of large amounts of whole grains and vegetables. It is high in fiber, low in cholesterol, and contains only 5-7% of the total daily calories as fat.

Praise For The Pritikin Permanent Weight Loss Manual:

The Pritikin Diet emphasizes whole foods and high fiber which are essential parts of a healthy diet.

Criticism Of The Pritikin Permanent Weight Loss Manual:

1. Pritikin's diet is grossly deficient in fat.

Pritikin was an engineer, not a nutritionist. Before he became a health guru, he ate a junk food diet, was obese and had clogged arteries and so his switch to a whole foods diet was a good move and did reverse his health challenges. But his severe restriction of fat eventually did him in.

Pritikin did not understand nutrition and biochemistry and the fact that you need to eat 20-35% of your calories as fat to be healthy. Fat is not the enemy! Here is only a partial list of the many functions it has in your body:



  • Energy storage
  • Transportation and use of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, K
  • Protection for the vital internal organs.
  • Prevents loss of body heat.
  • Brain structure (the brain is 60% fat)
  • Nerve conduction
  • Cell membranes
  • Hormone production

Udo Erasmus, with a Ph.D. in nutrition and foremost authority on fats, comments on the Pritikin Diet in his book Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill:

Pritikin's diet works for people who overate themselves fat and sick on a typical affluent Western diet rich in protein, white flour, white sugar, and super-rich in hard and altered fats...Once a person becomes healthy, Pritikin-type diets may be dangerously low in fats. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K require fat (or oil) for absorption, which is impaired when total fat intake is [too low].

Diets [like Pritikin's] are correlated with cancer...most likely due to impaired absorption of vitamins A and E which protect against cancer-causing free radicals. W3s [omega-3 fats] have been show to inhibit tumor incidence and growth. Pritikin's diet is low in w3s to which he pays no attention at all. Pritikin's diet is a step in the right direction for this generation's over-fat, over-processed way of eating. However, in the long run, it may kill those who are not overfed.

2. Pritikin's diet is grossly deficient in calories.

If you to try to limit your food intake to Pritikin's recommended 700-1200 calories, the following will happen:

  • You will be constantly hungry.
  • You will have no energy.
  • You will become ill very quickly.
  • Prevents loss of body heat.
  • Your metabolism will decrease to nothing and
  • When you start eating again, because you can no longer withstand the torture, you will gain back all the weight your lost and then some as a compensation for your starvation

Unless you are a masochist, don't ever go on a low-calorie diet.

3. Pritikin's diet is grossly deficient in protein.

Experts in metabolic typing, a revolutionary way to determine your optimal diet based on your unique biochemistry, state that 1/3 of the population can handle a diet low in protein, but that leaves two-thirds of the population that need moderate to high amounts of protein to be healthy. In my experience as a physician, I had countless vegan and vegetarian patients who had miracle cures for their health problems once they increased their protein as they were protein deficient. Therefore, you could put yourself at risk in eating a low-protein diet if your body is not designed for it.

4. The recipes in the book are "sugar-free" as they use apple juice concentrate instead of table sugar .

Sorry, apple juice concentrate is sugar in a different form. It is refined fructose and is actually WORSE than table sugar because it causes increased weight gain, increased triglycerides and does not have the satiety of table sugar. You can read more about this subject in my newsletter.

5. Don't believe the Pritikin propaganda that Nathan Pritikin was the pillar of perfect health and therefore his diet is superior to The Atkins Diet.

An article from the Pritikin Newsletter entitled "Pritikin Vs. Atkins: A Decade Long Battle Whose Resolution Could Save Millions of Lives" talks about the rivalry between Atkins and Pritikin:

...But the opening of the [Pritikin] Center and the avalanche of publicity Pritikin received touched off a war between Pritikin and the medical establishment. One of Pritikin's strongest critics was Dr. Robert Atkins, whose own diet was the antithesis of Pritikin's. During the late-70s and early 80s, media coast to coast broadcasted their debates.

Pritikin claimed that the Atkins diet clogged arteries and would kill Americans. Atkins claimed that his diet prevented heart attacks and strokes. By 1983, Atkins' attorneys had filed lawsuits against Nathan Pritikin, charging him with libel.

In 1985, Pritikin died from complications related to a 35-year struggle with leukemia. The results of his autopsy were published in the New England Journal of Medicine , and showed that Nathan Pritikin's arteries were free of any signs of heart disease, and were as "soft and pliable" as a teenager's. "In a man 69 years old," wrote pathologist Jeffrey Hubbard, "the near absence of atherosclerosis and the complete absence of its effects are remarkable."

On April 17, 2003, Dr. Atkins died. He was 72 years old. The media reported that he had suffered a fall and subsequent head injuries while walking to his office in New York City...Did Atkins fall cause the injuries that killed him, or was the fall really caused by a massive stroke or other event?...

We know what Nathan Pritikin's arteries looked like at his death. The public deserves to know what Robert Atkins' arteries looked like, too. It could well be that if Americans knew the real story behind Dr. Atkins' diet, if they were to see what happens after a lifetime of eating foods high in saturated fat, they might be motivated, like never before, to make healthier choices about the foods they eat. They might live longer, healthier lives free of the ravages of heart disease and related illnesses.

This article is quite galling. It asserts that the Pritikin diet is superior to the Atkins based on the fact that Pritikin showed no signs of atherosclerosis at his death and that Atkins' may have had heart disease at his death (though they have no proof). I can see why Atkins sued Pritikin for libel when he was alive.

Conjecture aside, lets examine the facts. The fact is, there is an autopsy report that Atkins died of an external head injury, not a stroke. And we know for certain how Pritikin died also. The Pritikin article states that "Pritikin died from complications related to a 35-year struggle leukemia." The fact is Pritikin slashed his wrists and committed suicide. Apparently Pritikin struggled with severe depression and leukemia for many years. The leukemia should not come as a surprise as I stated earlier that low-fat diets increase cancer risk. Studies have also found that people who have depression are likely to have essential fatty acid deficiencies and have successfully reversed their depression by taking fish oil. If only Pritkin had truly understood the facts about nutrition he may still be alive today.

Conclusion: avoid low fat diets.
If you want to lose weight do the following:
Avoid, sugar, fructose, grains, and processed foods
Eat a healthful diet of organic whole foods, and replace your grain carbs with:
o    One gram of protein per kilogram of lean body weight
o    As much highly quality healthful fat as you want (saturated and monosaturated). Most people need upwards of 50-70 percent fats in their diet for optimal health. Good sources include coconut and coconut oil, avocados, butter, nuts, and animal fats. Also take a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fat, such as krill oil


About the Author:
Dr. Kendra Pearsall, N.M.D. is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor specializing in natural weight loss and food addiction. She created to help millions of people achieve optimal health, natural weight loss and life success with her free weekly e-newsletter (sign up at the top of this page.)