Let me tell you a little story…Before I was in the field in medicine, I received my degree in Elementary Education. But I never really felt fulfilled. I took some time to discover what my passion was, and I came to discover I love nutrition, herbs, and healing. Before studying this subject, I always strived to learn more on how we could support and heal our body naturally. I read books and attended classes. It was at this moment I decided to become a naturopath. My path took me down a different direction and I became a chiropractor with a certification in acupuncture. Chiropractic also studied nutrition for the body, and I found I could do more with this degree. Yet, what made me pursue my Functional Medicine certifications is the study called, “Pottenger’s Cats.”
Dr. Francis M. Pottenger was a doctor in the 1930’s. He and his family had set up a sanitarium for TB patients to study how to treat them. His father had done an experiment on cats and he believed there was a correlation between the adrenal glands and illness. He would surgically remove the cat’s adrenal glands and feed them glandular replacements to see their thriving rate. Now, during this study, Pottenger would assist by feeding these cats: cooked meat, pasteurized milk, and cod liver oil. Then one day, they ran out of cooked meat. He then went to the local butcher and asked for raw meat. As he began to feed these cats: raw meat, raw milk, and cod liver oil, he noticed a complete change in the felines. These cats began to thrive, become healthy with no side effects of the surgery, and even producing kittens that survived (unlike the other cats feed cooked meat). At this moment Pottenger began his own study on how nutrition impacts the health of animals.
Pottenger’s Cat Study has been one of the longest studies in nutrition, from 1932 – 1956. The basics of this study was seeing what changes occurred and how the health was affected by feeding one group of cats cooked food (meat, milk, and cod liver oil) and one group of cats raw food (meat, milk, and cod liver oil). His study followed 4 generations of cats on this type of diet and how it affected their health from generation to generation. Many nutritionists today use his study as a standard of dietary health studies and research.
He found cats fed cooked food had health issues beginning with infections of the mouth, gingivitis, and teeth issues. In the second generation, these kittens showed changes in skull development and when the teeth began to develop and protrude, these kittens had bleeding gums, runny noses and fever (see the similarities between children). In this generation the jaw would not grow to proper length and they began to have crowded and impacted teeth (I see a correlation with a rise in braces this day and age). In the third generation, he noticed even more changes in the facial bone, to the points the face began to look like the opposite sex. The skull and jaw bones were much smaller that the wisdom teeth became crowded and impacted. He noticed severe changes in the development of this generations bone structure and bone development in the body. He found the bones were weaker and more likely to sustain injuries to the spine with factures in the body, by the third generation.
As he continued his studies, he decided to test other health conditions then just bone. Following the generations of cats fed a raw diet, he noticed there were no allergies or hypothyroidism in the adult cat nor the generations of cats following. Yet when he followed the cooked diet in cats, he noticed an increase in allergies and hypothyroidism. He noticed they were irritable and nervous. He even noticed itching around the anus to the point the cat would rub all the fur off his bottom. This condition continued through all three generations. More symptoms would appear through each generation. Asthma, respiratory issues, gastrointestinal issues, skin disorders, and reproductive issues began to show through each generation who continued a cooked food diet.
Pottenger even changed a few of his diet protocols, and instead of feeding pasteurized milk, he switched to sweetened condensed milk. These cats became fatter and had severe nervous and irritability issues causing them to pace constantly, as well as, have more severe skeletal development issues.
As he followed the generations of cats being feed this cooked, pasteurized, processed diet he began to note the changes in each generation on health:
First Generation: Degenerative diseases, fatigue, and an increase in illnesses toward the end stages of life.
Second Generation: Degenerative diseases, fatigue, loss of coordination by mid part of life
Third Generation: Early in life diagnosis of Degenerative Diseases, Docile males, Aggressive females, Personality changes, soft bones, weak ligaments, skin diseases, allergies, infertility, hypothyroidism, shorter lifespan
Fourth Generation: most third generation cats became infertile and could not produce a 4th generation. If the cat did have kittens, they usually died at birth or lived for a very short time. He was not able to record any changes due to the mortality prognosis.
The positive aspect of his study focused on REGENERATION. He wanted to see, if he changed the cat’s diet, would the illnesses and diseases reverse itself. The answer is yes. But it can take years, if not generations, to make these changes. This study demonstrated the importance for the mother to eat healthy a year before conceiving to give the unborn baby an opportunity to thrive. When the mother had a poor diet, the baby would not receive the nutrients needed to develop and therefore be born with altered gene response, leading to chronic diseases and illnesses. This study was the leading force for the science and research of Epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study in how genes affect our health and how they can alter the outcome of diseases. Many current research projects have been focused on this concept of genes altering through generations. Many research studies are looking at the correlation of these altered genes due to lack of nutrition. Yet, what is amazing, is the focus on how we can change our genes by providing the body with proper nutrition.
