John Robbins on the Weston A. Price Foundation

I think my blog post that's generated the most comments here has been one regarding the Weston A. Price Foundation and it's advocacy of unhealthy animal-product centered diets and their spreading of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) about vegetarianism.

The inimitable John Robbins offers his perspective on this group at vegsource.com:

In fact, the more I've gotten to know the Weston A. Price Foundation, the less I've felt that it is actually carrying on the spirit or the work of the man in whose name it purports to function. For one example, Price never once mentioned the words "soy," "soybean," "tofu," or "soy milk" in his 500 page opus, and spoke quite positively about lentils and other legumes, yet the foundation has taken it upon itself to be vehemently and aggressively anti-soy, calling soy foods "more insidious than hemlock." ...

For another example, Price discovered many native cultures that were extremely healthy while eating lacto-vegetarian or pisco-vegan diets. Describing one lacto-vegetarian people, for example, he called them, "The most physically perfect people in northern India... the people are very tall and are free of tooth decay." Yet the foundation that operates under his name is strikingly hostile to vegetarians. Sally Fallon, the foundation's president, denounces vegetarianism as "a kind of spiritual pride that seeks ...to shirk the earthly duties for which the physical body is created." She further insults vegetarians by saying they frequently suffer from zinc deficiency, but think it is spiritual enlightenment.

In 1934, Price wrote a moving letter to his nieces and nephews, instructing them in the diet he hoped they would eat. "The basic foods should be the entire grains such as whole wheat, rye or oats, whole wheat and rye breads, wheat and oat cereals, oat-cake, dairy products, including milk and cheese, which should be used liberally, and marine foods." Yet the Weston A. Price Foundation aggressively promotes the consumption of beef, pork and other high-fat meats, while condemning people who base their diets on whole grains.

...

Toward that end, the Foundation has widely publicized an article written by a former member of the Foundation's Board of Directors, Stephen Byrnes, titled "The Myths of Vegetarianism."

The article is harshly critical of vegetarian diets, and concludes with an "About the Author" section which states: "Stephen Byrnes... enjoys robust health on a diet that includes butter, cream, eggs, meat, whole milk, dairy products and offal." In fact, Stephen Byrnes suffered a fatal stroke in June, 2004. According to reports of his death, he had yet to reach his 40th birthday.

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Weston Price Foundation

Mr. Robbins should take time to actually read Dr. Price's work and the work of the Weston Price Foundation.

The statements that he claims are made against vegetarianism are actually statements about veganism. Vegans who avoid all foods that are not of plant origin do not obtain certain vitamins such as B-12 from their food, and therefore must supplement if they are not to suffer from this lack. This makes it clear that humans were not meant to avoid all foods that have this vital vitamin.

It should also be noted that the letter that Dr. Price wrote to his family was written in 1934, after he visited the Swiss, who ate a high-rye and high-dairy, low meat diet, but before he visited some of the African and Inuit populations in 1935 and later, who maintained robust health on very limited carbohydrates and high intake of animal meat and fat and dairy. He discovered that good health could be maintained on these widely varying diets, as long as some source of animal fat and protein was eaten, even if it was insects, and whole, nutrient dense foods grown or raised on rich soil were consumed.

What the Foundation urges is that if you are to consume dairy, it should be raw and from cattle who live and eat on pasture grown in rich organic (no chemicals) soil. If you are to consume meat, it should be from cattle or other animals also raised on their natural diets with access to clean water, fresh air, and sunshine, not kept in close quarters in barns and fed grains and other things that are not their natural foods. If you are consuming marine life, it should be wild and not farmed (when farming means, again, being fed artificial feed made up of foods not natural to the marine life). And that vegetables, grains and fruits be organic and grown in mineral-rich soils.

Dr. Price analyzed and praised the butter from cows raised properly, and said that, given with cod liver oil, it was a miracle food. Since both foods are rich in Vitamin D (a fat-soluble vitamin), and people these days avoid such foods, it's no wonder that they are finally discovering that Vitamin D deficiency is widespread.

Eat what your grandparents ate, or your great-grandparents, before all this processed and fast food started being so widely consumed. Whether you emphasize animal products or more vegetarian selections, you'll be healthier. Don't believe me, you don't know me -- read what the Weston A. Price Foundation website has to say, but more importantly, read Dr. Price's book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

Remember that our government subsidizes both corn and soy, so it's in their interest to get the population to eat as much of that as possible, so they demonize animal foods. Follow the money.

