What Extinct "Primitive" Cultures Taught Us About Healthy Diets

In the early twentieth century, Dr. Weston A Price, a practicing dentist, was disturbed with what he saw in the mouths of his patients. He saw nothing but physiological decay, he noticed physical deformities and underdeveloped patterns among his western culture and so he set off for an investigation around the world. He had the notion that humans were not meant for a life of constant decay, but a continuum of development and vitality. As he traveled around the world his findings were astonishing and continue to influence nutritionists today.

The Study of Isolated Civilizations

So Dr. Price decided to study “uncivilized” cultures. He imagined if our “civilized” culture was decaying, there might be something more constructive to learn from groups of people living untouched by this civilization. In the early twentieth century there were still groups of people isolated from the rest of the world and with the invention of the camera, Dr. Price was able to bring his findings into civilization. He studied in Swiss villages and anisland off the coast of Scotland. He studied traditional Eskimos, Indian tribes in Canada and the Florida Everglades, South Sea islanders, Aborigines in Australia, Maoris in New Zealand, Peruvian and Amazonian Indians and tribesmen in Africa. Eventually his findings lead to his masterpiece Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

His Findings

Here’s an excerpt from the Weston A. Price Foundation that describes the findings beautifully:

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration is the kind of book that changes the way people view the world. No one can look at the handsome photographs of so-called primitive people–faces that are broad, well-formed and noble–without realizing that there is something very wrong with the development of modern children. In every isolated region he visited, Price found tribes or villages where virtually every individual exhibited genuine physical perfection. In such groups, tooth decay was rare and dental crowding and occlusions–the kind of problems that keep American orthodontists in yachts and vacation homes–nonexistent. Price took photograph after photograph of beautiful smiles, and noted that the natives were invariably cheerful and optimistic. Such people were characterized by ‘splendid physical development’ and an almost complete absence of disease, even those living in physical environments that were extremely harsh.”

What price found was that children in our modern, civilized world were underdeveloped or not achieving their full potential while primitive, isolated cultures had immaculate smiles and perfect physiological bodies. Even more, many times these culture were emotionally stable and content. When Dr. Price went back to studying western civilizations he found connections between the degenerated facial structures of patients in asylums and their lack of proper nutrition.

The most important aspect of his finding was how critical to human development these cultures considered to conception period for couples. Couples would eat special foods months before trying to conceive a child, then the mother would continue on a special diet until the baby was born. The baby would grow into the broad faced, straight-teeth smiling adult that Dr. Price observed.

How We Can Heal Our Culture

In the wake of a culture that is battling genetically modified food, hormone injected animals, and constant fluxes of information that keep us from understanding what we are really eating and what we can do to be the most healthy, we need studies like Dr. Price’s to help guide us into a future full of people achieving a greater potential. The foods that he found were the most nutritionally available were often times animal products like fish oil and butter. These fatty foods were vital to the tribe’s development.

With all the hype about veganism and vegetarianism today it’s interesting to see these finding and many might consider them old fashioned, but the cultures were eating these food before chemicals and hormones were introduced into the environment and before additives and preservatives contaminated our food. Dr. Price’s findings, more than ever, establish that we are what we eat. We need to continue looking to studies like his to guide or ethical, business, and diet choices. Click here to find out more about the diet of these healthy cultures

Jeremy Smith is a writer for McMinn Law Firm in Austin, Texas. Austin is a centrefuge of people building healthy lifestyles and the movements springing forward as our sources of food become more polluted.

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