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Who exactly is the Weston A. Price Foundation, anyway?

Who exactly is the Weston A. Price Foundation, anyway?

A few months ago, someone sent me an article from the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) about soy and its hidden dark side. I had never heard of the foundation, but was perturbed–to say the least–to see that they seemed to demonize soy and hail the glories of meat and dairy products.

I felt like this foundation was attempting to write off everything I believed: that plant sources were generally healthy, that you could live a healthy life as a vegetarian, and that meat and dairy could lead to obesity, heart disease, and other health problems.

On the defense, I immediately started researching this foundation. Some of the claims about soy seemed ludicrous to me. Other claims were just plain peculiar.  

What I found out about the WAPF was disturbing. It was upsetting to me that people look to this foundation as the final word on soy, and on health overall. It was disturbing that people put their faith–when it comes to diet and nutrition–in the hands of WAPF. I wouldn’t find it unbelievable for people to read articles on the WAPF website and feel intrigued by the claims they make, or even feel concerned about their diets. But I felt that people were using these articles to shape their entire diet. People were seeing this foundation as a health authority, using its articles and philosophies to not only build their diet foundations, but to tear down other people’s diets–like my own.

This was annoying. Aside from actually living a lifestyle that was contradictory to what the WAPF was preaching (and experiencing it as joyful, healthy, and overall one of the best decisions I’ve ever made), there is countless evidence out there supporting my diet. I have read numerous books and articles, seen news stories, and heard radio interviews that agree and support my beliefs. These were articles and interviews from sources I find generally credible — doctors, medical researchers, and people deemed “health experts” (which may not be the most official of titles, but it has to carry some weight right?). 

So naturally, as someone who is proactive about their health and who can become defensive when others claim my diet is unhealthy, I wanted to find out who was behind WAPF. This is what I found:

The Weston A. Price Foundation is based on the research of Weston A. Price, a dentist and nutritionist who studied teeth and bone structure in indigenous peoples. He saw that people who stuck to eating their native foods had much healthier teeth–and seemed to be healthier overall–than people who started consuming more processed foods. He believed the health of one’s teeth reflected the health of one’s body and people should avoid eating processed foods.

I thought, “I can get on board with that.”

The Weston A. Price foundation was started to follow and implement Price’s studies. And some of the group’s values have merit. They support organic, local produce and denounce factory farming, genetically modified foods, and the sugar-laden, empty-caloried, typical American diet. Sounds good, right? But as I kept reading, I found other WAPF principles…well, a little less convincing.

They seem to believe we should re-examine the typical American diet, then add more cholesterol and saturated fat. Many physicians and health experts have weighed in on this theory, and others, of the Weston A. Price Foundation. John Robbins, author of The Food Revolution, says “as someone who has great respect for the work of Weston A. Price, I am sorry to say that to my eyes, the foundation that carries Price’s name today is unfortunately exaggerating what was unbalanced in his work, and abandoning much of what was good.”

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Plan for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, says the WAPF’s claim that people with high cholesterol ‘live the longest,’ and high cholesterol ‘poses no greater risk for heart disease’ goes against “every respected scientific authority in the world and is utterly ridiculous in light of thousands of respectable studies.”

The WAPF also advocate feeding raw cow’s milk to infants, contradicting the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

One of their other core beliefs is that vegetarian and vegan diets are detrimental to human health, when extensive research has shown otherwise. There are also living contradictions to these beliefs, like Joe Rollino, the world’s strongest man. Rollino, who just passed away in January at the age of 104, was a devout vegetarian. And even at age 104, Rollino didn’t die of heart disease or cancer–he was hit by a car. He was, pound for pound, hailed as the World’s Strongest Man, and once reportedly lifted 475 pounds–with his teeth! Weston A. Price, himself, would surely have been shocked at the dental strength of this meat-shunning phenomenon. Who knows how much longer Rollino could have lived, helping to disprove the Weston A. Price Foundation’s theory on vegetarianism.

