Caustic Commentary, Fall 2014

Sally Fallon Morell takes on the Diet Dictocrats

Vitamin A and Hearing Loss

In these pages, we often report on vitamin A—that most necessary of all nutrients, found in very high levels in primitive diets but declared toxic by modern dietary authorities. Vitamin A supports vibrant health in so many ways—from formation and development of the fetus to hormone production to healthy eyes, skin and bones. A new report summarizes research showing that vitamin A supports a preventive, therapeutic and even regenerative role in hearing loss, and can even allay tinnitus—ringing in the ears. For example, a French study from as early as 1823 found that hearing levels were better among those who consumed the most vitamin A and also vitamin B12 from various foods, including red meat. A 1984 European study reported a 5-15 decibel improvement in patients with age-related hearing loss when given vitamins A and E. Other researchers reported that vitamin A deficiency results in a decline in the number of sensory cells in the nose, tongue and inner ear. A 1993 study reported in Science found that vitamin A can stimulate the regeneration of mammalian auditory hair cells. In 2009, Japanese researchers found that adults with the highest blood serum levels of vitamin A and carotenoids have the lowest risk for hearing loss. And, in 2014, researchers determined that vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy, especially during the early stages of fetal development “may predispose offspring to inner ear malformations and sensorial hearing loss.” These studies and several others are detailed in a fascinating report by Bill Sardi at, May 21, 2014.

Mom’s Diet and Future Behavior

More and more research is confirming what WAPF has been saying all along—that a pregnant mom’s diet affects not only the growth and physical health of her infant, but also mental performance and behavior. One new study reveals that pregnant mothers with unhealthy diets are more likely to have children with behavioral problems. The study involved more than twenty-three thousand mothers and children participating in the ongoing Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. They found that an unhealthy prenatal diet consisting of higher intake of processed meats, refined cereals, sweet drinks, and salty snacks predisposed offspring to more behavioral problems, whereas a healthy diet, consisting of higher intake of “vegetables, fruit, high-fiber cereals, and vegetable oils,” was associated with fewer behavioral problems in the children. (The study does not elaborate on the makeup of those “vegetable oils” but a diet higher in fruit and vegetables is a marker for a diet in which real foods predominate.) Pre-pregnancy risk drinking was associated with child behavior problems at eighteen and thirty-six months, even after controlling for prenatal and postnatal alcohol use (Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2014 Jul 23). In related news, researchers at the University of Adelaide found that women who consistently ate “high-fat, high-sugar foods”—of course those would be industrial fats—and take-out foods were about 50 percent more likely to have a preterm birth (Journal of Nutrition, September, 144 (9):1349-1355).

Behaving Well

The same Norwegian study cited above suggested that the diet of children may affect their behavior. Children who ate more unhealthy foods, defined in the study as chips, buns, cakes, waffles, chocolate, cookies, sweets, soda, ice cream, popsicles, bread with jam or honey, pizza, and soda with artificial sweeteners, had higher levels of internalizing behaviors such as worry, sadness, crying and anxiety, as well as externalizing behaviors, including aggression, tantrums, hyperactivity and defiant behavior. In comparison, children who ate more traditional or healthy foods, defined as “white fish, oily fish, boiled and raw vegetables, fruit, bread with fish products, eggs, bread with meat, Norwegian brown cheese, and fish products” (could that be cod liver oil?) had lower levels of these problem behaviors (Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2014 Jul 23).

Diet Sodas and Weight Gain

Use of diet sodas, sweetened with non-caloric sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, has increased enormously over the last twenty-five years, as consumers try to steer clear of sugar and high fructose corn syrup. About 30 percent of American adults regularly consume these sweeteners. But a recent review study by Susie Swithers, Purdue University professor of psychological sciences and a behavioral neuroscientist, found that consumption of diet soft drinks increases the likelihood of overeating. One large study found that people who drink artificially sweetened sodas are more likely to experience weight gain than those who drink non-diet sodas. Other studies found that those who drink diet soda have twice the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, often a precursor to cardiovascular disease, than those who abstained (Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, 24(9):431–441, September 2013).

Toxic Toilet Paper

We all know about hormone-like compounds in plastic water bottles. Chemicals such as BPA, PCBs and phthalates have been linked to conditions like endocrine disruption and cancer. But few realize that these compounds are also in toilet paper! A 2004 study published in the UK found very high concentrations of these xenoestrogens in toilet paper. Of course, you don’t drink toilet paper, but who knows whether the compounds are absorbed through the skin. And the study found that these estrogen-pretenders do pass into wastewater and warned that toilet paper “should not be mixed with biological waste e.g. for co-composting or co-fermentation in order to derive organic fertilizers” (Gehring M and others in Popov V and others, eds. Waste Management and the Environment II. Southampton, UK, 2004).

Longevity Food

Born in 1899, Miss Susannah Mushatt Jones has survived two World Wars, twenty-two U.S. presidents, the Great Depression, the Cold War and the birth of the telephone, radio, TV and Internet. Still alive and well at age one hundred fifteen, Miss Susie is New York City’s oldest resident. Miss Susie abstains from alcohol and smoking, but relatives credit her longevity to bacon. “She eats it every single morning,” says her goddaughter Valerie Price. Price does not eat bacon herself and doesn’t recommend it—such is the power of propaganda over observation in today’s modern world. But maybe her goddaughter is right, maybe that bacon will catch up with Miss Susie one day (, July 9, 2014)!

