Past studies have proven the benefits of diet and exercise in reducing risk factors for epidemic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. But most showed benefits “after many months to years,” stated the editorial’s authors: Frank W. Booth, MD, of the University of Missouri-Columbia and Manu V. Chakravarthy, MD, of the Washington University School of Medicine. In a “quick fix” culture like America, long-term options like these just don’t cut it.
That’s why this new study by UCLA scientists on men following the diet-and-exercise program at the Pritikin Longevity Center “and the fast and profound results they achieved ” is so “provocative,” pointed out Drs. Booth and Chakravarthy, in their editorial entitled “Physical Activity and Dietary Intervention For Chronic Diseases: A Quick Fix After All?”
“phenomenal clinical response”
“Just three weeks of treatment,” the authors announced, “showed a phenomenal clinical response of about a 50% decrease in metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes.”
More Effective Than Drugs
What makes this study even more remarkable, they added, is that it presents a whole new alternative to pharmaceutical-focused America. In fact, the Pritikin Program appears more effective ” and faster-acting ” that any drug currently on the market.
“To our knowledge, no current pharmaceutical product has made a claim in a peer-reviewed publication for an approximate halving the metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes in three weeks,” writes Dr. Booth, from the Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, and Dr. Chakravarthy, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Lipid Research, Washington University School of Medicine.
It is important to emphasize the details of this “miracle treatment,” the authors continued. In contrast to fad diets like low-carbohydrate Atkins and South Beach diets, the Pritikin diet is light on fat, medium on protein, and high in unrefined carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, and pasta.
And interestingly, Pritikin does not control calories or portion sizes. For most snacks and entrees, guests at the Pritikin Longevity Center can eat as much as they want ” a welcome departure from most diets, which often leave the dieter feeling hungry most of the time.
Physical activity at the Pritikin Longevity Center consists of 45 to 60 minutes daily of walking and/or running on treadmills, plus weight-lifting every other day, and a variety of electives, including yoga, Pilates, and water aerobics.
Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes
In the study, Dr. Christian Roberts and colleagues at UCLA followed 31 overweight men, ages 46 to 76, during their 21-day stay at Pritikin.
Half had the metabolic syndrome; the other half had type 2 diabetes, or both diabetes and the metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome, a disorder now reaching epidemic numbers worldwide, consists of a cluster of problems, including abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL “good” cholesterol, high blood pressure, and elevated fasting blood sugar. Having the syndrome puts one at major risk for diabetes and heart disease.
In June, experts at the annual American Diabetes Association meeting in Washington, D.C., reported that half of Americans will develop metabolic syndrome and that controlling it could slash heart attacks in the U.S. by 63%. Diet and exercise is the place to start treatment, Dr. Robert Rizza of the ADA announced.
50% Reverse Disease
In just three weeks of diet and exercise therapy at Pritikin, the men’s health improved dramatically. In about 50% of the men, the Pritikin Program reversed the clinical diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
“The study shows that type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome can be reversed solely through lifestyle changes,” reported lead investigator Dr. Roberts.
The intensive three-week lifestyle intervention, noted Drs. Booth and Chakravarthy, “resulted in significantly modifying factors associated with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.” The three-week program at Pritikin:
- Decreased LDL “bad” cholesterol by 26%, total cholesterol by 25%, and triglycerides by 28%;
- Enhanced insulin sensitivity and decreased fasting insulin levels by 6 and 30%, respectively;
- Reduced oxidative stress, the process whereby free radicals cause inflammation in the artery walls, triggering plaque rupture and heart attacks, by 20%;
- Decreased the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein by 39%;
- Decreased factors that damage the endothelium, the inner lining of the arteries, by 20%;
- Decreased MMP-9, a marker of plaque instability and progression, by 25%; and
- Increased nitric oxide production, which expands vessels and allows blood to flow more freely, by 9%.
These results were all the more impressive, points out Drs. Booth and Chakravarthy, because the men did not have to wait till they had lost a lot of weight before attaining them. After shedding just 6 to 10 pounds, on average, they improved virtually all factors that lead to heart disease and diabetes. Put simply, losing weight takes time, but getting healthy can happen very, very quickly.
The study was limited by the small number of subjects. However, the editors noted that an earlier publication on the results of the Pritikin Program had 4,587 subjects “that showed almost identical percentage decreases in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and trigylcerides as the present study.”
Drs. Booth and Chakravarthy concluded that “the report by Roberts, et al, encouragingly shows that a three-week, intense lifestyle modification can in fact result in a marked improvement in health parameters.”
Moreover, the results achieved at the Pritikin Center “provide a clear “proof of principle’ to the notion that tangible health benefits can indeed be obtained by engaging in one type of lifestyle intervention, even as short as three weeksâ€¦and provide a new fabric for designing more efficacious therapeutic strategies.”