Weston A. Price Foundation: Not recommended

Weston A. Price Foundation: Not recommended

One of our readers requested a post about the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). I knew it was not a trustworthy source of medical information, but I had not imagined just how atrocious it really was. After spending some time on the website, I realized that it is not just a cornucopia of false information about dentistry and nutrition, but is full of anti-vaccine propaganda and bizarre and dangerous health advice that could result in serious harm to patients.

The purpose of the Weston A. Price Foundation

It is a non-profit, tax-exempt charity founded in 1999 to disseminate the research of Weston A. Price, who “established the parameters of human health and determined the optimum characteristics of human diets.” (He did no such thing!) It publishes a journal “dedicated to exploring the scientific validation of dietary, agricultural and medical traditions through the world.” That statement reveals how poorly they understand science. The purpose of science is not to “validate” traditions and beliefs; it is to ask “if” those traditions offer any demonstrable benefits, and if the beliefs correspond to reality.

Who was Weston A. Price?

He was an American dentist who lived from 1870 to 1948. He did research in support of the focal infection theory. He claimed that root canal therapy created hidden infections that spread toxins or bacteria into the rest of the body to cause systemic diseases like arthritis, and that those teeth should have been extracted, not repaired. Mainstream dentistry was wary of endodontic therapy for a time, but the trend was reversed after better-designed, more rigorous research showed that root canals didn’t have systemic consequences. Nevertheless, “holistic” and “biological” dentists who still believe the focal infection myth are still extracting teeth unnecessarily. Rational Wiki calls Price “the patron saint of crank dentistry.”

Looking for the cause of tooth decay, Price traveled to non-Western countries and observed indigenous peoples. Based on his unsystematic observations, he claimed that the Western diet was responsible for everything from tooth decay to tuberculosis. He claimed that a diet of nutrient-dense whole foods and animal fats would allow humans to achieve perfect physical form and perfect health generation after generation. His nutrition claims went far beyond the evidence. Dr. William Jarvis called his work a classic example of the “myth of the healthy savage.” A review in The Journal of the American Medical Association characterized his approach as evangelical rather than scientific.

Dietary guidelines

The WAPF dietary guidelines can be found here. They are a mixed bag:

  • Good advice supported by evidence, like eating more vegetables.
  • Advice not supported by good evidence, like using unrefined Celtic sea salt, cooking only in stainless steel, cast iron, glass, or good quality enamel, thinking positive thoughts, and practicing forgiveness.
  • Dangerous advice: drinking raw milk and avoiding pasteurization. They even hold an annual raw milk symposium. They also recommend frequent consumption of raw meat, raw fish, and raw shellfish.

They claim that cod liver oil is our number one superfood. They recommend that everyone’s diet should include fermented cod liver oil mixed with organic butter oil. Even the infamous Dr. Mercola questioned these recommendations, and WAPF offered a point-by-point rebuttal that I found less than convincing.

Heart disease

The WAPF website’s section on heart disease and statins is full of misinformation and distortion of cherry-picked studies. Much of it regurgitates misleading propaganda from THINCS, The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics. In fact, they recommend Uffe Ravnskov’s book The Cholesterol Myths.
Among other claims, they say for women at any age, and for men over 60, higher cholesterol levels are associated with longevity and there is no reason to reduce them even if they are very high. This is simply not true. Elsewhere they acknowledge that high cholesterol is a risk factor and claim that it can be lowered with artichoke extract. A 2013 Cochrane review of artichoke extract found the published evidence unconvincing.

Homeopathy

There is a whole section of articles on homeopathy. It is recommended for things like home dental care, treating the effects of electromagnetic radiation, using dilute coffee for insomnia, homeopathic metallic gold for male infertility, and homeopathic iodine for hypothyroidism. They even recommend a homeopathy first aid kit.

