Book Review: Nutrition and Physical Degeneration
By Dr. Alison Adams DDS
A Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects by Dr Weston Price DDS,Benediction Classics (May 2010)
In all honesty, I hadn’t actually got around to reading this book because I thought I knew what it said having seen and heard it referred to so often in other articles, books, podcasts and videos. However, I have to say that the effort taken to read the 400 plus pages of this heavily illustrated book is well rewarded.
In fact, if you were only ever to read one book on nutrition – this would be the one I would chose. Taking things one step further, if you were only ever going to read one non-fiction book this one would have the power to alter not only your life, but the life of your children and grandchildren.
A large claim?
It’s truly paradigm busting stuff and the implications of Price’s work are immense if they were to be taken onboard by the medical profession or the populace at large.
At the same time, at the (cynical) prompting of a respondent to an article I had written I read Bad Science by Dr Ben Goldacre. This is a theme to which I may return, but as an allopathic doctor, the author appears to reserve a special level of vitriol for nutritionists spending a chapter each rubbishing the UK’s two best known advocates of the importance of diet. And a word search on my Kindle edition reveals that he mentions nutritionists in a derogatory way a total of 64 times.
It is obvious that he simply thinks the whole notion that food might have anything important to do with health completely ridiculous. As do most doctors because they are taught practically nothing about the subject and therefore see it as being of no significance.
On a slightly different note, I was in the supermarket recently and was speculating over the age of an infirm, morbidly obese lady with massively swollen legs and also taking the opportunity to see what she had in her shopping trolley. It was the usual processed fare.
Ben Goldacre argues (not without humour) in his book for at least the accurate presentation of facts to the various professions and population so that they can make their own mind up about the data. And it occurred to me that the lady in question probably had no idea that the choices she had been making every meal time and every week as she did her food shopping were the cause of her maladies.And she would have believed this because of the entrenched attitudes of the medical profession.
So, first a little about the good man himself.
About Dr Weston Price
Dr Weston Price was born in Canada in 1870 and qualified as a dentist from the University of Michigan in 1893.
He went into general practice, married and had a son, Donald, for whom he did a root-canal filling. Sadly, Donald died as a consequence of an infection relating to this root filling. This led Price to front a 60 man team of researchers on a 25 year long investigation into root canal treatments in what was then the research arm of the National Dental Association which later become the American Dental Association.
He produced meticulous research into root canal fillings publishing them in a two volume, 9 lb book. For more on this subject please refer to the article and video Problems with Root Canal Fillings.
He then turned his attentions to the fundamental causes of dental disease.
His search led him to travel to the most remote parts of the planet to research the health of native peoples and the effect of the advance of the ‘modern’ diet. He conducted this exhaustive research with his wife over a period of 9 years clocking up over 100,000 miles when global travel to remote areas was far from easy.
Potted versions of his story are available to watch on the videos The Price-Pottenger Story(7 mins) andIntroduction to the Work of Weston Price(10 mins) and footage of the man himself atDr Weston Price(2 mins).
One of his motivations in doing this work related to why there had been 21 civilisations that had risen and fallen without explanation over the last 6,000 years and he feared that we were destined to repeat the pattern unless we understood the possible cause(s).
“Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them.”
The effects of the modern diet
What Price found was that it didn’t matter where in the world you went, or how different the diets were, people living on their native diet were in robust good health, had well developed jaws with straight teeth and negligible rates of dental disease. In addition there was practically no infectious disease, no mental illness, no crime and childbirth was also remarkably easy due to the proper development of the pelvis.
Remember that these people did not brush or floss their teeth and had absolutely no access to medical or dental care.
However, within a remarkably short time of being exposed to the ‘modern’ diet including processed foods that could be transported without spoiling around the globe eg: canned meats and fruits, white flour, white rice, sugar, jams, crackers, etc., he witnessed:
- Significant amounts of tooth decay and gum disease.
- Malformed jaws that were narrow and grew downwards in length rather than width. The narrowing of dental arches was accompanied by crowding of the teeth.
