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Pottenger's Cats: What Can We Learn About Human Nutrition From a Study on Cats?

Pottenger's Cats: What Can We Learn About Human Nutrition From a Study on Cats?

This is the first in a series of articles exploring how poor health is compounded over generations (due to epigenetics) and how, as humans continue to shift away from their ancestral diet, their health deteriorates. Processed foods, climate change agenda driven plant-based meats and nutrient-deficient foods are all key contributors to this decline. To help frame this discussion, it is first important to know where our understanding of generational health came from - Pottenger's Cats.

A Background on Pottenger's Cats

Pottenger's Cats is a scientific study conducted by physician Dr Francis Marion Pottenger Jr. that explored how poor diet affected cats and their offspring over multiple generations. To test this, he ran a ten year study (spanning 1932 - 1942) that involved 900 cats, divided into two groups - one fed a diet of raw food and the other a diet of heat-processed food.

Findings From Pottenger's Cats

Simply put, Dr Pottenger found that cats subsisting on a diet of raw food maintained excellent health, whereas cats subsisting on a diet of heat-processed food suffered a dramatic decline in health. Moreover, Dr Pottenger observed that the degenerative health of the cats on a heat-processed diet appeared to be passed from generation to generation, to the point where the cats became extinct in the fourth generation.

Cats following a raw diet showed the following qualities (according to Price Pottenger):

  • Gentle dispositions
  • Sound bone structure and density
  • Wide palates that were able to accommodate teeth
  • A lack of parasites and disease
  • Shiny fur
  • The absence of reproductive disorders
  • Superior overall health



Cats following a heat-processed diet showed the following qualities (according to Price Pottenger):

  • Arthritis
  • Behavioural abnormalities
  • Sterility (lack of fertility)
  • Skin disorders
  • Allergies
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Skeletal deformities
  • Dental deterioration
  • Decrease in height
  • Poorly formed skulls
  • Inferior overall health

Images from the Pottenger's Cats Study highlighting the comparisons between cats fed raw & cooked food.


How Soon Did Cats Health Decline in Pottenger's Cats Study?

The cats who followed a heat-processed diet showed physical degeneration as soon as the second generation, while in the third generation, they were unable to reproduce, which ultimately led to them becoming extinct in the fourth generation.

It is also worth noting that plants were grown in the pens where the cats were kept. Inside the enclosures where cats following a raw diet were kept, plants grew and thrived. Whereas the cats who were fed the heat-processed diet, only weeds grew.

What Can We Surmise From Pottenger's Cats About Humans?

At face value, it may seem odd to surmise anything from feline nutrition about humans. But Pottenger's Cats highlights two critically important aspects of health.

  1. The importance of a nutrient-dense ancestral diet
  2. The relationship between diet and epigenetics

The Pottenger's Cats study is one of the most powerful lessons from the past on ancestral nutrition. This insight may provide answers for future generational health and serves as a dire warning for those who do not question philanthropic megalomaniacs who think plant-based meat is the solution to climate change.

To put this into context: would you continue to eat processed and synthetic foods if you knew they would not only harm your health, but your children's health and their children's health? Generational nutrition potentially has more of an impact than you realise.

How Pottenger's Cats Highlights the Importance of Ancestral Eating

The term 'raw food' with respect to Pottenger's Cats, is essentially an 'ancestral eating plan' in line with the species of animal. In other words, 'raw food' is equivalent to the optimal, most nutrient-dense human diet - the diet that contains the vitamins, minerals and macronutrients humans require to thrive.

Pottenger's Cats shows that when an animal moves away from its ancestral eating plan, its biology changes for the worse. It suggests that the same is true when humans abandon their ancestral diet.

Pottenger’s Cats also highlights another important aspect of nutrition - how the cooking process (specifically heat) can compromise the nutritional quality of certain foods. As obligate carnivores, cats must eat raw meat to survive and thrive. Critically, they require the essential amino acid called taurine.

At the time of the Pottenger’s Cats study, taurine had not been identified as essential for cats. However, with the benefit of hindsight, it is now apparent that taurine is a ‘heat labile’ amino acid. The term ‘heat labile’ refers to something susceptible to destruction or alteration at high temperatures. So, in the context of Pottenger’s Cats, this means that the heat-processed food contained far less taurine than the raw food and explains why cats on the heat-processed diet suffered physical degeneration as soon as the second generation.

It highlights an important consideration for the human diet and how we must be careful to preserve essential amino acids, fatty acids, minerals and vitamins in our foods.

While cats must eat a raw diet, this does not mean humans have to. Humans have a different dental and gastrointestinal adaptation compared with cats. Through the discovery of fire between 200-500,000 years ago, we have adapted to be able to process foods differently for safety and nutrient activation.

Certain plants and meats can be dangerous when not chemically or physically broken down.

Pottenger's Cats and Epigenetics

Perhaps the most important finding in Pottenger's Cats study, however, is that the health problems associated with improper nutrition are compounded over generations and present a systemic risk to the species (as was the case in Pottenger's Cats study where the cats became extinct in four generations of poor eating).

Or, as the Price Pottenger Organisation puts it, "It proved that the physical degeneration associated with a mother's poor (cooked) diet could be inherited by offspring and was, in a way, remembered by the genes through multiple generations".

This is the concept of epigenetics.


What is Epigenetics?

According to the CDC, epigenetics refers to "how your behaviours and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence."

What Pottenger's Cats Taught Us About Human Nutrition

Pottenger's Cats study revealed, "the power that environmental factors, including diet, have on our health and the health of future generations". This discovery led to "an idea of even greater significance - that by controlling our environment the way nature intended, we control our health". This is why Pottenger's Cats is such an important study in the context of human health.

What Does it Mean to Control the Environment?

This concept of controlling the environment to control health is foundational to us at Nutrition Diagnostics. Our tailored health programs are rooted in this idea.

The term 'controlling the environment' simply refers to eliminating things that cause the body harm and maximising things that do good in the body. Said differently, it acknowledges that the body has a framework for optimal health. This framework requires a delicate balance of inputs. When met, these inputs allow the body to function optimally; when not met, the body cannot function properly, leading to poor health. The control points are what we call the six subclinical defects. In order to achieve this, health model thinking must strategise a measurable plan to balance body chemistry.

Our tailored health programs revolve around adhering to the body's framework for health. But what is the body's ideal framework for health, and how do we know what the correct inputs are? This can only be determined by analysing body chemistry.


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