In the 1930’s, a dentist named Weston A. Price traveled the world to inspect the teeth of indigenous groups.
In his American dental practice, he became increasingly concerned with the dental issues that his modernized, American patients were experiencing. Multiple cavities, crooked teeth and narrow dental arches required dental intervention, but he was sure this was not a normal state of human health.
To gain more information about what “normal” human dental health might look like, he visited some of the most isolated human groups in the world. These people had been maintaining their culture and lifestyle for hundreds of years or more, without much influence from the modern world. The included groups in his survey were found in Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, the South Pacific, and North and South America.
On his expedition, Dr. Price made many observations, took photographs, and collected data.
Of primary interest to him was the dental health of individuals within the groups. Overall, they exhibited wide mouths and jawbones, straight teeth and a near absence of cavities. Most had no access to dental care, yet their nearly perfect teeth would have indicated otherwise.
These groups had been living in the traditional manner of their culture for many generations. They continued to procure and prepare fresh, local foods in the same way as their ancestors before them. An interesting thing began to happen, though, when members would move to more modernized areas or otherwise gain access to the “foods of commerce” – in particular, white flour and sugar. First, cavities began to form. Then, the next generation would continue to experience increased cavity rates, as well as crooked teeth and narrow dental arches. After a generation of replacing traditional foods with processed products, the skeletal structures of the skull would not form fully enough to allow room for all of the teeth.
Price observed these changes throughout the world.
He ultimately concluded that a modern, processed diet was the cause of ill-health and poor dentition, but went farther in his data collection. He was most interested in finding what made up a health-supporting diet. What were the magic ingredients?
Through all of his research, Price was unable the locate one, true, “human diet”. His travels allowed him to observe many groups of people absolutely thriving on diets that varied so wildly it would be impossible to describe one nutritional approach to satisfy the needs of every person. One set of conclusions Price made, however, involved the similarities between the different diets he observed.
All traditional diets Dr. Price investigated included some type of animal food.
Across the world, he failed to find any truly vegan diet, though many were quite plant-heavy. Plant foods in all of the diets were grown in rich soil. The members of the cultural groups did not over farm, if they used any agricultural strategies, but prioritized tending the soil. Thanks to the animal products, the diets were all high in fat-soluble vitamins. Price estimated that these traditional diets were four times richer in water-soluble vitamins and minerals, and ten times richer in fat-soluble vitamins, than the standard American diet of the time.
Additionally, every diet was completely devoid of processed foods, including processed flours, sugars and oils. Foods were preserved by drying or fermentation, and grains, nuts and legumes were prepared by soaking and sprouting.
Another interesting similarity Price observed was the importance placed on the traditions surrounding food. Special diets even higher in nutrients were arranged for women planning to conceive, and these rich diets continued through pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. Finally, these dietary strategies were taught to children and young adults so that the health of the culture could continue.
After returning from his travels with a deeper understanding of the vast consequences a modernized diet can cause, Price wrote about his findings in his book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.” The book describes the details of each culture he visited, as well as striking photographs of the dentition of the traditional individuals as compared to their modernized counterparts. The differences are striking. His message to the world was one of urgency: we need to begin teaching our young adults, those still in high school, about the value of quality foods and their appropriate preparation in order to begin rebuilding the health of our nation.
Price, W. A. (1939.) Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation: Lemon Grove.
This is for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice.
Sara Kennedy is a certified Nutritional Therapy Consultant. She lives fitness, nutrition and wellness – and wants to help save lives and change the world’s view on health and nutrition. Learn more about Sara and her plans at thriveak.com To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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