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The pioneering research of Dr. Weston A. Price.

Acclaimed author Sally Fallon challenges our assumptions about "health food."

Editor's Note: The volume of information on what foods are healthy and what are not is amazing, and here Sally Fallon shares with us a view that modern proponents of vegetarianism may take exception to. The interesting connection between Fallon's perspective and that of other healthy foods experts is the importance placed on a diet of whole, unrefined foods. No matter which diet you choose, the simple truth appears to be that whole foods are the key to excellent health. Dialogue about this article, and any of our other articles, is welcomed. Please direct any questions or feedback to

More than sixty years ago, a Cleveland dentist named Weston A. Price decided to embark on a series of unique investigations. For the next ten years, he traveled to various isolated parts of the earth where the inhabitants had no contact with "civilization" to study their health and physical development. He studied Swiss villagers, Irish fisherfolk, traditional Eskimos, Indian tribes in Canada and the Florida Everglades, South Sea islanders, Aborigines in Australia, Maoris in New Zealand, Peruvian and Amazonian Indians and tribesmen in Africa. The photographs Price took, the descriptions of what he found and his startling conclusions are preserved in a book considered a masterpiece by many nutrition researchers who followed in Price's footsteps: Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration is the kind of book that changes the way people view the world. No one can look at the handsome photographs of so-called "primitive people"--faces that are broad, well formed and noble--without realizing that there is something very wrong with the development of modern children. In every isolated region he visited, Price found tribes or villages where virtually every individual exhibited genuine physical perfection. In such groups, tooth decay was rare and dental crowding and occlusions--the kind of problems that keep American orthodontists in yachts and vacation homes--nonexistent. Price took photograph after photograph of beautiful smiles, and noted that the natives were invariably cheerful and optimistic. Such people were characterized by isplendid physical development" and an almost complete absence of disease, even those living in physical environments that were extremely harsh.

The diets of the healthy "primitives" Price studied were all very different: In the Swiss village where Price began his investigations, the inhabitants lived on rich dairy products--unpasteurized milk, butter, cream and cheeseo-dense rye bread, meat occasionally, bone broth soups, and the few vegetables they could cultivate during the short summer months. The children never brushed their teeth--in fact, their teeth were covered in green slime--but Price found that only about one percent of the teeth had any decay at all. The children went barefoot in frigid streams during weather that forced Dr. Price and his wife to wear heavy wool coats. Nevertheless, childhood illnesses were virtually nonexistent, and there had never been a single case of TB in the village.

On the other hand, hearty Gallic fishermen living off the coast of Scotland consumed no dairy products. Fish formed the mainstay of the diet, along with oats made into porridge and oatcakes. Fish heads stuffed with oats and chopped fish liver was a traditional dish, and one considered very important for children. The Eskimo diet, composed largely of fish, fish roe and marine animals, including seal oil and blubber, allowed Eskimo mothers to produce one sturdy baby after another without suffering any health problems or tooth decay. Well-muscled hunter-gatherers in Canada, the Everglades, the Amazon, Australia, and Africa consumed game animals, particularly the parts that civilized folk tend to avoid--organ meats, glands, blood, marrow, and particularly the adrenal glands--and a variety of grains, tubers, vegetables and fruits that were available. African cattle-keeping tribes like the Masai consumed no plant foods at all-just meat, blood, and milk. Southsea islanders and the Maori of New Zealand ate seafood of every sort--fish, shark, octopus, shellfish, sea worms--along with pork meat and fat, and a variety of plant foods including coconut, manioc, and fruit. Whenever these isolated peoples could obtain sea foods they did so--even Indian tribes living high in the Andes. These groups put a high value on fish roe, which was available in dried form in the most remote Andean villages. Insects were another common food, in all regions except the Arctic. The foods that allow people of every race and every climate to be healthy are whole natural foods--meat with its fat, organ meats, whole milk products, fish, insects, whole grains, tubers, vegetables and fruit--not newfangled concoctions made with white sugar, refined flour, and rancid and chemically-altered vegetable oils.

