Research Lab

WESTON A. PRICE FOUNDATION RESEARCH PROGRAM ENTERS NEW PHASE

As you may know, member donations to our research program over the last few years have supported research at the Burnsides Laboratory at the University of Illinois. Most importantly, the Foundation has funded the postdoctoral work of Chris Masterjohn, PhD, working with Fred Kummerow, PhD, head of the research lab.

With these funds, Chris initiated a research program focused on the interaction between fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K. This program is an outgrowth of the work on fat-soluble vitamins that Chris laid out in the pages of Wise Traditions between 2005 and 2007. The program has two long-term goals: first, to enrich our understanding of how to utilize the fat-soluble vitamins in the form of nutrient-dense whole foods to prevent and treat degenerative disease and to optimize performance and well-being; second, to lay down solid evidence for the complex interactions between food nutrients that will move the nutritional science community toward embracing the value of the nutrient-dense foods so deeply valued by the traditionally living societies studied by Weston Price.

Chris’s first study within this program explored the effect of vitamin D on the metabolism of vitamin K in rats. The study showed that high doses of vitamin D harm the kidneys by increasing soft tissue calcification and impair vitamin K status, consistent with the hypothesis that Chris first developed in the pages of Wise Traditions, but it also generated a number of surprising findings. One was that the true response of rats to excess vitamin D takes six months to become clear, while most rat studies in this area only last for several weeks. Another was that, despite poor kidney health, and despite higher serum undercarboxylated osteocalcin—usually considered a marker of poor bone health—the rats dosed with extra vitamin D actually had improved bone health. This introduces a major caveat into the typical interpretation of this marker in human studies, and highlights the importance of understanding why a blood marker is changed rather than simply observing that it has changed, just as is true of serum 25(OH)D or serum cholesterol. Chris plans to publish two peer-reviewed papers from this study by the end of this year, and ultimately to publish a third paper from this study on the effect of vitamin D on vitamin A metabolism. Ultimately, this study provides a preliminary foundation for further studies investigating the protective effects of vitamins A and K on vitamin D-induced soft tissue calcification, and for human studies examining the ability of these vitamins to prevent and reverse cardiovascular calcification.

Chris was also able to use these funds to mentor Grace Hile, a medical student interested in ancestral health and integrative medicine, who took the lead this summer in examining the bone health of the vitamin D-dosed rats. This was part of Southern Illinois University’s Mentored Professional Enrichment Experience.
Finally, the postdoctoral grant also enabled Chris, through his position at the university, to teach the first-year veterinary students about vitamins and minerals. As a result of his student evaluations, he was included in the University of Illinois’s Spring 2014 “List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students.”

In addition, contributions paid for studies that looked at the levels of trans fats in common processed foods (www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/trans-fats-in-the-food-supply/) and the fatty acid profile of grass-fed versus grain-fed beef tallow (www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/fatty-acid-analysis-of-grass-fed-and-grain-fed-beef-tallow/). The results of a WAPF-funded study on hexane levels in common foods will soon be published in a peer reviewed scientific journal, to be followed by a report in Wise Traditions.

The traditional purpose of a postdoctoral grant is to provide a young researcher with the ability to establish a reputation as an independent researcher and thus to become well-positioned to obtain a tenure-track faculty position and thereby establish a career in research and other contributions to academia. Chris’s independent research, conducted with funds from WAPF and generous support from Dr. Fred Kummerow and the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, together with the experience he gained mentoring and teaching in that position, allowed him to obtain a position beginning this fall as assistant professor of health and nutrition sciences at Brooklyn College.

The focus of our research funding will now enter a new phase as Chris settles into this new position. He will be teaching undergraduate courses in nutritional chemistry for students aiming to become registered dietitians and mentoring graduate students. Most importantly, Chris will be running a laboratory where he will have access to the latest testing equipment. Thus, he will be in an excellent position to continue and expand his research on fat-soluble vitamins.

The Burnsides Laboratory at the University of Illinois does not have the expensive modern testing equipment that would allow us to continue research in the field most important to us—testing the levels of fat-soluble vitamins in foods grown and prepared by various methods. Therefore, while we will continue to support Dr. Kummerow’s research to a limited extent, especially for performing fatty acid analyses, our primary support will now go to Chris Masterjohn at Brooklyn College.

We will keep our members informed of the progress of our research with the new opportunities presented to us with Chris’s move to Brooklyn College.

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© 2013 The Weston A. Price Foundation for Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and the Healing Arts.