Interesting books: first in a series of articles

I always find it very rewarding when people I see share my passion for reading and learning about health and healing. Recently, I was asked to make a presentation at a conference on autism, and afterwards a number of people were asking me for names of books they should read. A mother even told me she had printed and read more than seventy pages from my newsletter archives! Clearly people have figured out they have to find their own answers.

With this piece I plan to start a series of short articles in which I will review a book or a couple of related books that have in some fashion influenced my thinking about diet or health in general.

The first one of these is more of a booklet than an actual book, but the information in it is fundamental to my way of looking at health. It is entitled “Pottenger’s Cats” and describes experiments carried out by Dr. Francis Pottenger on cats in the 1940’s.

If this book is still in print after so many years, and with a medical establishment that has no interest in this type of research, it is only thanks to the steady effort of a foundation dedicated to keeping this information alive. The foundation is called the Price Pottenger Foundation, and you can order the book from them at:

In addition to the book you can order a video containing the original 1940’s footage from the study, and this is a case where I would say a picture is worth a thousand words. The video can be ordered here:

Dr. Pottenger was a lung disease expert who treated mostly TB patients at a hospital where a group of cats were kept primarily for doctors to perform their research. Although today doing research on cats seems at the very least unusual, I suppose it wasn’t in those days. The cats were fed primarily raw scraps of meat from the hospital’s kitchen and even though this diet was very limited they appeared to thrive on it.

Dr. Pottenger decided to do a nutrition study on the cats and divided them in different groups that were kept separate throughout the duration of the study. Each group was assigned a different diet consisting of only one food. Two of the groups received, respectively, a diet of raw meat and raw milk, and the other two received either cooked meat or boiled milk.

As it turned out, the two raw food groups thrived whereas the cooked meat and boiled milk groups fared poorly. So far this isn’t of great interest. It only proves that cooking was enough to destroy some essential nutrients that cats need. Given that the diet was limited to just one food, any loss of essential nutrients could not be compensated for from other parts of the diet and would cause the cats’ health to deteriorate.

The study becomes fascinating when it follows the cats on different diets over several generations. In fact the first generation of cats were not clearly distinguishable based on their diets, but the gap broadened increasingly with each successive generation.

This proves something no one ever seems to consider these days: that nutritional deficiencies can be inherited and will affect each successive generation to a greater degree. Today people always assume that if their parents had a condition and they also have it, it must be genetic. Frankly the medical profession and the media do nothing to dispel this misconception, and actually constantly reinforce it, but this study clearly shows that not everything that is inherited is genetic!

By the third generation the cats on cooked diets developed allergies, whereas those on raw diets remained allergy-free. The allergies appeared to be to things like pollen, dust, or other similar items, and yet the study clearly proves that they resulted from the diet.

Again today we would be hard-pressed to find a single person who doesn’t firmly believe that allergies are genetic even though no allergy gene has ever been found! However, we know very well (or should know) that allergies don’t come from faulty genes.

In fact allergies are a modern illness that was first described in medical texts in the early 19th century as a novel condition never encountered previously. If you are having trouble believing this you might consider reading the book: “Allergies: The History of a Modern Malady” by Mark Jackson. No genetic condition has ever come and gone!

While allergies are a modern phenomenon, eczema and asthma have been described since ancient times in Greece and then in Rome. Today eczema and asthma are known to be related conditions and babies who suffer from eczema are at greater risk of later developing asthma.

How could it be that allergies are a modern illness while eczema and asthma are so old? In my opinion the reason – which has never been officially recognized – is that eczema and asthma are related to gluten (wheat protein) intolerance, and wheat of course was a staple of the diet in ancient Greece and Rome.

But back to the cat study! It becomes even more astounding – and especially so in its video version – when it looks at behavioral anomalies among the cats on cooked diets. By the third or fourth generation these cats were awkward, clumsy, they lacked social skills, had poor ability to focus, engage in repetitive and stereotyped behaviors and so on. When these cats were allowed to mingle with those on the raw diets they were picked on, a clear sign that the well-nourished cats noticed that something was wrong with them.

There’s something eerie about these behaviors when we consider what is happening with children today. Remember that it took four generations of depleted diets for these behaviors to emerge in the cats. Could this be happening to us today? Look at the pictures, and then make up you’re your own mind!

Finally, it’s worth noting that when the cooked meat and boiled milk cats were switched over to the raw diets they showed improvements but did not recover. However, after several generations of raw diets they fully regained their health, again showing that genes had not been affected.

As interesting as this cat study is we cannot draw any conclusions from it regarding how we should eat and I certainly do not advocate raising children on raw meat! However, diet is a topic of the utmost importance that I will cover in future installments.

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