"Remember that our government

"Remember that our government subsidizes both corn and soy, so it's in their interest to get the population to eat as much of that as possible, so they demonize animal foods. Follow the money."

Since when does the government demonize animal foods? The meat and dairy industry is a huge money maker in our food system...plus, most of the soy and corn that are grown goes to feeding animals, not humans!

animal agriculture subsidies

B12 is produced by soil bacteria and is only required in miniscule amounts. Prior to industrial agriculture, it's likely that natural exposure to dirt would give an adequate supply -- that's how gorillas get theirs. Even now, we have B12 producing bacteria in our guts, but in most people they are too low down for the B12 to be absorbed.

Supplementation is wise, vegans suffer no more B-12 deficiency than the general population -- i.e., supplementation is wise regardless of whether or not you consume animal products.

As for vitamin D, you can make your own. Get out in the sunshine. The amount in butter is quite low. If you want to supplement, it's no more artificial to take a D2 suppliment than to eat fish oil if you live inland.

Remember that our government subsidizes both corn and soy, so it's in their interest to get the population to eat as much of that as possible, so they demonize animal foods.

The ignorance here is astounding. The subsidies for corn and soy pale in comparison to those for meat and dairy -- indeed, since most 55-60%of the corn grown goes for animal feed (and a significant bit of the remainder goes for industrial uses), and the vast majority of soy goes for animal feed, corn and soy subsidies are animal agriculture subsidies. Plus animal agriculture benefits from subsidized access to water and pasture, plus subsidized cleanup of pollution from feedlots and slaughterhouses, plus price supports.

And subsidized advertizing. If you want to "follow the money", look at who's underwriting the beef and dairy industries' advertizing. Ever see a "Rice: it's what's for dinner" ad on TV? Or a "Got broccoli?" billboard? But the USDA is all about getting you to consume more meat and dairy. The federal government demonizing animal foods? That's the most ridiculous claim I've read this month.

And it's because of people pushing animal-heavy diets that many vegetarians think they need lots of protein and so heavily consume soy-based meat substitutes. But as there's no need for meat in the diet, there's no need for meat substitutes. you can be a vegetarian or vegan and not eat any soy!

Tom Swiss - proprietor, unreasonable.org

I would like to see what your

I would like to see what your comments are about Sally Fallon's presentation titled "The Oiling of America."

D3

Sunshine:

In the summer, south of atlanta, GA the average caucasian can manufacture a day's worth of D3 via sun exposure by being stripped to the waist for about 30 minutes, during the hours of 11-2.

At lattitudes north of atlanta, GA there is insufficient UV-B present in the atmosphere for people to self-manufacture D3 via sun exposure, in the months from about september to about april (depending on how north one is).

At the extreme north (New york and above), insufficient UV-B is common well through the spring and some days in summer, due to cloud cover.

Additionally, lifestyle matters: many in the north spend most of their days clothed/indoors, with insufficient skin exposed (only the face for example) to manufacture any appreciable D3, even at optimal atmospheric conditions.

Thus, the "flu season", when the immune system is D3 deficient, and when hens slow down laying (calcium processing relies on D3). when the sun picks up, so do we all.

And yet, miraculously, humans have thrived at those lattitudes for thousands of years.

What do inuits eat? Should they plant potatoes in the arctic tundra? Is that a serious suggestion? How do they thrive?

Re: D3

In the summer, south of atlanta, GA the average caucasian can manufacture a day's worth of D3 via sun exposure by being stripped to the waist for about 30 minutes, during the hours of 11-2.

I don't know where you're getting your numbers from (you have this odd habit of not providing links, my friend), but for fair-skinned folks, 10 minutes of midday summer sun (in shorts and a tank top, no sunscreen) will produce 10,000 IU of vitamin D.

Current government recommendations are 200 - 600 IUs/day, depending on age, with 400 IUs for non-elderly adults. Some researchers say that's much too low and should be 2,000 IUs. Even at that highest level, 10 minutes of summer sun will last pale people 5 days. Us tanner folk need a bit more, and our beautiful black brothers and sisters even more.

As a fat-soluble vitamin, excess D produced in the summer gets stored in the liver and can help you in the winter. Supplementation in the winter is an excellent idea (I started taking a vegan vitamin D supplement this winter), but be careful: like other fat-soluble vitamins, excess vitamin D can be toxic.

