The Diet of Traditional Peoples: the Work of Weston Price & Frances Pottenger

by Catherine Haug, May 21, 2009

Dr. Price was a dentist who traveled the world in the 1930s to study the dental health of traditional peoples. What he discovered impacts not only dental health, but health of the whole being.  Indeed, he concluded that your teeth are the canary in the mine. If you have problems with your teeth or jaws, you have problems with your overall health including skeletal, circulatory, endocrine (hormone), and digestive systems, and these problems are most likely caused by processed foods in your diet.

Dr. Pottenger is famous for his 1930s studies with cats.  He fed some a raw food diet, and the others a cooked and processed food diet, then studied their health through the generations, for 10 years. He found that by the third generation, the cats on the cooked diet were so changed they were no longer fertile, and had similar problems with their skeletal and other systems, as observed in humans by Dr. Price.  On the other hand, the cats on the raw diet were healthy and fertile in all generations. (more detail on this, below).  Of course, human dietary needs are different from that of cats, but certain parallels are still valid.

The research of both these men is not without critics.  But after 3 or more generations of humans regularly consuming highly processed foods, the truth of their theories is becoming evident. See my articles:  Pottenger’s Cats and The Third Generation & Health for more about this.

A Contemporary Example:  Acid Damage to Tooth Enamel

Contemporary dental research has discovered that weak acids in the mouth cause erosion of tooth enamel.  This is blamed upon the over-consumption of acidic foods such as soda pop and coffee, and this certainly has its effect.  But remember that your mouth is bathed in saliva, and saliva is part of the lymphatic system – that other circulatory system that carries wastes away from the cells to be processed by the liver and kidneys.

It is known that the acidity (pH) of saliva is a good indicator of the acidity of the body’s extra-cellular fluid.  If your system is overly-acidic, such as from a diet of processed foods, then your saliva will be overly acidic, and will erode your tooth enamel.

Introductory Video, Books


This YouTube video, made by the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, gives an introduction to their research.  It’s less than 7 minutes long, and well worth the viewing:

You-Tube Video:  The Price-Pottenger Story

Book:  Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, by Weston A. Price:

Dr Price’s groundbreaking book, first published in 1939, is now available for FREE on the web, from Project Gutenberg Australia: Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, by Weston A. Price. Or you can purchase it from the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, from Amazon, or by special order from Bookworks in Kalispell or Whitefish.

A synopsis:

First published in 1939, this monumental but highly readable book is designed to preserve the classic study of Dr. Price’s worldwide investigation of the deleterious effects of processed foods and synthetic farming methods on human health, and the promise of regeneration through sound nutrition. This bestseller contains guidelines for approaching optimum health and reproduction, now and through future generations, as did the primitives. Dr. Price has been universally accepted as one of the foremost authorities on the role of foods in their natural form in the overall health pattern and the development of degenerative illnesses as a result of the addition of processed foods to our diet.

You’ll find an introduction to Dr. Price’s theories, from the Weston A Price Foundation website: WESTON A PRICE BROCHURE.

Book:  Pottenger’s Cats:  A Study in Nutrition, by Francis Marion Pottenger

Dr. Pottenger’s book “Pottenger’s Cats:  A Study in Nutrition” is also available from the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, from Amazon, or by special order from Bookworks in Kalispell or Whitefish.

A synopsis:

A comparison of healthy cats on raw foods and those on heated diets. Behavioral characteristics, arthritis, sterility, skeletal deformities and allergies are some of the problems that are associated with the consumption of cooked foods.

Dr. Francis M. Pottenger, Jr. was an original thinker and keen observer whose imagination, integrity and common sense gave him the courage to question official dogma. Dedicated to the cause of preventing chronic illness, he made significant contributions to the understanding of the role of nutrition in maintaining good health.

A DVD of Dr. Pottenger’s work is also available at the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation.

Cookbook:  Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon with MaryG. Enig, PhD

Sally Fallon, of the Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF) has written this cookbook utilizing the traditional methods noted by Dr. Price.  The book includes an introduction to nutrition co-written by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD.  You can purchase it through Amazon, or special order at Bookworks in Kalispell or Whitefish.

