Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chapter 9: Isolated and Modernized African Tribes

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

I have noted previously Price's respect for the native peoples he has encountered. This is again apparent in these next few chapters as he describes the wisdom of these (otherwise known as primitive) peoples. In 1935 he travelled through central Africa, looking at the teeth and general health of primitive peoples and compared it with those who had modernized and who were foreigners. That he understands the plight of the African people and evil of slavery is apparent as he makes this astute and careful observation:

While slavery of the old form no longer exists in the so-called civilized countries, in its new form it is a most tragic reality for many of the people. Taxes and the new order of living make many demands.... This naturally has produced a current of acute unrest and a chafing under foreign domination...

The native African is not only chafing under the taxation by foreign overlords, but is conscious that his race becomes blighted when met by our modern civilization. I found them well aware of the fact that those of their tribes who had adopted European methods of living and foods not only developed rampant tooth decay, but other degenerative processes. p.142-144
Early on in this chapter he states an important finding:
If any one impression of our experiences were to be selected as particularly vivid, it would be the contrast between the health and ruggedness of the primitives in general and that of the foreigners who have entered their country. That their superior ruggedness was not racial became evident when through contact with modern civilizations degenerative processes developed. Very few of the many Europeans with whom we came in contact had lived in central Africa for as much as two years without serious illness or distinct evidence of physical stress. That the cause was not the severity of the climate, but something related to the methods of living, was soon apparent. p.118
So what are the methods of living that bring health? What are the methods of living that bring disease? 

He begins to answer the question when he notes that the native peoples of Africa had immunity to the diseases that were rampant around them, but not to degenerative processes. Those degenerative processes were noted in those who had modernized their diets, but not in those on traditional diets.

It is telling to note Price's observation of the husbandry methods of the Masai. He was clear that, unlike American dairymen who select dairy cows on the basis of the quantity of milk, the Masai select based on the quality of the milk. Bigger and more is better for economic gain, perhaps, but certainly not for wellbeing. And to those who might say that we need quantity in order to feed everyone, I would answer that if the quality were better, not so much food would be required to meet nutritional needs.

This quote reveals the stark contrast in what he saw as the differences between those who ate traditional diets and those who were on white man's foods:
Native Hotel Staff at Goma, Belgian Congo. This group consisted of the inside and outside servants of a tourist hotel on Lake Kivu. 
An examination of 320 teeth of ten individuals revealed twenty teeth with caries, or 6.3 per cent. It is significant that all of these carious teeth were in the mouth of one individual, the cook. The others all boarded themselves and lived on native diets. The cook used European foods. p.133
By this point in his travels, Price has begun to see patterns with the use of modern foods. Here is one:
While the primitive racial stocks of Africa developed normal facial and dental arch forms when on their native foods, several characteristic types of deformity developed in children of the modernized groups. One of the simplest forms, and one which corresponds with a very common deformity pattern in the United States, involves the dropping inward of the laterals with narrowing of the upper arch making the incisors appear abnormally prominent and crowding the cuspids outside the line of the arch. p.136-137

This describes my mouth precisely. Often others have referred to my teeth as 'Dracula teeth' as my cuspids (canines) stick out so much from crowding. It was embarrassing in the past, but now I know the reason for it. No one ever told me it was because of nutritional deficiency. I suspect many people would even deny it was so; they'd say it was just a random genetic anomaly and nothing could be done about it. Well, post facto there is nothing that can be done, except try to remove wisdom teeth and then try and realign the whole of the teeth (whilst they later on get loose), but there is much that can be done to prevent these abnormalities. Although, thinking about it now, it's likely that these former abnormalities are the new normal - but we mustn't forget that it isn't the way our bodies were designed. We were designed perfectly and given all the tools we need to maintain that perfection.

Price beings to close his chapter on Africa by speaking about wisdom and food. In our modern society, wisdom is not something that is considered applicable to food. Food is thought of as sustenance, perhaps something to enjoy, and everyone knows it's best to eat a 'balanced diet'. But in the past, our ancestors did not have the health problems that we have today. Sure, they didn't have the same standard of living, and perhaps they died younger - but they enjoyed good health. I shall contemplate on this paragraph for some time to come:
In my studies of these several racial stocks I find that it is not accident but accumulated wisdom regarding foods that lies behind their physical excellence and freedom from our modern degenerative processes, and, further, that on various sides of our world the primitive people know many of the things that are essential for life―things that our modern civilizations apparently do not know. These are the fundamental truths of life that have put them in harmony with Nature through obeying her nutritional laws. Whence this wisdom? Was there in the distant past a world civilization that was better attuned to Nature's laws and have these remnants retained that knowledge? If this is not the explanation, it must be that these various primitive racial stocks have been able through a superior skill in interpreting cause and effect, to determine for themselves what foods in their environment are best for producing human bodies with a maximum of physical fitness and resistance to degeneration. p.145

And in what seems to be his characteristic style, Price goes from such eloquent philosophizing straight back to percentages and ends the chapter telling us that the spacing of children was achieved through plural marriage. This is certainly not one of those books that has been so heavily edited that you can read the first and last chapter of each chapter and get the entire book. There's weeding through detailed statistics to find the nuggets of commentary. But then, it is those statistics which brought Weston Price to his commentary.

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