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Laura Dolson

The Sacred Foods of Weston A. Price

By November 12, 2012

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WestonThis weekend I had the opportunity to attend the annual Weston A. Price Wise Traditions conference, which was in Santa Clara, CA (actually within driving distance!). Although I was somewhat familiar with the history and principles of the Weston A. Price food recommendations, I had never really studied it in detail, so I thought this would be a good opportunity. There is a lot of overlap between Weston A. Price, paleo, and low-carb approaches to eating, and I saw people from the different communities there. I'm going to run through a few of the highlights for me, and then I will follow up with a couple of more in-depth articles. One will be based on a great conversation I had with Chris Kresser about possible negative consequences of low-carb eating, and the other will be a more in-depth description of the Weston Price approach to living and eating, and some thoughts of my own about it.

As a brief introduction, the Weston A. Price Foundation is based on the work of Price, a dentist in the first part of the 20th century who traveled all over the world examining groups of isolated people and analyzing their diets. He came to the conclusion that a nutrient-dense diet is vital for dental and physical health, and reported his findings in the fascinating book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

Some interesting things I learned at the conference (I have only very loosely fact-checked some of this, but I think it's a fair representation of the talks I heard):

- Fully-formed vitamin A is only found in animal foods. I will admit that I had no idea that this was true. Plant foods have caratenoids (like beta-carotene) and other precursors to vitamin A (this I did know), but it turns out that not every body is very good at converting these compounds to the retinoids which are "true vitamin A". The conversion requires a certain enzyme that not everyone has readily available, and babies have even more problems with conversion and storage of vitamin A, as do diabetics. Some toxins (e.g. dioxins) can interfere with vitamin A, and adequate amounts of vitamin A may help protect the body from dioxins. Also, having a balanced intake of vitamins A and D is important, as they work synergistically. Too high an intake of carotenes (which, I think, is pretty difficult to achieve but some people do) can actually interfere with conversion to vitamin A. Vitamin A is needed for many MANY things in the body. The Weston A. Price organization recommends cod liver oil as a good source of both vitamins A and D, as well as other nutrients. (It should be noted that the caratenoids also have health benefits even before conversion to retinoids.)

- I also heard a lot about vitamin K2, the type of vitamin K found mostly in animal products. It has some functions in the body that are different from vitamin K1, the form found in green leafy vegetables.

- One of the chief groups of foods that WAP recommends are fermented foods such as sauerkraut. The exhibit area had lots of different fermented drinks to sample, and many of them were actually pretty tasty. I'll admit that for some reason I get a little queasy thinking about some fermented foods, even though I'm fine eating yogurt and kefir. I feel I'd like to work on getting over this.

- Besides the fermented foods and cod liver oil, other "sacred foods" include raw dairy products, broths and stocks made from bones, other sources of bones such as small fish, and lots of fresh vegetables and fruits.

- Weston Price found that the total fat content of "traditional diets" varies from 30% to 80% of total calories, but that only 4% of the calories came from polyunsaturated fats. He felt that saturated fats are important to health, which is contrary to the message we see everywhere today. When it comes to the polyunsaturates, "just say no" to soy, corn, cottonseed, and other oils high in omega-6 fats, and make sure to get some omega-3 fats. Sally Fallon did one of the best tutorials on fats I've ever seen.

- If grains or other seeds (nuts, legumes) are eaten they should be soaked and sprouted.

I recommend Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions if you are interested in learning how to use these principles in your cooking and eating.

Dr. Deborah Gordon gave a talk on treating diabetes. During this talk, she mentioned that some people on long-term low-carb diets have a fasting blood glucose higher than usual (in the prediabetic range). She does not consider this to be true prediabetes, especially if triglycerides are under 100. I thought this was interesting, since I have not been able to lower my fasting blood glucose consistently. When I talked to Chris Kresser about this, he agreed that this type of elevation is "physiological" as opposed to "pathological" and probably caused increased insulin resistance in the liver at night to preserve blood glucose.

