Deadly Dietary Myths
By Joel Fuhrman, M.D.www.drfuhrman.com
Premature Death Is Too High A Price To Pay For Bad Advice!
This newsletter is devoted entirely to debunking some of today’s most popular—and potentially most dangerous—diet and nutrition myths. In previous newsletters, and 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.