Interview with Sally Fallon, Author of "Nourishing Traditions"
Editorial Article by Susan Booth with Sally Fallon Morell
I'm very pleased to have had the opportunity to interview Sally Fallon Morell, author of Nourishing Traditions and president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Her diligent work to educate people on the importance of traditional, nutrient-dense diets, and her willingness to go against conventional wisdom in search of the truth is truly inspiring. ~ Susan
Many of our customers are trying to go by the principles in your book. I've heard from them, they've told me! And it seems like the Weston Price movement, if you could call it that, has become very popular. So, in a nutshell, who was Weston Price and what is the Weston A. Price Foundation primarily about?
Sally Fallon: Weston Price was a dentist. He wrote a book called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration back in the 1940s that discusses his findings of studies on indigenous peoples, studies that took him ten years to complete. He wanted to answer the question, "What is a healthy diet?" First, he had to find healthy people, and the way he knew that people were healthy was by looking at their teeth. If he could find populations that had no cavities, or virtually no cavities, and had naturally straight teeth and good facial structure, he could assume that the diet they were eating was the right type of diet for building the body and then keeping it healthy throughout life.
He discovered fourteen different populations that had excellent dental health, and by inference excellent overall health. He then looked at their diets. Their diets were all very different. Some had dairy foods and some didn't. Some had lots of plant foods and some had almost no plant foods. So then, the question became "What are the principles of a healthy diet?" - because the particular foods available to people are different all over the world. He analyzed these foods for nutrient content and found that all the diets were very high in minerals, they were very high in the water soluble vitamins. But, they were extremely high in the fat-soluble vitamins - vitamins A, D, and what we now know as vitamin K2, the animal form of vitamin K. And the only place you can get those types of vitamins is in the food that we're told not to eat -- butter and fats from grass-fed animals, organ meats, fish organs, fish roe, shellfish and egg yolks from grass-fed hens. So all the high-fat, high-cholesterol foods that most people try to avoid are the foods that are absolutely critical to good health. So we set up the Weston A. Price Foundation to show the scientific validation for traditional food ways. We wanted to make these principles lay-friendly and to help people find these types of foods.
Booth: Yes, finding these foods can be a challenge. Certainly that has been the case with fermented cod liver oil until recently.
Fallon: Yes. Cod liver oil, especially the fermented cod liver oil that is now available, supplies A, D, and K, and we recommend it pretty much for everybody because it's hard for us to get those vitamins in the American diet. A lot of the foods that contain these vitamins we don't like, or they're not available, or they're expensive.
Booth: I understand that along with cod liver oil, butter oil is helpful especially in combination with cod liver oil.
Fallon: Right. You might call the combination of high-vitamin cod liver oil and high-vitamin butter oil Dr. Price's magic remedy. It was the combination of these that he used with great success not only to reverse tooth decay, but to treat growth problems and bone problems; he even treated seizures successfully. The combination seemed to work for all sorts of health problems.
When we started the Foundation ten years ago, you couldn't get either of these products. You could just get regular cod liver oil, not the high-vitamin cod liver oil. And now, of course, we have the high-vitamin butter oil in production again and the wonderful fermented high-vitamin cod liver oil. And, like Dr. Price, we are finding that this combination is quite a magic combination for providing the right types of vitamins and the right types of fatty acids to support the use of all the other minerals and vitamins in the diet. Actually, you can't use minerals without vitamins A, D, and K no matter how plentiful they may be in the diet.
Booth: Since Weston Price was a dentist, and there are many people now who believe that fluoridated water is all that's needed for healthy teeth, what's your opinion of fluoridation?
Fallon: Fluoride is a poison. It's very toxic. It's an environmental poison and the solution that the industry came up with for getting rid of this environmental poison was to sell it to water districts to put in our water! It's basically the by-product of three industries - the fertilizer, nuclear and aluminum industries. When Herbert Hoover became president (and the aluminum industry was very helpful in getting him to be president), he gave them free reign in the U.S. Health Department. So now, instead of having this toxic waste problem, they can sell it on the premise that it will stop tooth decay. There's more cancer in areas that are fluoridated, there's more hip fractures. Actually, Europe has banned it from drinking water. They know. But, here in the U.S. we haven't done that. And the irony is that these healthy cultures that Dr. Price looked at, they were not fluoridating their water, and they didn't have tooth decay.
Booth: Is a tendency toward tooth decay something that you're pretty much born with or after you grow up can you do things to improve your dental health?
Fallon: You can actually do things after you've grown up, even if you've had a bad start. If you have a lot of vitamin K in your saliva, you do not get tooth decay. And vitamin K is supported by vitamins A and D, so that's where the butter oil and the cod liver oil come in. The butter oil supplies the vitamin K and the cod liver oil supplies the vitamins A and D.
Booth: I like in your literature where you talk about "Prepared Parenting". Is there something special about your protocol?
