30 April 2013

Are We Pottenger's Cats?

Back in the 1930s and 1940s two men, one a physician and the other a dentist made some startling observations regarding nutrition and health. 

Dr. Price was a dentist in Ohio whose years of dental practice spanned the late 19th century up to his death in the late 1940s. Starting around the teen years of the twentieth century he began to notice how the children of his patients were experiencing dental problems their parents did not experience. Their teeth were coming in crooked with narrowing dental arches. He wanted to find out why.

In the 1930s Dr. Price toured the world in search of traditional cultures that had not been "corrupted" by modern, processed food like bread made from white flour or milk that had been pasturized. He visited an isolated village high in the mountains of Switzerland that was only accesible by horse and buggy. The people lived on various types of dairy products - raw fresh milk and cheeses, some vegetables and meat from their cattle. These people who had not begun eating "modern" diets were far healthier than others in nearby villages that had begun eating modern diets. The people had perfect teeth and the children were in excellent health.

He also visited a village on an isolated Scottish Island where the people were still eating the same foods as their ancestors for hundreds of years. Again these people had perfect teeth and robust health unlike the Scotsmen on the mainland of Scotland. 

He also visited tribes in Africa whose diets centered around cattle; their milk and meat. Again these African tribesmen had perfect teeth.

Very few of these isolated populations suffered from dental disease and their teeth were in perfect alignment. Yet more "modern" European populations were plagued with dental disease and orthodontic problems. Populations eating traditional diets from locally available foods prepared in time honored fashion were healthier than their modern counterparts.

Dr. Francis Pottenger Jr. was a physician in California who accidentally made the ground breaking observation that the health and nutritional status of one generation can affect future generations. Pottenger's observations were made over several generations of cats fed different kinds of diets. Some cats were fed raw meat, fresh raw milk and cod liver oil. Another group was fed cooked meat scraps and processed milk. The cats that were fed the deficient diet of cooked meat scraps and processed milk developed physical illnesses, and when bred their kittens were sickly. The sickly kittens that survived and in turn were bred had even sicker kittens that did not survive very long, or if they did live to "adulthood" did not breed successfully.

The cats fed the deficient diets had bone deformaties, dental deformaties, including crooked teeth! They were smaller at birth than the kittens born to well fed mom-cats. But for some of the deficient cats, when switched to the raw mean and raw milk diets, their health improved, and when bred their kittens were a bit healthier. Those kittens grew up and even though they had some problems, they were fed a proper diet while carrying their kittens and their kittens were healthy.

What Price and Pottenger didn't know, was that they were laying the groundwork for the new field of study called "epigenetics" - what you eat affects your genes and how you pass along damaged genes to the future generations. Or what you eat can heal your genes and you pass along healthy genes to your children and your children's children.

Perhaps our orthodontic issues relate directly to what Price and Pottenger observed so many years ago. Our bad diets have been compounding upon each generation since the turn of the last century when Dr. Price began noticing the orthodontic and other problems of the children born in the early 20th century. And the consequences of the compounding poor diet over the past four or five generations are leaving us like the terminal generation of Pottenger's Cats......sickly and unable to reproduce - or sickly and dying young.

Here are several books about epigenetics and how traditional diets and traditional foods can heal your genes.

"Deep Nutrition" by Dr. Cate Shanahan, MD
A bit heavy on the biochemistry and genetics, but a good read if you're up to the challenge!

http://www.amazon.com/Deep-Nutrition-Yo ... ional+food

A less technical version
"Food Rules"
http://www.amazon.com/Food-Rules-Doctor ... pd_sim_b_1

Pottenger's Cats
http://www.amazon.com/Pottengers-Cats-F ... ngers+cats

And Weston A Price's classic......
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration
http://www.amazon.com/Nutrition-Physica ... pd_sim_b_2

Other fascinating books include "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon, "Primal Body-Primal Mind" - a book that goes into why a "Paleo Diet" might be better for us - a diet without grain products.

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