Sunday, November 27, 2011

I'm Thankful for Wise Traditions, Past and Present

by Chris Masterjohn

Last year around this time, I culled a few pearls of wisdom from folks much wiser than I am to provide a reflection on the holiday of Thanksgiving and the actual practice of giving thanks, for which the holiday is named.  I can't top that this year, so if you missed it or you'd like to read it again, I'll just provide you with the link:

One thing I can do this year is give my account of something I'm very thankful for: the annual Wise Traditions conference, and all the wonderful people it has brought into my life.

This year I attended Wise Traditions for the ninth time and spoke there for the sixth time.  I first attended the conference in 2003 and have been there every year since.  I first spoke there in 2006, have spoken there every year since, and haven given nine talks there in total.  If you're interested, you can purchase recordings of my talks here and here.

The 2003 conference was awesome.  Suze Fisher, a Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) chapter leader and a good friend of mine, wrote up a good summary of the talks for the email discussion group, Native Nutrition.  You can find her account as well as all of the responses to it here.  I enjoyed the talks, food, and activities, but it was the friendships I formed that had the greatest impact on my personal and academic development in the years since.  

I'm especially thankful for the friendship that Suze and I formed.  Suze convinced me to become a WAPF chapter leader, and gave me a lot of assistance in this process.  I did this for several years, until I started grad school.  It was my contribution to the chapter leaders discussion list that led Sally Fallon to ask me to write an article on vitamin A and bodybuilding.  Next it was the China Study, then dioxins, then the fat-soluble vitamins, and the rest is history.  It was writing those articles and developing new hypotheses I had no means of testing that led me to pursue a career in research.  I can thank, in part, Wise Traditions, Suze, and Sally for the cascade of events that brought me to where I am today.

The demographic and vibe of the conference varies each year, largely dependent on its location.  The highest-energy vibe I experienced was at the 2008 conference in San Francisco.  

This year the conference was in Dallas.  Unfortunately I had a commitment that prevented me from arriving earlier than Saturday afternoon, so I feel like I missed half of it and didn't see anywhere near as many talks as I would have liked to.  I was thankful, however, that having to bump my talk from 9:30 AM to 3:15 PM meant I didn't have to compete with Paul Jaminet's talk.  I'm just bummed I didn't get to spend more than five minutes with Paul.

I arrived just in time for lunch, which I shared with Jan Petersen, who trekked in all the way from Denmark, and Maria Minno, a WAPF chapter leader from Gainsville, Florida.  Then I saw Denise Minger's talk.

I pity da fool who didn't laugh like crazy at Denise's phenomenally funny presentation.  I'll let Laura Schoenfeld of the Ancestralize Me! blog explain:
Her talk at the WAPF conference this year was not only extremely educational and a great resource for someone like me who constantly deals with the vegetarian argumentalists, but it was HILARIOUS. Seriously, if this girl wasn’t so damn good at epidemiological research critiques, I would say she should be a stand up comedian.
Denise also has a remarkable ability to engage her audience and stimulate discussion.  There were hundreds of ex-vegetarians in the room, and they and the others had plenty of questions, comments, and words of appreciation to contribute once she opened the floor.

After Denise gave her talk, I gave my "fat myths" talk, Good Fats, Bad Fats: Separating Fact From Fiction.  Here's a quick rundown:
  • Clinical trials suggest that saturated fat does not contribute to heart disease, that polyunsaturated fatty acids (especially of the omega-6 variety) might, and that they almost certainly contribute to cancer.

  • The body uses arachidonic acid, found in animal fats, to induce, suppress, or resolve inflammation as needed.  Food proteins are supposed to cross the intestinal barrier and interact with the immune system, and it is the metabolites of arachidonic acid and vitamin A that create the unique environment needed to allow the immune system to respond with tolerance to the food protein rather than intolerance.  I reviewed evidence from animal models suggesting that arachidonic acid metabolites protect against food intolerances, celiac disease, and autoimmune conditions.

  • Dietary fat is needed for the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, and the saturated and monounsaturated fats are most effective, possibly because they are less likely to promote oxidative stress in the intestine than polyunsaturated fats.
I got a lot of positive feedback on this talk, and I apparently managed to make it kind of funny as well.  You can purchase the DVD here, and a written version of it will eventually make its way into the Wise Traditions journal and the WestonAPrice.Org website.

Dr. Mercola gave the banquet speech that night.  He presented a general overview of his view of health and related sociological issues, and he managed to present it in an engaging and entertaining way.  He was especially masterful at dealing with some unexpected A/V gaffes to his advantage, making the evening quite a delight.

Sunday morning I saw Sally Pacholok speak about vitamin B12 and then saw Matt Stone's talk about metabolism.  I had to wait in a long line to ask him a few questions.

