Imagine for a moment an isolated village surrounded by mountains. The only food and water source comes directly from the land that is bordered by these mountains. There are no paved roads, no hospitals, no dentists, no doctors, and no electricity. There are also no modern health foods (low calorie, reduced fat, raw kale chips, smoothies, zero-calorie sugar, soy-based meat, milk & cheese substitutes), and not even tooth brushes!
Such a place once existed, in the Lötschental Valley, located in the Burnese Alps of Switzerland. In 1931 when Dr. Weston A. Price first visited, the Lötschental Valley was nearly inaccessible. It is almost a mile above sea level and surrounded by steep mountains. Due to their remoteness, the villagers were completely isolated and were fully dependent on what they could harvest and produce for themselves. Everyone in the village would work to help out, and such skills were taught to children as part of their general education in school.
Like other traditional cultures that endure long and cold winters, the villagers of Lötschental Valley relied on animal products to sustain them. Staples of the villagers diet were raw milk, raw butter, raw cheese, raw cream, and sourdough rye bread. A typical lunch children would eat was a swiss cheese sandwich which had two very thick slices of soured rye sandwiching an almost equally thick slice of raw swiss cheese.
Butter was a very important staple to these villagers, and it was revered to a very high degree. Dr. Price writes in his book:
From Dr. Siegen, I learned much about the life and customs of these people. He told me that they recognize the presence of Divinity in the life-giving qualities of the butter made in June when the cows have arrived for pasturage near the glaciers. He gathers the people together to thank the kind Father for the evidence of his Being in the life-giving qualities of butter and cheese made when the cows eat the grass near the snow line. This worshipful program includes the lighting of a wick in a bowl of the first butter made after the cows have reached the luscious summer pasturage. This wick is permitted to burn in a special sanctuary built for the purpose. The natives of the valley are able to recognize the superior quality of their June butter, and, without knowing exactly why, pay it due homage.
Generally when Dr. Price was visiting a village, he would send samples foodstuff back to his lab in Ohio for testing. In his book, Dr. Price mentions how the cattle’s hay that he had tested was “far above the average in quality” for such feed. This in turn means that the nutritional quality of the products that came from these animals was superior in nature and highly nutrient dense.
Being so far above sea level in the mountains of Switzerland meant that the villagers of Lötschental Valley had a very short growing period for any produce. This means that their diet relied heavily on their storage crop of rye as well as various forms of dairy for daily sustenance. This flies in the face of conventional nutritional guidelines that suggest to consume a diet of 50% or more of plants (or the staunch suggestions by members of the PCRM that ones diet must include 90% or more of plants or face disease).
Sheep’s meat was eaten once a week by the villagers, and the bones then were used to make mineral-rich stock which would be used in other dishes and for soup throughout the week.
During special athletic performances, athletes were fed bowls of cream and special, mineral-rich cheese.
As published in the July 1933 issue of Dental Digest by Dr. Price, here is the breakdown of their diet in nutrients:
|Calories||Food||Fat Soluble Vitamins||Calcium (grams)||Phosphorus (grams)||Iron (grams)|
Despite a diet high in (mostly saturated) fat, mainly from dairy, and very little fruits and vegetables, the villagers of Lötschental Valley were of superb health. When Dr. Price came to Lötschental Valley, the first thing he did was examine the teeth of everyone in the village.
Dr. Price’s findings were astonishing: for every 3 people examined, only one would have a cavity. These people did not brush their teeth, by the way; Dr. Price mentions:
The reader will scarcely believe it possible that such marked differences in facial form, in the shape of the dental arches, and in the health condition of the teeth as are to be noted when passing from the highly modernized lower valleys and plains country in Switzerland to the isolated high valleys can exist. Fig. 3 shows four girls with typically broad dental arches and regular arrangement of the teeth. They have been born and raised in the Lötschental Valley or other isolated valleys of Switzerland which provide the excellent nutrition that we have been reviewing. They have been taught little regarding the use of tooth brushes. Their teeth have typical deposits of unscrubbed mouths; yet they are almost completely free from dental caries, as are the other individuals of the group they represent. In a study of 4,280 teeth of the children of these high valleys, only 3.4 per cent were found to have been attacked by tooth decay. This is in striking contrast to conditions found in the modernized sections using the modern foods.
