Well, I have read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration cover-to-cover several times. I have also read several of the articles Price published in medical, nutrition, and dental journals, including the one he entitled “Acid-Base Balance of Diets Which Produce Immunity to Dental Caries Among the South Sea Islanders and Other Primitive Races” (available online here). I use his works in several classes that I teach. I think I have a pretty good grasp of Price’s findings.
I did not come away from reading Price with the impression that he had he had discovered every significant nutrition fact. Price did not have omniscience.
Secondly, Price's research suffers from some weaknesses. Price did not spend much time with any of the groups he studied, nor did he perform extensive medical testing to determine the incidence of any diseases other than dental decay and malocclusion among them. Interviewing frontier doctors does not count as basic research; those guys could have made mistakes as well. Price assumed that people with good development and resistance to dental decay would also have resistance to all other disorders afflicting humans. This is not a justifiable assumption. A diet could support exceptional development and resistance to dental decay yet have adverse effects on aging. Finally, he made almost no attempt to accurately report the quantities of foods consumed by the various groups. He used vague terms like "largely composed of milk products" or such. Such reports preclude making firm conclusions about amounts of various foods consumed by each group.
Third, I want to emphasize that he only intensively studied dental disorders and developmental skeletal disorders, not disorders of aging, like osteoporosis. He looked at skeletons of some groups, but nowhere in his book does he report determining the age of death of the skeletons. He doesn't even list dental decay rates in age-adjusted figures.
In the aforementioned article, Price wrote:
“My investigations are showing that primitive groups have practically complete freedom from deformity of the dental arches and irregularities of the teeth in the arches and that various phases of these disturbances develop at the point of contact with foods of modern civilization.
“It is not my belief that this is related to potential acidity or potential alkalinity of the food but to the mineral and activator content of the nutrition during the developmental periods, namely, prenatal, postnatal and childhood growth. It is important that the very foods that are potentially acid have as an important part of the source of that acidity the phosphoric acid content, and an effort to eliminate acidity often means seriously reducing the available phosphorus, an indispensable soft and hard tissue component.
It is my belief that much harm has been done through the misconception that acidity and alkalinity were something apart from minerals and other elements. Many food faddists have undertaken to list foods on the basis of their acidity and alkalinity without the apparent understanding of the disturbances that are produced by, for example, condemning a food because it contains phosphoric acid, not appreciating that phosphorus can only be acid until it is neutralized by combining with a base.”
Notice that he did not claim that his investigations showed that all primitive groups have complete freedom from all diseases of civilization. He only claimed resistance to “deformity of the dental arches and irregularities of the teeth in the arches.”
Next, he says he does not hold a “belief” in the acid-base theory with regards to dental decay and deformity. He specifically states that he thinks that he thinks that resistance to these disorders comes via “mineral and activator content of the nutrition during the developmental periods, namely, prenatal, postnatal and childhood growth.” [emphasis added] He says nothing about his whether he “believes” that the potential acidity or alkalinity of food might affect the occurrence of other skeletal or metabolic diseases associated with aging. He does not mention age-related osteoporosis and did not study it.
Then he goes on to use a broad brush to discount people who do believe that acidity or alkalinity of foods might impact health. He calls them “food faddists.” This term would not apply to the serious scientists who I have already and will in upcoming articles refer to in regards to research on Eskimo bone health or the effects or metabolic acidity on bone metabolism.
Next, he suggests that these “faddists” don’t understand the importance of foods rich in phosphorus and “condemn” them. This certainly does not apply to me, Loren Cordain, S.Boyd Eaton, Staffan Lindeberg, Thomas Remer, Friedrich Manz, Anthony Sebastian, Lynn Frasseto, or Jurgen Vormanne.
I don’t “condemn” meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or nuts, all rich in phosphorus and protein, and acidogenic. If you look at my diet and dietary recommendations, you can see that I eat plenty of meat and that it plays an important role in my dietary recommendations.
However, I don’t blindly worship meat, etc. either. I remain aware of the basic principal of toxicology, that anything – even things essential for health -- can produce toxic effects in large enough dose.
Experiment has established that for humans dietary protein becomes acutely toxic at levels of 240-280 g per day due to limits on the liver’s ability to synthesize urea from the ammonia generated when cells convert excess protein to glucose. [See Maximal Rates of Excretion and Synthesis of Urea in Normal and Cirrhotic Subjects, full text.]
Thus, we know that excess protein can act as an acute toxin for humans. We can reasonably suspect that anything that acts as an acute toxin in large amounts can act as a chronic toxin in reduced amounts. As with other nutrients, we can reasonably expect that people will suffer from deficiency diseases if they get too little protein and toxicity diseases if they get too much, and that between these extremes we will find an optimum intake that maximizes the benefits while avoiding detriments.
Price himself seemed to acknowledge that some primitive diets might have protected against decay and malocclusions but not produced the optimum development for humans. In chapter 9 of NPD, he wrote:
“Neurs, Malakal, Sudan. The Neurs at Malakal on the Nile River are a unique tribe because of their remarkable stature. Many of the women are six feet tall and the men range from six feet to seven and a half feet in height. Their food consists very largely of animal life of the Nile, dairy products, milk and blood from the herds.
A study of 1,268 teeth of thirty-nine individuals revealed only six teeth with dental caries, or 0.5 per cent. Only three individuals had caries, or 7.7 per cent.
Dinkas, Jebelein, Sudan. This tribe lives on the Nile. Its members are not as tall as the Neurs. They are physically better proportioned and have greater strength. They use fish from the Nile and cereals for their diet. They decorate their bodies profusely with scars.
An examination of 592 teeth of twenty-two individuals revealed only one tooth with caries, or 0.2 per cent.”
You will notice that this passage, typical of NPD, contains no attempt to even identify whether either of these groups suffered from any diseases other than tooth decay. Further, Price’s description of the Dinka diet is, like most of his other dietary descriptions, sketchy. He makes no effort to accurately quantify their dietary composition. According to Everyculture.com:
“Dinka have traditionally produced all the material resources needed to sustain their livelihood via a combination of horticulture (gardening) with pastoralism (nomadic herding), fishing and occasional hunting. Millet is the mainstay of the Dinka diet [Emphasis added]. Depending on the season, it is supplemented with cow milk, fish, meat, beans, tomatoes, or rice.”
[Read more: Dinka .]
This almost certainly fails to itemize and quantify all the foods in the Dinka diet (judging by my experience with Ethiopian food, most likely the Dinka also eat a wide variety of vegetables and herbs), but at least it identifies millet as their main food. Thus, it appears that Price believed that the almost exclusively animal-sourced Neur diet produced more tooth decay and weaker, disproportionately developed people when compared to the grain-dominated Dinka diet.
How such statements by Price get converted to the idea that healthy people got all their vitamins and minerals from animal sources, and that plant foods are not important to health, is beyond my comprehension.
Price also prescribed diets containing whole wheat, apparently unaware of the hazards associated with gluten exposure.
Yet what appears to me as a Weston Price Personality Cult seems bent on suggesting that Price demonstrated and believed that the only groups eating predominantly animal-sourced diets--particularly milk products-- had in every case the best development and health.