All this reminds me of the endocrinologist I saw this summer. Even though he didn't use these terms, he said I did not think I am a "true prediabetic" because everything else is healthy. Chris K. suggested seeing what happens with a week of a moderate increase in carbs -- if the fasting BG goes down, that will tell me something about the source of it physiological vs pathological). (He warned that I will see a rise before I may see a drop, which has been my experience when I have a day of eating more carbs.) I'm seriously considering this experiment, although since my blood glucose hasn't been truly normal (under 90) for years I strongly doubt this will work. Still, it would relieve my mind.

The other highlight of the conference for me was a talk by Dr. Chris Masterjohn which is always a treat. This talk was "Meat, Bones, Skin and Organs and Mental Health". He talked about his history of anxiety disorders made worse by a vegetarian and vegan diet. He also had a mouth full of cavities. He started researching what might be going on, and adding first animal products, then fish to his diet. When he added red meat, he realized he had had his last panic attack. He found the Weston Price information and was fascinated by the information about teeth. He started eating bone broth and the other recommended foods, and his tooth decay stopped and the anxiety-related disorders disappeared. He continued to pursue knowledge in this area, and has recently achieved his PhD in Nutritional Sciences with a concentration in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition. Congratulations, Chris!

All in all, it was a very interesting conference, and I will be providing more related information in the future.

Image of Weston A. Price Logo Courtesy of the Weston A. Price Foundation

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Comments
November 12, 2012 at 12:23 pm
(1) Andrea says:

Laura, I think it’s the bulletproof executive guy who talks about a medicinal dose of honey at bedtime, about a teaspoon, to keep the liver from going into overdrive on neoglucogenisis during the night, producing a lower a.m bg reading.

Jimmy Moore has talked about how his morning bg has stabilized in the low 80′s on average in his nutritional ketosis experiment, though I think it didn’t stabilize until he added a particular herbal supplement.

And Dana Carpender has talked about how her morning reading has normalized since she started working on her paleo cookbook. It looked like she was eating an Atkins style fat fast intermittently in conjunction with the paleo focus. I know she is working now on a fat fast cookbook. I think she said she has dropped the metformin entirely.

Just a couple other things I have noticed that I hope can be helpful. :)

November 12, 2012 at 3:31 pm
(2) joyce says:

Hello, Love reading your information. I am a diabetic and on an insulin pump since July 2011. I was unable even with the pump to regulate my sugars. They were alway in the 300. Hg A1c was 12 or higher. In May of this year my Dr. asked me to try low carb. I did. Now my fasting sugars are 88. During the day they never go over 118. I have lost 80 pounds since May and have 100 more I wish to lose maybe more. I am stoked. This has been the best program.
Your sight help me a great deal. I am cooking for the first time in my life and loving it. Trying so so many new things. Thank you so much,.

Keep up the great work.

Joyce

November 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm
(3) Depirts says:

Laura, I just returned from the WAPF Wise Traditions conference as well. I agree wholeheartedly on your comment that Sally Fallon’s tutorial on saturated fats, it is very enlightening. The conference featured so many speakers I felt like a kid having to choose a limited amount of sweets from a giant wall of candy. Sorry I couldn’t think of a more low carb parallel.

The speaker who really impressed me was Pam Killeen. Her seminar showed me that many problems associated with the brain like ADHD, poor memory, chronic fatigue, can be fixed with the proper nutrients from traditional foods.

November 12, 2012 at 5:01 pm
(4) greensleeves says:

Laura:

Knowing your history, I would disagree with Masterjohn’s recommendation for you. Absolutely. I totally respect him. And yet women over 45 are not his area. You’d be better off talking to Dr. Michael Fox, seriously.

Many people who are low-carb but have high FBG have it because they are eating too much protein, esp. at night.

Try reducing your evening protein to 1 or 2 oz. – just eat your protein earlier in the day. If you search on the Atkins community forum, you’ll see this change has fixed the problem for some women over 45. :)

You don’t need more carbs or glucose, because you don’t want to progress to “real” pre-diabetes. Weight gain, even a little, is associated in studies with increases in diabetes risk for someone like you.

Remember the people giving you this advice are “unbroken” and under the age of 45. It’s just a different world for peri-menospausal & post-menopausal women. We aren’t 35 year old guys, or 30 year old women.

