Expert Interview: Price, Pottenger and Epigenetics
AUTHOR OF POTTENGER'S PROPHECY
Dr Gray Graham
Gray Graham delivers a fun, empowering explanation how each of us can dramatically shift our genetic expression.
Drawing from his decades of experience supporting others in navigating to greater health and vitality, Gray brings together the work of Weston Price and Francis Pottenger to explain to us how the diet and lifestyle changes we make today impact not only our health, but the health of our grandchildren!
Gray shares little known facts about Pottenger’s famous studies with cats. This is definitely good news!!!
Healthy Mouth World Summit
Guest: Gray Graham
Pottenger, Price, and Epigenetics: This Is Good News!
Will: The next expert to share their knowledge here at the Healthy Mouth World Summit is Gray Graham. Gray is the author of Pottenger’s Prophecy: How Food Resets Genes for Wellness or Illness. Gray is a nutritional educator and has taught hundreds of classes to thousands of healthcare professionals all over the world. His presentations on nutrition have educated many professionals including chiropractors, naturopaths, osteopaths, medical doctors, acupuncturists, dentists, as well as hundreds of students at numerous colleges and universities throughout the United States.
He co-developed and co-taught the Nutritional Therapist Training Program, and is also a lecturer for the Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. The title of Gray’s presentation is “Pottenger, Price, and Epigenetics: This is Good News.”
Gray Graham, welcome to the Healthy Mouth World Summit!
Gray: Thanks, Will, for having me! I’m excited to get to talk to your people today!
Will: Absolutely! Thank you for coming in and sharing your expertise with us. So, some of the folks on the program have heard about you before. Why is the information that you share about why we understand how genetics is important for folks to grasp?
Gray: Well, it’s important to understand how genetics work. But what’s really more important is to understand this new concept called epigenetics. So, it’s a very new idea. And it’s actually way more important than genetics because here’s the reality. The human genome contains roughly 25,000 genes that control the production of protein, which control everything. But the epigenome, which is basically how these 25,000 genes are expressed, is actually 50 to 100 times larger than the genome.
So, let me just kind of say why that’s important because what’s happened in recent years is everybody’s become kind of fatalistic. They go, “Well, gosh, I’m probably going to have heart disease because my father had heart disease and my grandfather had heart disease. So, it’s genetic. What can I do about it?”
But the reality is you can do everything about it because the genes — even though you get a fixed set of genes. You can’t do much about that. And genes change very, very slowly over hundreds and hundreds of years — the epigenome changes much more rapidly. You can actually change the expression of your gene by doing a workout or eating a healthy diet or eating an unhealthy diet.
So, there’s kind of two big messages I’m going to talk about today. The first is that we have all inherited our genes that are modified by the epigenetics, which is basically how the genes are expressed. So, that’s one big message. The other message is that if we have an improper diet, we actually can change our genes and pass those changed genes on for better or for worse to our children and our grandchildren and their children.
And, so basically what we’ve done, where we are today in the world is we’ve changed our epigenome to the degree where our children are expressing unbelievably poor health. So, you see with an epidemic in diabetes and obesity, our whole population, but particularly in young people.
Will: Okay, I’m going to wind you back a little bit here and have you explain this to me just for my own knowledge as well as for everyone on the program here. So, you’re using the terms genome and epigenome. Help me out here as far as getting some baseline definitions in place.
Gray: Sure! Well, here’s a piece of periphery information is that for a long time what geneticists believed was that we had one gene for each protein that makes us human. And, so since there’s a little over 100,000 different genes, what they expected when they did the human genome project was that they would find about 100,000 genes to express those 100,000 proteins. I think I said that a little bit backwards. But we have 100,000 proteins, so there must be 100,00 genes.
But when they did the Genome Project, what they found was there was only 25,000 genes. And so that changed everything, because how are 25,000 genes creating 100,000 different distinct proteins?
The idea of epigenetics went clear back to Pottenger. He didn’t even know the word. But he demonstrated the effect. But, what they knew was that there had to be something else happening. And what that is basically is what epigenetic is, epi means over. So, it’s kind of over the genes.
And what we know now is that genes can be turned on and off. They’re almost like a light switch. They’re almost binary. So, for example, you can have a gene that expresses tooth decay. There’s probably many genes involved in that, so I don’t want to oversimplify it. And, depending on what you eat, what your parents ate and what your grandparents ate, those genes are either going to express towards or away from tooth decay.
So, if you don’t do anything about your genes, you’ll pass those same genes on to your children and their children, which we know now is if you do the other things, the right things, you can take those genes and switch them back where they don’t express tooth decay. So, it’s really very profound.
Will: Wow. Okay, so that makes more sense. And I believe, as we dig into this and go through the interview, I think we’ll get a lot more clarity as far as really how this newer concept, if you will…I mean, epigenetics isn’t a brand new idea, but it’s kind of culturally a new idea, is dawning on our culture more and more.
Gray: Really, even the term wasn’t even really around until 50 years ago. But, for all practical purposes, it’s almost hasn’t even been in the scientific community except for about the last ten years. And we’re really gaining momentum now. And the reason for that is because it’s so critically important now that people understand that if we’re going to solve our health problems.
Will: That makes sense. Okay. So, you wrote a book about epigenetic called Pottenger’s Prophecy: How Food Resets Genes for Wellness or Illness. Who was Pottenger?
