This book distills the research of Weston A. Price, a dentist and independent nutrition researcher. In a decade of travel around the world, Price and his wife studied the health, dietary habits, and chemical composition of food of dozens of traditional peoples of various racial backgrounds. His research was done at a time when many such groups still lived free of the influence of Western civilization and what he called "foods of commerce," i.e. heavily refined and denatured foods.
One could question whether 60 plus year old research is relevant today, but I found his work powerful and persuasive for a very simple reason.
Health problems sent me on a quest to find the best dietary information, but I soon found myself mired in contradictory claims, opposing research and special interest groups, as well as outright deceit. First I would read about how one vitamin or mineral was good for this. Then I would read that the very same item was bad for that. You shouldn't combine X with Y, or needed to add tons of Z or W, except on Sundays when the moon was almost 3/4 full. I became very disillusioned with the incredible complexity of nutrition. As I read more and more deeply, I also became annoyed at all the disinformation and profiteering behind much of the so-called research.
I reached this bottom line: While we understand proteins, carbs, and fats reasonably well, and have a pretty good handle on most vitamins and about a dozen minerals, there is simply an immense amount we just don't know. We are researching minerals at about 5 per decade (around 50 to go - a hundred more years at our current rate). There are around 5000 enzymes in bee pollen alone, and few of them have been researched. There are an unknown number of phytochemicals and other things we have yet to discover that have been constituents of our food for perhaps millions of years. Science moves very slowly, and it could easily be several hundred or 1000 years before we get it all sorted out. And that doesn't take into consideration the power groups who insist on muddying the waters for profit's sake. Modern science is quite obviously incapable of giving us complete answers to our nutritional questions. It just plain doesn't have them to give, nor will it for a long, long time.
Then I found Price's work. Basically, he was the Tony Robbins of diet - he sought out the healthiest people on Earth and studied what they had done for hundreds and thousands of years to stay healthy. He looked at their Traditional diets as well as what happened when they adopted Western diets. The results are in this book, and it is well worth your taking the time to read. While others have followed his work, the changing nature of the world now make it impossible to duplicate his research today. His work stands as a pivotal piece in science and health as well as in history. This represents the cumulative knowledge of millions of people over thousands of years in a laboratory that includes the entire world. Definitely non-trivial.
There are also books by Ronald Schmid and Sally Fallon that introduce and give overviews of Price's work. I recommend them also. Today, when we must all become advocates for our own health, arming yourself with the best information is vital.
update December 2008
A recent article published by the Weston A. Price Organization not only validates Price's X-Factor research, it also clearly illustrates the point I make above about modern scientific method and nutritional research failing to provide adequate information.
Vitamin K2 has been identified as the X-Factor, and recent research into K2 shows that it is an extremely essential nutrient, not the throw-away that it has long been considered. It is a vital factor in bone and tooth health, heart health, nerve health, and so on. It turns out to be a critical part of so many body processes that physiology texts will have to be rewritten in major ways.
Here is a vitamin discovered nearly 100 years ago, and yet science is just beginning to understand how terribly important it is. The main reasons for this serious error are; a lack of understanding of the chemical tests involved, lack of reading research in other countries, and a lack of interest on the part of researchers. (No money in vitamin research, you can't patent vitamins.)
The article is available from the Weston A. Price Organization and is a very interesting read.
UPDATE August 2009:
The figure of 5000 enzymes has been bothering me, as the source of that info was not well cited. I have been looking around for a hard figure on the number of enzymes, and guess what? There is no such hard number. All the sources I have found vary widely (1,000 to 80,000), and do not cite references. Some sources say that there are 5,000 named enzymes, and up to 20,000 possible.
This is yet another reason why current nutritional research is such a poor source of decision making data - they just don't have enough hard data to trust.
on May 25, 2005
I owe a great debt to this book. Back in 1977, I ran across an old battered copy of Nutrition & Physical Degeneration, and it became the second book I ever read on the diet-disease connection. I had just finished my first major change in diet, a 5-week cleansing program, and the results (loss of acne and a growing sinus problem) so stunned me that I was looking around for anything that further explained this diet-symptom connection. Price's book hit me like a ton of bricks, but it wasn't his words that I remember reading; it was the shocking photographs- traditional people's faces juxtaposed with those that had moved to the cities and modern diets-that spoke volumes.