- All kinds of infectious and degenerative illnesses particularly tuberculosis (which was a big issue at the time), and skeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Inadequate development particularly of the middle third of the face causing narrow nasal passages, poor sinus and ear drainage and inflammation of the tonsils.
- Although the hard tissues of the face do not develop properly, the soft tissues grow to normal size so that signs of restricted facial development include a deviated nasal septum and bumps on the nose.
- Because the middle third of the face acts as the base to the brain, there was constriction of the master glands and poor brain development may have been reflected in emerging behavioural issues like poor attention span, criminality and low IQ.
- The rib cage became narrow and shallow with reduced lung surface area.
- The pelvis became narrow and flattened leading to subsequent problems with childbirth.
- The advent of digestive disorders including appendicitis, colitis, gallbladder disease, etc.
- That the eyes could not develop into proper spheres so the individual often become astigmatic or myopic.
What he also observed was that in order for the child to be physically robust and well developed the mother has to be well nourished throughout life but particularly during preconception, pregnancy and breastfeeding and then the child needs to be well nourished throughout their entire development.
He found that both the diets of the mother and father are particularly important prior to conception, but that the nutritional status of the mother was key because her body will provide all the nutrients required to make the baby. In recognition of this fact, spacing of children is practised in most indigenous communities so that the mother’s body can restore after childbirth.
In addition, he found childbirth itself in these communities was seen as being totally natural and not something to be feared. In one story he recounts how an Innuit women married to a Western man gave birth to three of her children in the middle of the night without waking her husband whom she did not want to disturb! Compare and contrast if you will the classes, the books, the interventions, the drugs and general performance these days!
Price took samples of the foods that the various indigenous peoples were eating and analysed them later for nutritional content. What he found was that thenative diets containedat least 10X as many fat soluble vitamins and 4X as many water soluble vitaminsas the diet of his time. In addition all the diets contained what he termed ‘Activator X’ (now thought to be Vitamin K2) which is a component in vital fats that promotes utilisation of all the other nutrients.
So what Price found was that most of the ills that plague the developed world did not emerge gradually over thousands of years, but very rapidly within a few years of adopting the modern, refined diet. He found that dental disease acted as a marker for systemic degeneration and also that a lot of the conditions we now think of as genetic disorders are what he referred to as ‘intercepted heredity’ ie: have gross nutritional deficiencies as their origin.
As a side issue, people often seem to have the wrong idea about Darwin’s concept of natural selection and adaptation. What Darwin suggested was that there were spontaneous genetic errors that were generated and that those that offered some advantage were selected for and that individuals that did not possess such a traiteither died out or were eventually outnumbered by the reproductive capacity of those better equipped to survive.His idea was not really that any given individual adapts to their circumstances as many seem to believe.
The archaeological records
Price also looked at the archaeological records all over the world and found little evidence of dental disease, robust skeletons (much thicker, denser bone than today) and wide dental arches with no evidence of tooth crowding.
We always told that our forebears must have experienced times of famine and scarcity and that as such we are hardwired to store fat during times of surplus, for example. However, the archaeological records in these regions show that for thousands of years the indigenous people have remained in near perfect general and dental health.
This means that they have consistently managed to meet these nutritional requirements throughout their entire lifetime and that of their forebears. And it seems that intuitively and through experience they seem to know what their body needs which is something we appear to have lost other than the gross sense of hunger in the developed world.
Price’s dietary recommendations
Dr Weston Price found that by providing just one controlled meal a day at school for the children he encountered who were affected by tooth decay and illness that he could reverse the signs of physical degeneration. His dietary recommendations include:
- Eat whole, fresh, seasonal foods
- Eat some food raw
- Cut out completely refined foods including sugar and white flour
- Eat organ meats, meat, poultry, fish and eggs
- Drink raw, unpasteurised milk
- Eat only wheat that has been freshly ground in a coffee grinder
- Consume soups and stews made from proper stocks made from boiling bones
- Eat a small amount of yellow butter – particularly high vitamin butter – with each meal
- Supplement 1 teaspoon of cod liver oil with each meal
He also has many examples in his book of people recovering from some pretty desperate conditions by following his recommendations.