Back to Butter?

Butter is definitely in the news these days. Time Magazine featured a cover article entitled “Eat Butter. Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong” (June 13, 2014). The Washington Post carried an article entitled “ Butter is the big fat winner” (June 18, 2014). The article noted that butter consumption is at its highest level in thirty years, at just over five pounds per person per year. Both articles admit that all the science condemning butter was wrong. An article in The Wall Street Journal, “America Renews Its Love Affair with Butter,” credits celebrity chefs and cooking shows for butter’s increasing popularity (June 26, 2014). The article revealed that in 2013, Americans spent more than two billion dollars on butter compared with 1.8 billion dollars on spreads and margarines. But will butter really come roaring back? Probably not, as the industry has already inflicted too much damage. We’ve got a long way to go to the very healthy consumption of almost nineteen pounds per person in 1910—and very few will read or understand these articles or get over their fear of butter. There’s no butter or whole milk in school lunches, mandated by ironclad regulations, difficult if not impossible to change. The industrial oil industry, quick to pick up on trends, will find new ways to demonize nature’s perfect fat. Said Mike Faherty, a vice president of marketing at Unilever North America, “Consumers believe that butter is a simpler product that feels more natural, without understanding that it’s an indulgence made from animal fats.” Look for more subtle messages to make Americans feel guilty for “indulging” in butter.

The Switch to GMO-Free

“Non-GMO” is one of the fastest growing label trends on U.S. food packages, with sales of such items growing 28 percent in 2013, to about three billion dollars. Original flavor Cheerios, Grapenuts and Smart Balance all now carry a non-GMO label. Chipotle Mexican Grill is changing to non-GMO tortillas. But the switch is not easy, especially for foods with many ingredients. Two years ago, Ben & Jerry’s initiated a plan to eliminate genetically modified ingredients from ice cream. Now, nearly a year behind schedule, the company has succeeded in replacing many of the ingredients with non-GMO versions, but they have yet to convert the milk that makes the ice cream itself, estimating that finding enough GMO-free milk could take another five or ten years. Since the vast majority of feed given to dairy cows in the U.S. is made with GMO corn, soybeans and alfalfa, finding GMO-free milk, especially lots of it, has proved more difficult than anticipated. GMO-free ingredients also cost from 5-20 percent more. Still, such is the growing wave of consumer pressure that many other companies are taking the first steps to become GMO-free (Washington Post, Aug 8, 2014).

Pesky Weed

In one of the worst examples of scientific speculations we have seen, researchers have proposed that seeds of a pesky weed called nutsedge helped prevent cavities in prehistoric man. How did they develop this theory? Well, they found seeds of the nutsedge in tombs containing skeletons with most of their teeth intact. Ergo: nutsedge seeds may have helped prehistoric humans fight cavities. Never mind that such a theory finds no support in the science. Seeds contain phytic acid which can block calcium assimilation and lead to cavities. We now know that the key vitamin for preventing tooth decay is vitamin K, which is mostly found in animal fats and organ meats, not in seeds. Vitamin K works with the support of vitamins A and D, and with calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and probably many other minerals and vitamins. It was nutrient-density, especially of the fat-soluble vitamins, that prevented cavities in prehistoric man, not the seeds of the nutsedge weed (Washington Post, July 17, 2014).

A Positive Impact

Researchers in Kenya have published findings that should give pause to those promoting vegetarianism in children. The study looked at four groups of children. One group received a plant-based stew with added meat, one group got stew without meat plus whole milk, one group got the stew with added oil, and the fourth group served as a control. Students got the special meals for five consecutive terms. Those getting the stew plus meat showed significantly greater improvements in test scores than those in all the other groups while those getting the stew plus milk outperformed those getting the stew with oil and the control group. The researchers credited increased folate, iron, vitamin B12, zinc and riboflavin as nutrients that contributed to better cognitive function (Br J Nutr. 2014 Mar 14;111(5):875-86).

Raw Milk and Allergies

Over the past ten years, a half dozen studies out of Europe all point in the same direction, namely that consumption of raw milk during childhood provides protection against allergies, asthma and eczema. A new study has found that children growing up on dairy farms (and presumably drinking raw milk) have one-tenth the risk of developing allergies (, July 9, 2014). But it’s a recent study with rats that really piqued our interest. Four groups of rats received dairy protein-free rat chow plus either raw milk, gamma-sterilized milk, heated milk or water via drink bottles. Mice drinking raw milk had the best responses to allergens (Br J Nutr. 2014 Aug;112(3):390-7). It’s a real step forward to see the effects of raw milk studied in animals—and published in the prestigious British Journal of Nutrition, no less. We need more studies like this, research that looks at the effects of raw versus pasteurized milk on bone density and growth, organ integrity, iron status, reproduction and even behavior. We predict that studies on raw milk will proliferate—at least in Europe—as more and more honest researchers see this as a way to making a real contribution to the future health of our children.

Sally Fallon Morell is the founding president of the Weston A. Price Foundation and founder of A Campaign for Real Milk. She is the author of the best-selling cookbook, Nourishing Traditions (with Mary G. Enig, PhD) and the Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care (with Thomas S. Cowan, MD). She is also the author of Nourishing Broth (with Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN).

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