Two years later, in 1979, I left home for what would be a 3-year hitchhiking trip around the globe. A year was spent traveling through Africa, and not a day would go by went I didn't see examples of what Weston Price was pointing out. Deep in Mali or Senegal or the Ivory Coast, you would see a vibrant health in people. Then go into the cities like Dakar or Bamako, and the bone structures and teeth and skin would have deteriorated. Just like Price's photographs. I remember thinking that this doesn't take a scientist or nutritionist to see this. Anyone, even a traveling hippie, could spot what was happening when humans moved from a whole foods diet, to a one filled with fake foods.
If you have any doubt that virtually every skin and digestive problem is related directly to the sludge-producing, historically new diet that we have been consuming since about the 1930s, read Weston Price's book. Heck, just look at the pictures. Because until our medical profession stops its unholy relationship to the pharmaceutical industry, it is up to each of us to uncover and remember this diet-disease/diet-health relationship.
author, Cellular Cleansing Made Easy
on August 26, 2001
Dr. Price hoped to influence the world to change their dietary habits. With just his wife and whatever bearers, guides, and drivers he could find, he single-handedly proved the diet-health link and backed it up with meticulous records and photographic evidence. He traveled to the far corners of the world to find the most primitive cultures on each continent, and compared their traditional diets to the standard Western diet. Photo after photo in his book points up the glaring difference between the health and APPEARANCE of the natives of whatever culture nourished on their traditional diet and those whose diets had been disrupted and "displaced" by the "white diet"...a diet high in refined foods like white sugar, bleached white flour, polished rice, and synthetic fats. He also carefully laid out the guidelines for a natural unrefined diet that would be suitable for modern Americans. Too bad all that careful research and excellent advice has been ignored. Today's SAD (standard American diet) is a god-awful, unbalanced grain-heavy (65% "complex carbohydrates") piece of tomfoolery that bears no resemblance to the diet that nourished and nurtured our ancestors. If you never buy another book about nutrition, you owe it to your children and your grandchildren to buy THIS book, READ AND REREAD IT, and pass it down to your posterity.
on May 7, 2007
Our daughter had Juvenile Dermatomyocitis, a very rare auto immune disease for which modern medicince can give neither the cause nor the cure. Some children get over it in 2- 4 years, for some it is fatal, and for some it becomes a lifelong ailment. It affects the skin with a chronic rash, the joints with rheumatoid arthritis, and the muscles (incldung the heart) with degeneration. It is horrible and it left our little girl confined to the sofa and incapable of even stepping over an electric cord.
Within one year after the diagnosis (confirmed with blood work), she was once again a perfectly normal and healthy child. The difference? The research of Dr. Weston A. Price in this incredible book. Read how Sallon Fallon puts this Dr.'s research into practice with her cookbook Nourishing Traditions, and I bet I'll see you at the next Nourishing Traditions conference in Chantilly. (By the way, I never could convince two of the Doctors who treated her that nutrition affected illness....Whatever)
The saddest thing for me is to see many of the characteristics that Dr. Price shows in his book as the result of malnutirition and degeneration in the faces of many people in public. Once you see the photos in this book, you will recognize the facial traits everywhere, shopping malls, stores, etc... You will never look at the human physique in the same way again.
on September 14, 2000
The primary criteria of the modern food distribution system is how cheaply can the wholesaler get it for and does it have good shelf life. Weston Price documents repeatedly that modern denatured food is THE major cause of the degenerative diseases and the overall poor health of our society. While pundits claim how good the modern diet is by showing how much taller we are than our ancestors the author points out that elongation of the skeletal "long bones" is a symptom of malnutrition. The acute deficiencyof trace elements in plants grown on worn out fields was documented by Price 60 years ago. You would do better to get your needed nutrients from your food rather than high priced supplements. But what farmer is putting more than NPK on his fields? Price's book is even more true than when he wrote it. If you care about immune dysfunction, fatigue, heart disease, cancer, or slowing the aging of your body Price's book is a MUST READ!! I have started to incorporate the teachings of this work into my life and in only 6 months notice I am not sick when the flu and other diseases pass through the community. I can't say enough good things about this book. A truly rare find in this world of hype and promotion of nostrums.
