Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Nutrition Debate #240: Pottenger, his Cats and his Prophesy

Some time ago a regular reader and friend of this blog suggested that I read “Pottenger's Cats, a Study in Nutrition,” originally published in book form in 1983 and more recently republished in paperback by the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. So I did. Francis M. Pottenger, Jr., M.D., was a physician and researcher who, starting in 1932, conducted feeding experiments on cats in which he observed that cats on “deficient diets” developed changes in bone maturation that paralleled the degeneration that Weston A. Price, DDS, found in people who abandoned traditional foods.

Quoting from the jacket, in feeding experiments of more than 900 cats over 10 years, “Dr. Pottenger found that only diets containing 100% raw milk and raw meat produced optimal health. This was reflected in good bone structure, wide palates with plenty of space for teeth, shiny fur, reproductive ease, gentle disposition, and the absence of parasites or disease.” In his most startling, indeed prescient observation, he gathered extensive evidence that on a poor diet, this physical degeneration “increased with each generation,” noting “the third generation did not even live long enough to reproduce.” If you’d like to see images, this video presents an overview.

The publisher, quoting from the film, “Pottenger’s Cats,” says: “If it is true with human beings, as it is with cats, that nutritionally-caused degeneration is passed down to our children, a sobering challenge stands before us.” And I think that this warning about nutrigenomics, an aspect of epigenetics, is increasingly getting our attention. How our individual genes express (or do not express) themselves depends on many environmental factors, the most important of which is what we choose to eat. And, have you noticed, we are getting sicker on the diet of highly processed vegetable oils and carbohydrate laden and sugary foods based on the recommendations of the USDA’s “Dietary Guidelines for Americans”?

Of course, Weston A. Price, himself a dentist who studied the role of whole, living foods and essential fats in the diets of diverse cultures around the world that had not yet been exposed to the Western Diet, made similar observations in his groundbreaking magnum opus, “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” (1939). Today, under the leadership of Sally Fallon, the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) carries on his work. The work of this foundation is worthy of your support.

I have previously dealt with this subject in a blog post on “Deep Nutrition” (2009), a book by Catherine Shanahan, MD, and Luke Shanahan. The subtitle of the book: “Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods.” The Shanahans’ dogmata, the Four Pillars of Authentic Cuisine, are to “eat as often as we can, preferably daily”: 1) meat cooked on the bone; 2) organs and offal; 3) fresh (raw) plant and animal products; and 4) better than fresh – fermented and sprouted. “These categories,” she says, “have proved to be essential by virtue of their ubiquitousness. In almost every country other than ours people eat them every day.”

Pottenger's Prophesy” (2011,) by Gray Graham, Deborah Kesten and Larry Scherwitz, is another recent read. Sherwitz, a PhD, is founder of the Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA), a holistic nutritional therapy training organization. Graham is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NPT) and Kesten an MPH and nutrition researcher. The subtitle of their book is, “How Food Resets Genes for Wellness and Illness.” Note the recurrent theme of Doctors Pottenger, Price and Shanahan.

In “Pottenger’s Prophesy” the authors address “the foods that launch your genes on a path toward illness, as well as the diet that can activate ‘healthy’ genes…to promote a longer, healthier life.” We are reminded once again: “the emerging new science of epigenetics – how the foods you eat switch genes on or off that can lead either to wellness or illness – (is the) ‘new paradigm’ and ‘the medicine of the future.’ Personally, I believe that. I like to say, “I am living proof” (albeit n=1).

What these books and authors tell us is that not only can we affect our own health, wellness and longevity by what we eat now, but by changing the foods we eat, we will pass down to our children and their children a healthier set of genes. That Pottenger demonstrated that convincingly with his cats was but a harbinger. These authors provide hundreds of references in the more recent scientific literature related to both animals and humans to show conclusively that our destiny is in the food choices we make.

A trenchant and pithy blurb on the back cover says it well: “This book has again introduced us to concepts that we should have listened to decades ago. Perhaps this generation will pay attention! We will continue to die of obesity-related chronic illnesses until people begin to reclaim their health by understanding what and how to eat.” Tyne Moore, ND, DC.

Will this generation pay attention? I hope so. We’re going to continue to do our part to see that outcome realized.

Your favorite way to eat “meat on the bone?”

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