By Sean Michael Hall, L.Ac.
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration: A Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects by Weston A. Price
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Published in 1939, this is one of the most important books on nutrition ever written.
Dr. Price presents in this work documentation of the detrimental effects on health, bone structure and fertility that are seen when modern foods (sugar, white rice, white flour, canned foods, jams, lean muscle meat, vegetable oils), replace traditional foods (liberal use of sea foods, organ meats, eggs of many species of animal and fish, full-fat dairy from cow, goat and camel raised on fast growing grasses on mineral-rich soil, freshly cracked and ground whole grain breads).
This book is at its best when he documents his travels in the late 1920s through mid 1930s. He traveled to isolated parts of Switzerland, northern Scottish islands, northern Canada and Alaska, the Melanesian and Polynesian islands, the Peruvian Andes and Amazon regions, throughout Central and East Africa, New Guinea and Australia.
In each location he meticulously documented dental cavities and dental arch and skull deformities, plus immunity to tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. He compared groups of the same “racial stock” that had no contact with modern foods, and were still eating their traditional diet to groups where “traditional” foods had been replaced by “modern” foods. And it is not pretty.
More important than the data he collected are the photos that he took. It’s enlightening to see photos of so many vibrant, strong, well-developed people. People that ate exclusively traditional diets. People that never used a toothbrush, yet had no history of tooth decay. It is equally heart-breaking when you see photos of what happens when “traditional” foods are replaced with modern foods. A photo can tell a thousand words, and simply scanning the photos in this book alone is well worth the purchase price.
The last third of this book rambles along, and it is written in the 30s, so there is some language that is not politically correct now. I wish he would have spent more time rigorously documenting the exact diets of the groups he came in contact with. It also would have been great to have more data on life expectancy, as well as tumor and heart disease data on the groups he studied. For those reasons, I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
Still, this book is so immensely important and influential to many, because we live in an age where there are virtually no people left on the planet that are eating completely traditional diets. The “white man’s” food has replaced traditional foods for almost everyone. For that reason, most of the photos that we now see of so called current “primitive” groups, show people negatively impacted by modern foods. Dr. Price provides hundreds of photos of what these people looked like 80 years ago, before unhealthy foods were introduced. The photos of these beautiful, vibrant people will blow you away, and make you reconsider what “normal” and “healthy” really is. Sadly, it’s hard to find examples of comparable levels of good health in those around us now.
East Bay Acupuncture & Natural Medicine
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