When it was finally my turn, Matt dodged behind the podium.  But he couldn't hide there for long.  Debbie Young caught some of this on video.  I asked Matt a technical question about normalizing the metabolic rate and a diagnostic question about why some of the natives Price studied had to eat moose thyroid to conceive children.  Then came the moment of truth.

While I was standing in line, Matt mentioned his Hot Chicks Club, dedicated to women who had improved their body temperature by normalizing their metabolic rate.  So I asked the question we were all dying to know the answer to: does the Hot Chicks Club have an annual conference?  Matt suggested it might in the future.

On Sunday afternoon I gave my vitamin K talk, which was basically a review of my 2007 activator X article and some of the more recent research on vitamin K2.  I got to see Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures give the closing speech, with a special honor for Michael Schmidt, an amazing man who recently completed a 37-day hunger strike in defense of raw milk rights.

The best part of the conference, as has always been the case in the past, was forming friendships with more amazing people.

Here I am with Matt Stone, Rob Archangel, Aaron Fontaine, and Jonathan Driaza.  I first met Jonathan at last year's Wise Traditions conference, and I knew Rob A from the comments of this and other blogs.  We had a good time hanging out together.

I got to meet Matt's friend Pippa, too.  

And of course, who wouldn't want to hang out with Grass-Fed Momma?  On the right, Matt's making a "W" for "Weston," giving props to "Pappa P."

Shilpi and Amit Mehta were among the substantial contingent of folks I met who had also attended the first annual Ancestral Health Symposium.  On Sunday I had lunch with them, Liz Wolfe of the Cave Girl Eats blog, and Laura Schoenfeld of the Ancestralize Me! blog.  There is something about the wonderful company of Shilpi and Amit that causes me to talk about politics and history.  We had a great conversation about the philosophical foundations of the nutritional prevention of infections on the one hand and those of antibiotics on the other, and the relation of these approaches to the classical liberalism of Britain and America and the contrasting violent ideology of Nazi Germany.  I'll write a blog post expanding on this, "How the Nazis Conquered Cod Liver Oil," soon.

There's something about the great company of Liz and Laura that leads to inappropriate tweeting, but also plenty of brainstorming about how to forge further alliances between the Weston Price and Paleo perspectives.  Laura's at the forefront of this right now, and I'll allow her to reveal some of her new ideas on her own blog.

Laura's mom Pam took Laura and me out for dinner Sunday night, which is becoming an annual tradition.  A pretty wise one, too.  I gave Pam a ride home from from Virginia to New Jersey at my first Wise Traditions conference, so ending the conference with Pam one way or another is an established tradition by now.  Last year we had dinner with Stephan Guyenet and Jeremy Landen, which was a blast.  Laura and Pam make great dinner mates.  I especially love hearing Pam speak so much praise about Stephan and hearing Laura speak so much praise about Liz Wolfe and Denise Minger.  I really appreciate people who appreciate other people.

After the conference I got to spend some more time with Kat Garson, Denise Minger, and Jan Petersen.  Thanks to Jan, I even got to take a trip to the zoo!

Overall, it was a great time, and I'm incredibly thankful for all the wonderful people I got to meet and spend time with.  I only hope I can do them better justice in the future, as this post is quite definitely incomplete.

You can purchase recordings of the conference here.  If you attended, please help make next year's conference even better by filling out the evaluation form with brutal honesty and with suggestions for next year's theme and speakers.

A lot more went down at the conference than I've been able to convey here, including many talks I couldn't see, and many more great people I wasn't able to enumerate, so I'll end with a list of other accounts of Wise Traditions.  If you wrote a post I missed or know of someone who did, please link to it in the comments so I can add it to the list.

Kombucha Kamp: Video: Food Rebels TV Recaps the Weston A. Price Mythbusters Conference
Farm Food Blog: Alice in the Wonderland of Processed Food

Read more about the author, Chris Masterjohn, here.


  1. Chris,
    My wife and I wanted to say hello at the conference this year, but had our hands full with our 14-month old. You seemed pretty occupied as well.
    We were definitely thankful to get to go this year (we're local to Dallas), and thankful it had such great speakers, such as yourself.
    We appreciate all your hard work, and we will make every effort to attend next year in Santa Clara.

  2. Wowza. Chris, if it means you'll continue to mention my food-blog-that's-not-actually-about-food in the same general vicinity as the more respectable folk writing about such things as 1) science and 2) ancestral wisdom, I'll continue to embarrass myself via Twitter.

    Chirp, chirp - and thanks for being a force in this movement.


  3. So what has happened to Dr Mary Enig, is she still fighting the good fight?

  4. This is really good blog for me. I am here to know about the Vitamina company profile. Please do share some information for me.

  5. It certainly looks and sounds like a great event! I just love the way you deliver power packed information with a little bit of wit. Great blog and I'm looking forward for more.


To create a better user experience for everyone, comments are now moderated. Please allow up to one business day for your comment to post. In order to avoid the appearance of spam, please avoid posting links, especially to commercial destinations, and using all-caps.