A while ago a regular reader and friend of this blog suggested I read “Pottenger’s Cats, a Study in Nutrition,” originally published in 1983 and more recently republished in paperback by the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. So, I did. Francis M. Pottenger, Jr., MD, 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.
In feeding experiments on 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 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.” Wow!
The publisher of a related 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, [then] a sobering challenge stands before us.” I think that this warning about nutrigenomics, an aspect of epigenetics, is increasingly getting our attention. How our individual genes express themselves depends on many environmental factors, the most important of which is what we choose to eat. And, in case you haven’t noticed, we are getting fatter and sicker on the highly processed carbs, sugars and vegetable oils in the “eating pattern” recommended by the USDA’s “Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”
Of course, Weston A. Price, himself a dentist who studied the role of whole, real foods and saturated 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 founder Sally Fallon, the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) carries on his work. The work of this foundation is worthy of your support.
I previously dealt with this subject in Retrospective #205 about “Deep Nutrition,” a book by Catherine Shanahan, MD. subtitled, “Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods.” Her 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,” by Gray Graham, Deborah Kesten and Larry Scherwitz, is another good read. Subtitle: “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.” Here we see 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. It’s fair to say, I think, for followers, this is a new paradigm. It is ‘the medicine of the future.’ Personally, I believe it.
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. 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.” I wonder, will this generation pay attention? I hope so. We’re going to continue to do our part to see that outcome realized.
What’s your favorite meat-on-the-bone? Do you occasionally eat organ meat? Or a raw or fermented food?