For the past several weeks we’ve had a book club of sorts discussing the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Weston Price. Dr. Weston A. Price was a dentist who travelled the world in the 1930’s and studied peoples diet and how this diet corresponded with their dental and overall health.
I have to admit, that while I’d read this book before, going through it again and reading to share in-depth with you has had a profound effect on my thinking. It has been a huge wake up call in many areas.
Today, we’re going to wrap up the book. 5 chapters remain so I’ll only give a brief synopsis of each, not because I think these are less important than earlier chapters. It is strictly a time issue, I need to wrap this up. I encourage you to read this book on your own. It has very valuable information in it for those of us on this real/whole/traditional foods path.
Chapter 17: One Origin of Physical Deformities
This chapter shares many pictures. It also discusses the changes in facial features due to a change from a primitive diet to a modern diet. This chapter also specifies other deformities that Dr. Price believed to be directly related to dietary changes. This chapter is very picture heavy but does have some great written information also.
Chapter 18: Prenatal Nutrition Deformities and Disease Types
Dr. Price lays the ground work for prenatal deformities showing many examples of animals. He shares that the absence of certain vitamins can cause birth defects. He also shares that not only the mother’s lack of nutrition can lead to defects but also the fathers.
Chapter 19: Physical, Mental and Moral Deterioration
“Criminals. Were there unsocial traits related directly to incomplete brain organization associated with prenatal injury.”
Okay, so this was a hard chapter to read. I understand much of what Dr. Price is saying but to me it seems strange to say someone became a criminal because of their parents diet. On the other hand, it makes sense. If the lack of nutrients can cause changes to physical characteristics why not changes to moral characteristics? Something to think about…
Also of note in the chapter. One of the vitamins specified as missing and causing defects from the previous chapter is Vitamin E. Dr. Price notes that one of the best places to get Vitamin E is wheat germ and white flour is completely devoid of wheat germ. How many people focus their diet on white flour products bases on the food pyramid which was drilled into our heads for so many years?
This is something I’ve been studying on my own lately. Dr. Price wrote these things in the 1930’s. I can’t imagine that our soil has improved any since that time, in fact, it is probably much worse with our mono crops and heavy synthetic fertilizers. A quote from the chapter;
“In one of my trips to the Western States I visited a large ranch of some fifty thousand acres. I asked the rancher whether he was conscious of a depletion in the soil of the ranch in its ability to carry pasture cattle. He said that it was very greatly depleted, that whereas formerly the cows on the ranch were able to produce from ninety-three to ninety-five healthy calves per hundred cows annually, nearly all of sufficiently high physical quality to be available for reproductive purposes, now he was getting only forty to forty-four calves per hundred cows annually and usually only ten or eleven of these were physically fit for reproductive purposes. He stated also that he was able to raise as many calves for restocking the ranch on the plant food produced on the fifty acres to which he was applying a high fertilization program as on the rest of the fifty-thousand-acre ranch. Of late most of the calves for the ranch had to be imported from other states.”
And the last line from this chapter;
“The most serious problem confronting the coming generations is this nearly unsurmountable handicap of depletion of the quality of the foods because of the depletion of the minerals of the soil.”
Chapter 21: Practical Applications of Primitive Wisdom
“I have presumed in this discussion that the primitive races are able to provide us with valuable information. In the first place, the primitive peoples have carried out programs that will produce physically excellent babies. This they have achieved by a system of carefully planned nutritional programs for mothers-to-be. It is important to note that they begin this process of special feeding long before conception takes place, not leaving it, as is so generally done until after the mother-to-be knows she is pregnant. In some instances special foods are given the fathers-to-be, as well as the mothers-to-be. Those groups of primitive racial stocks who live by the sea and have access to animal life from the sea, have depended largely upon certain types of animal life and animal products. Specifically, the Eskimos, the people of the South Sea Islands, the residents of the islands north of Australia, the Gaelics in the Outer Hebrides, and the coastal Peruvian Indians have depended upon these products for their reinforcement. Fish eggs have been used as part of this program in all of these groups. The cattle tribes of Africa, the Swiss in isolated high Alpine valleys, and the tribes living in the higher altitudes of Asia, including northern India, have depended upon a very high quality of dairy products. Among the primitive Masai in certain districts of Africa, the girls were required to wait for marriage until the time of the year when the cows were on the rapidly growing young grass and to use the milk from these cows for a certain number of months before they could be married. In several agricultural tribes in Africa the girls were fed on special foods for six months before marriage. The need for this type of program is abundantly borne out by recent experimental work on animals, such as I have reported in Chapters 17, 18 and 19.
Another important feature of the control of excellence of child life among the primitive races has been the systematic spacing of children by control of pregnancies. The interval between children ranged from two and a half to four years.”
I find these ideas to be huge. So different than what we do now. As a society we tend to be so focused on our own selves that the idea of preparing for child birth gets put aside. I know one of my own concerns during pregnancy was how much weight I would gain. Not how well I was nourishing my baby.
And what about tooth decay?
“A first requisite for the control of tooth decay is to have provided an adequate intake of the body-building and repairing factors by the time the hunger appeal for energy has been satisfied. A sufficient variety of foods must be used to supply the body’s demand for those elements which it needs in large quantities, that is, calcium and phosphorus, and the other elements which it needs in smaller quantities, though just as imperatively. One of the serious human deficiencies is the inability to synthesize certain of the activators which include the known vitamins. This makes necessary the reinforcement of the nutrition with definite amounts of special foods to supply these organic catalysts, especially the fat-soluble activators, including the known vitamins, which are particularly difficult to provide in adequate quantities. I have shown that the primitive races studied were dependent upon one of three sources for some of these fat-soluble factors, namely, sea foods, organs of animals or dairy products. These are all of animal origin.”
So do we need to pick a particular society and eat as they did?
“Also, that it is not necessary to adopt the foods of any particular racial stock, but only to make our nutrition adequate in all its nutritive factors to the primitive nutritions. Tooth decay is not only unnecessary, but an indication of our divergence from Nature’s fundamental laws of life and health.”
Over the course of the book I was constantly reminded of the importance of our future generations. Native cultures really put an emphasis on this knowing that their children’s excellent health was necessary to continue the society.
I’m also struck by the fact that Dr. Price did not find one entirely vegetarian society. Not all ate meat daily but all did have some form of animal protein in their diets.
Something else I thought about several times over the course of reading this book, am I making this more difficult than it needs to be? Many of the native societies had very limited diets. Very nourishing diets, but not a huge amount of variety. Could part of our nutritional deficiencies be caused from always trying to keep thing interesting? Does this lead to adding in foods that have no nutritional value? At my house, I suspect this may be happening. I’m not planning on putting us on a diet consisting only of smoked salmon and seal oil but this really does make me think.
What do you think? Do you believe our diet affects our overall health?
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Photo: Cows on Pasture