Gray: That’s a great question. He’s one of my heroes. My two great nutritional heroes are Francis Pottenger, who was a medical doctor, and Weston A. Price who was a dentist. And they both did these kind of unique studies that gave us a tremendous amount of knowledge back in the earlier part of last century, so in the early to mid-nineteen hundreds.
So, Francis Pottenger was a medical doctor who did a very famous study with cats. And what he was doing is he was treating tuberculosis patients. And what he’d found was that in his experimental cats, that the cats that were fed whole foods, raw foods expressed much better health than the cats that were fed table scraps — things that were cooked and had sugar added — not the worst food, but definitely not the whole and natural food of cats.
And, so he was a curious man. I think most of the great discoveries kind of come from curiosity. So, he wondered, you know, if it would make a big difference. So, he isolated cats in a very controlled way. And he gave some of them a controlled diet. He did it a lot of different ways, Will. But the one I’m going to talk about is he gave them a base diet of raw meat. And then he gave them either pasteurized, condensed, or sweetened and condensed milk, or raw milk. And then he compared their health.
And what he found is that the raw milk cats were healthier than the pasteurized milk cats. And they were healthier than the condensed milk cats. And they were healthier than the sweetened and condensed milk cats. But, you know, at this point, there’s not really any sense in torturing a bunch of cats to find that out because Weston Price had already done his famous work with indigenous peoples where he had shown that when people switched to their native diet, the whole food diet of their ancestors to a processed food diet, that it had profound affects on their health, and their teeth, in particular.
So, the thing that Pottenger showed us — this is the epigenetic affect — is that if you took an improper diet… I want everybody to listen closely to this because this is the really important message! If you take an improper diet and you hold it constant over several generations, each generation will become sicker than the generation before it.
So, I know I’ve had that conversation. I remember one time I was talking to my wife’s family. And I’m kind of an evangelistic nutritionist. People get sick of hearing it. But, they go, “Oh, Gray. We all ate that same crap when we were growing up. And we’re just fine!” I said, “Yeah, you were. But let me ask you this: How many of you had braces when you were growing up?” And they kind of looked at each other and they go, “Well, none of us had braces.” There’s five kids. “None of us had braces.” A couple of them had just little tweaks in their teeth. They never got fixed because they weren’t significant.
I’d say, “Well, how many of your kids have had braces?” And they go, “Well, all of our kids have had braces. They all had crooked teeth.” I go, “Why is that? They’re eating the same junk you ate.” And I probably shouldn’t be telling stories on my wife’s family. But, I said, “How many of them are taking Ritalin for ADD?” And actually every male offspring of those five except for two were on Ritalin for Attention Deficit Disorder, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. And I go, “Yeah, exactly. You’re eating the same junk as them.” And so, I told them about the Pottenger thing.
So here’s what happened to me. Before I got in the nutrition business twenty years ago, I was in school work, I was calling on schools, dealing with social studies materials. And I noticed, even before I had any idea of who Pottenger was, that the kids didn’t look the same as they did when I was in junior high school.
When I was in junior high school, every once in a while you’d have a child that had braces. But it was really unusual. And really there was only one overweight kid in every class. I could never remember a class anywhere in school where there was more than one overweight child. And now you go to the schools. And, my son, because of this epigenetic affect — I think we fed him pretty well — he had just a little bit of displacement in his teeth, probably almost not noticeable. Noticeable, but no big deal.
But his friends, man, their teeth were like jutting out every which direction. They had too many and they were crowded and all this kind of stuff. But he actually wanted braces because if he didn’t have braces, he would have been the only kid in the school who didn’t have braces. They were all excited about what color they got to pick, you know? “I want black braces!” You know? And the girls were wearing pink and all that kind of stuff.
So, even before I got into nutrition, that was obvious to me. But when I read about Pottenger’s study and about what happens when you hold this bad diet constant, I looked out there into the world, I’m going, “This is what’s happening! This is really the big answer!”
People are spending all this time arguing about healthcare, Obama care, not Obama care, blah, blah, blah. It’s almost irrelevant. If we don’t get a handle on this epigenetic situation, there’s not going to be enough money in our whole country to pay for the health care. There almost isn’t now. We’ve got to quit arguing over how to pay for it and start making strategies for getting well.
So, here’s all the things that happened as the cats degenerated. Their teeth became occluded. They had inflammation in their gums. They started having social deviation. They either became reclusive or aggressive. Does that sound familiar?
You know, like when Columbine happened, they talked about everything except their diet. But one of the things was always very clear in all those incidences, even some of these adult things, is that these people became either first reclusive, and then extremely aggressive. So, I’m not saying all those things are completely dietary. There’s certainly other social factors. But, in my opinion, it’s a huge part of it. It’s a manifestation of Pottenger’s prophecy.
And then one of the other things that’s really important is that he found that in terms of sexuality, they either lost their interest in sex — see any of that out there in the world today? — or they had sexual interest, but it wasn’t appropriate cat sexual interest. By the third generation, not one single cat was able to successfully conceive and bear live offspring. They either didn’t have sexual activity. Or they had sexual activity that was not effective or they aborted or the kittens were born stillborn.
Now everything, transition that back to America today where like 18% of married couples can’t reproduce without medical help. And we know that the male sperm rate is dropping like a rock. And if it continues at the current rate, again, it will be Pottenger’s prophecy come true. By 2050, the average sperm count will be close to zero. It’s like, it can’t continue to fall at the rate it’s going because the curve will level out. But it will level out where, in general, infertility. So, I could spend our whole 45-minute interview on this.
