In the early 1900’s, a disturbing phenomena began showing up. Rates of infectious disease, tooth decay and degenerative disease began increasing. In addition, the age of those affected began going down. Evidence of these problems began showing up in younger and younger people, even children.
Dr. Weston A. Price, a successful dentist in the U.S., took note of these changes, in particular the decrease of overall health from generation to generation in his patients. As a scientist and researcher, he became very curious about what was causing this increase in disease.
He speculated that dietary changes might be fueling this trend and decided to check it out for himself. He and his wife decided to travel the world and see what evidence could be found of the effects of dietary change on health.
While traveling he made a point to study groups of people who were still eating as their ancestors had eaten for thousands of years. Usually he found these populations in isolated valleys or locations distant from modern commerce.
Often, he would also find groups of related people who had easy and frequent access to the products of modern culture, and whose diets had changed a great deal from the diet of their ancestors.
What he found in comparing these groups intrigued him and he took voluminous notes and pictures. He also gathered samples of the foods each group, particularly the healthy groups, ate over the course of the year. These foods were then analyzed for their nutrient content.
The results of this extensive research were published in a landmark work, “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.” Even though it was originally published in 1939, it is still in print and available today. The pictures alone, comparing the physical structures of those eating their natural, native diets with those eating ‘modern’ (i.e. processed) foods, are worth the price of the book.
What did he find on his journey? Although the specific dietary details varied with each unique healthy population, a very clear set of consistent facts emerged:
- People who primarily ate the same whole, natural foods as their ancestors had an average of 35 times less cavities, tuberculosis (the most common respiratory infection of that time) and chronic degenerative diseases such as arthritis than those who had changed their diets.
- People who ate highly refined and processed foods had dramatically poorer bone structure as well as much greater incidences of cavities and infectious diseases.
- The degenerative effects of diet were cumulative through the generations ? in other words, children of people who’d ‘modernized’ their eating habits were affected more and sooner than their parents; grandchildren were even more strongly affected than children, etc.
- The degeneration process in previously healthy people began when they started eating highly processed foods and stopped if the person returned to eating their native diet.
- These results occurred regardless of the specific native diet in question. The causal factor driving the increase in the degeneration of health was exposure to the highly processed foods of modern industrial culture.
Keep in mind that Dr. Price identified these changes 80 years ago. As you might imagine, the amount of highly processed and refined foods available today is dramatically higher all over the world.
How can you take advantage of this information? First, by making sure that your foods are as close to whole and natural as possible. A good general rule is that if it comes in a box, a jar, a can, a package or a bottle, don’t eat it. It’s been highly processed and lost a great deal of the nutrients it might have once contained.
Second, think about where your ancestors lived and what foods they likely ate. This is especially useful for those people whose ancestry is fairly linear, in other words, their ancestors all came from approximately the same area of the world.
If you use this measure, it is crucial to not look at how people in that part of the world eat today. These days there practically aren’t any places where modern commerce doesn’t reach. Instead, you will need to do some research to discover the native food and ways of preparation people 100 or more years ago used in the area.
One additional way you can quickly identify which foods are best for you is to do a Metabolic Typing assessment. I offer this service in my practice and have found that it can cut 1-2 years off of your learning curve in discovering which specific foods will be optimal for your unique situation.