Dr. Weston Price and his wife, Florence, traveled around the world in the mid 1930’s searching out people living a primitive lifestyle. Dr. Price located groups which were still eating a diet that they had been consuming for thousands of years. They took a series of photographs of the various people, measured a number of characteristics and conducted interviews with them. These studies form the basis of Dr Price’s book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” first published in 1934.
The Price’s began their studies with a group of people in the high Alps in Switzerland and then proceeded to the Outer Hebrides, Northern Canada, South Sea Islands, Polynesia, Africa, Australia, Torres Strait Islands, New Zealand and Peru. In each location, Dr. Price found people consuming their historic diet and studied them. He then located groups within that population who had switched to the diet of the “civilized” world (white flour, sugar and canned vegetables and fruits). He and his wife documented carefully the changes that the new diet had created and found that those changes occurred very rapidly.
As a dentist, he was interested in their teeth and jaw formations but he also noted other characteristics about their health. He noted, as for example, how different groups treated their expectant mothers. Often these people would provide a special diet to the mothers-to-be and would assure the spacing of children produced was two to three years apart. Dr. Price also noted their plant medications used to treat common human diseases. “It is unfortunate”, he wrote, “that as the white man has come into contact with the primitives in various parts of the world he has failed to appreciate the accumulated wisdom of the primitives.”
People eating a “primitive” diet tended to have wide flat arches (the jaw-tooth complex) with their teeth nicely aligned. Very few dental cavities were found in all the groups he studied. They tended to be vigorous, healthy populations. His book includes many excellent photographs illustrating his findings. The diets of the diverse groups varied from dairy and grains in the Alps to a mostly fish and meat based diet in Northern Canada and Polynesia. Dr. Price noted the same characteristics of sound health from group to group.
In contrast, the children of this diet-changing group showed a greatly increased rate of dental cavities but also a narrowing of the dental arches (upper and lower jaws) with crowding of their teeth (now called malocclusion). This narrowing of the jaw resulted in interference with breathing (narrowing of the airway) which then created postural changes. It is astounding that these changes occurred so rapidly however a recent research paper in Japan showed the same changes took place in a group of rats who were fed diets varying only in their hardness (soft or hard diet of the same food stuff). It may be this coarseness and strong chewing forces that plays a role in jaw development.
Back in the United States, Dr. Price wrote many articles and carried out nutritional research on all the food samples he collected on his travels, measuring their nutritional, mineral and vitamin content. He examined modern foods as well and became one of the early opponents to the growth of industrial farming. He turned his attention to poorer populations in the USA, especially children. He placed many of these children with health problems and rampant tooth decay on a diet of freshly ground flour and foods produced on traditional farms and found that dental cavities were arrested. He used only freshly ground flour because his research showed that significant nutritional loss occurred within one to two months.
“Great harm is done, in my judgment” he wrote, “by the sale and use of substitutes for natural foods.” When some of his patients left his care and returned to the old diet of white flour and processed foods, he found that dental decay returned.
Dr. Weston Price has not been lost to history. A foundation exists today that advances his ideas: The Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation (www.ppnf.org).
Unfortunately this foundation has become a platform for attacking vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, yet Weston Price still has much to tell us about nutrition. I’ll leave the last word to him:
“We have a sense of hunger which expresses itself as appetite and we eat until this is satisfied, but this only applies to that part of our food that produces power and heat. We have almost no sense of hunger for the minerals and other chemicals and vitamins that are needed for building and repairing old tissues. Modern civilization is making a tragic mistake in getting away from the natural foods that are low in energy and high in minerals. Life in all its fullness is this mother nature obeyed”
Dr. Hill is a member of the American Association of Dental Sleep Medicine.