So, I got this idea twenty years ago, just a few years after starting this, I had to write a book about this. And I was going to call it Pottenger’s Prophecies: Nutrition and the Decline of America. And then my co-authors said, “You know what? Negative doesn’t sell. So let’s give it an upbeat title.” So, how it resets genes for wellness or illness.
So, anyway, I’m a procrastinator like a lot of us are. And so, the only way I ever get anything done is by saying I’m going to do it. You’ve had a taste of that yourself here. And, I kept saying, “I’m going to write a book. I’m going to write a book. I’m going to write a book.” And, it’s good I didn’t because there wasn’t any science to support it until just the last few years.
But, now the science has now come tumbling in that really shows that Pottenger’s phenomena, which, was of course, completely rejected by the medical community at the time, because it just violated every rule of genetics and epigenetics wasn’t known, so they completely ignored it. But now it’s coming back around. I hope eventually he should be recognized as the father of epigenetics. And in the epigenetic books I’ve read, they haven’t really mentioned him so far.
So, anyway, that’s kind of the Pottenger story. And that’s what my motivation is for people to really understand this. What you feed your children is going to profoundly affect not only their health, but the [health] of their children and their grandchildren, that’s your great grandchildren. So, the next time you serve up that bowl of sugar-frosted Cocoa Puffs and some chocolate milk laced with high fructose corn syrup, you’re wrecking their health and the health of two more generations.
Will: Well put, well put. So, what does the new information of epigenetics do to our cultural understanding? This is a really fun question for me so let me grapple with this here for a minute, Gray. What does the new information of epigenetics do for our cultural understanding that we are essentially victims of our genetic makeup? That’s essentially what I get from this whole concept of epigenetics. Can you go into that?
Gray: Yeah, it’s the big thing is that we have power over our genetics. So, there’s a little bit of an argument over how much disease today is actually genetic disease, actually a genetic defect that causes a disease. And there’s an argument. But everybody agrees that it’s probably between 2% and 10%. Most people are saying 2%, 3%, or 4%.
So, that means 95% or 96% of the disease, all the stuff that’s wrecking people… You know, nobody has a bad cardiovascular genetics. Nobody gets coronary artery disease because they have bad genes because their great, great grandparents didn’t have coronary artery disease, or anybody before them for 100,000 years. So, we didn’t start having coronary artery disease, which is the number one killer in America, until the turn of the century. It started rearing its ugly head only in the early 1900s and it reached an epidemic by 1955.
So, if you go back and look at the timeline on that, it was in the early 1900s that we started to change our diet. We were urbanizing. People were moving off the farms where they had fresh eggs and raw milk and fresh vegetables, and they were moving into these emerging industrial cities like Pittsburgh and Chicago and New York and stuff by the millions.
And there was this big problem about how to feed these people because there was no refrigeration practically, and transportation was slow. So, how do you feed these newer masses? Well, they did it by processing food so it wouldn’t spoil. And that’s really kind of the beginning of the degeneration of our health. And then it kind of exacerbated after World War II.
One of my pet peeves is this whole low-fat thing. The low-fat myth has been one of the greatest contributors to poor dental health and poor health in general. And these are the things that led to heart disease.
So, I wandered a little bit there from this idea is that even though your epigenetics that you got from your parents and your grandparents may give you a tendency towards heart disease, just as they changed the genes from good genetic expression to bad genetic expression, we can change it back! And we can change it back for ourselves and for our unborn children. And we have to do that.
If we don’t do it, the time is really getting short, Will. If we don’t start taking action, there will be a time when it’ll be too late. Our culture will collapse under the weight of healthcare. Have you read the statistics? Years ago the CDC said that one-third of all children born after 2000 will become diabetic in their lifetime. And it looks like it’s way worse than that now. This is ten years since they’d said that. So, can you imagine if only one-third of everybody in America becomes diabetic, how are people going to work? How are people going to be productive? How are they going to live full lives when they’re diabetic or pre-diabetic?
Will: I have so many questions just brewing around in my head here with what you’re saying here. It’s very potent information. So, what I’m getting is that genetic makeup is what it is. But, our expression of the genetic makeup is what is crucial and what is much more important.
Now, you talk about our children and our grandchildren. Does epigenetics have anything to do with my own expression of my own health, let’s say twenty years from now?
Gray: Well, absolutely. What your grandfather ate when he was between the ages of 9 and 12 did a big part of setting your genetics toward a certain path. And if you don’t do something to change them, you will express those genes.
Let me take this opportunity. I want to talk about another study. We talked about Pottenger. But a more recent study that I think will really kind of drive this home for people is called the Överkalix Study. It was done in Överkalix, Sweden. And these two scientists — a medical geneticist and an epidemiologist — they found this data.
There’s a little town in Sweden. My apologies to all Swede-speaking people listening to this. But it’s called Överkalix, the way I’m pronouncing it. A Swedish person would probably say Överkalix or something like that. But, anyway, it looks like Överkalix. So, anyway, this is a little town in Sweden that’s very far to the north. And as a result of that, it was very isolated. So, basically, they were farmers and they had a timber industry and they fished. And so they produced most of their own food.
What happened in Överkalix is when the winter came, they would be completely shut off from the rest of the world, particularly the rest of Sweden, until the spring. And so, if they had a poor harvest, then they had a scarcity of food.
So, Swedes being Swedes, they were very meticulous record-keepers. And they actually kept a record of all of their crops and the crop failures and successes. And then, they also kept a record of all of the births and deaths and the cause of the deaths. So, this was a huge amount of information. And through modern computer technology, they were able to mine it.
