Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chapter 3: Isolated and Modernized Swiss

Continuing my review of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price...

The third chapter of Price's book is a beautiful read that awakens pleasant feelings in my imagination yet at the same time arouses feelings of empty longing for a time and place unreachable. The Loetschental valley of Switzerland sounds like a place I would have like to have lived at that time. I wonder what it is like today, and what the health of the people there is like today.
No trucks nor even horses and wagons, let alone tractors, are available to bear the burdens up and down the mountain sides. This is all done on human backs for which the hearts of the people have been made especially strong. p24
According to Price, their diet consisted of rye bread, milk, cheese and meat once per week, with very few vegetables. Fascinating, really. Modern diet gurus all preach the mantra of much fruit and vegetables with a balance of other foods. How is it possible that people could be healthy on what every modern nutritionist would term woefully inadequate?
When one has watched for days the childlife in those high Alpine preserves of superior manhood; when one has contrasted these people with the pinched and sallow, even deformed, faces and distorted bodies that are produced by our modern civilization and its diets; and when one has contrasted the unsurpassed beauty of the faces of these children developed on Nature's primitive foods with the varied assortment of modern civilization's children with their defective facial development, he finds himself filled with an earnest desire to see that this betterment is made available for modern civilization. p.30
This sort of comment is enough to prove to me that the diet of my youth was wrong. But it is difficult to find people of good physique in North America anymore. Even among the conservative Anabaptists, like Amish and Mennonites, many of their people eat a diet high in sugar and vegetable fats; often one can be served "vegetables" at supper which is nothing more than instant flavored gelatin. There are a few though. We know one family where the children have never even seen a candy. Such blessed children they are! I hope they never do know what a candy is... or at least I hope their teeth never touch one. The people of the Loetschental valley surely didn't know what candy was.
They have been born and raised in the Loetschental Valley or other isolated valleys of Switzerland which provide the excellent nutrition that we have been reviewing. They have been taught little regarding the use of tooth brushes. Their teeth have typical deposits of unscrubbed mouths; yet they are almost completely free from dental caries, as are the other individuals of the group they represent. In a study of 4,280 teeth of the children of these high valleys, only 3.4 per cent were found to have been attacked by tooth decay. This is in striking contrast to the conditions found in the modernized sections using the modern foods. p.32
So now I must even question the use of tooth brushes! I have for a long time known that fluoride is ineffective at preventing cavities and is actually very toxic to the human body, and learned at an early age that it is more important to brush the gums than that teeth, but I had not questioned even using a tooth brush.
High immunity to dental caries, freedom from deformity of the dental arches and face, and sturdy physiques with high immunity to disease were all found associated with physical isolation, and with forced limitation in selection of foods. This resulted in a very liberal use of dairy products and whole-rye bread, in connection with plant foods, and with meat served about once a week.
The individuals in the modernized districts were found to have wide-spread tooth decay. Many had facial and dental arch deformities and much susceptibility to diseases. These conditions were associated with the use of refined cereal flours, a high intake of sweets, canned goods, sweetened fruits, chocolate; and a greatly reduced use of dairy products. p.39-40 (note: "dairy products" refers only to raw, unpasturized diary)
I find it difficult, at times, to comment on Price's writing, because it just speaks for itself, so clearly. Even though I was raised to think "scientifically" and trust only in repeatable experiments and provable statistics, I have always intrinsically known that observation is often a better indication of the truth of a whole system. For example, the DNA in one of my chickens is the same throughout the bird. The DNA is the same in the foot, as the feather, as the beak, as the comb, as the heart; science has done a wonderful job explaining that, but what it has not even attempted to do is explain how the foot knows to be a foot, the heart a heart, the beak a beak, etc. There are mysteries that science cannot explain, that observation leads us to simply call it a chicken.

So how should we respond to such claims by Price that the poor, unlearned peasants were much healthier than the studied, monied, city folks? I'm not sure it's appropriate to respond. I think the better thing to do is to, like Price, observe, take it in, and learn.

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