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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