Detoxification

After appropriately debunking many of the common myths about detoxification, they offer their own detox myths. They offer two programs of detoxification. In one, the need for detox is diagnosed by a consistent overly loud voice, a red face, hard and rigid pressure points used in acupressure or oriental medicine, strong body odors, a strong pulse, and a thick yellow coating on the tongue. The remedy is dietary manipulation and stimulation of the organs of elimination with fermented drinks, higher doses of vitamin C, and bitter herbs like dandelion and Oregon grape root. They also recommend exercise, castor oil packs, dry skin brushing, probiotics, liver tonics, dry saunas. They recommend eliminating coffee from the diet, but then they recommend the use of coffee enemas for detoxification!!

Dental myths

They are firmly anti-fluoridation and they recommend removal of mercury amalgam fillings. They reject the policies of the American Dental Association.

Vaccines

The WAPF is firmly ensconced in the unscientific anti-vaxxer camp. They don’t just suggest that we are giving “too many, too soon;” they suggest that all vaccines are evil, doing more harm than good. Instead of vaccines, they advocate nutrition and homeopathic prophylaxis.

They say:

Childhood diseases are either mild or nonexistent when parents practice the kind of good nutrition that we advocate. Diets rich in vitamins A and C can protect children against disease much better than vaccinations, and with side effects that are good, never harmful. Public health policy should be aimed at accurate information about nutrition, not the promotion of vaccinations that actually suppress the immune system and often have tragic side effects.

The most recent issue of their journal was devoted to vaccines. The very language they use makes their bias clear:

  • “We are struggling against one of the most dangerous, diabolical and powerful cults in the U.S.; that is, ‘science-based’ and ‘evidence-based medicine’ within the Church of Scientism.”
  • Vaccination is “injecting cow belly pus and horse hoof pus into babies.”
  • Bill Gates is “a delusional global dictator.”
  • Paul Offit is one of the “principal harbingers of vaccine barbarism.”

They repeat all the usual anti-vaccine myths and misinformation. Those have all been adequately covered on this blog before, and I won’t bother to address them here.

Ask the Doctor

The website features a Q and A section called “Ask the Doctor.” It gives holistic advice that is almost consistently wrong and often dangerous:

  • They recommend the GAPS protocol
  • Salt intake should be at least 1 ½ tsp a day.
  • For high blood pressure, the outcomes are not affected by lowering BP with medication. (Demonstrably false)
  • Gallstones are not a sign of gallbladder disease. The stones will dissolve if you just eat more cholesterol. (!?)
  • Anthroposophical remedies like Erysidoron 1 for fever in children. It is made from the honeybee, (because beehives maintain a temperature of 98.6°) and belladonna.
  • Echinacea is an immune enhancer that helps our white blood cells recognize and move to the site of the infection; it should be used in virtually all infections at any site.
  • Measles is the only cure for nephrotic syndrome.
  • Infections, particularly strep infections, cause cancer to resolve.
  • We have 4 bodies: the physical or earth body, the fluid or etheric body, the emotional body or astral body, and the warmth body or mental body.
  • Herpes can be treated with St. John’s wort and the lauric acid found in coconut oil.
  • For skin cancer: Iscador and caustic escharotic salves.
  • For rheumatoid arthritis: a diet rich in good fats, including raw cream and butter, “warming” herbal extracts like Boswellia complex and willow bark extract. No mention of the DMARDS (disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) that have been proven effective in preventing joint damage and permanent disability.
  • For sunburn: a homeopathic remedy made from Spanish fly.
  • Tetanus: instead of vaccination, you can rely on scrupulous wound care and nutrition. Vaccination makes patients susceptible to HIV and hepatitis C (He says “I can’t find the original reference, but I remember a patient showing me the research in the early 1990s”).

I won’t pretend to have read everything on the website. It was so distressing that I had to stop to protect my blood pressure and my sanity.

Conclusion: One of the worst sites on the internet

Since I started writing for Science-Based Medicine almost 8 years ago, I have visited many, many websites offering questionable information about health. In my opinion, the Weston A. Price Foundation is one of the worst. It is full of misinformation and dangerous advice. It might be useful in reverse: if you read it on WAPF, it is probably wrong.

 

 

Posted by Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so),  and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel.  In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren't Supposed to Fly.

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