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Gleaning From the Food of Yesterday: Dr. Weston Price

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

Observation: an act or instance of regarding attentively; something that is learned in the course of observing things

How often do we go through life doing, caught up in the busyness and demands of the day but never taking time to be attentive and learn. When this becomes the life-long pattern of an entire culture, we risk the danger of being subject to unhealthy routines--unobservant of a decay of standards in function. However, when we take time to reflect and process our “doings,” we can intentionally choose that which will lead to life and vitality. For our benefit, this is precisely in what a man by the name of Weston Price engaged.

From the 1890’s-1940’s, Cleveland, Ohio hosted the dental practice of Dr. Weston Price. Along with his work with patients, his career included a great deal of writing and research. His office included a laboratory where he evaluated different foods for nutrient content; he served as head of research for the National Dental Association, and he authored a textbook on dentistry used by the United States Navy.

The decades during Dr. Price’s practice introduced great change to our food system, dietary habits and lifestyles--all discussed within my previous articles in this series. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing, and processed foods were developed by food giants such as Kellogg's and General Mills. Then, when the FDA approved new chemicals and additives to our foods, denying the impact of nutrition on health, sugar consumption was on the rise. As Dr. Price was practicing his dentistry, he observed an alarming concern: not only did more and more children come into his practice with cavities, but their teeth were crooked and crowded due to a narrowing of their facial structure. Although most people saw this as the new “normal” for the human species, Dr. Price was not so easily convinced, and hypothesized that nutrition was connected to this change.

Through the National Geographics news of the day, he heard of populations, not yet introduced to industrialized foods, who were not suffering from such deformities. No longer was his laboratory at home sufficient for his studies; he had to see for himself. Price embarked on an investigation of nine different people groups around the world to study their health and nutritional practices. His findings were profound and provided the evidence which could have prevented the devastating diseases which increased over the last century.

His research revealed that each of the nine cultures, though lacking professional medical and dental care, were thriving! They had wide jaws with beautiful teeth; athletes that performed magnificently; low infertility; and no signs of heart disease, cancer or obesity. If the diet-heart hypothesis discussed in last week's article was accurate, then were these people eating a low fat diet? Not so! Here is an abbreviated list of the things Dr. Price noted as the common thread in their diets:

  1. They contained no refined or denatured foods

  2. They all used some type of animal products

  3. Diets were four times higher in calcium and other minerals and encompassed 10 times the fat‐soluble vitamins than the modern Western diet

  4. Seeds, grains, legumes, and nuts were soaked, sprouted, fermented, or naturally leavened

  5. Fat content varied from 30 to 80% of total calories, but only four percent came from polyunsaturated fatty acids

  6. Diets contained nearly equal amounts of omega‐3 and omega‐6 fatty acids

  7. Diets contained some unrefined salt

  8. Diets made use of bones, usually in bone broths

There is certainly a great deal more to unpack from his findings, which I will enjoy sharing through an upcoming community class. However, hopefully, this will simply affirm what you have already learned from this column: to restore health, we must return to unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods! For now, we each have the opportunity to assimilate Dr. Price’s observations into our lives. My hope is that as we progress as individuals and a culture, rather than easily adopting new health doctrines or fad diets, we will observe for ourselves what we need for life and vitality.

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