9,000 years ago around 7,000 BC wheat and barley were first cultivated. Corn and rice followed 2,500 years later in 4,500 BC. According to human fossil records, prior to this time period, tooth decay was virtually unknown. Teeth recovered from Pakistan dating to around 5,500 BC show signs of being drilled, presumably because of cavities. For the last 5,000 years the average rate of tooth decay has been climbing. The rise in the rate of tooth decay has also been seen in Native Americans who switched from a hunter gatherer lifestyle to a more heavily corn-based diet.
The cultivation of grains has fostered the evolution of civilization, allowing city centers to emerge in which large groups of people live together such as in ancient Egypt. Grains also made it possible to raise large armies as it resolved the logistical problem of feeding thousands of soldiers.
In Weston Price’s field studies, a diet centered on white flour, refined sugar and vegetable fats was devastating to the health, teeth and gums of native peoples worldwide. From this evidence even Dr. Price himself concluded that consuming grain products in their whole form would resolve a part of the problem of tooth decay. The natural health community, and now even the US Government and food manufacturing giants, have embraced and promoted the view that whole grains are better for our health.
Beyond the fossil evidence connecting grains to tooth cavities is over one hundred years of scientific research that connects whole grains with a variety of diseases. This evidence is further consistently confirmed by the nearly daily e-mails I receive from stressed-out healthy eaters wondering why their previously cavity-free children now have tooth decay. There is one clear response that over and over again proves to be correct: whole grains.
Considering modern humans (Homo sapiens) are about 200,000 years old, large amounts of grains constitute a very recent addition to the modern diet. Our bodies are not designed to eat grains in their raw form so grains require us to use our intelligence to predigest the grains through the process of fermentation and then cooking. In the absence of careful grain preparation including fermentation, a host of diseases appear.
The famous professor and doctor Edward Mellanby wrote that “oatmeal and grain embryo interfere most strongly” with the building of healthy teeth. He called the effect of the germ of grains on teeth “baneful.” He also found that a diet high in grain germ or embryo led to nervous system problems in his dogs such as leg weakness and uncoordinated movements. Dr. Mellanby concluded that most cereals contain a toxic substance that can affect the nervous system. He pointed out the connection of grains and legumes to pellagra, a niacin deficiency, lathyrism, which is immobility caused by bean toxins in the lathyrus family such as a certain type of sweet pea, and pernicious anemia which is related to a vitamin B12 deficiency. Each one of these diseases is most effectively treated with animal liver. And each one of these diseases can be produced in laboratory conditions by feeding whole grains.
The Anti-Scorbutic Vitamin and Your Teeth and Gums
Scurvy was made famous as a common disease among sailors. It occurred after long sea voyages when sailors had to subsist on dried foods including dried grain products such as hard tack. The symptoms of scurvy include soft and spongy gums which eventually lead to tooth loss, slow wound healing, poor bone formation, severe weakness, nausea and eventually death. Gum disease is a major factor in tooth loss as we age. We learned from dentist W.D. Miller that healthy gums protect teeth from tooth decay. Since tooth loss from gum disease is a symptom of scurvy, it is feasible that what causes and cures scurvy might cause and cure gum problems as well.
Researchers were excited to discover an animal model with which to practice scurvy experiments. Guinea pigs fed a high grain diet developed a condition that appears to be exactly the same as scurvy in humans. To cause scurvy, guinea pigs were fed mostly bran and oats. Another scurvy-producing diet consisted of whole grains like oats, barley, maize, and soy bean flour. An exclusive oatmeal diet would kill a guinea pig in 24 days from scurvy. This very same scurvy-inducing diet produced severe tooth and gum problems in guinea pigs as well.
That whole grains are the cause of scurvy sheds light on the severity of plant toxins found naturally in grains. Guinea pigs fed germinated oats and barley did not contract scurvy. This reveals that the sprouting process may disable anti-nutrients that cause scurvy. Research on scurvy eventually led to the discovery of the anti-scorbutic (anti-scurvy) vitamin which we know as vitamin C. Reintroducing vitamin C in the diet of guinea pigs with raw cabbage (sauerkraut would work for humans) or orange juice resolves the disease.
Some scurvy researchers suspected that the lack of vitamin C was not the essential cause of scurvy. Rather they believed that vitamin C protected against some injurious factor in the diet. Since a scurvy-inducing diet largely consisted of whole grains, perhaps the injurious factor is something in the grains. Today we know that grains contain numerous plant toxins and anti-nutrients including lectins and phytic acid.
Phytic acid is the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially the bran portion of grains and other seeds. It is found in significant amounts in grains, nuts, beans, seeds, and some tubers. Phytic acid contains the mineral phosphorus tightly bound in a snowflake-like molecule. In humans and animals with one stomach, the phosphorus is not readily bioavailable. In addition to blocking phosphorus availability, the “arms” of the phytic acid molecule readily bind with other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, making them unavailable as well.
Yet the negative effects of phytic acid can be significantly reduced with vitamin C. Adding vitamin C to the diet can significantly counteract phytic acid’s iron absorption blocking effect. This leaves us with compelling evidence that the symptoms of scurvy like soft and spongy gums leading to tooth loss are the result of a lack of vitamin C, and too many grains, or other phytic acid-rich foods.
Perhaps vitamin C’s remarkable ability to heal and prevent scurvy is because of its ability to aid in iron absorption which was disturbed by too many improperly prepared grains rich in phytic acid.
Giving rats and dogs a scurvy-producing diet did not lead to scurvy, it led to another disease, rickets. Rickets is a disease that is known for producing severely bowed legs in children. Other rickets symptoms include muscle weakness, bone pain or tenderness, skeletal problems and tooth decay. To produce rickets in the laboratory, dogs were fed oatmeal. Professor Edward Mellanby describes his findings of decades of research:
(More severe rickets developed when the diet consisted mainly of oatmeal, maize or whole wheat flour than when these substances were replaced by equal amounts of either white flour or rice, in spite of the fact that the former cereals contained more calcium and phosphorus than the latter.
The most severe rickets-producing diet was a mostly whole grain diet which included whole wheat, whole corn, and wheat gluten. Rickets has been identified as a disease of calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D metabolism. In one study, hospital cases of rickets fell greatly in June.
As previously mentioned, Activator X-rich butter was shown to prevent rickets. This is because Activator X would appear in high quantities in June grass-fed butter. Germination of oats itself did not reduce the rickets- producing effect of whole oats. But germination together with fermentation of whole grains greatly reduced the severity of rickets. On the rickets-producing diet, teeth become abnormal.
There is a known impairment of the ability for teeth to mineralize that is associated with rickets. In rare cases of rickets, some children’s teeth do not erupt. Rickets is cured or prevented by having adequate fat-soluble vitamin D in the diet. This is because vitamin D increases the utilization of phosphorous and calcium in diets with phytic acid, and without phytic acid.
Scurvy and rickets are both produced in laboratory experiments in different animals using a diet consisting largely of whole grains. The connection between scurvy and rickets is not a random coincidence; it has also been observed in humans. Dr. Thomas Barlow of England carefully studied rickets cases in children, and published a report in 1883 suggesting that scurvy and rickets are closely related. Infantile scurvy is also known as Barlow’s Disease.
Both scurvy and rickets are connected to serious problems with teeth and/or gums. It seems both possible and reasonable that whole grains can cause scurvy in the absence of vitamin C, and rickets in the absence of vitamin D.
Scurvy still occurs in modern times, and the cause is still the same. In one previously healthy individual, strictly following a macrobiotic diet nearly caused death from scurvy within one year. Her diet consisted mostly of whole brown rice and other freshly ground whole grains.