In the U.S., milk is fortified with vitamin D; dairy products do not naturally contain significant amounts. Eggs and liver contain small but not significant amounts -- it would take 16 egg yolks, or 30 ounces of beef liver, to get to 400 IU of vitamin D, much less to the 2,000 IU mark. Some mushrooms contain small amounts of the ergocalciferol form of vitamin D; exposing the mushrooms to UV may turn them into a significant source. Only fatty fish, and some fish liver oils, contain significant amounts. Even there, to get to the 2,000 IU mark, you'd have to eat 7.5 ounces -- almost half a pound! -- of salmon a day.

None of these food sources come close to what moderate sun exposure can do for vitamin D.

IMHO, unless you live next to a stream and are grabbing fish out of it with your bare hands, it's not much less artificial to eat fish -- or especially, to take cod liver oil -- as to take a vitamin D supplement. Probably safer and more environmentally friendly to take the supplement, given the status of our oceans.

many in the north spend most of their days clothed/indoors, with insufficient skin exposed

Yes. Tragic. Get outside! Get some frickin' sunshine! Wear shorts!

humans have thrived at those lattitudes for thousands of years.

Humans have certainly been able to eke out an existence at high latitudes. "Thrive"? Questionable.

What do inuits eat? Should they plant potatoes in the arctic tundra?

Well, not a lot of people live on the actual tundra. I do know that Alaska produces significant quantities of barley and oats, and potatos, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots apparently all do ok. So if a bunch of clever folks wanted to start a vegetarian commune up there, I suspect they could set up vegan permaculture (or at least a vegetarian one) in any but the most harsh regions.

Tom Swiss - proprietor, unreasonable.org

Vitamin Fortification and Animal Feed

Tom, you said "In the U.S., milk is fortified with vitamin D; dairy products do not naturally contain significant amounts." However, as Dr. Mercola points out, the vitamin D fortified in milk is not Vitamin D3, it's vitamin D2. Studies have proven that "vitamin D2 should no longer be regarded as a nutrient appropriate for supplementation or fortification of foods." That issue aside, the D2 they put in our milk is synthetic, and synthetic vitamins are known to be toxic to humans.
(see: http://content.bandzoogle.com/users/cippianhotmail/files/Dangers_of_Synt...)
(see: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2006/10/26/beware-of-...)

In regards to animal feed, the milk we see in most 'normal' grocery stores is produced by cows who are selectively bred to be mutant cows who produce 10-12 times the amount of milk a normal healthy cow does. Not to mention these cows are fed a protein dense soy bean feed (as you pointed out) which further impairs the quality of the milk (did I mention these cows are also constantly getting sick, thus in need of antibiotics, and often produce large discharges of pus into the milk?)
(see: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon)

Your rebuttals further prove the point that the Price foundation is arguing - these products would be far richer in vitamin, mineral, enzyme, and general nutrition content (not to mention the QUALITY of the nutrients would be sufficient for human consumption and produce the positive health effects they have the potential to produce) were they raised and sourced properly. No one can argue too much fat in the diet is bad, but so is too much of anything, especially when it's produced in our current post-industrial agricultural dystopia.

D2 is not harmful

Yes, D2 is synthetic; it's formed by taking ergosterol, a common naturally-occurring compound, and subjecting it to UV, a common naturally-occurring phenomenon. I don't think it's significantly more artificial than fish oil, which -- unless you're living next to a stream and grabbing salmon out of it, and squeezing them yourself -- relies on a heck of a technological infrastructure to create it.

Claims like "synthetic vitamins are known to be toxic to humans" are too general to be meaningful, just non-scientific fear-mongering -- of the sort at which Mercola excels.

D2 is as effective at raising blood levels of the active form of vitamin D as is D3, and from every bit of actual science I've seen seems as safe as D3. Both, of course, are dangerous in high amounts.

None of this changes the facts that dairy products naturally contain little vitamin D, and that the best way to get vitamin D is make it yourself, with a little sunshine.

Tom Swiss - proprietor, unreasonable.org

natural sources of Vitamin D2

Correcting myself: while D2 can be produced synthetically (as can D3 -- usually produced from cholesterol from wool oil -- or most any other vitamin), it is also present naturally in some mushrooms:

http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/69/1/95.pdf

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf00047a016

Certainly, we should plan to get our vitamins from whole plant foods as much as possible. But there's no practical way to do this with vitamin D, even from animal flesh. Same with B12 -- that's not just as issue for vegans, about 30% of the general population can't effectively absorb B12 from food.

Tom Swiss - proprietor, unreasonable.org

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