Fallon: Dr. Price found that all these traditional cultures put a big emphasis on the diets of not only pregnant women, but pre-pregnant women and men before conception, in order to build up their nutritional stores to ensure that they would have healthy babies. They knew that the health of infants was not something that could be left to chance. Yet we are just so backward and stupid about this when we tell mothers that if there's something wrong with their baby, it's just heredity. It's because of poor nutrition that we have all these problems with our babies --poor nutrition impacts heredity. And the solution is very easy. It's just to make sure that you get the right kind of foods when you're getting ready to get pregnant and when you're pregnant. And these foods are the same foods that are so rich in vitamins A, D, and K. For example, liver is a food that was sacred in all these cultures and women ate liver to get ready for pregnancy and during their pregnancy. We have gotten to such a topsy-turvy situation in this country that pregnant women are told not to eat liver.
Booth: Really? Wow. Well, I've heard some advertisements that make it sound like you'll have a wonderful pregnancy as long as you eat bread that has been fortified with folic acid. So, if you took bread as an example, just plain bread that you get at the store now, how is that different from the bread that these really healthy people were eating?
Fallon: The cultures that did make bread (and I think there was only one that Dr. Price studied and that was the Swiss), made a sourdough whole grain bread, and the sourdough process creates an abundance of folate and all sorts of B-vitamins; it also liberates the minerals. You don't need to put additives in your food when you're preparing your foods right. All of the ways of preparing grains and nuts and other foods in these cultures actually increase the nutrients. Whereas the way we prepare our breads and vegetables and everything else often decreases the nutrients.
Booth: Many people will say that that's taken care of when they simply fortify the foods.
Fallon: That's what the industry wants people to think -- that you can go put your foods through horrendous processing, strip them of all their nutrients, and just add a handful of synthetic vitamins back into the foods and it'll be fine. And look what we have. We have a health crisis. Until we realize what a fraud that argument is, we're still going to have a health crisis. Man cannot do what Mother Nature can do and we've got to have a little humility here, and a little reverence
, instead of this overweening pride that assumes man can do it better.
Booth: Now Weston Price was doing his work, about a hundred years ago?
Fallon: Price was doing his work in the 1930s and 1940s, so about 80 years ago.
Booth: Now that was before soy became such a popular ingredient. So, in the diet that he was calling "modern", soy wasn't necessarily part of that, and yet the Foundation really comes down hard on it, especially in regards to soy infant formula.
Fallon: Oh, yes.
Booth: Why is that?
Fallon: Well, soy is a toxic plant and if you don't believe me, go to the FDA's website and look in their poisonous plant database. Input the word "soy" and you'll get 288 references showing the toxins in soy. The Asians have always recognized this toxicity, and so what the Asians do is ferment the soy for a long time, and the fermentation gets rid of most of the toxins, but not the key ones, the isoflavones - the estrogens. And then, they just eat it in very small amounts in the context of a diet that's very supportive of the thyroid gland, because these isoflavones are goitrogenic.
That's not what we're doing here in the U.S. We're eating soy in large amounts, highly processed, and in the context of a diet that does not support thyroid health. So, once again, even though Dr. Price didn't talk about soy, we can apply his principles and look at the way it's prepared and consumed in traditional cultures. And we have the science to validate those traditions and show that that is the way to consume soy.
Just to give you an interesting example, the Japanese traditionally never ate butter. And butter of course is a wonderful source of vitamin K. But, they did eat a type of fermented soy called "natto" which is extremely high in vitamin K. So, when they fermented it, they actually created nutrients that were actually critical to their diet. But, once again, they weren't eating it in large amounts either, so they didn't get enough of the bad things to cause health problems.
Booth: Right. The readers that have been reading my articles for a long time know that I'm allergic to soy -- it gives me a terrible headache. Even though I was breast-fed, I grew up on soy milk and had soy meat analogs and just loved it… but I don't think it did me any good. I think it was actually detrimental to my health and I don't eat soy anymore, of course. Is there a kind of recovery plan for people who have been adversely affected by soy and want to get well?
Fallon: I would think our diet would help. Of course I don't want to sound like a broken record, but I say that for every health concern. A good diet contributes about 80 percent of the recovery and the other 20 percent is tweaking to your particular individual situation. But, the interesting thing is that there was a study done in Puerto Rico where they were looking at a sort of epidemic of premature puberty and they were trying to find the dietary factors associated with it. The researchers thought it would be milk. But, lo and behold, it was soy -- soy formula -- and the little girls who drank a lot of milk were spared from the adverse effects, even if they had had soy formula, and this was just ordinary commercial milk. Now, we of course do not recommend commercial pasteurized milk, but we do recommend raw milk. And I would say a lot of raw milk, a lot of broth (to heal the bones, heal the digestive tract), the cod liver oil, and our other dietary principles, would help an individual recover from soy.
Booth: One reason why people have gone to soy (aside from religious reasons) is because they are lactose intolerant. And it's my understanding that raw milk doesn't necessarily adversely affect people like that.
Fallon: Actually, we did a survey in Michigan and of the people that we had found who had been diagnosed (told by a doctor that they were lactose intolerant) we found that 82 percent of them had absolutely no problem with raw milk. So, most lactose intolerant people can do fine on raw milk. If you can't get raw milk or if you're one of these 18 percent that just don't do well on any kind of milk, my answer to that is to not drink milk. Certainly don't drink these fake beverages. You know, you don't have to drink milk. There are many cultures that don't drink milk. But, soy is not the answer in situations where people can't drink milk.
