Some old discoveries are as relevant today as they ever were.

Dr Weston Price was a dentist in Cleveland, Ohio in the Thirties, who observed a large number of his patients were suffering from chronic degenerative ill health.

He also noticed an increasing amount of children had crowded, crooked teeth and cavities.

Suspicious that there was a connection between modern nutrition, dental decay and physical degeneration, he decided to leave his practice in search of remote, isolated human groups.

His aim was to find out if these so-called primitive people were healthy and, if so, what they were doing to keep themselves free from tooth decay and disease.

Dr Price travelled to see the Indians of North and South America, the Eskimos, remote villages in the Swiss Alps, Gaelic communities in the Outer Hebrides, Melanesian and Polynesian South Sea Islanders, African tribes, Australian Aborigines and the New Zealand Maoris.

In order to document his findings, he analysed the foods used by the natives and took thousands of photos of people from all over the world proudly displaying their strong, white teeth.

Most of them had never used a toothbrush in their lives.

Dr Price found the age-old diets provided them with almost complete immunity to tooth decay as well as resistance to chronic diseases.

Many of his pictures are recorded in his classic volume Nutrition And Physical Degeneration (available from the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation at

Dr Price discovered that although all the tribes had completely different eating patterns, none of them ate refined foods. The food was unprocessed and did not contain any preservatives, pesticides or added sugar.

Consisting mainly of animal foods such as eggs, butter, shellfish and organ meats, the tribes' diets provided ten times the amount of fat-soluble vitamins and at least four times the amount of water-soluble vitamins, calcium and other minerals found in Western diets.

Dr Price also noted that special foods were given to pregnant and lactating mothers as well as developing boys and girls.

His most significant finding was that whenever isolated people abandoned their ancestral eating patterns and switched over to the impoverished foods of civilisation, crowded teeth and dental decay inevitably followed. So did birth defects and an increased susceptibility to infectious and chronic diseases.

The difference in mental health was particularly striking. Native tribes were optimistic and, unlike their modern counterparts, had no need for antidepressants.

The foods that caused such misery are the very foods we still consume with such gusto today: Sugar, white flour and other refined grains, jams, jellies, biscuits, canned milk, pastries, margarine and vegetable oils.

Conversely, if the same people returned to their original eating habits, the progression of dental decay could be halted or reversed.

The fascinating observations of Dr Price were largely ignored or ridiculed in his time. However, it is still not too late for us to heed his message that, if we are to survive, we must incorporate the basics of primitive nutritional wisdom into our modern-day lifestyles.

Martina is a qualified nutritionist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary Medicine, 37 Vernon Terrace,
Brighton. Tel: 01273 202221 or email: