You make a million decisions every day. Housewives or Total Divas? Instagram or Snapchat? Tall Americano or Venti Chai? Why should you be using some of that brain power to choose whole, nutrient-dense foods instead of processed fast-foods?
This question cannot be answered without introducing you to two nutritional pioneers, Weston A. Price, DDS and Francis M. Pottenger, MD
Weston A. Price, DDS
Dr. Price was a dentist practicing from 1899-1930 in Cleveland, Ohio. What’s important about the timing of his practice, is that it coincides with the emergence of processed foods in the American diet. Dr. Price observed that when he began practicing in 1899 his patients had few dental carries and good dental arches but as he reached the end of his practicing days in 1930 there was a marked increase in dental carries and poor dental arches.
Dr. Price was as much a researcher as a dentist. He traveled over 50,000 miles (in the early 1900s!) to study and compare the dentition and health of indigenous people who were eating traditional diets versus those who were eating processed foods. He found robust health and dentition in those eating their traditional diet. On the other hand, members of the same community who included processed foods in their diet had dental caries and their children had narrowed facial structure and crowded teeth.
Dr. Price found that while the diets of the healthy cultures he studies varied greatly there were commonalities:
- Contained no refined or denatured foods
- Used some type of animal products, with some raw (ex. Raw milk)
- Diets were 4 times higher in calcium and other minerals and 10 times higher in fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) than the modern diet
- Included foods with high enzyme content (ex. Raw and fermented foods)
- Seeds, grains, nuts and legumes were soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened
- Fat content varied from 30-80% of total calories
- Contained nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids
- Contained some salt
- Made use of bones, usually as broth
These commonalities are what kept cultures with varied diets in robust health making them important building blocks of a nutrient-dense diet.
Francis M. Pottenger, MD
Dr. Pottenger’s claim to nutritional fame is his cat study. From 1932 to 1942, Dr. Pottenger conducted a study looking at the impact of denatured foods, foods that are broken down by heating, canning and processing, on the health of cats as well as the health of their kittens and grand-kittens.
He separated the cats into 4 groups. Each of the groups received raw meat plus a specific type of milk. One group received raw milk while the other three groups received variations of heated, processed milk.
Dr. Pottenger found that the variations in the milk had little impact on the health of the initial cat but profound impact on the health of the next generations. The cats that were fed raw milk along with raw meat had healthy, robust kittens who went on to have healthy, robust kittens. The cats that were fed heated, processed milk along with raw meat had unhealthy kittens who went on to have even more unhealthy kittens. Each subsequent generation had further degeneration in health until the cats could not reproduce!
Dr. Pottenger’s study demonstrates the negative impact of denatured and processed foods on the health of future generations. Unfortunately, the health of American’s today mirrors the health of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation kittens. There is increased incidence of allergies, heart disease, infertility, etc.
The profound message of Pottenger’s famous cat study is that what we feed ourselves and our children has a huge impact on the health of future generations!
This reality is very scary but have no fear, Dr. Pottenger left us with hope. He placed the 1st and 2nd generation cats from the processed milk groups back on a raw meat and raw milk diet and observed their kittens. Health was resorted in the kittens but not until the 4th generation meaning the great-great-grandchildren of the cats who were returned to a raw meat, raw milk diet.
The work of Dr. Price and Dr. Pottenger reveal the nutritional commonalities that allowed cultures with varied diets to thrive as well as the importance of maintaining these nutrient-dense diets to protect the health of future generations.
More information about these nutritional pioneers and their work can be found at the following resources: