Nutrition and Physical Degeneration Book Review

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration

Weston A. Price

So many of my foodie and health nut friends talk about this book, as well as the cookbook Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, that I decided I had to read them, so I could intelligently participate in the conversations.  I honestly thought I already knew most of what would be in the book, and started to read it as an obligatory task.  I was wrong.  If everyone would take Dr. Price’s ideas to heart, our world would likely have far less degenerative disease.  

nutrition and physical degenerationDr. Price was a dentist in the early 1900’s, who traveled the world looking at people’s teeth, diet, and health.  He examined a wide range of primitive cultures to include the Inuit, American Indians, African, Latin Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Australians.  He correlated the diet of these cultures with their appearance, teeth, and general health.  He found that primitive cultures who ate their traditional diet, which most often included fatty meats, organs, fermented foods, and often raw foods, had great teeth.  This was true even though they didn’t have any of the modern dental hygiene products or modern dentistry we depend on.  They had straight teeth, high cheekbones, strong jaws, well developed noses and sinuses, and almost no cavities.  They also were quite attractive.  They almost never had problems like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and other degenerative problems.  The people grew into old age strong and healthy, with all their teeth.  The book is full of pictures of smiling people from all over the world, with beautiful faces and amazing teeth.  These pictures were compared to cultures who had given up their traditional foods, and the differences were sobering.

When these cultures were touched by “modern” (as modern as the early 1900’s) foods, their teeth and general health declined quickly.  Modern foods at that time tended to include sugar (often as molasses) and flour (often as biscuits and bread).  Cultures who abandoned their traditional foods had narrow pallets, crooked teeth, narrow noses and nostrils, poor sinus development, underdeveloped faces, weak chins, and overall degenerated health.  Their appearance was generally poor.  It didn’t take long for these issues to develop; often only one generation. It was interesting that these cultures so happily gave up their traditional foods in favor of sugar and flour.  Possibly a testimony to the addictiveness of these foods.  

One of the most critical things this book pointed out was the importance of nutrition for pregnant women.  Our world of low fat, high carb, sugar soaked, and chemical ridden foods is so bad for moms and their developing babies.  Dr. Price determined that moms need the nutrition of fat, meat, eggs, and organ meats.  This is nothing like what doctors are advising most moms today.  I wonder if this has anything to do with so many new diseases, allergies, behavior problems and the wild success of orthodontists!

My best application of this book to our culture is that we should not be afraid of meat and fats.  We should be much more wary of processed foods, sugar (even cane, raw, molasses, palm, coconut and other “health” foods), and processed carbs.  We also should consider adding fermented foods into our diet, such as pickles, sauerkraut, kimchee, and cultured milk products like yogurt, kefir, and cheeses.  

My one criticism of this book of research is that Dr. Price did not focus very much on fresh fruits and vegetables, but we know these are an important part of healthy eating.  I think the reason fresh foods were not focused on is because he was looking for nutritional trends that predicted health across many cultures.  Some of the cultures he studied ate no fresh fruits and vegetables at all, and were still healthy (Ex: Inuit and Maasai).  Yet, I noticed that many MORE cultures who experienced vibrant health did include fresh foods as part of their traditional diet.  

All in all, I liked this book.  It clearly demonstrates the dangers of sugar, flour, and processed foods, not only on our current health, but also on the health of the next generation. It is something we all should be taking very seriously.  

Eat your veggies, and organ meats,


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