Here is where you will see a shift in medicine called Functional Medicine. At this point, we are looking at changing our nutrition and diet, not for a quick fix, but for a generational change of survival and quality of life. Even though Pottenger focused on cats, there have been several studies out there that have focused on this type of processed diet and the changes in man’s health. Studies done in the 1950’s showed picture of male and female bodies changing skeletally, the same as, the cat study. Weak bones, changes in skull size, changes in mouth structure (which caused difficulty in feeding and latching on the breast) were all noted. These issues lead to delays in chewing, further causing issues with adenoids and tonsils. Sinus structure were altered thus recurrent sinus issues and breathing issues as the child began to develop. Joints and ligaments became weak causing delays in walking, recurrent injuries on playgrounds and difficulty with normal activities. Increases of respiratory infections (bronchitis, strep, asthma, colds and flu) were more prominent.
At this point, scientists are continuing to study the effects of nutrition on genes, DNA or how genes are the cause of disease because it cannot assimilate nutrients.
I find if you look at generation after generation, new diseases and syndromes are being named. New conditions continue to appear that have not been published in medical journals. Our diets have changed, our lifestyles have changed to be instant and quick. Family farms are becoming obsolete. If we had to survive in the woods, half of us would not even know how to kill and eat an animal, much less, start a fire. We are in a day of modernization and computers, which our grandparents never saw. Many of these people had a simple vegetable garden in the back of their yard. My father remembers even having to wring a chicken’s neck for supper one night. I am sure some children don’t even know where their meat comes from and assumes it grows out of the ground. We have become so isolated from mother nature.
You can’t help but wonder, “Has Our Current Diet Hurt Our Kids?”.
Over 20 years of medicine, I can feel confident in saying YES! Children are getting sicker and sicker. Conditions you would have seen in a middle-aged women are appearing in girls as young as 10-13. We are coming up with new diagnoses unheard of, to the point of, medicals books have updated every year. Shingles is a perfect example. Medical books made it known that shingles was an older person condition due to a lowered immune system, yet we are getting college kids coming in with this condition. Now medical books are having to change due to the rise of cases in young adults. Our immune system is slowly being hacked away at, by our improper nutrient consumption. Again, we think we can get it in a box or can and we now have forgotten how to eat fresh. Europe has embraced this change. They have local fresh produce everyday at a market. They even have vending machines with UNPASTEURIZED MILK!
If you don’t understand, pasteurized milk is part of Pottenger’s study. The US government basically was afraid of the bacteria in milk. They began to have all the farmers heat the milk to kill the bacteria. What you may not understand, when milk is “cooked” it kills all the necessary nutrients and fats in it, leading to current milk allergies. Unpasteurized milk may have some bacteria but it also contains: colloids (fats), mineral slats, hormones for thyroid, insulin, adrenal steroids, enzymes for metabolism, and natural antibodies. Europe discovered the benefits of unpasteurized milk and supports the sale. This is how we have lived for centuries. Yet the state of Alabama still considers it unsafe and it is ILLEGAL to buy it in this state.
Everything in our diets today is “COOKED” to be healthy and safe for us. But when we over cook and over process our foods, we pull out essential nutrients such as: amino acids, minerals, vitamins, fats, collagen, and chlorophyll necessary for all the cells in our body to function. As humans we are designed to eat more raw, fresh food and we have trained society to live in pantries instead of markets. There should be no reason you have a pantry in your house to store food. It is not normal to keep something on the shelf that long. As Europe says, shopping should be for that day or the next day meal, not a week from now.
It is time we take Pottenger’s study and apply it to our health today. Can you see in your own family line how grandpa lived to be 90 with a great memory and plenty of energy? Can you see Uncle Ted at the age of 40: 4 surgeries, taking over 20 medications, and can barely walk for 15 minutes without having an issue? Look around, study your family, see what their diet is like, see what your diet is like. As you watch people age, do you begin to ask yourself the question, “Is it more about the quality of life or the quantity of life?” I look at all the generations that come into my office. I realize, I don’t ever want my child to go through the medical system like a revolving door. I want her to be like my 93 year old Aunt: sharp, full of life, more mobile than most 40 year olds, active, and rarely (if ever) visits the doctor.
If you are interested to learn more about this study and how to change your diet, I would recommend two books for you to read: “Pottenger’s Cats: a study in Nutrition” and “Pottenger’s Prophecy.” Listen to my podcast: “The Common Sense Doctor” for more information.