If you are not familiar with the name Weston Price it’s high time you should be. Weston Price could be called the Charles Darwin of nutrition in that his work almost a century ago laid the framework for things like the real food and paleo movement.
His investigations started with a simple “why” and when you become familiar with his work you will see all the positive health benefits it can have on your health. His book Nutritional and Physical Degeneration would be nutrition’s ‘ Origin of the Species in that it revealed how the modern diet was responsible for many conditions never seen before in human existence.
BACK TO THE 1930’s WITH WESTON PRICE
There were many advancements in the 1930’s, industry was developing further and the advancement of the automobile was making transportation very efficient.
In the 30’s the average annual salary was $1,368, a loaf of bread cost a nickel and it would be 80+ glorious years until anyone would have to hear the terms ‘selfie’ or ‘twerking’.
FROM DENTIST TO NUTRITIONIST
Weston A Price was born in Canada in 1870. He became a dentist after graduating from the University of Michigan and eventually set up a practice in Cleveland, Ohio. Ohio being enemy territory for a former UM wolverine..
His practice went on like any other would but after awhile Price noticed a strange sensation. The children of his patients were starting to show dental problems that their parent never had. They had more incidence of tooth decay and at a very young age.
Price started to notice that what these kids were eating had not really existed when their parents were younger. They had more access to processed foods, things like refined sugars, jams and polished white rices and were readily available. As early as 1894 he started to wonder if these newer foods could be responsible for the decay in dental health.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Price spent a lot of time learning about primitive cultures and wanted to see for himself first hand the state of not only their dental health but their overall physical state.
This pursuit would take Price on a ten year, 100,000 mile journey to some of the most remote places on earth. This is still in the early days of air travel and limited transportation. Price was not catching a Jet Blue flight from New York to Tampa, he was heading into the treacherous unknown.
Over his travels Price would end up finding his way to
- Swiss villages in remote mountain valleys
- The South Pacific islands
- Tribes throughout Africa
- Canadian Aboriginal reserves
- Australian outbacks
- Arctic tundras
Along with many other places. This was not a journey for the weak as just reaching these locations was incredibly taxing and expensive.
SO WHAT DID HE DISCOVER?
Since Price was a dentist by trade the first traits he looked at were the individuals teeth. The technical term for tooth decay is known as dental carries and Price measured them in all the tribes and populations he went.
The quality of all the peoples teeth astounded Price. Our modern and smaller jaws tend to now hold 28 teeth but he found the various tribes to have perfectly formed sets of all 32 teeth. Price found that these populations had no access to modern food and were still eating a diet that their people had been consuming for millennia
Their diet was free from refined sugars, breads and white flour. It was observed when ancient diets switched from meat, vegetables , seeds and nuts to carbohydrates and sugars the rate of tooth decay skyrocketed along with other health issues.
Keep in mind these tribes with perfectly formed teeth were not using toothbrushes, scope mouthwash, whitening strips or having regular dental appointments.
Some of these remote populations were also getting access to modern foods and not surprisingly Price found that in these locations that dental decay was starting to appear. Eons of a consistent diet was being undone in one generation.
The bacteria composition of the mouth also started to switch when our diets changed. When we started making the change from hunting/gathering to farming certain disease-causing bacteria that were efficient at using carbohydrates started to win out over other types of friendly bacteria in the mouth. The advent of further refined and processed carbohydrates resulting from industrial revolution advances only made things worse.
(from ppnf.org a Samoan boy on left raised on traditional native foods and boy on right born to parents who abandoned their traditional diet)
The move away from traditional diets to modern had also caused physical degeneration as is revealed by our now smaller mouths. As mentioned before our jaws can hold 32 teeth and as our nutrition declined our bone structure became weaker and our faces more narrow. Our jaws now did not have the room for all the teeth and our crowded jaws have resulted in the removal of wisdom teeth for many people.
WHO ARE YOU CALLING PINHEAD?
Scientists and archeologists also note that our brain size has gotten smaller over the last 20,000 years. The dependence on modern food and even since the agriculture age have lead to weaker and smaller bone density resulting in a smaller skull and brain cavity. We have also moved away from healthy, beneficial fats especially those of the omega-3 variety found in seafood, nuts and seeds, and true grass fed animals.
