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Nathan Pritikin and a successful case


Nathan Pritikin, founder-director of the
Longevity Center, talks with departing
patient George Perry. Faced with an
angiogram and possible surgery after a
heart attack, Perry arrived at the Center
in a wheelchair. In a month he was walking
7 miles a day.

 

CHAPTER THREE

NATHAN PRITIKIN

 

"Somebody said that it couldn't be done
But he with a chuckle replied
That 'maybe it couldn't,' but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it. "

Edgar A. Guest

 

   By his spectacular success in the rehabilitation of thousands of people suffering from degenerative diseases, Nathan Pritikin in the last eight years has dramatically influenced the entire USA towards awareness of lifestyle and its relationship to health.

   The success of this book is largely due to the help and advice he has freely given me, advice that has profoundly improved my life and the lives of my family and many others, and for which I am very grateful.

   The Pritikin Research Foundation in California is a professional, dynamic, successful organization.

   The 11 original members of the foundation, formed at Long Beach, California in 1972 were professional men who between them represented the sciences of biology, mathematics, electrical engineering, biochemistry, nutrition, organic chemistry, psychology, law, business science, medicine, cosmetic surgery and physics.

   The Advisory Board of the present Pritikin Research Foundation comprises fourteen MD's, six PhD's, a dentist, an attorney and the President to the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, New York. It includes representatives from England, New Zealand and Finland.

   Mr Pritikin, the Founder and Director, was born in Chicago, August 29, 1915. Since childhood the fascination and study of the complexities of the human body has been his continued interest. His father wanted him to be a lawyer but he was forced to discontinue his law studies due to the depression. He was interested in electronics and went into business for himself and has ever since been self-employed.

   During World War II he was engaged in secret work for the US Government and had access to secret information coming from the European war zone. This information included reports on health status of populations and the effect of continued bombardment and war stress on people. In those days, stress was considered the prime cause of heart disease and Pritikin was astounded to learn that despite the dreadful stress of continued bombing etc., the death rate from heart attacks and other diseases was significantly lower than before.

   That the death rate was lowering because of the stringent wartime diet of these people did not fully register with him and he continued his busy life--work, wrong food and no exercise. His interest in medical research continued too and he subscribed to medical papers and journals from all sources. Reading them was his only relaxation, and to find time to study them all and to remain successful in business posed a problem.

   This problem he resolved by approaching big corporations as a troubleshooter, and by inventing and patenting equipment for them he was able to rely on royalties as a main source of income. Many of his 43 patents are held by corporations such as General Electric, Honeywell, Corning Glass, Bendix Aviation and General Precision.

   In 1957 Pritikin discovered he had a serious heart condition, so bad that he was advised to rest completely. Wherever he went he was to walk no more than a few feet and his wife would, when necessary, drive with him in order to park the car wherever he was going and save him the walk from the parking lot. Realizing that in this situation he had but a short pathetic life expectancy, his inventor's mind looked for an alternative.

   Encouraged by the health and diet books by Paul Bragg, he delved into medical research papers on the effects of diet and exercise on laboratory animals, and epidemiological data on human populations.

   His blood cholesterol level was tested at 280 mg% (7.7 mm/L), in the "upper normal" range on the accepted standards of the time, so he decided his first step would be to reduce this figure.

   There was much speculation and confusion and no proven knowledge or techniques to go on, so Pritikin based his plan on three main facts. Firstly, that heart disease was unknown among native people living on primitive natural diets and that the restricted diets of wartime Europe appeared* effective in reducing cardiovascular disease. Secondly, that in laboratory tests on dogs where arteries were deliberately blocked, exercise had been shown to create new collateral circulation in the form of new tiny blood vessels. And thirdly, that tests on monkeys demonstrated that cardiovascular disease could be induced, and then reversed, by diet manipulation.