And what they found is there’s this time in our life called the slow growth period, it’s the time right before puberty. For girls, that’s between 8 and 11, and for boys it’s between 9 and 12. And what they found is that what they ate during that slow growth period affected their health. But, even more importantly, it affected the health of their children and their grandchildren. It was almost as profound with the grandchildren as it was with the children.
So, what they were thinking is that the people who had an abundance of food would eat a lot of food and they’d be really healthy. But what they found was that it was actually the children that went through the slow growth period during scarcity, they had healthier children.
Now, what I’m going to say now is speculation. And it’s not the conclusions of the authors. But, what they grew, their main foods were salmon and pork. And obviously in any type of area like that, in the summertime they had access to berries and wild vegetation. But their main crops were grain crops and potatoes. They grew potatoes and grains. So, when they didn’t have potatoes and grains and they had less food in general, the third generation was way healthier. In some instances, it was 30 years difference in lifespan.
So, if you can imagine that, the children of abundance, particularly abundance of these high-carbohydrate grain foods and potatoes, their grandchildren lived, in some cases, 30 years less than the children of the people who grew up in scarcity.
So, I had arguments with my co-authors about what conclusions we could draw. But, let me ask you a question, Will. You seem like an objective guy. If you grow potatoes and grains and you’re raising pork and you fish for salmon, and the potato and grain crops fail, what are you eating?
Will: [Laughs] Yeah, really, huh?
Gray: Pork and salmon! You’re eating more of a Paleo type diet. And they wouldn’t draw that conclusions because they were kind of on the low-fat camp, the pro-grain, low-fat camp. And even though I’m not a rabid Paleo diet person, I certainly tend more towards that way. But I definitely despise the whole low-fat concept, which has proven to be a monumental disaster to our health and a big part of why we have so much diabetes and heart disease today.
So, Överkalix really drove it home. And there’s been some other really cool studies. I’ve got this really neat picture you’ll be able to show your audience. This other study was done with mice. This really, I think, will help people to understand how we have power because there’s a type of mouse that’s called an agouti mouse. It’s a mouse that has a genetic defect. And this genetic defect causes these mice to have a yellow coat and to become obese and die young. So, this is their genetic destiny.
But, what Dana Dolinoy, who was the scientist, what she found is that if she gave the mothers high amounts of folic acid-rich foods or I should say folate, that it actually switched off the gene that caused that presentation. And the mice were normal!
So, you can see in the picture the phenomenal difference. And when I look at the agouti mouse that expressed the agouti gene, oh my gosh, you can kind of see, that looks like some poor twelve-year-old that’s been given an epigenetic disadvantage and is still eating junk, and the other mouse looks the way mice are supposed to look.
So, it works both ways. You can have good genes, and you can turn off the expression of those good genes with bad food. And you can have bad genes, and you can turn on the expression of those genes with good food. So, that really gives us a tremendous amount of power. And nobody should feel victimized.
I mean, you can be a little upset with your parents and your grandparents for giving you a bad epigenome, but you can take full responsibility for the expression of that epigenome, and the expression of the genes of your children and your grandchildren.
You can’t change the epigenetics. You can’t give them different epigenetics after you’ve conceived them. But you can feed them right, and to the degree their epigenetics are expressing poorly, you can switch that back.
Will: Right. Perfect. So, before we get into the specific solutions that you suggest as far as being able to feed ourselves to turn on our best expression of our genetic potential, you also talk in your book about Weston Price. How does his work interact with epigenetics and oral health in particular?
Gray: Well, many of the great early nutritionists were dentists. And when I first started this, I thought it was so strange. Weston Price, Royal Lee, Melvin Page, Harold Hawkins, all these guys were dentists. And they did some of the great early holistic nutrition work. And I said, “Well, why would that be?” And then it was really a quote from Melvin Page that really helped me to understand. And what Dr. Page said was that “Every chronic degenerative condition of the human body expresses itself first in the mouth.”
So, people are worried over gum inflammation and tooth decay. And of course, they’re worried about that. But what they really need to know is that in the future, that’s cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. And, so, the reason that these early guys were dentists is because they were there when the change was happening.
So, Weston Price, when he started practicing dentistry in 1899, he had a large pediatric practice. And most of the kids had straight teeth. And they had some cavities, but they weren’t that much. He was more dealing with kids who got their teeth knocked out from falling off a horse or getting hit with a rock or something like that. But, by the time he ended his practice in 1930, the way he describes it literally, the teeth were rotting out of children’s heads and they had these major occlusions. And something had shifted.
And he hypothesized that the shift was a change in the diet, being, again, a curious man and a scientist. He really is my greatest hero, as much as I admire Pottenger because I’m a bit of a traveler and an adventurer myself. So what Weston Price did, after practicing dentistry for 30 years, is he traveled 150,000 miles in his lifetime to the far ends of the earth. He went every place he could to find indigenous people still eating their indigenous diet. And then he would find those exact same people genetically who’d been converted to the modern diet, what he’d called the foods of commerce.
So, for example, he would go to Alaska and he would find Inuits who still ate their native diet, which is a diet very high in protein, very high in fat, completely devoid of fast-acting carbohydrates except for things like berries in the summertime. And they had phenomenal health even though they ate a high-fat diet. They got fiber, but they didn’t get the type of fiber that’s recommended today. But they had no cancer. They had no heart disease.