The WAPF also shun soy and blame it for a host of health problems, including breast cancer. Meanwhile, respected medical authorites like the Mayo Clinic say soy can actually help to lower one’s risk of breast (and prostate) cancer. And the WAPF’s campaign against soy is further evidence they have strayed from their muse’s original findings, since Price never mentioned anything about soy, tofu, or soymilk in the original documentation of his findings. He does mention lentils and other legumes, but in a positive light. The WAPF has taken it upon themselves to criticize soy, calling it “more insidious than hemlock.”

WAPF denounce the benefits of soy estrogens (isoflavones). But the estrogens in soy, phytoestrogens (“phyto” meaning “plant”), have been found to keep our (animal) estrogen levels under control and, as stated in the Care2 article Milk: Does it Really Do a Body Good?, “the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism says that phytoestrogens can have health benefits related to cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and menopausal symptoms.”

For more on the scary rumors about soy, and the health concerns of cow’s milk, you can read this Care2 article.

According to their website, the WAPF “has no ties with the meat or dairy industry, nor with any organization promoting these industries.” However, they list Green Pasture, Vital Choice, and U.S. Wellness Meats, (all peddlers of meat and dairy products) as sponsors of their 2009 conference. New Trends Publishing is also a sponsor, a company who happens to sell several books and DVDs by Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. They even admit many of their members (a.k.a. sponsors) are farmers.

The Weston A. Price Foundation does have some meritable principles. They also have some very questionable theories. I think, generally, it is a good idea to consider opposing opinions, and to look into the credibility of those opinions and their sources. After looking into the WAPF, I’ll be sticking to my vegetarian diet, complete with tofu and tempeh dinners (against the WAPF’s beliefs). I’ll also make sure my diet is rich in whole, unprocessed foods (agreeing with the WAPF’s beliefs). 

To summarize my own feelings on the foundation, and the credibility and faith that I have in their anti-vegetarian principles, I’ll refer back to John Robbins. He wrote this in response to “The Myths of Vegetarianism,” an article by Stephen Byrnes, one of the Weston A. Price Foundation’s Board of Directors:

“The article is harshly critical of vegetarian diets, and concludes with an About the Author section which states, ‘Stephen Byrnes… enjoys robust health on a diet that includes butter, cream, eggs, meat, whole milk, dairy products and offal.’ In fact, Stephen Byrnes suffered a fatal stroke in June, 2004. According to reports of his death, he had yet to reach his 40th birthday.”

You can read my article responding to the WAPF’s searing accusations about agave nectar over on our Healthy & Green Living Channel.

If you like this article, you can also follow me on Twitter or find me on Facebook!

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140 comments

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3:32AM PDT on Aug 22, 2013

Soy isn't all that healthy though. Unless its fermented

10:49PM PDT on Jul 23, 2013

I personally am truly interested in living healthy. I was a vegetarian for years and recently began experiencing many health problems (in my early thirties) including arthritis, ulcers, fatigue and digestive problems. I have also always eaten very healthy - whole grains, lots of vegetables and fruit, and I very little processed food. So I have been trying to research as to whether or not my health problems could be related to my vegetarianism.

This article is simply not helpful at all in my search for the answer to this question. I am completely on the fence and do not know which way to turn - toward the China Study or Weston Price. Your article only references one man who was vegetarian and lived a long healthy life. It does nothing to research anyone else - not vegetarians who had health problems, or meat eaters that lived long healthy lives (didn't Julia Child eat a ton of butter and meat and die in her 90s?).

This is a very biased article, and it even made me begin to doubt the credibility of Care2. I am not pro-Weston Price, I am just looking for someone who can actually give some genuine credibility to one or the other ways of eating. I would love it if someone would discredit WAPF once and for all, because I loved being vegetarian. But sadly, this article was a waste of my time.

3:47PM PDT on Sep 27, 2012

noted

4:30PM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

I'm on the Weston A Price Foundation email list. I met them about 2 years ago at the Green Festival in San Francisco and was quite impressed with a lecture given by a brilliant woman who helps run the Berkeley "Three Stone Hearth" organization. She is the woman who created the phrase "LOCAVORE" in her thesis as a graduate student.