   With great caution and thoroughness inspired by dire warnings from the "experts" he embarked on a diet to reduce the cholesterol. Every two weeks he had a blood test checking on 85 different blood constituents, and as his plan progressed he found that all the animal tests were exactly predictive of his own results. No deficiencies occurred and he spent one-and-a-half years to reduce his cholesterol to 160. Cutting out all cholesterol food, in another year, he reduced it to 100 (2.5 mm/L).

   Then he commenced the exercise program. He arranged to be checked out to do exercise stress ECG's on himself and used them regularly to monitor his progress. At first at low exertion his E.C.G.* showed an "ST" segment depression of 2 mm which was very bad. Even at high exertion it would have been very bad, so he started with very short walks, half a block out and back again, four times a day.

   As he gradually proceeded, by the time he was covering two miles a day the ECG started showing improvement. At four miles the ECG showed no depression at a heart rate of 120. Finally, he was running 6-7 miles and arranged for a treadmill stress test to get an ECG at the highest heart rate.

   Treadmills were rare items of equipment in 1966, but he located one at the UCSB* which had been used for testing military personnel. The test was conducted by a cardiologist, a 20 minute test set for a 7 minute mile speed. Every heartbeat was checked for the entire test, his heart rate levelled at 177 beats a minute, and there was no sign of abnormality! Few men of any age can achieve that standard.

   And when his eyes began to bother him when reading, he had them checked in order to get new reading glasses. The tests showed his eyes were perfect and that he did not need glasses.

   You would have thought that this breakthrough against heart disease would have been world shattering, but to gain acceptance, Pritikin had to persevere against the usual apathy and inertia with unbelievable patience, using his entire resources on a "shoestring" financed venture. The frustration of watching Government research ventures costing billions and achieving nothing, when at one stage he couldn't even raise the last desperate $10,000 he needed must almost have driven him to distraction.

   It was in 1969 that he began to treat Mrs Weaver of Los Angeles, and after other spectacular results with patients from the V. A. Hospital in Los Angeles, was eventually invited to submit a paper at the 52nd Annual Session of the Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine and the 37th Annual Assembly of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in Atlanta, Georgia, referred to in the last chapter.

   The paper received worldwide publicity and it was the report in the Sydney Sun newspaper that I saw that enabled me later to contact Mr Pritikin and save my wife's life.

   The interest generated throughout the USA caused Pritikin to postpone a well-earned break and he established the Longevity Center in January 1976.

   Prior to opening the Center he was Scientific Advisor for Nutritional Research for the Ampex Bio-Research Institute, California College of Podiatric Medicine, and co-author of the bestseller Live Longer Now published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1974. He was also Chairman of the Board of Renco, Inc. and Chairman of the Board of Photronics Inc. He was an Honorary Fellow of the International Academy of Preventive Medicine. His wife, Ilene, supervises diet research and food preparation and demonstrations at the Center and lectures on nutrition.

   I first visited Mr Pritikin in August 1976 when, as a Qantas Captain, I flew down as a passenger from San Francisco to Santa Barbara for the day to pay my respects. On that occasion there happened to be seven "grounded" airline captains there as heart patients, having been referred there by the Harvey Watt Insurance Company. They all anticipated regaining flying status and they all did in a short time.

   The Center's program consists of a 26-day medically supervised series of examinations, lectures and discussions to provide patients with--

  1. An understanding of the causes of degenerative diseases.
  2. The role of natural therapy in alleviating disease.
  3. The incentive to continue the therapy after returning home.

   Some patients had been prospective candidates for by-pass surgery and some already had by-passes which were blocking up. Some were only in their thirties.

   The patients are encouraged to walk as much as possible. The atmosphere of the Center is bustling and happy, and even though a lot of the patients find the food not exactly to their taste at first, they appreciate the fact they have a new vigorous future free of drugs and hospitals. Not only can they expect more years of life, but they find they have one or two more hours a day because they need less sleep.

