Monday, January 11, 2010

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, by Weston Price

I love reading!  There is so much to learn and know.  So much important information to live life the way God intended to live it.  If only we were born with such knowledge.  How very boring life would be... :)

Let me start this 'review' by saying that EVERYONE should read Weston Price's book 'Nutrition and Physical Degeneration'!  Esp anyone who follows the Nourishing Traditions/WAPF/Traditional way of eating.  It's full of such amazing information, facts, figures, studies, details. I've been trying to eat this way for awhile, but this book really put the 'why' behind it more solidly.  And, I think it has allowed me to make wiser decisions in regards to how to get the nutrients my family needs in the most cost-effective, 'green' way.  Give a man a fish....

Weston Andrew Price was born in Canada in 1870 and moved to Cleveland as an adult, to practice dentistry.  He was appalled at the degeneration he was seeing in his patients.  The growing number of cavities, the shrinking jaws and degenerative diseases caused him to start a 10 year travel program, trying to find people who were untouched by these seemingly modern issues. Particularly at their 'point of contact' with civilization, so he could compare the two.  Once he realized it was a nutritional problem, he began to analyze the native foods of these people groups.  He was particularly amazed at how the 2nd generation was born with deformities of the lower 1/3 of the face-only one generation after changing from their native diets to the 'white man's diet' consisting mostly of white flour, sugar and canned foods. 

He traveled to 12 different 'primitive' people groups and made detailed exams on their teeth and facial structure.  He and his wife made copious notes, took pictures and took samples of their various native foods back with them to analyze in his lab.  He also had food sent back to him at various times of the year-for years-just to analyze their specific nutrient content.

One major finding that surprised me, was that he found the milk from cows that were not only fed grass, but specifically the fast growing grass in the spring, had the highest vitamin content.  And from that he made his 'High Vitamin Butter Oil' that he used on his various 'cases'.  I want to get a bunch of milk from my farmer in the spring and make butter and cheese to last us the year.  I know it won't happen this year, but hopefully someday...

The stories he told were astounding.  First generations that ate the white man's food had a lot of serious cavity issues.  But their faces, jaws and nasal passages were still generally well developed.  But, their children were born with serious issues, including an inability to fight the local diseases like malaria and tuberculosis, which their ancestors had had no problems fighting off.     

The first 14 chapters of the book are about his studies on the various people groups he visited.  Fascinating stuff!  And easy and quick to read.  In the last 7 chapters, he applies what he learned to the people of his day (and ours as well).  He gave a lot of amazing stories about how he was able to help heal people of diseases no one else of his time could.  Simply by changing their diet.  He also broke down the various diets that he studied to help people to better understand why they protected the people eating them from the various degenerative diseases of today.

There was a lot of practical information throughout the book.  Little tid bits, much of it assumed to be well-known in his time.  Like his comment 'As any housewife knows, the butter that comes in the spring has a much lower burn temperature'. Ummm, nope, sorry, I'd never heard that one!  As well as a lot of information that surprised him.  Like his discovery of the various levels of vitamins coming from the same animal foods, living in the same regions.

He told 2 stories of little boys who he was asked to help.  One had rheumatic fever, had it for 2 1/2 years and was bed-bound.  Another boy was on his death bed, having convulsions all day and emaciated badly.  For both boys, he changed their diets from white bread and skim milk to freshly ground wheat bread/gruel, whole milk (raw), 1 tsp of high vitamin butter oil and 1 tsp of cod liver oil.  And both had amazing, miraculous recoveries. 

I want to quote so much of the book!  But I tried to find the few 'best' quotes to put on here.

"It is possible to starve for minerals that are abundant in the foods eaten because they cannot be utilized without an adequate quantity of the fat-soluble activators."

"It will be noted that vitamin D, which the human does not readily synthesize in adequate amounts, must be provided by foods of animal tissues or animal products.  As yet I have not found a single group of primitive racial stock which was building and maintaining excellent bodies by living entirely on plant foods. I have found in many parts of the world most devout representatives of modern ethical systems advocating the restriction of foods to the vegetable products.  In every instance where the groups involved had been long under this teaching, I found evidence of degeneration in the form of dental caries, and in the new generation in the form of abnormal dental arches to an extent very much higher than in the primitive groups who were not under this influence."

