Engineering a Cure

Engineering a Cure
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Lifestyle medicine pioneer Nathan Pritikin, who reversed his own heart disease through diet and went on to help millions of others, wasn’t a doctor or dietician, but an engineer.

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Before Esselstyn, before Ornish, there was Nathan Pritikin. An unlikely candidate to launch a lifestyle medicine revolution, he wasn’t a doctor, wasn’t a dietician. He was an engineer. And so, when he got diagnosed with heart disease in his 40s, he was not satisfied with the medical profession’s fatalism. This was, after all, a time when doctors still preferred Camels.

So, he did his own research. He experimented. He studied the diets of cultures around the world—particularly Uganda—and finally arrived at a plant-based diet, dropping his cholesterol from 280 down to 94, reversing his own heart disease, before going on to do the same for thousands of others, before he tragically lost his 28-year battle with radiation-induced leukemia.

Before he died, though, he directed that his body be autopsied. He wanted to show the world what his diet could do. The autopsy findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Thirty years after his original heart disease diagnosis, considered incurable at the time, his coronary arteries were found to be soft and pliable, and widely patent throughout. “In a man 69 years old, the near absence of atherosclerosis and complete absence of its effects are remarkable.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

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Before Esselstyn, before Ornish, there was Nathan Pritikin. An unlikely candidate to launch a lifestyle medicine revolution, he wasn’t a doctor, wasn’t a dietician. He was an engineer. And so, when he got diagnosed with heart disease in his 40s, he was not satisfied with the medical profession’s fatalism. This was, after all, a time when doctors still preferred Camels.

So, he did his own research. He experimented. He studied the diets of cultures around the world—particularly Uganda—and finally arrived at a plant-based diet, dropping his cholesterol from 280 down to 94, reversing his own heart disease, before going on to do the same for thousands of others, before he tragically lost his 28-year battle with radiation-induced leukemia.

Before he died, though, he directed that his body be autopsied. He wanted to show the world what his diet could do. The autopsy findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Thirty years after his original heart disease diagnosis, considered incurable at the time, his coronary arteries were found to be soft and pliable, and widely patent throughout. “In a man 69 years old, the near absence of atherosclerosis and complete absence of its effects are remarkable.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

Nathan Pritikin’s work saved my grandmother’s life. Watch my story  in Resuscitating Medicare. Dr. Dean Ornish then published something along these same lines (see, for example, Our Number One Killer Can Be Stopped). Pritikin’s life’s work continued through his research foundation—switching its focus from heart disease to cancer, as I feature in my 2012 presentation, Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death. Tomorrow, we begin that journey: a three-week video series on dietary changes capable of enabling our bodies to reverse cancer cell growth—buckle your seat belts!

For more context, check out my associated blog posts:  Stool Size and Breast Cancer RiskCancer-Proofing Your BodyHow Do Plant-Based Diets Fight Cancer?Vegan Men: More Testosterone But Less CancerPrevent Breast Cancer by Any Greens NecessaryFlax Seeds for Prostate CancerTreating Breast Pain with Diet; and Strawberries Can Reverse Cancer Progression.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

20 responses to “Engineering a Cure

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  1. Nathan Pritikin’s work saved my grandmother’s life. Watch my story here. Dr. Dean Ornish then published something along these same lines (see, for example, Our Number One Killer Can Be Stopped). Pritikin’s life’s work continued through his research foundation, switching its focus from heart disease to cancer, as I feature in my 2012 presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death. Tomorrow we start that journey, a three-week video series on dietary changes capable of enabling one’s body to reverse cancer cell growth—buckle your seat belts!

    If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.




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    1. He did commit suicide, but only when he knew the end was near due to the radiation-induced leukemia. An excellent book on this remarkable man is “Pritikin: The Man Who Healed America’s Heart.” While the Pritikin diet may not have been quite 100% plant-based, many of the scientific studies referred to in the book indicate that’s the way to go. Any vegan who reads this book will come away reassured that their diet does indeed promote the best health. 




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        1. Hi Tan,

          I believe the book is out of print. I borrowed it from the library, or you can pick up a copy from eBay. Well worth the small investment.