Overall, their theories are on target - namely whole foods, organic, sustainable agriculture, indie family farms. I was a vegan for 23 years but still had health problems. I began eating SMALL amounts of raw, grass fed pastured fermented dairy products, a small bit of pastured turkey/chicken, a TINY bit of raw butter......but basically stick to a plant based diet.

That works for me.

Overall, I think it is huge mistake to eat gobs or organic animal protein. There are currently SEVEN BILLION people on the planet. Our global carrying capacity is only six billion. By 2030 it is projected there will be 9 billion people on the planet. The earth cannot sustain that many people and certainly NOT if we are all eating gobs of animal protein - even organic, grass fed pastured animal protein is a HUGE carbon footprint.

Bottom Line - I noticed Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley has a huge, enourmous loyal customer base - but they are barely breaking even financially. No big surprise since 80% of their recipies included TONS of expensive grass fed pastured animal protein.

If they want to turn a profit, they must reduce the amount of animal

6:00AM PDT on Apr 22, 2011

Dear Kayla,

(Sorry my letter is in two parts.)

...and confinement operations, these animals have a very good life. Of course, we do eat them! But we also care for them. These animals become a very important part of our day-to-day life. Also, the animal's waste enrich the soil, increasing the fertility we all depend on.

I would recommend reading Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr Weston A Price. This research could not have been done now because all indigenous groups have access to "the displacing food of modern commerce". The book has amazing photos of these people and the changes that happened in one generation after contact with "white man's food". If you don't have the time, please read two essays from the Weston A Price Foundation: Out of Africa and The Ethics of Eating Meat:
http://www.westonaprice.org/traditional-diets/623-out-of-africa
http://www.westonaprice.org/health-issues/287-ethics-of-eating-meat

I was very glad to hear you avoid processed foods from the industrial food system and value local, seasonal, and organic foods. You would find many friends at the Weston A Price Foundation with values like that. We believe what we believe. You believe what you believe. We can still be friends and learn from each other.

In health,

Caroline Cooper
WAPF Kamloops Chapter
eatkamloops.org

5:55AM PDT on Apr 22, 2011

Dear Kayla,

I am a member of the Weston A Price Foundation. You are right, the WAPF doesn't think vegan diets are healthy, especially for young men and women considering having children. If you were consuming eggs and dairy products you would find the organization would support your diet. The distinction between a vegan diet and a ovo-lacto vegetarian diet is not based on some arbitrary bigotry but is based on the research of Dr Weston A Price. Dr Weston A Price visited fourteen indigenous groups from all over the world. He was actually disappointed he did not find any completely vegetarian groups. The closest group to total vegetarian eating, ate insects for fat and protein. All indigenous groups used some combination of plant and animal foods. All groups had special feeding programs for parents-to-be. (Of course, maybe there was a total vegetarian indigenous group out there and he just didn't find them.)

At the same time, the Weston A Price Foundation would be very happy to support your "right to choose" food that seems nourishing and spiritually satisfying. We believe everyone should have the right to choose their own food. We do not want to see a world where you couldn't be a vegan for personal, political, ethical, or religious reasons. Actually, you would find most members share your concern for the suffering of animals. Many members are passionate about pasturing animals, treating animals well, and allowing animals to have a full life. Compared to factory farming

10:08PM PDT on Apr 20, 2011

Hi Maria;

I wrote a detailed response to each part of the article located here:

http://sbnaturally.blogspot.com/2011/04/response-to-who-exactly-is-weston-price.html.

Cheers,
Eric

8:57AM PST on Feb 10, 2011

Eugh, my sister sent me a link to this website last night (knowing very well that I'm vegan) and told me I'd probably be "really into it." I was horrified by some of the things they had to say, and I have no faith in the knowledge of its founders. One is a nutritionist who believes that cholesterol doesn't have a link to heart disease, and the other has two degrees in English and NO nutritional background. They are destroying Price's work.

11:25PM PST on Feb 9, 2011

The Truman Show, Thats what I was thinking though.

11:16PM PST on Feb 9, 2011

The writing on the WAPF website is just plain eery. The fact that anyone can take it seriously makes me feel hopeless. Like I live on a planet of fake robot people who are all against me and really I'm the one who's crazy.

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