I want to show you this one picture of an Inuit woman who actually had 26 children and never had one cavity! Now, when you look at the picture, it looks like maybe one tooth is a little decayed. But it’s not decayed. One of her teeth got chipped real badly. I’m sure some kid threw a walrus bone at her or something and hit her in the mouth. You know? So, can you imagine that?
There’s a phenomena which I’m sure you’re familiar with now that when women have babies today, even one or two, that after they’ve had a child, they often are more subject to tooth decay because they’re so mineral deficient that they actually sacrifice minerals from their own bones and teeth in order to give the baby some kind of chance. And that leaves them subject to decay.
In these nutrient-rich diets of these indigenous people’s, they had all the minerals and all the fat-soluble factors to produce 26 healthy babies in this very harsh climate and never get one cavity! So, it was a phenomenal thing. And he did that all over the world. There’s a couple of big lessons.
So, obviously the diet that was perfect for the Inuits would have been a horrible diet for a subtropical African like the people of the Great Barrier Reef. They weren’t Africans. They were Micronesians. I guess they were Melanesians. And they ate a diet that was mostly fish and fruit. And they had a little bit of vegetables and things like that. And they also had phenomenally good health.
So, Price’s lessons were that we can’t be healthy unless we eat a nutrient-dense, whole food diet, and that we should have respect for the diet of our ancestors because if you’re, say, of Norwegian descent, the diet that’s perfect for you is going to be very different than if you’re Japanese or South American or something like that. Anyway, I could talk about Price for 45 minutes, too. But we’d better get back on to the deal.
But, again, he did later kind of put that together with the people who had poor dental presentation, that they also had other health problems. And I wanted to just point that premise out. And I’ll quite talking about Price is that he noticed that the people who ate their indigenous diets, whatever their religious beliefs were, they had a sense of spirituality and well-being that you didn’t see in the people who were eating the processed foods.
And so, I look around and I see so many people that are just so lost that they either don’t have a sense of spirituality or a sense of self or a sense of connectedness. And it’s not all diet. I don’t believe everything is diet. But the diet has a profound effect on our outlook on life and our connection with our world.
Will: Exactly. Clearly, diet plays a fundamental role. Like you say, it’s not everything. But it is one of the fundamental pillars.
Gray: That’s right. You gotta be a little careful. I always tell people that. There’s an old saying that, “When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” [Laughs] So, as a nutritionist, I see every problem as a nutritional problem. When O.J. murdered his wife, I went, “Oh, my gosh! There’s a guy who desperately needed some B vitamins!” You know? [Laughs]
And, likewise, with Columbine, referring back to that, when they had all these talking heads about why those children would commit such a horrific act, they talked about TV, about parenting, about the school, social structure. But only one time, they were interviewing one of the moms. And, just kind of innocently, she said the two perpetrators were friends with her child, and she said, “They seemed like completely normal children to me. They would come over and watch TV and I’d give them chips and soda pops and they would just enjoy themselves just like everybody else.” And I go, “Well there it is! It’s the ****ed chips and soda pop.” People have no idea.
There was a recent study that showed that high fructose corn syrup actually makes us stupid. And we know it’s not good for your teeth. So, okay.
I’ve painted a dark and kind of hopeless picture. But I want to bring us out of that.
Will: Sounds good. So, besides food, what else affects our genetic expression of health or illness?
Gray: Well, really everything does. And we know now they actually can measure genes being turned on and off. And we know that when you exercise, you can turn on good genes. And there’s some very powerful studies that show that another rat study where they exposed a female rat to a common herbicide called vinclozolin. And then they measured the health of the children.
And what happened was the male offsprings of this female mouse had a variety of problems including low sperm count, enlarged prostates, renal tumors and things like that, things that are very common today. And that was not so surprising if you expose the mother to toxins that the children would be affected.
But what they found out was that when the offspring of those male children, their sons and their grandsons in some cases had even greater dysfunction, even more dysfunction, than the first generation. So, we have no idea with all these pesticides and herbicides and all the chemicals like BPA, these are definitely also having a profound effect on the expression of our epigenome. And then there’s also very good studies on stress and early parenting and all those things are important.
But, again, being a nutritionist, like with BPA, for example — bisphenol A, that nasty plasticizer that you get exposed to when you cook in microwave ovens with plastic things, and you get water bottles, particularly if they’re heated. But Dana Dolinoy did that mouse study. She showed also that if you give proper nutrients to the mother, it actually protects the children against the bisphenol A. So, even though there’s other factors, we still have the ability with nutrients to turn off the maleffects of things like vinclozolin and BPA and even stress.
Will: Wow. Wow. I want to hear more about that study. So, in your book you talk about the Ten Green Gene Guidelines. Can you briefly go over those for us?
Gray: Sure. I want to go back to Pottenger just briefly to put this in context. So, at the end of the third generation, Pottenger couldn’t successfully reproduce the cats. So, he thought, “Well, what am I going to do now?” He was kind of addicted to cat study. So, he thought, “I’m going to reverse the diet.”
He took these third generation cats, which is basically like our children today. And he reversed their diets and he put these degenerated cats onto the control diet of raw milk, the raw meat, and the raw cod liver oil that the control cats were on.
And, lo and behold, they were able to successfully reproduce. And, imagine, now the kittens, even though they weren’t as healthy as the first generation kittens, they were healthier than their offspring.
So, what he found is that four generations of proper feeding of these cats, he was able to restore — the kittens of these cats who were completely degenerated and almost unable to reproduce — ahe was able to restore them to the same health as the original cats.