on August 8, 2005
Perhaps one of the greatest books of the 20th century. Though it was written in the 1930s, it is nonetheless eerily prophetic of the ominous trends that punctuate modern technology, namely the changing nature of how humans and animals eat. There is a "Twilight Zone" sense of foreboding as Dr. Price's research and findings unfold, chapter after chapter. What this book amounts to is a convincing, virtual warning on what is happening to the planet, and the humans and animals that inhabit it. The information contained within is so compelling, riveting, meticulously documented, and palpably thorough in its research, I have no reservations about saying that this may be the most crucial piece of work on nutrition to ever have been written. But it's more than a book on nutrition. It deals with the cultural, technological, global, and (latently) political ramifications of manufactured food. There are so many angles - such as soil depletion, corruptive changes in the human form and the catastrophic physical decline of the species - and complications stemming from the changes wrought in the way humans and animals eat, one needs to read the book. There is no guesswork here. Price, like a true scientist, made acutely sure to back up his assertions with chemical analyses, tests and rigorous collection of data.
Price's findings are amply illustrated with an astonishing collection of photos. The people that pass for humans is plainly frightening. The "before and after" aspect of the hundreds of photos leave the reader in abject shock. There is a real sense of horror, chapter after chapter, of seeing the after-effects of modern foods on various peoples. After reading this book, one may surmise that several factors have fallen into place. That is, the realization of why, despite "advanced" technology, medical care and knowledge, the nation and the world continue to be plagued with disease, degeneration, obesity and ill health. As Dr. Price puts it, the majority of plagues, and infectious diseases have been largely dealt with, but now in its place are degenerative ailments, and the
The most chilling realization of all is the very real possibility that pre-natal "germ plasm disruptions," coming from parents who lack the proper means of health through nutrition to create ideal offspring, may be taking place in epidemic numbers. What this is tantamount to is the actual de-evolution of a degenerated human race. Price's main observation on the healthy primitive peoples is how they respect the laws of nature. What modern technology does not recognize is that many primitive societies have knowledge that have been passed on from millenia in which to base their vital health. What Price does here is to show the effects of "modern foods of commerce" (as he calls it) on these primitive societies. You see, in mind-boggling photos, how healthy, disease-free primitives look; the ones who have been subsisting on their own diets for millenia have beautifully formed faces, palates, jaws and teeth that are totally devoid of caries. Then, there are, among these same peoples where white man and their modern foods have taken over. Children (and the adults they become) with birth defects, deformed palates, rotted, missing teeth and ill-health. Even more scary is the possibilty that "pre-natal disruptions" could cause impaired brain health. Dr. Price very meticulously documents all his findings, which include, specifically, what kinds of foods cause the best health, and, conversely, the worst. He backs up his findings with x-rays, photos and all kinds of data that can't easily be refuted. The common sense and logic which prevails throughout can't be shaken off; these details are disturbing and unsettling. We see proof of how nature is being corrupted by an unnatural means of eating. It all falls into place. The untainted foods of God are what we're meant for. The moral is clear: take the foods of God, alter it, chemically process it, and feed it to people, and witness the catastophic destruction of what nature intended. If this continues, we're done for.
The other real, sobering possibility is that information like this will be constantly scuppered by prevailing dietary trends, and misinformation. Fortunately there is an active society, based on the author's work, which can be found at [...] - this organization is promoting wholesome eating, good health and vitality through the foundations of good nutrition, which Dr. Price endorsed. Eventually, with any luck and perseverance, the truth will prevail, and the one vestige out of Pandora's Box - hope - can morph into a tangible reality. One can get a head start, armed with this knowledge, through several important books: number one, and the most crucial, Sally Fallon's "Nourishing Traditions," Mary G. Enig's "Know Your Fats," Enig and Fallon's book "Eat Fat, Lose Fat," Bruce Fife's "The Coconut Oil Miracle," Kaayla Daniel's "The Truth About Soy," and Jordan Rubin's "The Maker's Diet."