During this period of time in Switzerland, tuberculosis was a major problem. Raw milk has been blamed at times for contributing to this pandemic, but government officials told Dr. Price that there were no recorded cases of TB in the Valley, ever. The people living there were so hardy that children would actually play in the freezing cold rivers (which were created from glacial runoff) barefoot and bareheaded, right in the middle of winter.
While in Switzerland, Dr. Price inquired about other areas that contained isolated populations. In the village of Grächen, Dr. Price notes coming across a 62 year old woman who was carrying an enormous load of rye on her back at an altitude of about 5,000 feet. He continues, mentioning that he and his assistants and translators met her later and talked to her, and found that she was extraordinarily well developed and well preserved, as were her grandchildren who had fine physiques and facial developments.
Life and diet was very similar in all the isolated villages that Dr. Price visited. He continually notes that all the Swiss villagers were strong, sturdy, and had fine endurance. These people had no tractors, nor even employed animal labor. Bushels of rye, as well as the enormous loaves of rye bread (a month’s supply was baked at a time), were carried by hand and likewise the rye itself was thrashed by hand. All of the villagers had exceptional athletes that were fantastic mountaineers as well.
An argument often made in Dr. Price’s time was that certain villages had perfect teeth because of genetics. However, this is simply not true. When Dr. Price visited modernized towns in Switzerland, their health was completely different. Their teeth were ravaged with decay, their bodies frail, and their immune systems were weak.
In the town of St. Moritz, the children had about 10 cavities per person. Among the group of children studied,
there were three children whose teeth were much better. Dr. Price then analyzed their diet and they seemed to eat similarly to their traditional diet with liberal amounts of milk and dark bread. The diet of the other children was largely that of white bread and no milk.
Throughout the industrialized parts of Switzerland, officials had said that the two biggest health issues that plague them were dental carries and tuberculosis. In St. Moritz, they kept a herd of dairy cows, but clearly they weren’t drinking much of it, and they were also kept in barns to increase production. Dr. Price writes:
Since so many cattle were stall-fed in the thickly populated part of Switzerland, and since so low a proportion of the children used milk even sparingly, I was concerned to know what use was made of the milk. Numerous road signs announcing the brand of sweetened milk chocolate made in the several districts suggested one use. This chocolate is one of the important products for export and as a beverage constitutes a considerable item in the nutrition of large numbers living in this and in other countries. It is recognized as a high source of energy, primarily because of the sugar and chocolate which when combined with the milk greatly reduces the ratio of the minerals to the energy factors as expressed in calories.
Again in the July 1933 issue of Dental Digest, Dr. Price mentions shows a breakdown of the diet of the industrialized Swiss:
|Calories||Food||Fat Soluble Vitamins||Calcium||Phosphorus||Iron|
|400||Jam, Honey, Sugar, Syrup||Low||0.05||0.08||0.02|
|100||Chocolate and Coffee||Low||0.02||0.07||0.00|
It is amazing how the Swiss villagers of Lötschental Valley and other isolated towns were fit and healthy despite not following what we are told today is a necessary diet. As I had mentioned before, no foods that were reduced in fat, nothing low in calories, and yet they were in great health.
Dr. Price called the foods of these industrialized diets the “displacing foods of modern commerce”. Indeed, it is in the name of commerce that foods like white bread have been brought in and eventually ruined the diet, and health, of traditional people.
Compared to a modernized diet, Dr. Price found that the primitive Swiss had a diet that was higher in calcium (3.7x), phosphorus (2.2x), iron (3.1x), and magnesium (2.5x), as well as a 10-plus increase in the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K, & K2), and a large increase in the water soluble vitamins (the B vitamins and vitamin C)
The faces of the villagers that still followed their traditional diets were broad and their jaws had no problem fitting all their teeth. Even without toothbrushes, they were able to largely resist cavities.
I think that this really shows how deeply diet affects us. Many already know how diet holds a relationship with disease, but few understand how it even affects how our body grows. In the coming future I’ll be writing about what Dr. Price called physical degeneration.