Weston Price And the Whole Food Diet

The work of Weston Price proved what otherwise might seem difficult to believe:

Traditional people on traditional diets are well-nourished.

Western people on the Western diet are malnourished.

Nutrition And Physical Degeneration

In the 1930's, Price studied isolated, traditional people on every continent in a variety of climates and environments. He also studied people in various stages of Western contact and the Europeans who shared those living conditions. He summarized his research in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, which is written for the general reader and illustrated with hundreds of photographs.

Many observers reported the excellent health and appearance of traditional people and their lack of degenerative diseases. Price too found that people who ate traditional diets had no cavities, had facial bone structure that supported perfect teeth and full brain development, had body structure that supported easy childbirth, and were immune to tuberculosis.

Those on Western diets (both in isolated areas with Western contact and in Western countries) had many cavities, rotten teeth, crowded and misplaced teeth, misshapen faces and heads, cleft palates, club feet, difficult childbirth, and epidemic tuberculosis. The photographs document this contrast, which can be seen even between siblings with different diets. Formerly traditional people on Western diets, who were too poor and isolated for doctors, dentists, or fresh food, were particularly miserable; so were poor Americans on such Depression fare as white bread and skimmed milk.

Yet even the well-fed on Western diets have the telltale facial structure defects. Price estimated that 25% to 75% of Americans had these defects, depending on the community; I think it would probably be close to 100% today. One photograph of an unhappy-looking white boy, a mouth breather with crowded teeth, living on canned and processed food in Alaska, identified as having "facial deformity," could have been a photo of any child in my elementary school class 40 years ago. If you are like me, this is a revelation.

The photo brought me to a new way of thinking. What are we doing to ourselves and our health? And we don't even know it. Price also researched the effect of diet on happiness and IQ; could this account for the amount of unhappiness and difficulty coping that we see around us?

Price proved that the need for orthodontics is not from the mixing of ethnic groups. The photographs show the changes within any ethnic group, in one generation after adopting Western food. Children born after parents started eating Western foods had facial bones that did not fully develop.

Cavities, he found, are from the current diet rather than the parental diet. Children (and pregnant women) get more cavities due to the diet's failure to fulfill the increased needs for vitamins and minerals during growth.

What Can Be Done?

Weston Price suspected from the beginning that the Western diet lacks some "essential factors" common to traditional diets. Yet traditional diets around the world are very different. The mountain Swiss ate whole rye bread, raw dairy products, some vegetables, hardly any meat. The northern Canadian Indians ate almost exclusively wild game, with some plants in summer. In the Outer Hebrides Islands in Scotland, most of the diet was whole oats and fish, with greens and vegetables in summer.

Price's research solved the mystery:

  • All the healthiest diets included one or more of the following: organ meats, seafood, or raw milk products from pastured livestock.
  • All the traditional diets contained an amount of vitamins and minerals from four to fifty times that of the Western diet. There were at least ten times more of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2. (Price discovered vitamin K2, calling it "Activator X.")
  • All the traditional diets lacked white flour, sugar, or canned food. Any amount of these added to the diet began to affect health. Grains in traditional diets were always whole and freshly ground.

Additionally, the mineral and nutrient quality of the soil determines the health of its plants and the animals that eat the plants. In the 1930's, Americans still ate locally grown food; Price was able to make maps correlating the nourishment of the people with the health of the soil in different parts of the country.

We owe a great debt to Weston Price, and for the fact that he carried out his research at a time when there were still traditional diets to study. It's not too late to apply the lessons.

See Nutrition and Physical Degeneration at Amazon

More Information

Weston A. Price Foundation: Characteristics of Traditional Diets