"It does not matter what the source of minerals and vitamins may be so long as the supply is adequate.  In our modern life, the location of a group will determine the most efficient and most convenient source for obtaining the essential foods...  It would be fortunate indeed, if our problems were as simple as this statement might indicate. We have, however, in the first place, the need for a strength of character and will power such as will make us use the things our bodies require rather than only the foods we like.  Another problem arises from the fact that our modern sedentary lives call for so little energy that many people will not eat enough even of a good food to provide for both growth and repair, since hunger appeals are for energy only, the source of heat and power, and not for body-building minerals and other chemicals.  Still another problem confronts us, I.e., the sources of fat-soluble activators indicated above, namely: diary products, organs of animals and sea foods, may vary through a wide range in their content of the fat-soluble activators or vitamins, depending upon the nutrition available for the animals. Cows fed on third grade hay, too low in carotene, not only cannot produce strong calves but their milk will not keep healthy calves alive."

And this is my favorite one:
"Of course everyone should clean his teeth, even the primitives, in the interest of and out of consideration for others."  

Reading the book did not much change what I want us to eat, but it did give me more confidence to continue on my journey toward that end.  And it did cause me to bump some foods into the more 'important' category.  Namely, cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil, or lots of good butter.  Also, liver and other offal from grass fed animals.  And fish eggs, also known as roe or cavier

This is a great book to read and share with others who interested in health.  I borrowed it from the library, but will be purchasing a copy of my own in the future.  It's definitely one I'll have my children read as part of their 'nutritional education' when they get older. I'm also hoping to borrow my copy to my chiropractor when I get it.  :)  See, I'm not so crazy after all.....


  1. Great review! I tried to read it online, but I gave up. It's so much easier to read a book in actual book form. :) Now I must get a copy!

    I can purchase raw butter from my co-op, and WOW you should have see how yellow it was in the spring and early summer!! I had read about it, of course, but seeing is believing. I first started buying it in the winter when it was pale yellow, so the difference was startling when spring arrived. I bought 2 pounds a week for a while to stock the freezer for this winter.

  2. Jen, it was a great read. You definitely need to get a hold of a copy. I tried on-line and I couldn't do it either.

    I don't care to own most books. I read them and then I'm done. But this book I hope to read again and again, as I know I missed a lot the first time through. And I want to be able to borrow it to others also. It's not particularly easy to find, so it will be nice to have on hand for anyone interested in the subject.

    I think my chiropractor would read it if I had my own copy to lend him, but I doubt he'll ever go to the trouble to find a copy for himself. And I know it would change his thinking and hopefully encourage him to add that element to his practice. And then think of all the people that would hear the much-needed info in this book! :)

    That is so cool that you noticed the difference yourself in the butter. I have yet to notice it, but I look forward to having such first hand knowledge. :) It all makes sense really, but it's so far from the main-stream.

  3. I have only read Nourishing Traditions. I was just thinking this morning about the work of Weston A. Price. I wish it were the case that we would not need to read his book. I wish, when his book was published, that it would have been studied and advanced so far that there would be no need for it. I wish that he would be regarded in the same way that Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell are regarded; as early pioneers whose work on which greater things have been built. Few people need to go back and look at their early work, because it has served as the foundation of our current technologies.
    There must be a purpose to this last 100 years of corporate agriculture and factory food.

  4. ValerieAnne-it's funny you mention that. There were a number of times in the book that Price assumes that the knowledge he learned would become common knowledge. Although he knew what he was learning was unusual, he seemed to assume that it would be accepted amongst the general population. It's so incredibly sad that it got buried and lost to the majority of mankind. And look at the mess we're in today!

    Good luck with your journey toward nourishing your family. Your plastic bag purses look awesome! And you have a beautiful family.

  5. Thank you for this review. This is one of my favorite books :)

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