And so that’s the hope that Pottenger gave us, is that we can change. So, in this generation, they can have better health, just like when he changed the diets to be able to reproduce and have healthier children and have healthier lives themselves. And their children can be healthier, and their children can be healthier. So, that’s the message.
If epigenetics was irreversible, we should just pack it in and go surfing over there on Kauai because it’d be hopeless. But there is hope, which keeps us plugging away here.
So, my co-authors and I put together what we call the Ten Green Gene Food Guidelines. And, based on the best of science and our own observations, we came up with ten things that people can do as a general guideline to start reversing this.
And the first thing is to only eat whole fresh foods in their natural states as often as possible. So, I know it’s difficult, again, in our culture. Stuff is always sneaking in. You know, you’re really hungry and those Oreo cookies look good and stuff like that. Yeah, I would never eat Oreo cookies, but I know people do. To the degree that we can actually eat whole foods and particularly if we can kind of mimic the whole foods of our ancestors, that’s a huge start.
And, then secondly, we need to eat a wide variety of foods. Even people who are very health conscious, they find these five or six things that they think are really healthy, and they eat those all the time. But our ancestors had a huge variety in their diets. Our pre-agricultural ancestors, they may have had 100 to 200 different foods that they regularly ate, depending on where they were in the seasons.
And, a lot of people now, their diet has been reduced to under a dozen foods, and in some cases even less than that. It’s not that uncommon, you know? And, so we need to start eating a variety of foods.
Whenever we can, we need to select organic, grass-fed, free-range, local and sustainable food. And there’s a lot of reasons for that. I can’t go into right now. But even if organic food wasn’t healthier, which it is, we’ve got to quit poisoning our environment with things like vinclozolin and these other pesticides and herbicides because they’re really affecting our genetics and the genetics of our children.
We need to consume high-quality food with the portion of protein, carbohydrates, and fats our genes are adapted to. And, one of the things about fat, for almost 50 years now, people will be so proud of themselves because they don’t eat any fat. And I look at them like they’re crazy. So, it’s not about how much fat you eat. It’s about the balance of fat and the quality of the fat. So, you need all the different types — polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated fats — but they need to be in the right proportions, and they need to be from good sources.
And we need to choose only minimally processed oils and fats. These highly processed vegetable oils are really one of the most ****able things that we do.
We need to choose plant and animal foods that have been grown or raised on sustainable or nutrient-rich soil. And, so, it’s another whole 45 minutes that we don’t have. But part of the reason that they’ve been able to demonstrate that people that eat a lot of meat aren’t as healthy is because the meat isn’t healthy because the animals ate bad food. So, if you feed a cow, which is supposed to eat grass, grain, you get all these bad effects. And, then you also don’t get the good effects that you would get from a grass-fed animal, like CLA, conjugated linoleic acid. Or, now we know this huge thing, there’s this property that Price was very aware of. He called it the activator X, which we know as vitamin K2, different from K1. And that’s only in foods that are raised right.
And if we eat fish, which I’m a big advocate of, we need to eat fish from the least polluted waters and wild. I’m not a big fan of all this farm stuff.
We need to store and prepare foods in ways that preserve their nutrients like our ancestors did.
We need to drink clean water in adequate amounts. And the last part of it is actually not about just the food, but about the way we consider it. But, we need to prepare every meal with consideration and respect for our food. I think the way we eat food right now is kind of tragic. People drive through Jack In The Box and they pick up some greasy, nasty thing on white bread. And then they jump in their car, run into their next meeting and eating that, it’s completely horrible food, and it’s completely disrespectful.
So, the way to eat food is to acknowledge the food, to hopefully do it in a community setting with your friends. You can’t always do that, you know? But to take the time to get into a relaxed state or what we call a parasympathetic state so that we can appropriately digest it. Our body can recognize it. And we can use it properly.
So, that’s a very rough recap. Well, to tell you the truth, Will, I’m kind of hoping to sell a few books. [Laughs] So, I hope I’ve peaked people’s [interest]. So, if you want to know more about those studies, you can get that from my book. And, then, also, we go into a lot more detail about the Green Gene Guidelines and the terrible holes that we’ve fallen into.
Will: That sounds great! So, you’ve talked about the dangers of the low-fat myth. What I’d like to ask you is a couple different things here. How has the low-fat myth contributed to poor dental presentation, which obviously translates into just poor expression of our overall health?
But also, what do you see as far as the average diet is low in fat, but in particular what type of fats are low and what can we do about that?
Gray: Yeah, that’s a huge consideration. We’ve gone to these phases. The first phase was after Ancel Keys famous Seven Countries Study, we came up with this idea, which isn’t what Ancel Keys said at all, but that fat was bad. It’s a cultural phenomena what we do, is we make everything good or bad. “What’s fat?” “Oh, fat’s bad.” No, fat is not bad at all! Fat is life-giving. That was one of the big things Weston Price identified was that our ancestors had ten times the fat- soluble factors that we did. And his study was before the low-fat thing!
So, here’s the thing is that it’s about balance. So, then what we did is we said, “Well, fat’s not bad. It’s the ****ed saturated fats that are bad.” And that’s not true either. But, “We should eat polyunsaturated fats.” And, so now, what they’ve said is, “Oh, well, no, it’s not polyunsaturated fats, it’s the omega-6 fats that are the bad polyunsaturated fats, and the omega-3s that are the good saturated fats.” And we just keep digging ourselves deeper into this hole.