We are different and what works for them doesn’t usually work for us, at all.

Like Jimmy Moore, I’ve solved my problem with ketosis. My FBG is now between 82-84. My regular daily level is now 75-77. When I eat, my figure never rises above 90 and after that first hour I’m back to 75.

I measure 2.4 on the blood ketone meter eating 3 meals a day, 2 snacks, 85% fat, 25% saturated. Like Jimmy, I have lost more weight doing this. This summer when I started to now, I’m down 20 extra pounds.

Jimmy’s onto something for us “broken” folks. Masterjohn means well, but he just doesn’t have a lot of experience with people like us.

Best wishes.

November 12, 2012 at 5:13 pm
(5) julianne says:

Paul Jaminet has written and excellent series on problems with low carb diets – he researched this as he himself started having health issues after being on one for a long time
http://perfecthealthdiet.com/category/diets/low-carb-diets/page/3/

November 12, 2012 at 6:05 pm
(6) Anne of South Australia says:

I really enjoy your site, Laura. I’ve had diabetes type 2 for over 20 years. Nearly 4 years ago started intensive research to get off insulin before a big overseas trip. In a nutshell, tried alkaline diet, raw plant, vegan, vegetarian, low carb and this year,paleo/very low carb (no grains whatsoever) and more fats. I managed to stop insulin for about 12 months but still couldn’t reduce my BGL to ‘normal’ levels. My new Dr (since last year) has tried to help with me trying various natural supplements etc and the other day, he admitted maybe my ‘normal’ BGL range is slighter higher as my full blood tests all show normal for everything else except BGL! It has been an extremely frustrating exercise also because I originally lost about 25 kg but after a year put half back on and won’t shift. I’m now 62 and reckon my age and post menopause makes it harder. i had to go back on insulin a few months ago much to my disgust. But after the above comments, maybe I’m eating too much protein even though it’s within ‘normal’ range for good health. Also, I think I need to walk more because I’ve become a bit slack due to feeling helpless/hopeless about my situation. A lot of my experiences has been tried because fo your site, so thanks…………

November 13, 2012 at 12:27 am
(7) greensleeves says:

Hi Anne:

“But after the above comments, maybe Iím eating too much protein even though itís within Ďnormalí range for good health.”

Very likely. Like Jimmy, I eat 12-14% protein. This comes out to about 58-60 g a day for me, when most charts say I should be eating 90 g. But we aren’t “normal,” and the “normal” charts aren’t ever going to work for us.

If we want to prevent the horrors of diabetes with its terrible complications – blindness – amputations – worse – we have to take serious action. And never waver.

I urge you to get a blood ketone meter, start measuring, and strive to eat 80-85% fat, 12-14% protein, the rest in green veggie carbs. Somewhere in that area will work for you. Expect to take 2-3 weeks to get to 2.0 or 2.5 on the ketone meter. And once you’re there, never leave. Stay there for dear life.

You’ll lose the classic 1/2-1 pound a week, max. But the point is you will be walking away from your diabetes. You will keep your eyes, your feet, your life. I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, but diabetes is such a dangerous disease even when “managed” by current mainstream guidelines. It requires strong, determined action.

Good luck to you. :)

November 13, 2012 at 1:33 am
(8) Anne of South Australia says:

Thanks Greensleeves: Incredibly, my feet, eyes, kidneys etc have no diabetes symptons that’s why my Dr is at a loss to why my body is resisting all attempts to fix the BGL. I use calorieking.com.au a free daily food diary including % of carbs, protein, fats etc. It’s certainly very helpful and took me a bit to work out how much food to eat at each meal. Hopefully eating a lot less protein will make a difference. Cheers

November 13, 2012 at 8:37 am
(9) Mary Gill says:

Those of you with type II Diabetes might look into “The Diabetes Miracle” written by Diane Kress RD. She has improved the health of many with her methods. She stresses the importance of timing and amount and type of carb. It is an easy program and has worked wonders for many. She currently has a 3 part series in Diabetes Daily on the link between Alzheimer’s Disease and type 2 diabetes.

