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About the Tribe
SWISS OF THE LOETSCHENTAL VALLEY
The Loetschental Valley, nearly a mile above sea level in an isolated part of
the Swiss Alps, had been for more than a dozen centuries the home of some
two thousand people when the Prices first visited in 1931. The people lived
in a series of small villages along a river that wound its way along the valley
floor. The completion of an eleven-mile tunnel shortly before had made the
valley easily accessible for the first time.
The people lived as their forebears had. Wooden buildings, some centu-
ries old, dotted the landscape, with mottoes expressive of spiritual values ar-
tistically carved in the timbers. Snow-capped mountains nearly enclosed the
valley, making it relatively easy to defend. Though many attempts had been
made, the people had never been conquered.
They had no physician, dentist, policeman, or jail. Sheep provided wool
for homespun clothes, and the valley produced nearly everything needed for
Price examined the teeth of all children in the valley between the ages of
seven and sixteen. Those still eating the primitive diet were nearly free of cavi-
ties- on the average, one tooth showing evidence of ever having had decay
was found for every three children examined.
Many young people examined had experienced a period of rampant tooth
decay that suddenly ceased, often having first lost teeth. All had left the valley
prior to this period and spent a year or two in some city. Most had never had
a decayed tooth before or since.
Tuberculosis at this time took more lives in Switzerland than any other
disease. Yet Swiss government officials reported that a recent inspection of the
valley had not revealed one single case. Astonishingly, a thorough study of
records of death certificates demonstrated clearly that no deaths had occurred
from tuberculosis in the history of the valley. This is evidence of profound
natural forces at work.
Upon returning to America, Price had samples of the dairy products sent
to him twice a month throughout the year. A pioneer in developing methods
for measuring fat-soluble vitamins in foods in the early 1920s, he had written
extensively on the subject and was a recognized authority. His analyses found
the samples higher in minerals and vitamins, particularly the fat-soluble
D-complex vitamins, than samples of commercial dairy products from the rest
of Europe and North America.
The vitamin D-complex helps regulate utilization of calcium and other
minerals. Price believed the D complex and another unidentified nutrient
he called "activator X" played crucial roles in the excellent general health,
immunity to dental disease, and splendid physical development of the people
of the Loetschental Valley. The quality of the foods was apparently respon-
sible for the presence of rich amounts of these nutrients.
The Swiss people Price had studied recognized the crucial importance of
their foods. The clergymen told of how they thanked God for the life-giving
qualities of butter and cheese made in June when the cows ate grass near the
snow line; their worship included lighting a wick in a bowl of the first butter
made after the cows reached this summer pasturage. Price's analyses showed
butter made then was highest in fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
This early-spring butter obviously had a special place in the culture; it was
in a sense considered a sacred food. I believe it is no coincidence that this
butter contained the same fat-soluble nutrients of animal source found in other
sacred foods in other traditional cultures and native hunter-gatherer cultures.
We will learn more about these foods and nutrients in ensuing chapters.
Spiritual values dominated life. Part of the national holiday celebration each
August was a song expressing the feeling of "one for all and all for one." Price
wrote: "One wonders if there is not something in the life-giving vitamins and
minerals of the food that builds not only great physical structures within which
their souls reside, but builds minds and hearts capable of a higher type of
manhood in which the material values of life are made secondary to individual
' He found evidence of this throughout the world.
Health conditions in the Loetschental Valley were in stark contrast with
those in the lower valleys and plains country in Switzerland--modernized ar-
eas where rampant dental decay, misshapen dental arches with crowding of
the teeth, and high incidence of tuberculosis and other chronic health prob-
lems were the norm. The people of the valley clearly were protected by the
quality of their native foods.
Although few of the other traditional groups Price studied used dairy prod-
ucts (those who did were certain African tribes, including the Masai), raw,
whole milk (both fresh and cultured), cheese, and butter were used in quan-
tity by the people of the Loetschental Valley. This milk, from healthy, well
exercised animals, was unpasteurized and unhomogenized. Such foods may
play a major role in a health-building diet for people genetically able to uit-
lize them well. For the people of the Loetschental, their milk products pro
vided fat-soluble nutrients and minerals essential in maintaining their health.
Importance of Animal Products
The land, much of it on steep hillsides rising from the river, produced
the winter's hay for the cattle and rye for the people. Most households kept
goats and cows; the animals grazed in summer on glacial slopes. Cheese
and butter were made from fresh summer milk for use all year, and garden
greens were grown in summer. Whole-rye bread, made in large, stone, com-
munity baking ovens, was a staple all year, as was milk. Most families ate
meat once a week, usually on Sunday, when an animal was slaughtered.
Bones and scraps were used to make soups during the week.
Importance of Plants
Transition to Industrialized Food Products
The Lötschental was likely first settled during the Roman period, but remained largely cut off from the outside world until the beginning of the twentieth century. The valley remained remote and difficult to access, especially during the winters, until the construction of the Lötschbergbahn, between 1907 and 1913, connected it to an international railway line.