So, the reality is that omega-6 polyunsaturates are not bad. But, our ancestors ate the omega-3s to omega-6s in a ratio of either 1:1 — so that means for every omega-3, they got an omega-6 — or at the worst case, 1:4. So, one omega-3 to four omega-6s.
And the modern diet, because we eat so many of these vegetable oils, it’s between 20 and 25 to 1! So, health, really, more than anything, is about quality and balance. So, we need to bring that balance. The problem is that a lot of this was promoted by the vegetable oil industry because they want to sell corn oil and cottonseed oil and soybean oil. It’s not that you can’t tolerate any of this stuff. But, they’re not only taking us out of ratio, but they’re also very, very poor quality.
So, I mean who even imagined cottonseed oil? Then it’s processed with high heat and high pressure. And every potential vitamin, which was low to begin with because cotton isn’t really a food, is stripped out of it with these powerful solvents and this heat. And then the manufacturers go, “Low in polyunsaturated fats!” You know? “Saturated fat free! Zero grams of trans fats!”
So, it’s a horrible kind of inciduous lie. The reality is that we can eat some omega-6s, but we should get them from really healthy sources like nuts and seeds and hopefully in their raw form, oils that have been cold-pressed and properly treated as kind of the delicate foods that they are. So, we need to bring those back into balance. We need to look for good monounsaturated fats.
And we need to eat saturated fats from healthy sources, also. It’s true that saturated fats themselves aren’t essential because we can make saturated fats. That’s part of the problem. We eat a lot of high-glycemic foods. And then we convert those to types of saturated fats that aren’t that good for us. But, saturated fats also come along with things like that vitamin K2, the other fat-soluble factors that Dr. Price talked about. And things like conjugated linoleic acid, which we know protects us from cancer and heart disease. So, we not only quit eating enough fats, but we quit eating the right types of fats.
And the other thing we did is wherever we displaced fats, we replaced it with sugar and grains. And these sugars and grains, well, everybody recognizes that sugar is not good for oral health. What people don’t really recognize is that when you eat all of these grain foods that have basically been stripped of all their nutrients, they don’t provide the nutritional basis for creating good teeth and healthy gums.
There’s a lot of controversy about wheat because of the gluten. But, if you’re going to eat wheat, you should eat wheat that is properly prepared in its whole form so that it has the germ and it has the B vitamins and it has the E vitamins and the minerals. Because when you eat white flour, you get none of that. And, not only do you not get those nutrients, but it actually sucks nutrients out of your body to process it.
Will: Right. So, I hear you that it’s all about balance. And I am in total alignment with that. And if you had to say, okay, given this ideal of balance, and that we’re all different expressions as far as our ancestral heritages — so there’s a lot of ifs there — what foods would you throw under the bus, and what foods would you hold up high, saying these are really crucial for us all?
Gray: Well, under the bus goes all of those highly processed vegetable oils that I talked to and all the highly processed grains. Those are the first things to get out. I tell people, “One place to start is just to start, particularly with your children, is you should have an absolute rule that you never give them anything with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. You never give them anything with high fructose corn syrup in it. And you never give them anything with MSG.”
And though there’s plenty of other bad things, if you get rid of those things, most of the other bad stuff goes with it. But, then the next hierarchy is don’t give them processed foods at all. You know? Don’t give them pasteurized, enriched orange juice. Give them an orange. If you’re going to give them orange juice, squeeze it. So, we need all of the foods.
So, for grains, don’t give them Wonder Bread. You know? Or even these so- called whole wheat breads that you buy in the store. You need to either make it yourself or find a bakery in your area. Here where I’m at in Olympia, Washington, we got several bakeries that start with grain in the morning. And by the afternoon…They don’t start in the morning, but in the afternoon, because they’re sourdough breads. So they’ve been properly ground up, they’ve been fermented. So, all grains should be fermented or soaked. And then they’re made into these wonderful and delicious breads. So, they’re a delight to eat and they’re very healthy, assuming you don’t have a problem with the gluten.
So, we’ve got to get rid of all these processed foods. And, I think, really, another thing to really focus on is this idea of local and sustainable. And there’s a lot of reasons for that, but one reason is if you can go to the farm where you’re getting your grass-fed beef and you can talk to the farmer and you can see the grass they’re grazing on, you know what you’ve really got instead of some mystery meat, some cow that was raised in Colorado and then it was shipped to Kansas and fed a diet of genetically-modified corn and antibiotics for 8 months in order to make it a big, fat, juicy cow and stuff like that. That meat’s no good for you.
People say, “Oh, I don’t like the taste of grass-fed beef.” But really, it’s because your sense of taste is all perverted. Now, when I eat a piece of conventional meat, it just tasted like watery, chewy protein. It doesn’t have any flavor. I crave that flavor of a good piece of grass-fed steak or lamb.
And you’re really lucky over in Hawaii. You’ve got access to such great seafood. And not everybody has that access. But, most people have some access. But, be careful, particularly in inland waters, they’re so polluted that they do more harm than good.
Here’s the big idea. We need to start eating food again. And people need to understand what is and what isn’t food. There’s that idea that you should only eat the circumference of the grocery store, which is where you find the dairy and meat and vegetables. But, that’s not even the greatest rule, because some of the dairy’s no good. And you get ultra-pasteurized non-fat milk. That’s not food.
It’s difficult because we’re always making choices, we’re always making compromises. And I don’t want to act like every meal I eat is organic and I went down to the farm that morning or something because I’d be lying to you. I travel a lot. And I’ve got a very busy schedule. But, we can always make a better choice.