Price took samples of native foods home with him to Cleveland and studied them in his laboratory. He found that these diets contained at least four times the minerals and water soluble vitamins--vitamin C and B complex--as the American diet of his day. Price would undoubtedly find a greater discrepancy in the Twenty-First Century due to continual depletion of our soils through industrial farming practices. What's more, among traditional populations, grains and tubers were prepared in ways that increased vitamin content and made minerals more available--soaking, fermenting, sprouting, and sour leavening.

"It was when Price analyzed the fat-soluble vitamins that he got a real surprise. The diets of healthy native groups contained at least ten times more vitamin A and vitamin D than the American diet of his day! These vitamins are found only in animal fatsobutter, lard, egg yolks, fish oils and foods with fat-rich cellular membranes like liver and other organ meats, fish eggs, and shellfish. Price referred to the fat-soluble vitamins as "catalysts" or "activators" upon which the assimilation of all the other nutrients depended-protein, minerals, and vitamins. In other words, without the dietary factors found in animal fats, all the other nutrients largely go to waste.

Today the research of Weston Price is largely unknown. In a country where the entire orthodox health establishment condemns saturated fat and cholesterol from animal sources, and where vending machines have become a fixture in our schools, who wants to hear about a peripatetic dentist who warned about the dangers of sugar and white flour, who thought kids should take cod liver oil, and who believed that butter was the number one health food?

The irony is that as Price becomes more and more forgotten, more and more research appears in the scientific literature proving he was right. We now know that vitamin A is essential for the prevention of birth defects, for growth and development, for the health of the immune system, and the proper functioning of all the glands. Scientists have discovered that the precursors to vitamin A--the carotenes found in plant foods--cannot be converted to true vitamin A by infants and children. They must get their vital supply of this nutrient from animal fats. Yet orthodox nutritional pundits are now pushing low-fat diets for children. Neither can diabetics and people with thyroid conditions convert carotenes to the fat-soluble form of vitamin A--yet diabetics and people with low energy are told to avoid animal fats.

The scientific literature tells us that vitamin D is needed not only for healthy bones and optimal growth and development, but also to prevent colon cancer, MS, and reproductive problems.

Cod liver oil is an excellent source of vitamin D. Cod liver oil also contains special fats called EPA and DHA The body uses EPA to make substances that help prevent blood clots, and that regulate a myriad of biochemical processes. Recent research shows that DHA is essential to the development of the brain and nervous system. Adequate DHA in the mother's diet is necessary for the proper development of the retina in the infant she carries. DHA in mother's milk helps prevent learning disabilities. Cod liver oil and foods like liver and egg yolk supply this essential nutrient to the developing fetus, to nursing infants, and to growing children.

Butter contains both vitamin A and D, as well as other beneficial substances, including trace minerals. Conjugated linoleic acid in butterfat is a powerful protection against cancer. Certain fats called glycospingolipids aid digestion.

Saturated fats from animal sources--portrayed as the enemy--form an important part of the cell membrane; they protect the immune system and enhance the utilization of essential fatty acids. They are needed for the proper development of the brain and nervous system. Certain types of saturated fats provide quick energy and protect against pathogenic microorganisms in the intestinal tract; other types provide energy to the heart.

Cholesterol is essential to the development of the brain and nervous system of the infant, so much so that mother's milk is not only extremely rich in the substance, but also contains special enzymes that aid in the absorption of cholesterol from the intestinal tract. Cholesterol is the body's repair substance; when the arteries are damaged because of weakness or irritation, cholesterol steps in to patch things up and prevent aneurysms. Cholesterol is a powerful antioxidant, protecting the body from cancer; it is the precursor to the bile salts, needed for fat digestion; from it the adrenal hormones are formed, those that help us deal with stress and those that regulate sexual function.

(The next issue of New Life Journal will publish the second part of Sally Fallon's article regarding the research of Dr. Price, including the dangers of polyunsaturated vegetable oils and their link to an array of health issues.)

Sally Fallon is the author of Nourishing Traditions, The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats (NewTrends Publishing 877-707-1776, She serves as President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a non-profit nutrition education foundation located in Washington, DC.
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Author:Fallon, Sally
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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