Deadly Dietary Myths

From the July 2006 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

In my book Eat To Live, I have warned readers about adopting fad diets such as The Atkins Diet, The Zone Diet, and Eat For Your Blood Type because the scientific data is so clear about the fact that eating more than a few small portions of animal products each week is associated with a host of serious diseases.

Conclusive scientific warnings notwithstanding, people continue to flock to diets like these because a) they reinforce existing bad habits, and b) numerous organizations encourage this behavior. One of the more influential of these organizations is the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF).

The Weston A. Price Foundation is named in honor of a Cleveland dentist, author of the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. In the 1930s, upon observing that a large number of his patients had poor dental health, Dr. Price traveled to remote regions of the world and found that people in those areas who were still eating diets consisting of unprocessed foods had healthier teeth than his patients, who were eating large amounts of processed foods. He concluded that poor dental health was the result of nutritional deficiencies.

WAPF is a relatively small non-profit with a modest budget, but its leaders and members have been very effective in advocating a meat-centered diet, with lots of butter and whole, raw milk. Unfortunately, although some of its recommendations are laudable (such as the admonition to avoid highly processed foods, and the warning that most popular vegetarian and vegan diets are not ideal), many others are entirely out of step with modern nutritional science. They promote a range of irresponsible and potentially dangerous ideas, including:

  • Butter and butter oil are “super foods” that contain the “X factor” discovered by Weston Price.
  • Glandular organ extracts from animals promote the health and healing of the corresponding human organs.
  • Poached brains of animals should be added to other ground meats for better nutrition.
  • Raw cow’s milk and meat broth should be fed to newborns who don’t breast-feed, rather than infant formula.
  • Regular ingestion of clay (Azomite Mineral Powder) has detoxifying effects because the clay particles remove pathogens from the body.
  • There are benefits to feeding sea salt to infants and babies.
  • Fruits and vegetables should be limited in children’s diets.

There are plenty of organizations offering woefully out-of-date and inaccurate dietary advice, so I do not want to give the impression that WAPF is alone in this regard. But there is limited space in a single newsletter, and a review of some of the WAPF recommendations offers an opportunity to point out examples of nutritional misinformation readily available in books and on the Internet.

How to Feed Your Baby
WAPF advocates a severely deficient and dangerous diet for infants and children that has the potential to cause a lifetime of medical problems, reduced brain function, and an early death from cancer. Infants have their best chance of developing normally when they consume breast milk from well-fed mothers. But contrary to a plethora of scientific studies indicating that breast milk should be the only food for the first six months of life, Sally Fellon, founder and president of the WAPF and coauthor (with Mary Enig) of the book Nourishing Traditions, says that pureed meat (including organ meats) is an excellent early food for babies.

What does WAPF recommend?

One WAPF baby formula mixes cow’s milk with heavy cream and other oils, while another is made from cow’s liver, beef broth, whey powder, and various oils. It is well established in the scientific literature that a diet high in saturated fats and low in fruits and vegetables in early childhood is the leading cause of adult cancers. Infants fed cow’s milk instead of breast milk or formula do not get sufficient iron, vitamin C, linoleic acid, or vitamin E, and take in excessive amounts of sodium, potassium, and protein,which can lead to dehydration and kidney damage. For many years, the American Academy of Pediatricians has warned against the use of any whole cow’s milk during the first year of life after it was found that infants given cow’s milk developed iron deficiency and occult (silent) bleeding of the digestive tract.1 The resultant iron deficiency seen in children raised on cow’s milk in early childhood leads to long-term changes in behavior and loss of intelligence that can not be reversed even with correction of the iron deficiency later on in life.2 In other words, permanent brain damage can occur from the feeding of whole cow’s milk to babies.

Good Intentions Gone Awry
How can an organization offer nutritional advice so out of step with the world’s scientific literature? Part of the blame can be placed at the feet of those who remain loyal to some of the original observations of Weston Price rather than his original intent.

When Dr. Price traveled to remote areas, his intent was to find healthful solutions for his dental patients. When we look back with 70 years of scientific hindsight, we can see that his examinations and conclusions were flawed.When he touted the health of primitive peoples, he was not aware of their short life expectancy and high rates of infant mortality, endemic diseases, and infection.

It can be argued that few scientific researchers in the 1930s would have understood the complexity of multifactorial causation of health, disease, and longevity, and Price should not be held to today’s higher standards. But the same cannot be said for his followers today.To advocate eating a diet high in saturated fat is to ignore all of the nutritional research—especially of the past 40 years—that links this diet to shorter life spans and higher rates of heart disease and cancer is unconscionable.

1. Kazal LA. Prevention of iron deficiency in infants and toddlers. Am Fam Physician 2002; 66(7): 1217-24.

2. Beard JL, Connor JR. Iron status and neural functioning. Annu Rev Nutr 2003;23:41-58.

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Comments (5) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Miso Vegan - November 2, 2009 11:52 AM

Thank you, thank you, thank you. This link, with a copy of the China Study, will be my response to the fools that perpetuate the bad science of WAPF. 'Cause I'm tired of arguing with them.

