ALBANY, N.Y. -- Controversial diet guru Nathan Pritikin, fighting a losing battle with cancer, asked for an hour of solitude in his hospital room and killed himself by slashing the arteries in his arms.
The author of 'The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise,' a national best-seller, died Thursday night at Albany Medical Center Hospital where he was being treated under an assumed name.
Officials learned of his true identity when his death was announced Friday.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete.
Pritikin, 69, who had been suffering from leukemia for 27 years, was admitted to the hospital Feb. 11 under the name of Howard Malmuth.
He spent his final days in a private room in a wing for cancer patients, with his wife, Ilene, by his side.
Pritikin had asked doctors to allow him an hour of privacy each night from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., said hospital spokeswoman Elmer Streeter.
Thursday, Pritikin's wife left the room at 7 p.m. She discovered her husband covered with blood when she returned to is room at 8 p.m.
Albany County Coroner John Marra said Pritikin slit his arteries at the elbow with a razor.
'There was a lot of blood on the bed when I got there,' Marra said.
Pritikin's leukemia had been diagnosed in 1958, but was in remission until last fall. He started a treatment program at UCLA Medical Center that produced a chain reaction of side effects.
Authorities did not know why Pritikin had transferred to Albany. Relatives were unavailable for comment.
'He just succumbed to the suffering,' said Eugenia Killoran of the Pritikin Longevity Center in Santa Monica, Calif. 'He made a conscious decision not to inflict the chronic pain he was suffering on his family.'
Except for Pritikin's doctor, hospital officials did not know the true identity of their patient, Streeter said.
Police logged the suicide under the assumed name, and it was not until about 20 hours later that Marra corrected the death certificate.
Pritikin, who was not a physician, began his diet and health research in 1957 when he was diagnosed as having heart disease.
An engineer with patents for firms like Bendix and Kodak, Pritikin turned his attention to developing a formula for longevity that called for exercise combined with a diet of low-cholestorol, fruit, vegetables, grains and low sugar and salt consumption.
Such a regimen helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and breast and colon cancer, Pritikin claimed.
His theories were challenged by many in the medical establishment, who said that tests failed to produce the same results.
Nonetheless, Pritikin preached his theories in books, lectures and on television. Most recently, he produced a video cassette based on his last book, 'The Pritikin Promise: 28 Days to a Longer Healthier Life.'