Part IA: The 70-year mystery of nutrition and dental health
I’d like to tell you about how a molecule called Activator X changed my career as a dentist.
It happened after I discovered Dr. Weston A. Price’s book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.
I’d taken some time away from my practice to ponder the future of my career. I stumbled across the book in a traveler’s hostel in Istanbul, Turkey.
What an unusual place to find a career-changing book, right?
I remember that when I began to read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, I had a deep intuition that he was on to something – but I wasn’t quite sure what it was, yet. As I read further, Price talked about concepts like how diet causes malocclusion.
Immediately, my dentist mind was putting up defenses. These were ideas that weren’t taught in dental school, so I thought they HAD to be false. How could they be true? It would take me years to figure it out, but at the time, I didn’t understand what Price was talking about.
Price’s work was simple in its premise, but hard for me to understand. He talked of nutrition and dental health in a way I’d never heard. His assertion that the fat-soluble vitamins were key to healthy teeth was core physiology barely mentioned in my education. He also described a mysterious substance called Activator X.
That chance find of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration started me off on a journey that would eventually lead to me writing The Dental Diet.
It wouldn’t happen immediately, but over the next few years I’d follow the story of Activator X and find that it was the missing piece in the nutrition and dental health puzzle.
Lötschental Health and Activator X
Dental health of the children of the Lötschental Valley, Switzerland.
Photo courtesy of Price Pottenger Foundations.
Price visited many societies in his worldwide journey to explore nutrition and dental health.
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration captured a fleeting snapshot of dental health before processed food devoured the world.
He examined fourteen societies, living on traditional means, across nearly all the continents. His observations combined dental examinations, 15,000 photographs, ancestral skull records and nutritional analyses.
In the Swiss Alps, he visited the people of the Lötschental valley, a large valley lying north of the Rhône in the canton of Valais in Switzerland. There, he found a people with stunning dental health. They were also some of the strongest and robustly built people he’d seen. Many of the boys were recruited to the Swiss Guard, a national badge of honor.
Their diet was based on dairy products from cows raised on the lush green spring grass of the Lötschental valley. He wasn’t sure of the exact connection at the time, but their impeccable health was crucially linked to these practices. Their dental health was far superior to that of the patients he saw back in Cleveland, Ohio, whose diet also included grains and dairy.
Price found that the Lötschental people had less than 5% tooth decay (which was actually high for the traditional societies he observed). But those who ate modern foods such as sugar and refined flour had tooth decay levels of 29.8%. Significantly, the people of the Lötschental also had wide, straight dental arches with no malocclusion (crooked teeth) or impacted wisdom teeth.
Diet, malocclusion and tooth decay
All over the world, Price observed similar levels of dental disease in populations with traditional diets. Below is a table of the tooth decay levels he recorded:
Percentage of teeth affected by caries in primitive and modernized groups.
|New Zealand Maori||0.01||55.3|
|High Andes Indians||0.00||40.0+|
|Amazon Jungle Indians||0.00||40.0+|
Table from the Price-Pottenger Foundation
Dental health of Swiss Lötschental children raised on a modern diet.
Photo courtesy of Price Pottenger Foundation.
One of the major observations that Price made was that diet and malocclusion also seemed to be linked.
After publishing Nutrition and Physical Degeneration in 1938, he would spend the better part of ten years trying to find out what Activator X was – and the rest of his life analyzing the results of his study, still trying to identify the missing factor.
After his death in 1948, his work was largely criticized and fell out of print. It would fall into obscurity for nearly 50 years.
To this day, the ‘mystery factor’ it is still called Activator X in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. When I read those words, I had no idea how that mysterious nutrient he spoke of would change my life.
In 2007, The Weston Price Foundation with Sally Fallon and Chris Masterjohn would identify Activator X as Vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 is a fat-soluble vitamin, but it took scientists decades to work out what it actually does. Today, it is still the most misunderstood vitamin in history and not usually included in nutritional recommendations or on packaging.
Yet the health benefits of vitamin K2, established by researchers, are profound. It activates proteins that deliver calcium in the body and works alongside vitamins A and D.
In my opinion, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration is one of the most important human health books ever written. Unfortunately, we have managed to drastically misunderstand it and let its wisdom slip through our fingers.
The Dental Diet is my journey of discovering and researching Price’s work, Activator X, and vitamin K2 – and how the link between diet and dental health has been tragically overlooked and forgotten.
Read on to Part IB for the benefits of vitamin K2 for dental health and whole body health.
Now we want to hear from you. Please leave your questions in the comments below.
Dr Steven Lin’s book, The Dental Diet, is available to order today. An exploration of ancestral medicine, the human microbiome and epigenetics it’s a complete guide to the mouth-body connection. Take the journey and the 40-day delicious food program for life-changing oral and whole health.
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