Li - December 16, 2009 6:25 PM

I have tried both a raw vegan lifestyle as well as a Weston A Price Foundation one, and everything in between, and I have come to the conclusion that a combination of the 2 suits me best. I am no longer extremely skinny, my weight has stabilized on a healthy level, I am hardly ever taken ill (once a year tops), my skin and hair looks great, my teeth are healthier and my menstrual cramps are much much better (I have had extremely painful menstrual cramps form day one, and I can tell from month to month if I have eaten well or not simply by the amount of pain I must suffer).

Now, breast IS best, but if I couldn't breastfeed I would give my baby raw organic goats milk from our own goats since their milk is very similar to human milk. I would NEVER EVER give my child any sort of store bought infant formula which I consider being the baby equivalent to ready made frozen/dried-powder meals. I would rather give my baby raw organic cows milk mixed with home cooked bone broth (bone broth, people, NOT meat broth) than ANY infant formula available in supermarkets or wherever, whether they be based on cow milk powder or soy powder (both extremely toxic and not suitable as food for any living creature).

And I do believe there is a HUGE difference between the dairy, eggs, meat and bones from free range grazing cows & calfs, hens & chickens, goats, sheep and lambs, and the dairy, eggs, meat and bones from their industrialised massproduced toxin-loaded grain-fed, fish-meal-fed aswell as food-industry-waste-product-fed equivalents (for example; cows are fed the waste products of the juice industry, and no, the extremely pesticide-sprayed fruits are not thoroughly cleaned before the juice extraction process, this is why un-organic dairy products still have DDT in them even though DDT was banned yeeeeeaaars ago).

There is also the problem with pasteurized vs. raw milk. You cite "For many years, the American Academy of Pediatricians has warned against the use of any whole cow’s milk during the first year of life after it was found that infants given cow’s milk developed iron deficiency and occult (silent) bleeding of the digestive tract." which most likely is based upon pasteurized "conventional" (since when is this toxic toxin-loaded soil-destroying industry that makes us humans and our animal co-inhabitants of the planet so god damn sick and unhealhty the norm, and organic old fashioned wholesome respectful farming the exception?!) cows milk, heat treated beyond recognition, containing no enzymes with which our digestive system can use to break it down... ridiculous! Demand surveys based on raw milk...

Oh nevermind, doesn't matter really, I will eat what makes me feel and be healthy. A side note though; I went to the doctor to be sure I was on the right track, because I don't want to take any chances when trying to get pregnant and with my childrens health, and did a full physical and the doctor told me I was unusually healthy and that my blood tests (they did several different ones) showed levels that was the best he had ever seen, and my blood pressure is also very good.

All in all, I feel great and look better than I have ever done before.

Now keep in mind that I am a layman, and I look forward to being corrected if I have given any faulty information, I live to learn and I keep my mind open...

MrTrashcan - January 12, 2010 6:50 PM

"When he touted the health of primitive peoples, he was not aware of their short life expectancy and high rates of infant mortality, endemic diseases, and infection."

I challange you to give specific examples of the primitive peoples he examined that exhibited those characteristics.

"To advocate eating a diet high in saturated fat is to ignore all of the nutritional research�especially of the past 40 years�that links this diet to shorter life spans and higher rates of heart disease and cancer is unconscionable."

I challenge you to give specific studies that prove any of this hogwash.

Kailey - January 19, 2011 9:04 PM

"What does WAPF recommend?"

Um, they recommend...breastmilk. From humans, for the record.

The formula recipes are ONLY if, for some reason, you cannot breastfeed your child, or cannot supply ENOUGH breastmilk for your child. The liver/broth formula is made available in the exceptional case that you cannot breastfeed AND your child is allergic to other milks (cow, goat, sheep) as well.

Never is formula "recommended"!!!

Audfish - May 6, 2013 11:06 AM

I became very involved in reading information about the WAPF before having my Dr. tell me to try Eat for Health. I was trying to incorporate grass fed butter and beef. I couldn't find pastured chickens or eggs in my area that I could afford. I was also soaking or sprouting my grains. I will say that the WAPF does NOT place a huge emphasis on eating an abundance of produce. Mainly, they discuss the importance of meat products (grass fed or pastured, of course), raw milk, and properly prepared grains, nuts, and legumes. I had a few cavities before going on this diet apparently, but when I went to the dentist she said two of them had remineralized. HOWEVER, I am still 40 or so pounds overweight and the diet did not help me loose any weight at all.

So, when I went to the doctor he recomended Eat for Health, and warned me it was mostly Vegan (surprise! he's a Keiser Dr. recomending a vegan diet!!!) I read the book and started immediately. I've lost about 15 lbs. Amazing results. I have continued to soak/sprout my grains and legumes because I really do feel a difference when they are not soaked.

In trying to find some information from Dr. Fuhrman's perspective on the WAPF I have read a few articles on the blog. INTERRESTINGLY, I keep finding articles where WAPF followers come and bash Dr. Fuhrman's ideals in the comments section. This is concerning to me.... Are they coming on the website on purpose to ensure that their ideals are furthered? It seems like lots of them come here and say how they were "magically cured" by the WAPF diet, and then claim that Dr. Fuhrman advocates margerine and soy oil...WRONG, Dr. Fuhrman doesn't really advocate any oil except for the occasional tsp or so of olive oil for cooking in some recipies.

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