Animal Protein: Cutting Through the Misinformation

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Interviewer: As part of the Weston A. Price Foundation, they have a certain philosophy on diet, and a lot of other doctors that we talk to, whether it be this conference or other conferences, have a different view on things. 

Victoria Bloch: Right

Interviewer: Weston A. Price, you talk about eating cheese and eggs and animal protein.

Victoria Bloch: And animal fats.

Interviewer: And animal fats as well where a lot of other people think, well that's going to go right there and send you into a heart attack. Describe the philosophy that the Weston A. Price Foundation has on those types of foods, when we've been told to stay away from fat.

Victoria Bloch: Well, I'll do a generality first, and then I'll hone in on what you're asking. So the generality would be, one of the things that really attracted me to the foundation when I first heard about it, since it's based on the work of a man named Weston Price, who was, I regard him. He was a dentist of course, because Sally probably told you about him. But he was a nutritional anthropologist. So the idea that somebody didn't come up with a theory in an ivory tower and then test it in a lab on agued mice or whatever kinds of lab animals they wanted to test it on to see if it worked. Was he said, I'm going to go find healthy people in their own native setting, and I'm going to see what makes them healthy.

I'm going to ask them, what is it that's made you healthy? And I'm going to go to different groups of people and find out what makes all of these groups of people healthy. So when he wrote his book back in the 40's, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, he identified 14 groups around the world. Every place except Asia because World War II had broken out when he ended his research.

So he had Fiji islanders who had taro root and pigs and crabs and coconut and everything to Inuit who had seal and moose and maybe three or four berries in the summer. And no grain and no, and they found healthy people in all this range of things. Europeans, Africans, South Sea islanders, Native Americans, and so on. So the guidelines are really not, you must eat this, you must eat this, you must eat this, and you must never do this, this, this. But it's more; find out the parameters of those foods that work for you within these guidelines.
So the guidelines that Dr. Price had found was, every group ate animal foods of some kind, whether it was insects, you know for land-locked countries. Or whether it was fish for seafaring countries like the Outer Hebrides, the Scottish Highlanders, or whether it was land animals. Whatever it was, they all ate animal foods.

And he thought he would find a vegetarian culture. He liked the idea of finding that. And he didn't find any. Every culture that he found, whatever animal foods were around, they ate them.

And whatever fats came with those animals, they ate those. They ate the whole animal. They didn't waste. So they did nose to tail eating, just like Fergus Henderson, you know, who's inspired a couple of great restaurants here in Chicago. So, there was that.

Then they all, if they had grain, because not all cultures had grain, but if they did, grains and legumes, they prepared them in such a way as to maximum digestibility. They soaked them, or they sourdough leavened them or they sprouted them. They did something to break down the, they didn't know that's what they were doing, but they knew they felt better when they prepared food this way.

They all ate salt. They got salt, whether it was from burning reeds to get the dried ash, which was high in sodium. Or whether it was from harvesting sea water and letting it dry. They all had salt.

They all had special foods for people of child bearing age and special diets for children. And they all ate, obviously, unprocessed foods, because there were no factories around. That's kind of a duh. They all had, what else were the other things?

And they all ate something raw. They ate some of their foods raw. So whether it was things like ceviche, if you're in that kind of a culture or whether it was kibbeh, if you're in a more Middle Eastern culture, or raw dairy if it was the Swiss, in their land-locked valley that he visited. Everybody had something raw. And they all cooked too.

So it kind of knocks out of the water, everybody says, well raw, vegan, salt-free and low fat is kind of like, we'd have never have made it to this point if we had followed that kind of diet. Because our ancestors, if you were a hunter gatherer, there's beyond adequate evidence, that they waited until animals were their fattest, like right before winter, to slaughter, to catch and harvest. Because they wanted the fat. That was when the animal had put on the most fat to go through winter. So the back fat. So when you hear people talking about Paleo diets and saying, oh it was lean meat, it's like, eh. You know, not really. Because our ancestors wanted the fat because a) you could preserve the food in it and it also is calorically very dense, obviously. So if you're going for energy, the fat is what's going to give that energy in spades when other foods are lean.

The Native Americans had a term for too much lean protein. When there weren't land animals, when moose weren't available and so on and they'd start hunting rabbits because you could get them during the winter. Rabbit is really, really lean meat, even when it's raised in the wild. And they would get what they called rabbit sickness. 

Because they would start to get weak and dizzy, and there would be specific symptoms that would come up from eating too much lean animal flesh without the fat that went with it.

So, my response to anybody is, this is where I try to live at the intersection of big picture and tradition and science. So, I look at those and try to reconcile them. So traditionally, I know that my ancestors did not do that. My ancestors are Scotch, Irish, Swedish, French. They ate fat. I'm sorry, they did. They ate fatty fish. They ate fatty meats. They had dairy products. They had rye bread, sourdough fermented rye bread. They ate some fruit. They ate some vegetables. All of that. But they didn't get here by avoiding fat. They didn't get here, and they lived long healthy lives except by accident.

I mean the concept that our ancestors lived these short, nasty lives and that the reason that we now die of heart disease is because now we can live long enough to develop it, which is one of the theories that's out there. No, Dr. Price found plenty of elders in all the groups he visited, even the ones that were more towards hunter gatherer societies. So unless it was by accident, people didn't really die of infectious disease.