It includes (partial list):

  1. Instructions for soaking or sprouting whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes; and for pre-soaking whole grain flours before baking/cooking.
  2. How to culture and ferment dairy, fruit and vegetable foods.
  3. The importance of fresh meats, milk and eggs from grass/pasture-fed livestock.
  4. The use of saturated fats in her recipes, which may scare you at first. But remember that traditional people used natural saturated fats for centuries, and Dr. Price’s research demonstrates the wisdom of this. Good saturated fats include lard, butter, coconut and palm oils.
  5. Recipes for raw and fermented meats, organ meats, and fish.

Characteristics of Traditional Diets

The following is from WESTON A PRICE BROCHURE, and Traditional Foods are your Best Medicine, by Dr. Ron Schmidt.  The diet of healthy primitive and non-industrialized peoples:

  1. Was made up entirely of foods that grew in their native environment, and in-season. [With the exception of seafood; see item 6, below].
  2. Contained “no refined or denatured foods such as refined sugar or corn syrup; white flour; canned foods; pasteurized milk; refined or hydrogenated vegetable oils; protein powders; artificial vitamins or toxic additives and colourings.”
  3. Included “some sort of animal protein and fat:  fish and other seafood; water and land fowl; land animals; eggs; milk and milk products; reptiles; and insects.”  The inclusion of some sort of animal protein was true even for “vegetarian” peoples; for example, microscopic animals or insects on leaves and other green food.
  4. Included a fair amount of food eaten raw; even “some animal products;” especially organ meats and eyes.
  5. “Contained some salt,” in a natural, unrefined form.
  6. Included saltwater fish or other seafood and sea vegetables (they traded with people who lived near the sea, if necessary).  This is important, because iodine is an essential mineral.
  7. “Animal bones were consumed, usually in the form of gelatin-rich bone broths.”
  8. “Soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened seeds, grains and nuts (to neutralize naturally occurring anti-nutrients in these foods, such as phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, tannins, and complex carbohydrates).”

This diet afforded the following important nutrients (in addition to the 3 basics: protein, carbohydrates and fats):

  1. “Contained at least 4 times the calcium and other minerals, and TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins from animal fats (vitamins A, D and Price’s X- Factor [likely vitamin K], as the average American diet.”
  2. “Had a high food-enzyme content from raw dairy products, raw meat and fish; raw honey; tropical fruits; cold-pressed oils; wine and unpasteurized beer; and naturally preserved, lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages, meats and condiments.”
  3. “Contained nearly equal amounts of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids.”

In addition, “They made provisions for the health of future generations by providing special nutrient-rich foods for parents-to-be, pregnant women and growing children; by proper spacing of children [which implies some sort of birth control]; and by teaching the principles of right diet to the young.”


Weston A. Price Foundation

WAPF has chapters all over the world; see WAPF Local Chapters for more.  We have two local chapters in western Montana:

Missoula Chapter: Kristen Lee-Charlson, editor of Edible Missoula, is the chapter leader: or (406) 541-3999.

Flathead Chapter: Lisa Guinn is chapter leader, or (406) 250-6542,

From the WAPF Mission statement:

The Weston A. Price Foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charity founded in 1999 to disseminate the research of nutrition pioneer Dr. Weston Price, whose studies of isolated nonindustrialized peoples established the parameters of human health and determined the optimum characteristics of human diets. Dr. Price’s research demonstrated that humans achieve perfect physical form and perfect health generation after generation only when they consume nutrient-dense whole foods and the vital fat-soluble activators found exclusively in animal fats.

The Foundation is dedicated to restoring nutrient-dense foods to the human diet through education, research and activism.

Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation

From their Mission statement:

PPNF is a non-profit educational resource providing access to modern scientific validation of ancestral wisdom on nutrition, agriculture, and health for 57 years. Originally known as the Weston A. Price Memorial Foundation, we serve as the guardian for the precious archival material from the research of Weston A. Price, DDSand Francis M. Pottenger, Jr., MD, and most of the great nutrition pioneers of our time, as well as maintaining a library of over 10,000 historical and contemporary references.

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