   The Longevity Center moved from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica in May 1978. Full records are kept at the Center and are available for inspection at any time. The Loma Linda University's Department of Biostatistics in 1978 presented their evaluation of 893 patients of the Longevity Center up to October 1977. Briefly, they reported these results obtained by the four-week program:

   Cholesterol--drugs were eliminated and levels dropped to a mean of 175 mg%. Triglycerides--108 patients in the 200-249 mg% group with a mean of 225 dropped to a new mean of 155. Forty-eight patients with levels of 300-500 with a mean of 373 dropped to a mean of 166. They mean serum triglyceride level in patients above 150 mg% fell by an average of 35%.

   Of the 218 confirmed hypertensives on drug medication, 186 left normotensive and drug free. Blood glucose levels fell consistently--diabetic levels from an average of 100.4 93.6mg %. Half of the confirmed non-insulin-using maturity onset diabetic patients left insulin-free with controlled glucose levels. Weight loss of obese patients averaged 13 lbs and of overweight patients (110-119% of ideal weight) averaged 10 lbs. Many other improvements of eyesight, hearing, arthritis, claudication etc. are on record. The President of American Airlines who had already lost a leg because of claudication was one of the patients and was spared the amputation of his other leg.

   These results are achieved in only four weeks and the improvements continue when the patients maintain the regimen.

   I have visited the Center on a number of occasions, a couple of times to have the original manuscript of this book checked by Mr Pritikin. I attended the Longevity Center's Educational Conference in January, 1978. Over 600 people, mostly doctors, attended and among the speakers were

   Senator George McGovern--US Senate.

   James Binkenship--Professor of Nutrition, Loma Linda University.

   Denis Burkitt MD--St Thomas' Hospital Medical School, London.

   James Anderson--Associate Professor, University of Kentucky Medical Center.

   Rachmiel Levine MD--Executive Medical Director, City of Hope Medical Center, Duarte, California.

   Benjamin Rosen MD--Director Cardiology Dept., Torrance Memorial Hospital Rehabilitation Program, San Pedro, and Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of Southern California.

   Bruno Balke MD--Emeritus Professor, University of Wisconsin, presently Director of Preventive and Rehabilitation Unit, Aspen Clinic, Colorado.

   Hugh Trowell MD--Formerly Consultant Physician, Dept. of Medicine and Paediatrics, Makere University and Uganda Government.

   David Abbey PhD--Associate Director, Survey Research Science, Loma Linda University.

   Dr Abbey reviewed the analysis of the Longevity Center's 893 patients up to October 1977.

   The Conference was held in a theater at Santa Barbara and what impressed me as much as anything else was that Pritikin was the only person on stage who could hear the questions asked from the rear of the theater and how he acted as a relay to the speakers on stage.

   The achievements of the Center have been publicized widely in the USA and twice on the CBS nationwide television program, 'Sixty Minutes'. At the end of the CBS review, Dr David Lehr of the Miami Heart Institute, summing up, said that if the Pritikin Program was universally adopted "heart disease would disappear from the face of the Earth".

   In January 1977, Dr Robert Wissler of Chicago Medical School addressing the American Heart Association of Modern Concepts of Cardiovascular Therapy, stated that with a cholesterol level of 150 or less, plaque reversal in two years is possible. Since then the American Heart Association on the basis of the Longevity Center's evidence, has modified its dietary recommendations.*

   In Circulation, the official journal of the American Heart Association, September 1977, Dr Nash said--"There is little question anymore that artery plaque reversal can for the first time be considered possible".

   Dr James Anderson, University of Kentucky Medical Center has been using the Pritikin diet for six years successfully in the treatment of diabetes. He states: "With this kind of approach, 80% of all diabetics in this country could be normal within 30 to 90 days".

   Dr Floyd Loop, Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, the leading by-pass center in the world, now follows the Pritikin diet himself and refers patients to the Longevity Center.

   On March 6, 1978, Mr Pritikin addressed 500 cardiologists at the American College of Cardiology in Anaheim, California, and was enthusiastically received. He has since addressed the American Heart Association and the New York Heart Association.

