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Welcome to the first installment of our Book Club series for Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price.  This week we read through Chapter 2.  I’m reading from the online version that you can access here. I chose this to use as the ‘control’ since everyone can access it. Let’s dive on in.

The first thing that jumps out at me is the title Nutrition and Physical Degeneration: A Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects.  What jumps out is me is the use of the word ‘primitive’. Dr. Price uses this word often through out the book. I have read articles in various places that suggest that people find the word ‘primitive’ to be unacceptable or not respectful. In reading this book, I do not feel that Dr. Price uses the word primitive in a way to suggest that he does not respect the people he is meeting. In fact, I believe that he had an amazing amount of respect for the people he studied and in some cases even awe.  I believe it was a word that he used that was acceptable for the circumstances and the time the the journeys were made and the book was written. 1939 was in many ways an incredibly different time than 2012. 

The Introduction really sets the pace for the book.This is an excerpt from paragraph three:

“There have been many  important unexpected developments in these investigations. While a primary quest was to find the cause of tooth decay which was established quite readily as being controlled directly by nutrition, it rapidly became apparent that a chain of disturbances developed in these various primitive racial stocks starting even in the first generation after the adoption of the modernized diet and rapidly increased in severity with expressions quite constantly like the characteristic degenerative processes of our modern civilization of America and Europe. While tooth decay has proved to be almost entirely a matter of the nutrition of the individual at the time and prior to the activity of that disease a group of affections have expressed themselves in physical form.  These have included facial and dental arch changes which, heretofore, have been accounted for as results of admixtures of different racial stocks. My investigations have revealed that these same divergences from normal are reproduced in all these various racial stocks while the blood is still pure. Indeed these even develop in those children of the family that are born after the parents adopted the modern nutrition”

WOW.  The addition of a modern diet was found to change even facial structures almost immediately after the addition.  Dr. Price goes on to compare the American families and how the families show the same deterioration. And not in just physical characteristics but mental, personality, and unsocial behaviors.

Another great quote and something that as a whole our society does not adhere to is in paragraph seven:

“A very important phase of my investigation has been the obtaining of information from these various primitive racial groups indicating that they were conscious that such injuries would occur if the parents were not in excellent physical condition and nourishment. Indeed, in many groups I found that the girls were not allowed to be married until after they had had a period of special feeding. In some tribes a six months period of special nutrition was required before marriage. An examination their foods have disclosed special nutritional factors which are utilized for this purpose.”

Dr. Price goes on to point out in paragraph nine that it is not just what the mother eats but the ‘germ cells of the two parents’ affects the development of the child. 

The Introduction really hits hard at just how detrimental our ‘modern’ diet is.  Not just for us but for our children. 

Chapter 1 begins with a general overview of how he found his ‘controls’ and what he hopes to gain from his research.  In paragraph three he points out that he shows the level of tooth decay in the primitive group and when available he contrasts that with modernized natives.

Another section I found worth quoting is from paragraph five:

“It will be easy for the reader to be prejudiced since many of the applications suggested are not orthodox. I suggest that conclusions be deferred until the new approach has been used to survey the physical and mental status of the reader’s own family, of his brothers and sisters of associated families and finally of the mass of people met in business  and on the street. Almost everyone who studies this matter will be surprised that such clear cut evidence of a decline in modern reproductive efficiency could be all about us and not have been prevuously noted and reviewed.”

Such a true paragraph. I know in my own observances I have noticed these things. And I have to admit, when we first started this food journey I would not have believed that statement.

In paragraph eight Dr. Price again states: “The writer is fully aware that his message is not orthodox; but since our orthodox theories have not saved us we may have to readjust them to bring them into harmony with nature’s laws. Nature must be obeyed, not orthodoxy.”

Yep. That gets it. If what we are doing doesn’t work, then why do we keep doing it? If the food pyramid (now replaced by a plate) doesn’t work then why do we keep following it? If low fat diets are keeping us fat and unhealthy why do we keep at them? And why is the idea that following proven methods by ‘primitive’ people considered quackery but taking a pill to mask the symptoms (and then another pill alleviate the side effects for the first pill) is acceptable?

Chapter 2 “…the rate of degeneration is progressively accelerating constitutes a cause for great alarm, particularly since this is taking place in spite of the advance that is being made in modern science along many lines of investigation.”  This is written in 1939 and the rate of degeneration was alarming at that time. I can’t imagine that the rate has slowed much, if any, in the years since. 

Chapter 2 quotes many sources proving Dr. Price’s point on this degeneration. One source shows that “Every day one out of twenty people is too sick to go to school or work or attend his customary activities.”  This is just the beginning of his quotes on illness. I actually found the numbers to be quite staggering. In my mind, I would have imagined that people (Americans specifically) would have been in much better health in the 1930’s than they are today. Reading these numbers, I’d hate to see what today’s numbers are.

Dr. Price quotes Dr. Earnest A. Hooton in this chapter. Dr. Hooton states:

“In my opinion there is one and only one course of action which will check the increase of dental disease and degeneration which may ultimately cause the extinction of the human species. This is to elevate the dental profession to aplane on which it can command the services of our best research minds to study the causes and seek for the cures of these dental evils… The dental practitioner should equip himself to become the agent of an intelligent control of humanevoltuion, insofar as it is affected by diet.  Let us go to the ignorant savage, consider his way of eating and be wise. Let us cease pretending that tooth-brushes and tooth-paste are any more important than shoe-brushes and shoe-polish. It is store food which has given us store teeth.”

I’m sure even at the time that Dr. Hooton made that statement (1937 per the sources at the end of the chapter) the idea of tossing out the toothbrush and eating a diet similar to that of a ‘savage’ didn’t win Dr. Hooton many popularity contests.

Chapter 2 continues to have lots of great information and quotes from a variety of sources on the degeneration at that time. The chapter finishes with Dr. Price making clear that he went to the primitive people searching out a control group to determine exactly what modern peoples may be missing that was causing so much tooth decay and degeneration.

Next week (Wednesday) we’ll continue by reading Chapters 3 and 4

I’d love to know your thoughts on Nutrition and Physical Degeneration through Chapter 2. What jumped out at you? What observances did you make? Any additional thoughts or insights?

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