Over my years of teaching nutrition I have never tired of sharing the story Pottenger’s Cats. I feel it has important implications for our times. The following version is an excerpt from the book I am working on now:
Dr. Francis M. Pottenger Jr., like Weston Price before him, was alarmed at the increase in processed foods in the American diet and devised an experiment to study this trend. Also, like Price, he funded his own research. This is significant because it allowed him to set up the experiment as he liked and to interpret the findings in an impartial way. As I said earlier, this is rare in the largely industry-funded science of modern times.
He studied the adrenal glands of cats, setting up control groups fed 2/3 raw meat, 1/3 raw milk and cod liver oil and test groups fed 2/3 cooked meat, 1/3 pasteurized milk and cod liver oil.
The control group of cats remained the same throughout the duration of the study with each successive generation being equally healthy and birthing healthy offspring that lived to old age free of disease.
The test group of cats was another story. Miscarriages were common: 25% in the first generation and 70% in the second. The cats were irritable and experienced a high incidence of allergies, sickness and skeletal deformities. The first generation of offspring developed degenerative diseases such as arteriosclerosis, diabetes and cancer later in their lifespan.
The next generation developed these same diseases earlier in their lifespan, what we might call middle age.
The third generation cats experienced these debilitating conditions early in their lifespan or were born with them. The third generation kittens were so degenerate that none survived the sixth month of life and couldn’t reproduce. There was no fourth generation.
I find these results staggering and of great importance as they mirror the health issues of modern society. How often do young couples today find it difficult to conceive? How often is a young child diagnosed with cancer or heart disease today? In days gone by such diseases were almost unheard of in children.
Pottenger’s findings would indicate that each successive generation of humans fed on a diet high in fast foods and processed products inherits weakened genetic material from their parents and a greater likelihood of developing degenerative diseases earlier in life.
Having suffered from hay fever and eczema from early childhood, I was like a third generation cat in Pottenger’s experiment and I was determined to ‘right the wrong’ and turn around a trend that would only lead to increasing health concerns and dental issues for my children.
Pottenger found that he could reverse the health deterioration in the test cats but it took a full three generations to do so. I wondered if it would take that long in humans.
John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.