Nearly 80 years ago, Weston Price showed how oral health and development both suffered when traditional diets were replaced with Western ones, loaded with refined sugar and flour.
For most of those 80 years, mainstream dentistry dismissed those findings, accusing Price of shoddy research methods and fitting evidence to preconceived conclusions.
All the while, other research was being done that confirmed the profound impact of diet on oral health.
One of these studies was recently highlighted by an editorial in Open Heart. The paper wasn’t written by a dentist, though. Its lead author, James J DiNicolantonio, is a cardiovascular research scientist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City. He’s also the associate editor of Open Heart.
The study DiNicolantonio discussed focused on the health of the Alaskan Inland Inuit as they shifted from a traditional diet to a modern Western diet. Two researchers from the Gade Institute Department of Pathology and School of Dentistry in Norway looked at dietary habits and health in this group from 1955-57 and then again in 1965, comparing the two time spans.
Back in the day, the Inuit were semi-nomadic, living on the fish and game they hunted in the wild. Around 1920, though, one group began to settle down, and by the 1950s, a “white trader” store had been established for this settled community.
By 1965, carbohydrate consumption was up nearly 50% and protein consumption was down by roughly the same amount. The change could be seen in the state of people’s teeth.
This rise in the intake of carbohydrate was paralleled by an ‘almost 90% increase’ in the sum of decayed, missing and filled permanent teeth for primary teeth (from 3.0 to 5.6) and a fourfold increase in those >6 years old, ‘the percentage of caries-free persons had decreased from 74.5% to zero in 8 years…While 50% of the children in 1955–1957 had caries-free primary teeth all the children had decayed teeth in 1965…The most dramatic change was observed in individuals 30 years of age or older. In this previously caries-free group, all subjects had developed caries in 1965’. Thus, the Alaskan Inland Inuit that had subsided on a diet virtually devoid of carbohydrate for most of their life who did not have any dental caries between 1955 and 1957 had all developed dental caries by 1965…. [emphasis added]
Now, only about 20% of their diet consisted of traditional foods, mostly caribou meat. Lives of hunting, trapping, and fishing had been given up for a more monetarily profitable one of making souvenirs for the tourist trade.
Everything else about their lives was the same. Only the source of most of their food changed, displacing the traditional foods with hyperprocessed products, including plenty of refined white flour and sugar.
In addition to their dental health taking a hit, cardiovascular health suffered, as well.
DiNicolantonio has previously called attention to related research involving indigenous populations in Greenland, although in that case, the focus was far more on cardiovascular outcomes. Still, we see how quickly health declines after the displacement of traditional foods.
This shouldn’t be surprising, really, nor particularly controversial. Whole foods are what we were designed to eat. Do we really think we’re so much smarter than nature, let alone our Creator?