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Could a High-Fat Diet Make You Healthy and Prevent Cavities?

A controversial organization promoting foods high in animal fats has some ecstatic. Others think they're whack jobs.

What if the secret to better health isn't so much a matter of more fruits and vegetables, but a steady flow of butter and lard?

Sally Fallon founded the Weston A. Price Foundation 10 years ago with the goal of "providing accurate information about nutrition and showing scientific validation of tradition foodway," she said. 

Specifically, her foundation advocates for diets high in animal fat and stresses the importance of it particularly for pregnant women and young children.

Bring on the butter! And no, this isn't your typical low-carb, Atkins-diet-style approach (although there are similarities). Her organization is based on the work of Weston Price  (1870-1948), who was a Cleveland dentist. He spent the later part of his life traveling the world in search of remote populations so he could study their teeth and find out what ultimately leads to dental decay.

Along the way, his dental research became enmeshed in studying diet, and he came to some controversial findings, which are recently beginning to see the light of day again. His work, which touts the benefits of high-fat foods, has some foodies ecstatic and others screaming "whack job."

The Case for Diet

Price's research led him all over the world -- to Gaelic communities in the Outer Hebrides, isolated villages in Switzerland, native peoples in North and South America, as well as aboriginal Australians, the Maori in New Zealand, Polynesians and various African tribes.

"Wherever he went, Dr. Price found that beautiful straight teeth, freedom from decay, stalwart bodies, resistance to disease and fine characters were typical of primitives on their traditional diets, rich in essential food factors," the Weston A. Price Foundation reports on its Web site.

According to his research, the closer these groups got to so-called civilization and the more they came in contact with sugar, white flour, pasteurized milk and processed foods, the worse their health and teeth. He documented that within one generation after switching from traditional diets, there were obvious differences in appearance and facial structure, including narrower faces, crowded teeth and lower immunity.

In light of his research, and other studies since, the foundation recommends a diet that includes raw, whole milk, butter, egg yolks, organ meats and cod liver oil. Fallon warns against vegetable oils (with the exception of olive oil).

"The good fats that you should be eating are mostly saturated animal fats, the stable fats," she said. "The bad fats are the trans fats, which are much worse than people think. And the liquid oils -- the polyunsaturated oils are a disaster."

Although Fallon says she likes eating fruits and vegetables, they aren't essential. "My order from the farm each week is half fruits and vegetables, but I'm under no illusion -- they're not nutrient-dense foods. There's 10 times more nutrients in meat, and 100 times more nutrients in liver compared to fruits and vegetables," Fallon said.

A diet high in animal fat is definitely not recommended by most doctors.

"In a country where the entire orthodox health establishment condemns saturated fat and cholesterol from animal sources, and where vending machines have become a fixture in our schools, who wants to hear about a peripatetic dentist who warned about the dangers of sugar and white flour, who thought kids should take cod liver oil and who believed that butter was the number one health food?" Fallon wrote on the foundation's Web site.

"The vital research of Weston Price remains largely forgotten because the importance of his findings, if recognized by the general populace, would bring down America's largest industry -- food processing and its three supporting pillars -- refined sweeteners, white flour and vegetable oils," she continued. "Representatives of this industry have worked behind the scenes to erect the huge edifice of the 'lipid hypothesis' -- the untenable theory that saturated fats and cholesterol cause heart disease and cancer.

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