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  2. Thanks for this.  I saw Forks over Knives on 7 July, 2011.  I started WFPB eating the next day.  After a year off the meds I went back to my Dr. to explain about the 50 lbs i’d dropped and that my angina was gone.  He said it was because I’d gotten the fat away from my heart.  He didn’t like me eating vegan and really wanted me to eat some more statin.  !

    If only I could express my gratitude to Pritikin, Walter Kempner and all who have since helped push back the envelope of ignorance…. more to learn, of course…but these pioneers are moving us out of the darkness.  Thats you Dr. G., ” A candle in the darkness” to quote another visionary, Carl Sagan. 

     my Dr. won’t watch FoverKs?  I bought him the DVD!  Hellow McFly,  The angina is gone because the plaque is going away from the lining of my arteries.  The epithelial tissue is regenerating.  The poisoning has ceased and healing begun.  it is akin to a religious experience, except this is real.

    Eat raw you say?  Eat majic berries?  Toxins, thats your problem.  Bull.  Nor does it matter what you think the cavefolks ate. This is science.  This works.  Evidence-based thinking trumps feelings, notions and potions every time!  The results presented here so entertainingly, mark the next steps towards an end to the horror.  CODE BLUE or broccoli stew?   I’ve tried both, and I can honestly say the stew is the better choice.




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      1. Thanks Thea…I was on the treadmill and it was all happy chatty and suddenly everyone got real serious and sprayed stuff under my tongue and made me sit down.  I’d had a heart attack and a week later I was a new member of the zipper club.  Not quite a code blue but it tramatized the stuffing out of me.  And I’m tough.  I just wish I’d had the chance, I mean the knowledge of the option to go WFPB before they cut me.  Before those 8 years of horrible drugs.  It was pure chance that I saw Forks over Knives … all that science…beautiful.  Everyone who comes here with angina knows what I mean…To walk a steady pace again.  To jog and you know, other stuff … FREEEDOMMMM!




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    1.  I also think it’s a great story. You put it very well about the nonsense about “feelings, notions and potions”.

      Also, LOL  “He didn’t like me eating vegan and really wanted me to eat some more statin.!”

      I’m really happy to hear about your new lifestyle.




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  3. Is there any evidence for plant-based eating or any dietary approach for narcolepsy?  I have a friend (26 years old), diagnosed with narcolepsy, who says she has read blogs which say she should have a high protein, high fat, high dairy, Atkins-type diet.  I have trouble believing that.  Is there any science here for nutrition for narcolepsy?




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    1. Susan, stay Young eat plants.

      With regards to your friend, even if a high protein, high fat, high dairy, Atkins type diet worked for Narcolepsy (which I don’t think it would but I do not know the science), tell them that they will be wide awake when they have their Stroke, Heart Attack, Cancer and then will forget they had any problem because they will be ravaged by dementia.




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    2. A whole foods, plant-based diet has been shown to be restorative.  A person will find many collateral improvements because the healing is systemic.  My little warty growths dropped off.  My mood changed from morose and desperate to positive and productive.   Perhaps you could show selected vids from this site?  I hope more data on neurodegenerative disease becomes available. 




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    3. To loosely paraphrase Charlotte Gerson, “when the body heals, it heals everything.” It doesn’t just say, “oh, I think I’ll cure heart disease, diabetes and alzheimer’s and ignore narcolepsy.” It is ludicrous to think that a plant based diet could not benefit any disease or condition. To say that it would be cured is an overstatement, but I believe any condition can be improved with a plant based diet.




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    1. I’m a bit confused. The Pritikin diet wasn’t vegan when it came out many years ago. It was very low in fat. I have his books and cooked some of his recipies then, and they definitely contained at least chicken breast.




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      1. Correct. It allowed for 3 ounces of fish or chicken a day, if you so wish (not fried!) If I recall the biography correctly, Pritikin ate fish once or twice a week. Over time the animal products was removed from the diet, my guess would be due to the slippery slope it presents. Most people don’t know what 3 ounces looks like and would over eat it or eat it more than once a day, claiming it was an approved food.




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