I am currently reading Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price. Dr. Price was concerned about the degeneration of dental health that he was seeing in his practice. He decided to go out and find populations where dental health was still good. He traveled the world looking for people still eating traditional diets. This book was first published in 1939, but it would be very difficult to write such a book today because virtually all populations now include modern foods in their diet. What Dr. Price found was that those still eating their traditional diets did indeed have healthier teeth and facial bone structure. He did explore to some extent other health issues, but these were not his primary interest or expertise. It is unfortunate that researchers from other medical specialties did not likewise engage in similar studies.
So far, I have read through the chapter in which Dr. Price describes the differences he found in the traditional Swiss and their modern counterparts. When Dr. Price inquired as to where he could find populations in Switzerland still eating a traditional diet, he was directed in Switzerland to the Loetschental Valley that had only just recently been reached by rail service. They were still producing all of their own food and clothing in the valley. This population had very few caries (decayed teeth)—only 2.3 out of every 100 teeth. That’s less than one per mouth. Meanwhile, severely rotten teeth were common in the modern population. The traditional population had wide dental arches with no crowding. Their facial bones were well-formed. The teeth of the modern population were crowded, and there were some deformities of other facial structures causing some to be mouth breathers. Also, tuberculosis was a major health problem in Switzerland, and yet not one case had been recorded in the Loetschental Valley. These traditional people were very healthy.
The daily diet in the Loetschental Valley included 100% whole grain rye bread and large slices of cheese. They ate meat once a week and would use the scraps to make soups the rest of the week. I assume this means they were eating bone broth, but this was not specifically mentioned in the book. They ate some vegetables in the summer when they could grow them. There were no fruits in the diet. There was no sugar and no white flour. Their dairy and meat was pasture raised and highly nutritious.
The modern population ate less dairy. Much of the milk they produced went into the production of chocolate. They were eating white bread with jams and jellies. Their cattle were kept in barns. The quality of the nutrition in the dairy and meat suffered for it.
The traditional diet in the Loetschental Valley was distinctly not Paleo since it was mainly grain and dairy, and yet they enjoyed superb health. The secret to their health appears to be in the superior quality of the foods they did eat. They were eating pasture raised animal products and freshly ground whole grains. Those modern-day populations who have gone Paleo in their eating may be enjoying improved health because they are eating whole fresh foods more like these traditional peoples. The secret may not necessarily be in the elimination of dairy or grains. If doing so helps them, it may be because the quality of modern dairy or grains is inferior and in some way deleterious. Dr. Price recommended in the introduction that all bread should be made from freshly ground whole grain flour. The fats in flour that has been stored for any length of time tend to go rancid, possibly contributing to ill health. And, of course, white flour has had most of its nutrition removed to the extent that the law requires that it be enriched with vitamins to prevent malnutrition in the populations eating it.