November 13, 2012 at 10:12 am
(10) Elena says:

Loved your post and waitng for more related to come.
Thank you very much for your amaizing work and recipes.
Best wishes from Spain

November 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm
(11) mariep says:

My comment is for women in general; for more years than I care to remember I could not control my weight. I would lose and gain it all back, including the Atkins and the zone diet. It was not until I became a true low-carber that the weight came off and is still off 6 years later, and I am 66. My problem like all women when I hit my changes, the weight poured on, but when I went on low-carb the weight stated very quickly coming off. But then it stopped so I did some digging and found portion size is just as important as low-carb foods. Gradually, I ate smaller portions, consentrating on the foods that kept me feeling full the longest. And keeping away from trigger foods, for me any kind of fruit increased my appitite. So the only fruit I eat are berries and I count them out daily. The point being know what foods keep you full and what food keep her going back for more. But what helped me the most was doing away with all dairy, even thought low-carbers can have fat, my digestion inproved transitioning over to tofu-dairy products. I lost over 50 pounds. I went from a size 10 to a size 2. And I feel more energenic than when I was in my 40′s. And remember what you did to take the weight off is what you must keep on doing, and refinning as your body changes. Good luck!

November 16, 2012 at 1:20 pm
(12) lowcarbdiets says:

I want to thank everyone for all their advice. A few things -

- It was Chris Kresser, not Masterjohn, who made this suggestion. Even within the conversation, we determined that I probably am a “real” prediabetic. I was just intrigued by Deborah Gordon’s claim that my triglycerides kind of absolve me from worrying about my FBGs, and it lining up with the opinion of that endocrinologist I saw. It seemed to me that adding a little carb for a week would be an interesting experiment for me, since it’s been so long since I’ve eaten over 50 grams/day.

- NOTHING I have done so far (and believe me, I have tried a lot of things!) seems to lower my FBG, except for Victoza, but even that did not put it in the normal (below 90) range. (TMI altert!); The only time my BG was below 90 was for (literally) about 20 minutes during colonoscopy prep when I was tracking closely out of curiosity.

- I do have a blood ketone meter. I was experimenting with nutritional ketosis this summer and I found it very hard to stay in. First thing in the morning my ketones were always low (presumably because my liver is very good at pumping out glucose). After that I was on vacation for two weeks, which I found basically incompatible with doing that diet. Then I came home and promptly broke my leg. Since I did find that exercise was pretty much essential to get a good ketone level, I decided to give it a rest. After Thanksgiving I may try again. I assume that the reason it’s so difficult is this chronically high FBG.

- I really appreciate the suggestions! I am going to put the ultra-low protein dinner on my list of things to try.

November 17, 2012 at 11:20 am
(13) Deborah Gordon, M.D. says:

Hi Laura,

So nice to read about the Weston Price Conference in your column. I’m hoping to post a link to my Treating Diabetes talk on my website, http://www.DrDeborahMD.com, as soon as it becomes available from the recorders at the conference.

I have been mightily impressed, after 30 years of medical practice, how many different health problems are caused by what we eat and cured by a low-carb version of the Weston Price guidelines! I always knew there was nothing wrong with butter and eggs!

Can’t help chiming in with a reference to what I said in my talk – if an elevated fasting blood sugar is the ONLY abnormality and you’re eating low-carb, no worries. If, however, any of the other measurements I mentioned – waist/height ratio, triglycerides, fibrinogen, etc. – are high, then it’s of concern. I agree with one of your other commenters about the potential problem of excessive protein in the setting of low carb: your body can make glucose out of protein if it’s reluctant to learn about ketosis.

One can certainly lose weight, and even normalize blood sugar without being ketogenic/going into ketosis. It’s a skill I’m still encouraging my body to cultivate!

Deborah Gordon

November 17, 2012 at 5:09 pm
(14) lowcarbdiets says:

Hi, Dr. Gordon, how great for you to come over! I very much enjoyed your talk, and thanks for clarifying those points. I am someone for whom low-carb eating has done a LOT – but normalizing my weight and my fasting blood sugar are the two disappointments (after 12 years and counting). Waist/hip not so good! So I’m definitely up for tweaking and experiments.

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