Our increasing use of vegetable oils and exposure to trans fats have lead to higher rates of omega-6 in our bodies causing an imbalance of omega-3 to omega-6. This leads to inflammation in the body and can promote many diseases such as:
- cardiovascular disease
- inflammatory disease
- autoimmune disease
Even our brains themselves are physically made up of omega-3 fats while a gorilla or chimpanzee doesn’t have the same enzymes in the body or raw materials in the diet leading to a brain that is not as developed.
So what were all these different populations eating that allowed them to remain in ideal health, be free of physical degeneration and have pretty much flawless tooth and gum health?
This clearly varied depending on the region as Price studied Inuits that had little access to fauna and depended on large amounts of whale blubber.
Tribes in the western side of the Nile and Sudan were primarily a cattle raising culture so their diet was based around raw milk, meat and even blood. Price regarded them as being unique specimens with great musculature and the woman averaging 6 feet tall with some of the men reaching 7 foot.
There were the Bantu tribes that were more vegetarian based, they focused on:
- sweet potatoes
- kafir corn
The Dinkas tribe Price noted as the healthiest and had a diet primarily of fish. They incorporated in some grains and millets.
(note: the way of grain use by these tribes is not our grain use by way of breads, instant oatmeal, or pastas but by a fermentation process making a sour, acid porridge. the fermentation increases minerals, decreases phytic acid and can enhance probiotic content)
Doctors in the late 1970’s who ventured to these regions noted that these peoples were now experiencing diabetes and high blood pressure.
What had happened?
The doctors observed that some new things had entered the diet including processed grains, peanut and cottonseed oils and sugar. The people were now averaging around 100 grams of sugar consumed daily. The traditional food items were helping to prevent many other diseases but look at the toll just adding sugar to the diet can do.
Whenever western food had been introduced to various traditional populations around the world the same issues appeared.
Weston Price noted this even back in the 30’s with processed, modern foods. And processed foods of the 30’s could almost be considered super foods today. This was a time before high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial sweeteners and genetically modified foods.
This goes to show the damage that can be caused by not eating real food.
I live in southwestern Ontario in Canada and live near some old ancient Indian villages that have been preserved. The adjacent museum shows their use and focus on foods such as fish, corn, squash and wide varieties of vegetables.
I’ve done quite a bit of travelling and have been lucky to see some remote places including some some small tribal regions in Brazil and some isolated locations in New Zealand where traditional diets are still used.
I was also lucky to live and travel in Australia and spent some time in the outback and all along the east coast. While up in Cairns I got to meet some aboriginals who had moved into the city. It was interesting because they would mention about having family members such as uncles who still lived in the ‘bush’ living off the land and existing in a traditional state.
This reminded me of the study by Kerin O’dea who had noticed diseases such as diabetes and heart disease affecting the indigenous populations that had moved into urban settings and adopted a more modern diet.
She set out to find if she reversed their “westernization” would she also reverse their health problems. 10 middle aged, overweight and diabetic Aborigines went to live a 7 week traditional hunter/gatherer life in a traditional, isolated homeland in Northwest Australia, more than a days drive from the nearest town.
WHAT THEY FOUND
Their previous diet included mostly things like:
- carbonated drinks
- cheap fatty meats
Pretty much a western diet. While in various regions in the outback their diet was made up of:
- bush honey
- plant foods
After 7 weeks and with blood tests O’Dea found striking improvements in every level of their health. They averaged an 18 pound weight loss, blood pressure and triglyceride levels dropped into normal range, omega 3 ratio in their body had risen and type 2 diabetes abnormalities had either greatly improved or were normalized.
Worth noting is that their activity level actually dropped while in the outback and they still experienced weight loss.
WHAT TO TAKE AWAY FROM WESTON PRICE
This can all be summed up by the reminder to keep it real. J.E.R.F as Sean Croxton would say (just eat real food)
The more we focus on real whole foods and remove things that are manufactured or processed the better our health and wellness will be for it.
I really recommend reading Weston Price’s book to get the full insight into his amazing work and travels. It’s an easy read and pretty mind blowing when you realize this was all done in the 1930’s.
You can also follow along today with the Weston Price Foundation
So do you keep it real when it comes to food? If you liked this article please pass it on to anyone who might benefit from learning about keeping our diets simple and traditional and don’t forget to hop on the newsletter below to keep up to date with information like this.
Now if you don’t mind me I feel like a nice hunk o’ kangaroo, but i’ll leave you with what might be the greatest public service announcement on not eating processed, manufactured food..