There was a wonderful book that came out in 2007 called Good Calories, Bad Calories. Carrie Taubes, who's a medical journalist wrote it. And he echoed exactly what Dr. Price said with the missionary doctors. Like Britain, and the United States sent out the missionary doctors who went into Africa, went to China, went all over the world in the 1880's to 1890's and so on. Kept voluminous records which they sent back to their medical schools and so on.

All of them, to a doctor, reported that they did not see a single native with gout, with arthritis, with cancer, with heart disease, until they started moving to the cities. And until they started adopting the food that got brought in from the people who were starting to settle there who were coming from Europe and the Americas, and more "civilized" cultures.

Because what are the foods that travel well? The foods that travel well are the ones that are heavily preserved, particularly in the 1800's. You know, dried biscuits, zwieback, tinned fats, canned meat, jellies, condensed milk. You know, these are nutritionally fairly dead foods. They've got some calories, some macro nutrients. But they're not exactly what you'd call fabulous stuff. And if they replaced the foods that people had grown up on, they developed problems. So as far as cholesterol, as far as animal fat, as all of that, one of the things that's medically quite true is that saturated fat raises HDL.

You want to get more HDL. It's not cholesterol. HDL is not cholesterol. It's High Density Lipoprotein. It's something that carries cholesterol, but it's not cholesterol itself. Anyway, so HDL. You want to have HDL go up? Eat lots of saturated fat. You want to have triglycerides go up? Have lots of starchy, processed, low-fat foods. I call Coke triglycerides in a can. You know? Or cookies, or Snack Wells, or any of the stuff. You want your triglycerides to go up? Chow down. You know? Have it. Because it will do it. It's not only inflammatory, but it will end up causing heart disease.

I was interviewing somebody myself about a month ago for a, I spoke at a farm day for one of the farmers that I know. So I interviewed three of his customers who bought from him. But totally different health conditions. And one of them, his father had had a massive heart attack when he was 47, 48. And he wanted to avoid it. So he was on statins. He was on the whole nine yards.
And heard about, for him, he went on a Paleo diet, except Paleo diet with all the fat. So he started buying quarter cow at a time and having it trucked to his house. And he was eating all of that and he stopped eating grain. Stopped eating sugar. Started drinking raw milk. Because he was in California, so he could.

And he went back to his doctor. He stopped doing the statins. He stayed away from his doctor for nine months. He went back. His cholesterol had dropped 120 points. His doctor said, what are you doing? He said, I'm doing everything you told me not to. His doctor said, I didn't hear that, but keep doing it.

So, it's just interesting to see what actual measurable results are. The same thing with Thomas Cowan who's on the board of the foundation. I remember several years ago he was speaking at one of the conferences. And he showed slides of somebody who came to him, who, every male in his family had died of a heart attack by the time he was 55. And it was the same thing. When he came in, Dr. Cowan said, I don't believe that cholesterol is our most critical measurement. But if you want to use it as a reference point, his HDL was at the highest risk category. It was really, really low. His LDL and triglycerides were up off the charts.

So he told him the basic foundation diet, which is like, eat animal protein and fat to satisfy your hunger. And then have vegetables and so on to round it out and eat carbs according to your energy expenditure. If you're sedentary and you're a guy, it might be around 70 grams a day or so. And eat them properly prepared. You, just eat them according to the, soak them before you cook them. And that was it.

And he came back six months later and everything was flipped. His HDL was up in the highest, lowest risk category, highest numbers. And the absolute mirror image of his chart from before. And that was eating animal protein, animal fat. Good quality, ideally. But even, honestly, even eating bad quality animal protein is still going to do better for you that eating really great quality starchy pasta and white rice and stuff.

So, there's a lot of misinformation. And I think it's simply imperfect understanding. And also, it's very hard to get published if you run against the countervailing beliefs. So to be in a peer-reviewed journal, and you're coming along.

I mean look at the guy whose name I'm blanking on right at the moment, who developed the homocysteine theory. He was a tenured professor at Harvard, and he started studying people who had a unique propensity, a congenital, unusually high cholesterol. Like they had cholesterol of 1000, and so on. And he found that they had high levels of homocysteine in their blood. And he said, there's got to be something going on here. Maybe it isn't the fat. Maybe it isn't this. Maybe it's the homocysteine. Maybe that's the problem causing these people to die of heart attacks before they're 20, and so on.
And he lost tenure. He couldn't get published. And it wasn't until a lawyer heard his story, just by chance. I remember him telling this at a talk I heard. By chance, and said, that's horrible. How could that happen? And sued and got his job back. He's written about homocysteine. He lectures frequently. He's respected in the medical community. But he could not get a word published to let people know that homocysteine might be, and now it's the most normal thing in the world to get tested for.

So it's like, I forget who's saying this, but first they laugh at you. And then they stone you. And then they start to listen to you. And then they adulate you. So it was very much that.

Victoria Bloch is a Weston A. Price chapter leader. Here she discusses the philosophy of the Weston A. Price foundation when it comes to diet. She discusses Dr. Price's research and findings which led to a book and overall philosophy.

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