Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pioneers of Nutrition: Dr. Weston A. Price

I am often asked by my clients or after a group presentation, “So, what do you eat?” My answer - I follow the dietary guidelines of Weston Price. Which of course leads to the next question, “Who is Weston Price?”

Weston A. Price was a pioneer in the world of nutrition. Through my next couple of articles I will introduce you to several more of these pioneers who have had great influence on the nutritional practices that I follow and teach.

So, who is Weston Price? He was a dentist from Cleveland, Ohio who lived from 1870-1948. Back in the early 1930s he began to notice an increase in cavities and crooked teeth in his patients. Whether you know it or not, dental caries (cavities) are one of the most basic forms of disease that is common in many humans. And, teeth come in crooked and/or crowded due to deformed dental arches due to not enough space in the mouth for the teeth to come in correctly.

His mission – to discover what was causing the degeneration in dental health he was witnessing. Coincidently, he repeatedly heard stories of isolated peoples in distant lands who supposedly had no cavities and perfectly straight teeth. If this were so, then what he was experiencing in his practice could possibly be the result of nutritional deficiencies and not inherited genetic defects (the prevailing thought of the time).

Over the next ten years he traveled around the world to every continent (except Antarctica). And what did he find? When native people ate their traditional foods – sure enough – there were no cavities and they had perfectly straight teeth. However, here’s what makes the study fascinating. This was a time when our Western processed foods were just beginning to creep into these native cultures. “Foods” such as canned milk and vegetables, white flour, and sugar were being introduced to those natives who wished to “modernize.” This is critical because it allowed the same genes to be analyzed based on the nutritional quality of the diet. What he found was that as the native people adopted a Western diet, they had more cavities and crooked, crowded teeth. The more they abandoned their native diet, the worse their teeth were. His travels are documented in his classic book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. It contains many pictures and stories about what he encountered along the way.

The next question was – how did these diets differ? What was in the native food that was not in the Western food? Since he traveled all over the world he saw a wide variety of diets. There were Eskimos that ate almost exclusively animal products; there were others who ate more grains and vegetables. As a side note, he did not find any native diet that was strictly vegetarian; they all relied upon some animal foods for survival.

He took samples of their foods and brought them back to the United States to be analyzed. What he found was that the diets of the isolated peoples in comparison to that of the American diet of the day contained at least four times the water soluble vitamins, calcium and other minerals, and at least TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins from animal foods such as butter, fish eggs, shellfish, organ meats, eggs, and animal fats! Certainly not the foods your cardiologist will tell you to eat!

The specific nutrients in these foods are the fat soluble vitamins A and D, along with one that wasn’t yet identified. Price called it “Activator X”, which we now understand is vitamin K. These fat soluble vitamins are vital to health as they act as catalysts for mineral absorption and protein utilization.

And depending upon how closely you read the preceding paragraphs, what are some of the key nutrients missing? They happen to be ones we often hear today we don’t get enough of are we are deficient – calcium and vitamin D!

So, does this way of eating work? Well, it has proven successful for me and many of my clients. Following the guidelines we have lowered our cholesterol and triglyceride levels, increased our energy, and lost weight. But, I have an even wider audience. Recently I attended the annual conference of the Weston A. Price Foundation. I have referred to their excellent web site in the past (www.westonaprice.org). The conference had over 1200 attendees. Statistics for our general population show that 75% of adults are over weight (25% of them being classified as obese). At this conference, my quick visual assessment was that maybe 5% were over weight. Plus, when I talked to other attendees they all told the same stories of weight loss, improved digestion, and overall better health!

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Thiensville. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at bernie@brwellness.com, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.