Weston A Price, a Cleveland dentist who, when challenged by rampant tooth decay and the considerable physical degeneration of his patients, left his practice and traveled the world researching the dietary practices of peoples consuming processed foods and those consuming an unprocessed, native diet, and the non-profit nutritional advocacy group named in his honor – the Weston A Price Foundation – have heavily influenced the content and message at Nourished Kitchen. As a Weston A Price enthusiast, it’s time I share more information about the man including how and why his work has so heavily influenced me.
Weston A Price, a native of Canada, practiced dentistry in Cleveland, Ohio at the turn of the 20th century. A researcher at heart, Price served as the chairman for the research section of the American Dental Association for nearly a decade. About the time that he began his work in dentistry, the American food system changed, and dramatically so; Weston A Price – confounded by patients riddled by rampant tooth decay, malformations of the palate and other health issues – witnessed the detriments of this shift in the standard American diet firsthand and, with his passion for research firmly in place, committed himself to determining just why and how the health of populations in industrialized societies degenerated so significantly in just a few decades.
At the time that Price was practicing, the American food system shifted dramatically from its natural, agrarian focus to one of industrialization and food processing. For the first time, canned foods, jams, jellies, refined white sugar, margarine, pasteurized milk and other heavily processed foods. In many cases, fresh vegetables and fruits, properly prepared whole grains and the very limited use of natural sweeteners had been lost to canned vegetables, sweetened fruit jams, refined white flour and the rampant use of white sugar. In his hallmark book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Price describes accounts of small children surviving on white bread with sweetened fruit jams and strong coffee made syrupy by the excessive use of white sugar. Keep in mind that at the time of his work, the American food system was just beginning its change and foods we now consume in excess such as high fructose corn syrup and soy-based functional foods had not yet been invented, let alone widely used.
Weston A Price: Work & Research
Weston A Price took a hands-on approach to nutrition and health research, visiting isolated and non-isolated populations across the globe – analyzing dietary patterns, prevalence of cavities, prevalence of disease. He studied isolated mountain people of Switzerland, the Inuit population, Native Americans, Australian Aborigines, Melanesian and Polynesian populations, the Maasai and other African tribes, the Gaelic populations of the outer Hebrides as well as South American tribes. What Dr. Price discovered, and it should come as no surprise, is that those populations who held fast to their native, unprocessed, traditional diets enjoyed better health than the people of the very same ethnic backgrounds who, instead, relied on processed and industrialized foods.
Price discovered that populations who enjoyed an unrefined, unprocessed diet of their native foods consumed vastly more concentrated amounts of vitamins and minerals than those subsisting on a modern, refined diet. Price found this to be the case across all populations he studied, but particularly in relation to the consumption of fat soluble vitamins. Price’s findings indicate that Alaskan natives enjoying their native, unprocessed foods suffered less frequently from tuberculosis than Alaskan natives consuming imported, processed foods. Childbirth seemed easier, children livelier and more resilient among populations choosing unrefined, wholesome foods. Moreover, tooth decay and crowding was almost non-existent in populations untouched by processed foods, but rampant in populations eating refined sugars, flours and eschewing the bounty of traditional foods.
Upon returning from his travels, Weston A Price carried his work further – providing wholesome, nutrient-dense meals to orphans and children from low-income families. Moreover, he carried samples of foods held sacred by populations he studied home for nutritional analysis, finding that foods from naturally raised animals – such as milk and butter – were extraordinarily rich in vitamins and minerals by comparison to contemporary foods of his time. Price’s full analysis is published in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.
Weston A Price: Findings and Nutritional Views
Weston A Price details the foods consumed by societies thriving on their traditional, unprocessed, native foods in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. At first glance, the foods consumed in populations studied by Weston A Price may seem strikingly dissimilar: some societies consumed very little plant matter; some consumed little meat; some consumed milk while others didn’t; some ate bread daily while others yet consumed no grain at all. Despite these significant variations, further investigation by Weston A Price indicates remarkable similarities.
Among all the populations Weston A. Price studied, those that maintained and consumed their traditional, unprocessed foods enjoyed good health and a remarkable resilience that their contemporaries who consumed processed foods lacked. Weston A Price discovered other similarities as well: if dairy was consumed, it was consumed raw or cultured; each society made use of the entire animal in cooking including liberal use of organ meat and bones for broth; grain, if consumed, was consumed whole and only after a soaking or souring process; many foods were naturally fermented and thus rich in food enzymes and beneficial bacteria; lastly, refined sweeteners were absent from traditional diets with natural sweeteners being consumed only very rarely, if at all.
Weston A Price’s research uncovered another remarkable insight: traditional foods were more nutrient-dense than modern foods. The intake of vitamins, particularly fat soluble vitamins, and minerals among populations thriving on traditional, unprocessed foods far exceeded that of their contemporaries who consumed refined foods including coffee, white flour, sugar, canned vegetables and fruit.
Furthermore, Weston A Price found that these isolated peoples enjoyed good health free from many diseases that plagued their modernized, industrialized contemporaries even though they consumed diets that could be considered high in fat. Indeed, they lived largely without obesity, cancers, heart disease, cognitive dysfunction and other diseases while thriving on a diet that varied from 40% fat by calorie to upwards of 80% of fat by calorie. Much of the fat they consumed was saturated – derived from naturally raised animals – such as butter. A high fat diet nourished these populations, and with good reason – dietary fat enables us to better absorb nutrients found in foods.
At Nourished Kitchen, the focus is on traditional foods – those foods which nourished our ancestors so well also nourished the traditional peoples studied by Weston A Price. Whole, unrefined foods – including liberal use of wholesome fats – offer good health.
Photographs courtesy of Price-Pottenger Nutritional Foundation.