Is This Little-Known Diet The Secret To Solving Your Cholesterol Problems?
Ketogenic, Paleo and Atkins diets seem to dominate social media. But what about the Pritikin diet? This cholesterol-lowering diet has been around for more than 40 years, but it hasn’t been touted by its more trendy counterparts – even though its evidence-based health benefits are listed in the
Have you heard of the heart-protective Pritikin diet, developed more than 40 years ago?
Indeed, the Pritikin Diet holds important bona fides that may be suitable for physicians and other heart-healthy seekers. But what does the Pritikin Diet consist of? What are its benefits? And who is this Pritikin?
The Origin of the Pritikin Diet
Nathan Pritikin was born in Chicago in 1915 and dropped out of college at the beginning of the Great Depression to become an inventor and engineer. He spent the first half of his career developing ideas and products for companies such as General Electric, Honeywell, Corning Glass, and Bendix; the 20th-century innovator eventually held more than two dozen patents.
It wasn’t until he was in his 40s that he turned to nutrition: In 1957, he was diagnosed with heart disease. But at the time, most doctors did not consider nutrition an important factor in causing cardiovascular problems, and after two years of research, Pritikin was convinced that his diet was the cause of his condition. He spent the rest of his life trying to spread the word that our diet can directly affect our risk of developing certain diseases.
Through his work, Pritikin focused on the idea of a diet and exercise program to lower cholesterol levels, and he published his recommendations in his 1979 book, The Pritikin Diet and Exercise Program, which has become his most enduring legacy.
What is the Pritikin Diet?
The Pritikin diet is low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates. Specifically, the diet is less than 10% fat, 10% to 15% protein, and 75% to 80% carbohydrates. In addition, according to the JAMA article, adherents aim to consume no more than 25 mg or 100 mg of cholesterol per day, depending on whether they follow a “regression” or “maintenance” version of the diet.
The Pritikin program encourages the consumption of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole-wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, fish, brown rice, oatmeal, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils, beans, peas, and corn. People are encouraged to avoid foods high in saturated fat, such as high-fat dairy products, red meat, eggs, butter, coconut, and palm oil, and foods with added sugar and salt. The meal also specifically asks devotees to avoid alcoholic beverages.
The program also recommends regular exercise, especially walking and weight training.
Does the Pritikin diet work?
The Pritikin diet is designed to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. It is also considered a weight loss diet and can be used as a preventive measure against diabetes, as it tends to control blood sugar levels.
According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this diet can actually lower cholesterol by limiting the intake of fatty and calorie-dense foods. While there are no long-term data on the diet’s effects on diseases such as mortality and cancer, it has been suggested that patients who want to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease may benefit from the Pritikin diet.
And studies have shown that diet can improve a variety of risk factors for cardiovascular disease: a previous study published in the Journal of Cardiometabolic Syndrome found that short-term use of Pritikin in 67 patients with metabolic syndrome was associated with a reduction in coronary arteries. heart disease and its impact on metabolic risk factors.
After a 12- to 15-day stay at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Florida, one of the many facilities created by Pritikin, patients’ BMI dropped by an average of 3 percent, according to researchers. According to the study, participants’ systolic and diastolic blood pressure, serum glucose levels and LDL cholesterol levels decreased by 10 to 15 percent.
In addition, 37 percent of the participants no longer met the National Cholesterol Education Program’s criteria for metabolic syndrome. The researchers concluded that short-term treatment with a low-fat, high-fiber, low-sodium diet and regular exercise can reduce multiple risk factors for coronary heart disease.
A recent study confirms these findings: In a study published in Current Developments in Nutrition in 2020, the authors sought to determine the effectiveness of prilocaine based cardiac rehabilitation program for cardiac patients. Researchers analyzed changes in BMI, weight loss, waist circumference, blood pressure, LDL, HDL, total cholesterol, and hemoglobin A1c.
They collected data from 138 adult patients with a history of heart disease who underwent a 12-week cardiac rehabilitation program based on Pritikin principles. The study found that patients had significant reductions in mean weight and BMI, waist circumference, total cholesterol, and triglyceride measurements. In addition, patients maintained weight loss and other important changes after 3 months of follow-up.
Another study published in Circulation in 2019 explored the impact of the Pritikin program on a similar set of cardiovascular disease risk factors. Researchers examined 140 patients who participated in 24 Pritikin ICR (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) outpatient programs at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the University Of Washington School Of Medicine and found significant cardiovascular benefits for patients. They lowered their fat levels, improved their lipid profiles, and increased their exercise capacity. The researchers concluded that all of these outcomes could potentially lead to a reduction in cardiovascular events.
While there is evidence that the Pritikin diet may help lower cholesterol and weight in people who strictly follow it, the JAMA article mentioned above points out that there are some potential side effects of the Pritikin diet. During the first two weeks of the diet, adherents may experience significant increases in urine output and fluid changes, and may need to change their medication regimen if they have high blood pressure, heart failure or diabetes. Therefore, it is important to consider whether the benefits outweigh the risks. Another drawback is that the Pritikin diet may not provide enough protein to maintain muscle function, strength and endurance, which may not be ideal for those who wish to be successful on the exercise portion of the diet.