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Weston Price's Righteous Legacy.

What Weston Price Got Right (And Wrong)

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Weston Price: What Stood The Test of Time?

This is Dr. Weston Price, a dentist. You may guess from the photo, or perhaps already knew, his work is not new in 2023. We usually feature current health experts here, but we’re taking a day to do a blast from the past, because his ideas endure today, and inform a lot of people’s health views. So, he’s a good one to at least know about.

What was his deal?

Dr. Price (1870–1948) wanted to study focal infection theory—the idea that repairing root canals allowed bacterial infections that caused everything from heart disease to arthritis. His solution was that the teeth should be extracted instead.

This theory was popular in the 1920s, was challenged in the 1930s, ignored in the 1940s (the world was a bit busy), and by broad medical consensus anyway, rejected in the 1950s. But, while it was being challenged in the 1930s, Dr. Price decided to find more evidence for its support.

The result was his famous world tour of peoples living traditional lifestyles without the influence of “modern” diet. His findings, and the conclusions he drew from them, extended to far more than just dental health.

What did he find?

Dr. Price found that people living traditional lifestyles, with their traditional diets based on locally-sourced foods, had much better overall health. Of course, he was a dentist and not a general practitioner, so aside from examining their teeth, he largely relied on self-reported diagnoses of illness, or lack thereof.

In short: he found that people in places without modern medical institutions had fewer diagnoses of disease. From this, he concluded that incidence of disease was much lower.

There was also an unexamined element of survivorship bias—an undiagnosed disease is more likely to be fatal, and he questioned only living people, which skewed the stats rather. Nor did he examine infant mortality rate nor adult life expectancy, both of which were not great.

Was it all useless, then?

Actually no! He did hit upon some observations that have stood the test of time:

  • He correctly concluded that modern diets with sugar and white flour were ruinous to the health.
  • He correctly concluded that locally-sourced food, and grass-fed in the case of pastoral farming, tended to have much more nutritional value than the mass-produced results of intensive farming.
  • He correctly concluded that many modern preservation methods robbed foods of their nutrients.
  • He correctly concluded that many grains and seeds are more nutritions when fermented/soaked/sprouted.

About that “locally-sourced food”: the reason locally-sourced food tends to be more nutritious is that it has required less in the way of preservation for a long trip around the world, and will also tend to be fresher.

On the other hand, this does mean a lot of the foods that Dr. Price recommends are very much subject to availability. It may well be true that the Inuit people do not eat a lot of fruit and veg (which mostly do not grow there), but if you live in Nevada, maybe locally-sourced whale fat is just as difficult to find.

One person’s “this fatty organ meat contains the vitamin C we need” may be another person’s “that’s great; I have an apple tree in my garden though”.

Want to learn more?

Dr. Price’s most influential work is his magnum opus, “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”. It’s a fascinating book, but do be warned, it was written by a rich white man in 1939 and the writing is as racist as you might expect. Even when making favourable comparisons, the tone is very much “and here is what these savages are doing well”.

If you don’t fancy reading all that, here are two other sources about Weston Price’s work and conclusions, presented for balance:


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