This book is a spectacular read. Though it does deal primarily with Dr. Price's research, findings and discoveries on nutrition and physical degeneration, there are so many rewards otherwise. This is a first-rate travelogue, superb cultural anthropological study, and an astonishingly thorough analysis of human behaviors. Moreover, Price is a wonderful writer, matter-of-factly genteel, dispassionate and duly concerned all at once.
There are no words adequate to convey the the impact, importance and timeliness of this book.
on February 27, 2004
Hard to believe this was written in the 1930's. The pictures in this book tell everything. Notice how the primitives have perfect teeth, but they never brushed or cleaned them. It's also interesting how the people that ate grains had more cavities than those that didn't eat them. The healthiest folks were the ones that consumed seafood. What suprised me the most is when the author explains how cavities repair themselves when you start eating nutritious food. And there's an x-ray picture there so you can see. This was done on a child, so i don't know if it'll work for adults. I noticed that one of my cavities improved after i started eating healthier (a white layer covered half of it). The author also did a lot of experiments with animals, and there are some weird pictures that show the results. An incredible book!
on August 31, 1999
While the western world continues to argue over what is the easiest way to feed itself truckloads of sugary garbage and stay thin, it is refreshing to see that someone has actually made a scientific study to show that the best way to stay healthy is to forget the quick fix and look toward a healthier past. Anyone who hasn't understood why their fad diet lifestyle isn't working should take the time to read this book in detail - the explanations are all there. To quote the person who introduced Weston A. Price to me, the man was a "true visionary".
on July 26, 2003
This book is based on OBSERVING FACTS in real people rather than trying to HYPOTHESIZE on laboratory tests.
It directly contradicts many of the the assumptions we take for granted in health today. e.g many of the healthiest people he studied were on high fat diets (over 50% fat, often more)
It is interesting how refined sugar and refined white flour were shown to be such large contributors to degeneration.
I thought his observation of vegetarians was interesting:
"As yet, I have not found a single group.....which was building and mainting excellent bodies by living entirely on plant foods....In every instance where groups involved had been long under this teaching, I found evidence of degeneration"...
This book should be required reading for all doctors, dentists, nutritionists, health journalists, and kids in school.
on April 3, 2006
One day we are told that fats are bad and that we must avoid them at all costs. Next we are told that carbs are the enemy. The experts cannot seem to make up their minds on which individual foods are good for you and which are bad. If all else fails, they fall back on the need for "moderation". Wouldn't it be nice if there were some really rock-solid nutritional research one could rely upon? Wouldn't it be comforting if we had research more compelling than "Food X just might raise your blood cholesterol a bit, and if that happens you just might be at a slightly higher risk for getting heart disease?"
Unbeknownst to practically everyone, there is a body of nutritional research in which we can have great confidence. Researchers can never carry out large-scaled controlled experiments on people but Weston Price did the next best thing and served as an eyewitness and recorder of nutritional experiments that tribes throughout the world had decided to undertake on their own. Side by side were groups that maintained their traditional diets with those that adopted the modern commercial diet of the 1930's. Price meticulously documented the results of these experiments and pinpointed the factors necessary for optimal health that were common to the successful traditional diets. And how did Price judge the efficiency of the alternate approaches to nutrition, by use of weak biological markers? No way, he focused on the incontrovertible results of dietary regimens, such as whether or not they supported the proper development of the dental arches (as opposed to causing crowded, crooked teeth or problems with one's bite), whether the diet conferred resistance to dental infection (or left one susceptible to the ravages of dental caries), and various other direct and significant measures of health and vitality. And he documented all of this with photographs as well.
If this were the extent of his research, it would be astonishing and compelling, but Price went beyond this series of studies to find corroborating evidence in a great variety of other studies performed by scientists of his day. He also verified his findings in studies of his own patients. When taken in aggregate, one cannot help but be in awe of what he accomplished, a series of undertakings which come across as heroic and superhuman to this mortal. Read this book and be a witness to a scientific study of unparalleled significance and scope.