   On January 18, 1980, the Governor of Louisiana, Edwin Edward, issued an official State Proclamation, January 21, 1980, as PRITIKIN DAY in Louisiana, to celebrate the inauguration of the voluntary community program for better health in the historic town of Natchitoches.

   The University of California now has its own Pritikin-style center which is called CHEER (Center for Health Enhancement, Education and Research). More recently the De La Ronde Hospital in Chalmette, Louisiana, has devoted an entire wing of the hospital for the implementation of the Pritikin Program for treatment of patients with degenerative diseases.

   Nathan Pritikin's contribution to the civilized world is not that he has discovered anything new. The principles of Natural Health have in the past been discovered and rediscovered over and over again only to be disregarded by the great majority of people, and suppressed by the vested interests of the food industry and the medical and drug industries. Pritikin's vital contribution to the Health Revolution is to have assembled his information in unassailable scientific form and with it to have forcefully penetrated the conservative worlds of publishing, politics and medicine.


In requiem--1985

   Unknown to the world, Nathan Pritikin suffered from anemia and leukemia, subsequent to radiation treatment in 1957 for a skin complaint. In the years I had known him I had put his pasty complexion down to constant excessive work indoors, in artificial light.

   Late in 1984 his condition, stable for 27 years, began to worsen, and Nathan elected to have experimental medical treatment which led to drastic "complications" including kidney failure and serious liver damage.

   To depend on space-age life-support systems for his life was a situation unacceptable to this fiercely independent man, and on February 21, 1985 he decided to take what he considered the correct action under the circumstances, and in the privacy of his hospital room, took his own life by severing veins in his arms.

   An autopsy of Nathan's body revealed complete absence of coronary or any other artery disease (see New England Journal of Medicine, July 4, 1985). And moreover, up to his death at age 69, Nathan had retained his black hair and the eyesight and hearing of a young boy.

   "Many of us will not leave as lasting a memory as Nathan has. The best thing we can do to pay tribute to him is to continue his work."

   William P. Castelli
   Director, Framingham Heart Study
   Santa Barbara News-Press--May 1, 1976

 

Longevity Center's Job

Editor, News-Press: Since I have been a guest of your beautiful city for nearly a month I have been interested in the comments of readers on the Longevity Rehabilitation Center. As a full paying patient of this center, I with many others am better able to assess the program than are others merely looking in. Other letters have summarized the specifics; I will merely comment on attitudes regarding it which may clarify the thinking of those interested in this vast area of public concern.

   The facts demonstrate clearly that few satisfactory answers are in for coping with the curse of degenerative diseases. However, within the last year or two a tremendous stride forward has been made in this direction.

   It will be apparent to anyone seeking to avail themselves of the information, that Nathan Pritikin has not conjured this approach to the treatment of degenerative diseases from metaphysical or esoteric sources. Never has the subject been more thoroughly researched. The experimentation and intense scientific scrutiny in the fields of biochemistry, physiology, nutrition, and the areas of rehabilitative, cardiovascular, metabolic, and ischemic phases of medicine have been monumental.

   The conclusions are not new; they have been extant in scientific literature, some of it for decades and longer. For reasons which I will not discuss here, the truth has largely been quiescent. It remained for Nathan Pritikin to coalesce this vast amount of material and exercise the remarkable insight, expertise, and patience to "put it all together".

   For this many professional as well as many lay people have already expressed their sincere gratitude. I for one, among many others, am deeply appreciative.

   To those who have misgivings as to the authority and implementation of the program, I would inquire, how long must we toy with at best only palliative medical and surgical procedures while our disease worsens, our bypasses fail and our mortality rate increases?

   If organized medicine has not been able to put together a package that will give us some real answers to the problem of degenerative diseases by this time, with all the resources and information at our disposal, is it unreasonable to look to other scientific sources that show much evidence of promise?

   Sherman S. Devine, MD
   Sacramento
   Santa Barbara News Press, May 1, 1976



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