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Impressions from Wise Traditions 2010

In Mid-November I had the good fortune to attend the 11th annual conference of the Weston A. Price Foundation (1) near Philadelphia, PA.  I have both attended and given talks at other nutrition-oriented conventions, but this one was distinctly different.  Most of the attendees were not scientists but were people from all walks of life who are keenly interested in good nutrition, sustainable agriculture, and green living.  Instead of the usual rivalries that occur among conference attendees, everyone was generally in agreement about what constitutes a good diet and were eager to learn of the latest discoveries exonerating traditional foods.

Subtitled “The Politics of Food” the conference focused on exploring the political strategies being used against the growing farm-to-consumer food movement, and laid out strategies for protecting small family farms and artisan food producers.  To this end we were ‘treated’ to a soon to be released movie, “Farmageddon” (2), which documents the unprecedented raids being inflicted on small farms and food buying clubs for daring to defy the monopolies of the big agriculture and food corporations.  The food safety legislation now moving through Congress was also discussed.  While we all agree that factory farming needs a lot more regulation that it is currently receiving, imposing the same rules on small farmers practically insures that they will go broke and have to sell out to big agricultural companies.

As I have explained in previous posts, if we want to have superior health we need to eat superior food, at least most of the time.  This conference was in large part about explaining how these exemplary foods are the ones our ancestors have been eating for generations.  Unlike the people who think that we should eat only what our Paleolithic ancestors ate (meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, tubers) because that is what we are genetically adapted to eat, people who follow the teachings of Weston A. Price (see May 20, 2010 post) look to our more recent ancestors and what they ate prior to the introduction of industrial foods in the 1800s, i.e. paleo foods plus dairy products and properly prepared grain products.  He emphasized the high vitamin and mineral content of grass-fed meat and dairy products, bone broths, organ meats and fish and seafood.  There were no refined or denatured foods.  Primitive diets contained 4 times the calcium and 10 times the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) as modern diets.  In order to absorb fat-soluble vitamins you need to ingest fat.  The low fat diets we have been told to eat for years prevent the absorption of these vitamins.  I have always questioned the wisdom of adding vitamins A and D to skim milk!  Interestingly, all of the primitive peoples that Price studied included animal foods in their diet.  There were no traditional people who ate a vegan diet, and those who ingested the most animal foods were the healthiest and most robust.

Besides traditional diets, there were many talks on wellness (overcoming illnesses, weight loss, dentistry) holistic practices, farming practices, cooking, food preservation, green homemaking, and environmental contaminants (including electromagnetic fields).  Since many sessions ran concurrently it was impossible to attend all the ones I wanted to hear.  A couple of interesting sessions provided food for thought and further research.  For example, Dr. Tom Cowan (3) explained research that showed that heart attacks are not caused by a blockage in a coronary artery but by the deterioration of the small blood vessels in the heart from stress, smoking, high insulin concentrations, diabetes, and/or inflammation.  The heart does not get enough nutrients and goes into anabolic metabolism.  There is a resulting buildup of lactic acid, which leads to pain and death of the cells.  This also happens in the brain (stroke).  The blockage in the major arteries happens after the heart attack or stroke and has little to do with plaque buildup.  Another example, from Natasha Campbell McBride (4), if you have the proper gut bacteria they will manufacture lactase, allowing adults to consume milk products.

In conjunction with the sessions there were many exhibitors selling products and information about everything relating to traditional eating.  Farming coops from the surrounding countryside were selling locally produced raw milk and cheese, fermented products, baked goods, butter, potato chips fried in lard, grass fed meats, pastured chicken and pork, wild caught salmon, etc.  Books, DVDs, skin care products, supplements, and opportunities for further education were all being offered.  I stopped by one booth selling aloe juice and tried a sample.  That was the only thing among the exhibitors that I didn’t like!  I bought as much as I could conveniently carry on the bus and train back to Long Island.  Some of the cheese and beef jerky even made it back to Hawaii.

Last, but certainly not least, were the meals provided to the conference attendees.  They consisted entirely of foods from the local area, lots of grass fed meat and butter, whole raw milk at most meals, fresh and fermented vegetables, soups and sauces made from bone broth, traditionally prepared breads for sandwiches and French toast, and desserts that incorporated local fruit, natural sweeteners like maple syrup, and lots of whipped cream.  And guess what—very few people at the conference had a weight problem.  We all stuffed ourselves with the marvelous food but did not go home any heavier.  This corroborates the ongoing theme of this blog—eat real food and your good health and normal weight will take care of itself.

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