Weston A Price: Findings on Traditional Foods

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.

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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.

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Weston A Price's Photographs of Isolated Swiss Villagers.

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Weston A Price's Photographs of Isolated African Villagers who consumed traditional foods.

Photographs courtesy of Price-Pottenger Nutritional Foundation.

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What people are saying

  1. says

    Great review of a really eye-opening book! I have read every bit of that book and shared it with any who would listen. Will be sharing this post on my Twitter accounts.

  2. Bobbo says

    I strongly agree with Weston A. Price and what he stands for but those Swiss Villagers don’t look much like the Swiss people I know. I don’t think even the Romish look like that.

    • Henry Xavier Richard says

      Bobbo I couldn’t agree more when I was looking at the photos the very same thought crossed my mind. The villagers in that picture are obviously gypsies or immigrants from elsewhere. Tyrols maybe.

  3. Nancy says

    Jenny, thanks for sharing this information about Dr. Weston A. Price. I hope each of your readers will share it with their friends and family and help spread what was once common sense knowledge, but has since been lost to a great degree. Your website serves an extremely useful purpose of sharing nutritional wisdom, teaching about nutrient dense foods and how to find them and prepare them. Gradually, this knowledge is spreading through dedicated individuals such as yourself and others who take this to heart and run with it! I have posted this on my facebook page to share and hope others will do the same, or share by any means they have.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Karena Lindell says

    This is so fascinating! I’ve been reading your website and trying recipes for a few weeks and I love it! How can I find out more about how to take care of my grains properly? Also – what about nuts and legumes? Did he find those in native diets?

  5. says

    Thank you for the post. I’m going to print it for my dentist, as well as my OB. I’ve been waiting for someone to write a post such as this.

  6. says

    I am so glad to see more and more posts/prgrams/documentaries on the benefits of eating fresh instead of processed. The media is certainly helping these days with spreading information like this. I can just feel a ground swell and people are finally starting to take notice. Great post.

  7. Jenny says

    Melody -

    Thanks for stumbling the post bout Weston Price!  I hope to spread the good word.

    Blessings -

    Jenny

  8. says

    What really stood out for me when I read this book is how we, modern Americans, take illness and deformatives as normal! Take for example crooked crowded teeth – DEFORMITIES! I never knew! His book changed they way I think! Getting sick all the time? Somewhere along the line we have accepted these things as “normal”? Since we made radical changes to our diet over the past 7 years we no longer get sick, both my husband and I have had just a mild cold in the last 4 yeras! Prior to that we were, like most people I know, stricken multiple times each year with various mild-moderate colds and flus. I never questioned that this was not normal – until I read Westons book!

    From him I leaned that perfect health, perfect teeth and perfect babies generation after generation are what is NORMAL, and in fact our birthright!

    Thank goodness for this incredible book! And the knowledge Weston documented is avaiable today. The book is truly a light in the darkenss. Those who embrace his teaching experience a true RECLAIMATION of ancient wisdom that can help us navigate these dark times and provide us hope for the future.

    Thanks Jen for helping share this knowledge!!

  9. says

    Thank you for sharing about Weston Price! We have followed his teachings for 9 yrs now. I continually am educating anyone I can about nourishing, traditional foods. I love your blog so very, very much!!

  10. Dana says

    Yep, this really got me rethinking what it means to develop properly or improperly. I’m one of those people with crowded mouths–and yes, it IS a defect. I never thought of myself as having a birth defect til I ran across Price’s work. But that’s what it is. I had one and a half sets of orthodontic braces when I was a kid, the latter full set accompanied by a headgear at night for part of the duration. My teeth were so crooked and my jaws so misaligned that I was a slow eater because I could not chew properly.

    My face *still* doesn’t look right, even though my teeth are pretty much straight.

    My daughter had a birth defect, too. Her right kidney was maybe half the size of the left, and she had urinary reflux on both sides of her bladder, where the ureters enter into the bladder. They’re supposed to have pinch valves at the ends where they’re inserted in the bladder, and hers weren’t working. The left side corrected itself as she grew, but the right side needed surgical correction.

    She’s also had horrendous tooth decay.

    Not this last dental appointment but the one before that, the dentist said she had yet another cavity starting on a side surface of a tooth, but it was still early enough to bear watching so we could try to remineralize the enamel. (Funny, dentists used to say that was impossible, now it is all the rage.) At the most recent visit they said she had no new cavities at all.

    The one difference I can think of is that she has been getting much more fat in her diet, plus pastured eggs when I can get them.

    I just wish I’d known about vitamin A when I was pregnant with her. Kidney malformation is one symptom of insufficient A.

    I also wish my mother hadn’t been such a junk food junkie. I’m pretty sure that’s what damaged me. She’s diabetic now… surprise, surprise.

  11. says

    I need to read some articles by Weston A Price soon! He has been chilling in my bookmarks for quite some time now… but I have failed to read information.

    Thanks for this article – I should now get to it!

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