Manipulating the Pritiken Diet

Material from Nathan Pritikin's book, The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise , by Nathan Pritikin with Patrick M. McGrady, Jr. It is a Bantam Book, published in a 21st printing in 1984; this copy and much of the summary material was obtained through the advice and the friendship of Keith Lethbridge, naturopath, poet, performer and square-dance caller, Armadale, Western Australia. Internet references include

Pritikin Health Association of Australia

Pritikin Longevity Center

Pritikin had some trouble with his heart, suffered from high cholesterol and had clogged arteries, with angina and associated pain. As an M. D. he found that the standard sources of information, including other doctors as well as the authorities and authorative sources were adamant that there was nothing he could of about it; the amount of cholesterol in one's blood should be accepted and cannot be affected by lifestyle and, particularly, diet. Looking into the matter, he found that chloesterol levels could be affected by diet, at least in animals.

At the time, and today, it was presumed that various ailments were affected by and worsened by stress, the stress of daily life. Taking this further, he followed up the diet of persons disturbed by war, including prisoners (during the second world war). Presuming that stress levels would be high in these individuals, they should suffer from the complaints he had, including heart and bowel problems and arthritus. These 'stressed' individuals had almost no such complaints. He concluded that diets (minimal diets) probably had a positive influence on the health of these individuals.

Pritikian followed some of the work of Dennis Burkett, who studied africans and looked at their complaints. The unique feature of these individuals was the large quantity and quality of their facies. And they had few, if any, of the above complaints. The point is, that the large quantity of fibre (and poor nutrient content) was, in reality, a healthier food.

The conclusion is that it is possible to mitigate against these complaints with a 'healthier' diet. Pritiken used some of his deep analytical thinking to come to some premises. One is the influence of fibre on our diet; but protein is important, as is fat and the use of exercise.


Here we calculate the relative 'value' of a component of foodstuff in terms of its energy content. this is followed by a listing of calculated values for standard foods, from Pritikin. Lastly, is a command that will convert Pritikin's energy weighted list back to the standard information, shown on foodstuffs.

The standard measurements of components of foodstuffs appears on the label. This depends upon what is claimed for the product, but it is usual for the percent by weight of at least 4 components to be shown. A light flavoured milk might have the following 'nutrition information':

The quality of foods

These numbers can reveal the quality of ingesting the food. In terms of energy, water and fibre and various minerals (clays) neither add nor subtract anything. The consumption of carbohydrates and fat produces water and carbon dioxide, which are, more or less benign. Fats, however, can be difficult to digest and may also be incorporated into tissues, perhaps as chlesterol. Various arguments lead Pritiken to suggest that a good foodstuff should not contain more than about 10% fat.

Pritikin suggests one normally needs a certain amount of energy but that there is a price to pay if the energy is derived in an inappropriate way. The consumption of protein for energy (which most of us do) has a defined cost. One of the costs is the need to get rid of the extra nitrogen in the protein. That is, the nitrogens inherent in the protein structure must be left within the body when proteins are consumed for energy. The nitrogen forms uric acid and other nitrogen-containing species within the body; these compounds must be 'flushed' from the body, requiring the drinking of more water. Nevertheless, they can do damage to cells, particularly if the cells are not healthy.

Pritikin notes that newborn babies have a highest growth rate and 'need' more protein in their diet to support the making of new tissues. Older people would need very little protein because they normally have little need to make more tissue. Hence mother's milk should have the highest level of protein necessary for proper nutrition. But in terms of overall weight percent, protein is low in milk; meat, for instance; has, perhaps 10 times the elevel of protein found in milk. This suggests that most of us have little need for such high levels of protein.

Pritikin suggest a notional value of '% energy derived from protein' of less than 13%. Again, the reasoning is that the derivation of energy from protein produces not only water and carbon dioxide, but also acids derived from the nitrogen or amino acids in protein. It requires some 'flushing' by the body to remove these acid materials, much water is consumed (about 7 times that required of a vegetatian), the kidneys and liver must work harder, bone minerals tend to be 'dissolved' and/or 'reposited' by the acids, and perhaps some 'poisons' are left to affect the body.

The energy basis should be clear in the following calculations, for different foodstuffs, in examples. It is hoped that this calculation will be helpful to you and steer you toward a healthy life style, with the right foods and proper exercise.

Please note that if the action of Maple is a bit irrational, you probably forgot the ; after the entry of your response; but almost anything can be rectified by simply hitting the stop button at the rightish side of the second line of menu buttons.

Conversion to an energy basis

The Pritikin Data Base

Some Editing Tools

Energy Balance

Convert back to a Weight Basis


Follow up the above calculation scheme for one of your meals, that you are having or will have. Combine the information on the food labels and Pritikin's Energy based food list, to make an assessment of an entire meal. You may want to folow the lead in Section 5.2 of A Helping Hand . That Section is developed with muesli in mind, allowing that muesli with milk is, approximately, a complete meal. Is it a good meal, with the right amounts of energy being derived from carbohydrates, fat and protein?

If you are planning a meal, consider the possibility that you adjust the portions (or constitution) of foodstuffs toget an 'optimal' level. The matrix method can bring this idea together. Inversion of the matrix (solution of the simultaneous equations) can give 'the answer'.