So, if I go to the grocery store. And we’ve got eggs here from the egg lady and she raises them and I’ve seen that farm and they’re running around acting like chickens, and they’re organic. And I can make a choice between that and the Costco organic, I’d choose the egg lady.
But if I gotta go to Costco and I’m going to buy some eggs, I get the organic over the conventional. So, we just all need to take one step at a time and make certain immutable rules like the hydrogenated oils and the high fructose corn syrup, and then work towards unprocessed foods and then work towards the best processed foods that we can get.
And, it’s a journey. And it’s very difficult to have a perfect diet unless you live on some farm in Kauai or something like that. But, for most of us, it’s not quite that easy. But, I think that leads mentioned to this idea of if you can’t grow your own food, which many people can’t, then get involved in your community, in the sustainable agriculture community. They’re everywhere now where you have these CSAs where they grow organic food and deliver it to you.
Yeah, it’s a little bit less convenient. You don’t always get exactly what you want. But you’re adding back to your community financially. You’re supporting your environment because these farmers are being careful of how they’re treating the land and the air, which is the land and the air that you’re sharing with them. And, so, I think that’s an important thing.
One of the things that I’ve done, kind of jumping just a little bit back about the difficulties of how do you know what’s the right diet for you, that was one thing that always drove me crazy was they do these studies and then they make these generalizations that everybody should be eating this or eating that. And we are all biochemically different.
And, so, I actually started an organization about 15 years ago. But, particularly, 10 years ago, we started a program where we’re actually training a whole new profession called nutritional therapy practitioners. And they’re highly trained. I’m so very proud of this.
We’ve got over 1,500 trained around the country right now. And they’re highly trained to be able to consult with an individual and to really look at what they’re eating and look at who they are. And through this process called lingual neural testing, connect with the body’s ability to actually guide us and to come up with a diet that’s right for that person.
Inside each of us, there’s still this knowledge that we call innate intelligence that actually knows what we’re supposed to eat. But we have become disconnected from that through our intellect. So, I mean, you see it all the time. Like when I moved from California up here, you’d see deer. I was so impressed with it at first, until I got my garden.
The deer would come by, and they would actually nibble on something and taste it, and they would make a conscious decision over about 15 or 20 seconds whether they would eat that or not eat it. So they could actually tell. It would resonate with them. We call it instinct. But you can call it innate intelligence.
And they might taste 3 or 4 different things. And then, maybe the fifth thing, they’d get to the roses or something, and they’d taste that and they’d wait this 10 or 15 seconds and they’d go, “Yeah, today I resonate with roses.” And they ate the whole rose bush. So, we actually have the ability through our taste perception to tell what we should and shouldn’t eat. But we’re disconnected with it because we’ve intellectualized ourselves out of the game.
So, one of the things I’m a little proud of, it’s a little bit of a blatant pitch for something that I really love. But, if you’re interested in finding a nutritional therapist, you can contact the Nutritional Therapy Association at NutritionalTherapy.com.
Or, maybe you’re looking for a new career and a new way to help your family and stuff. So, we have classes all over the country starting all the time. And that’s been a great passion of mine. And we really get some wonderful, life-changing experiences for people to then go out and change other people’s lives.
I guess that’s a final message is that bad food has so much going for it. It’s got all the money and it’s got all the conventional media. So, you’re never going to see an advertisement for your local CSA on the NBC Today Show. What you’re going to see is you’re going to see them hocking General Mills and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and bad dietary advice from their dietician and stuff like that that will lead you to these processed foods.
And, so what we need to do, and I know you’re involved in this, and me, too, is this grass roots movement, which is really becoming pronounced. This foodie movement, you know? We’re taking it back. We’re organizing ourselves and we’re doing things like this summit and like the Real Food Summit and creating organizations like the Nutritional Therapy Association.
And we’re drawing people who have an interest and who got this epiphany that we can change things because we’re never going to change it from the top. We’re never going to legislate better food. If anything, they’re going to legislate bad food. But, if we ban together as communities and really take an interest in this, we can not only have our health back, but we can have the joy of participating in our food again, which we’ve completely lost. It’s so sad.
Will: That’s really a profound point, Gray. I totally agree with you. And we also, by participating in a local food movement and taking back control of our foods as a community, we also, then rebuild community, which is a whole other subject to discuss which has also been thrown under the bus in the last three generations.
Gray: We couldn’t do that in 45 minutes, but this is definitely a way to start rebuilding communities and start rebuilding our local farms and our farmers markets and connect with the people that are there and the idea.
Will: Right. So, Gray, thank you so much for dropping so many gems here. Where can folks learn more about you and your work?
Gray: Well, you know, I’d love for people to read my book. You can get it through Amazon or anywhere else. You can visit my website, PottengersProphecy.com. And this will inspire me to get back on there and get it up to date a little bit. I’ve been neglecting it with all my other things.
But, then also, some other great resources, there’s NutritionalTherapy.com. It’s all about the Nutritional Therapy Association. I’d like to give a really big plug to the Weston A. Price Foundation. That’s WestonAPrice.org. And then the Price- Pottenger Foundation, which is WPNF.com or something like that. Just google “Price Pottenger,” and you’ll get their correct [website] address.
There really are a lot of resources. And there’s many more than that. But those are four I wanted to give a big plug to.
Will: Perfect, Gray. Thank you so much for sharing with us today! Gray: Hey, Will, thanks for giving me the opportunity! I really enjoyed it!
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