Booth: In many states raw milk is hard to find because of legal restrictions on how or whether it can be sold. Is there something we can do to make it so that raw milk is easily available to everyone?
Fallon: Well, I would say support the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which kind of grew out of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Our goal is unregulated direct sales of raw milk all through the country. Meanwhile the FTC Legal Defense Fund provides a 24-hour legal hot line for small farmers, especially those in the business of providing raw milk.
Booth: What about the movement to buy local - local meat, eggs, dairy, fresh produce?
Fallon: Buying local is not part of our mission statement, but I think it's a good idea. I just don't like to see people make a fetish or become obsessive about everything -- anything. I mean, cod liver oil isn't local, rice isn't local, bananas aren't local… a lot of things we take for granted, which we really enjoy, are not going to be local. Ditto for coconut, and coconut oil. So, I would say, try to spend a third to half of your food budget locally - from local farmers. And with the rest of your food budget, celebrate the fact that the world is becoming smaller.
Booth: When you buy locally grown foods, it seems that it's easier to find more pasture-fed meat and poultry.
Fallon: Exactly. But, even if you're not buying local, it's still good to buy from small companies. Really, the whole country is our backyard in a sense today because of modern transportation.
Booth: You were saying that the best diet has a lot of fat and cholesterol in it because of these fat-soluble vitamins. And that kind of goes against the grain these days when there is so much heart disease, diabetes, and obesity… what you're saying is exactly the opposite of what we've been hearing in the mainstream media.
Fallon: Right. All of these diseases have occurred as we've cut back on cholesterol, as we've cut back on saturated fats. So, they're obviously not being caused by cholesterol and saturated fat. It just doesn't make sense in any way, shape or form. And there's a huge volume of literature that contradicts the theory that cholesterol and saturated fat cause heart disease. What the Lipid Hypothesis did was create a health crisis of enormous proportions because it has made people turn away from the very foods they need to be healthy.
Booth: So, do you think that if you take your cod liver oil, eat liver, and use butter and cream, it is possible then to get all of your nutrition from food and have it be complete? Or do you think supplementation is still necessary?
Fallon: I think it's a goal to get all your nutrition from food, and of course, cod liver oil is a food. But, a lot of us have started off in not-ideal health. I personally need to take some natural vitamin C, especially during the allergy season. I've always had to. And that's kind of where I ended up. I'm sure that if I had started out with a better diet, I wouldn't need all that vitamin C. So, I take vitamin C, and I also take B12 just because there are a lot of symptoms of B12 deficiency in my family. So while the goal is to get your nutrition from foods, for a lot of people, some supplementation is necessary.
Booth: If there was something that you could tell Azure's customers -- the one thing you want them to take away from this article -- what would you tell them?
Fallon: I would eat the way your ancestors ate and prepare the foods the way they prepared them. Now, by ancestors, I mean you have to go back to before they were industrialized. In America, that's several generations.
Booth: Some of that information has been lost to us, so that's what the Weston A. Price Foundation is doing. It's bringing that back to us so we know how they ate. Are there resources that people can go to to find out more information?
Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, contains diet and nutrition information, interesting stories, anecdotes and quotes, plus recipes. Make homemade ginger-ale, beet kvass, even home-made infant formula. Try sourdough breads, cultured dairy, meat and wild game dishes, and learn how to properly prepare beans, nuts, and grains for best nutrient absorption. You'll even find recipes for fermented fruits (like orange marmalade) and vegetables (like sauerkraut), sweets for kids of all ages… gourmet desserts. This book has truly become a classic! Packed with info. 676 pages
Fallon: First, our website www.westonaprice.org is huge and full of information. Just say you're looking for articles on diabetes… just put that in the search engine, and you'll come up with a lot -- both major articles and comments on recent studies. If you become a member of the Weston A. Price Foundation you'll receive a quarterly journal that keeps you up-to-date on the various nutrition issues. We always have comments on the studies that are currently in the news to show what the studies really said, not what the media spin on them was. We also have a lot of literature that includes small flyers and pamphlets that are good to give to people; we have our dietary guidelines booklet which has a lot of concise nutrition information in a small package. We have a shopping guide published yearly that names brand names.
By the way, we also have some reprints. We did a "Healthy Baby" issue and a "Heart Disease" issue. Those are available from the Weston A. Price Foundation too.
Booth: So, these are available to purchase on your website?
Fallon: Yes, actually we're launching a new website that will have online ordering and everything. It will have all the same material but with a new look, new functionality. It's going to be very interactive. We have a "Butter Buddies" interactive members-only page (similar to Facebook), we have a couple of blogs, and all of the articles we've ever published are up there too.
Booth: Perfect! This is exciting! I'm happy to be able to share all this information and good news with our customers. Sally, thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed today.
This editorial article by Susan Booth was originally written for Azure Standard, and was published in their August/September 2009 Sales Catalog.