Price specifically looked forindigenous people who were vegetarian but found that all ate some animal products often going to great lengths to acquire these foods. He found that the consumption of saturated and animal fats were essential to maintaining health. See alsoBook Review: Trick and Treat.
Reflections on the implications of Weston Price’s findings
There is evidence of Homo sapiens dating back 200,000 years. Agriculture was introduced as long ago as 10,000 years in some regions and is currently still being introduced in other areas. Let’s split the difference and call it 5,000 years. So that for just 1/40 th of the history of our particular branch of hominids we have eaten an agricultural-based diet.
The archaeological records show that this change to consumption of a grain- and dairy-based diet had devastating effects upon the population. It resulted in an average loss of height of 7” in men and 5” in women and a huge increase in neo-natal mortality.
In more recent times, you also have to wonder about the massive number of deaths of the native people as they came under the control of the Western world. Perhaps their extreme vulnerability to disease was a result not only of being exposed to infectious agents they had never encountered before, but of a massive weakening of their immune defences by the introduction of the diet of the conquering peoples?
Many people seem to imagine that in the intervening years since the introduction of agriculture that we have ‘adapted’ to eating wheat and dairy products. But this is just 330 generations ago, which seemed like an unimaginably long time ago when you were a kid, but not so long ago when you reach late middle age and have witnessed several generations in your lifetime!
WHAT IF humanity collectively took a giant wrong turn with the advent of agriculture?
WHAT IF nearly all the ills that assail us – mental, emotional and physical – are a result of this?
If Price is right and our diet is so woefully nutritionally deficient that itcontains less than one-tenth of some of the nutrients we need(compared to what we would now consider a wholesome ‘organic’ diet from the 1930s) it makes an absolute mockery of the government recommendations on daily amounts (RDAs), food pyramids and the like which may be hopelessly, wildly wrong.
On a different tack, I note with pride that both Dr Weston Price and another great dental researcher, Dr Melvin Page, graduated from my alma mater, the University of Michigan. Melvin Page’s work complements that of Dr Price and centered around correcting blood chemistries using small amounts of endocrine extracts and diet to reverse the ravages of dental disease and degeneration.
One – possibly two – of the greatest dental researchers of all time and no one ever mentioned it. There are no wings, departments or funds dedicated to their memory, no plaques that I can recall. A brief websearch of the University of Michigan site produces no mention of these men as alumni.
There is no question in my mind that Dr Weston Price should have got a Nobel prize for his work. Instead he was largely villified and his work ignored and it is only now being resurrected by a small number of enthusiasts.He must be spinning in his grave to not only witness the fact that his message was not heeded, but to observe the further deterioration in our diet since his day.
If Price is right, the need for the entire edifice of medicine and dentistry is almost entirelyavoidable and the vast majority of physical, mental, and emotional ailments have nutritional deficiencies as their cause. While allopathic medicine continues to conduct an almost futile and very expensive search for the genes that they maintain cause disease with – as ever – the promise of a cure tomorrow, the answers they seek were hidden in plain view all the time held by people they might dismiss as ‘primitive’.
There are now so many vested interests dealing with the problems created, so many professional bodies, organisations, egos and livehoods on the line – all of whom are frantically bailing water. Entire specialities such as orthodontics, endodontics (root fillings) and orthopaedics have arisen to serve the needs of people affected by nutritional deficiencies. Along with the less obviousarmies of counsellors, prison officers, remedial teachers, and so forth.
It is hard to turn the minds and hearts of 7 billion (highly addicted) people around, but YOU can take personal responsibility starting with your diet and that of your children.
One thing is for sure: looking to allopathic medicine and their researchers to solve the problems nutritional deficiencies have created is going to prove fruitless. Dr Ben Goldacre and his medical colleagues simply can’t see – and probably never will be able to see – the problem.
“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.”
Daniel J. Boorstin