McCarrison Society

Health Through Nutrition, A Birthright


Francis M Pottenger, Jr.



These short abstracts from the biography section of Pottenger’s Cats gives an indication of his family’s and his ethos, passion for the importance of nutrition to health, and wider curiosity as to the long term effects of changing diet on human form.

Pottenger’s father recognised the importance of nutrition and was likely highly motivated by the death of his first wife from tuberculosis.

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Pottenger Jr. clearly had a deep understanding of the ability of nutrition to improve human health and well-being. He was clearly frustration at the lack of wider comprehension of the fundamental importance of diet to health, which view was shared by other visionaries including McCarrsion, Albrecht, Howard, Sinclair, Mellanby, Weston Price and all those we refer to.

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His observations of cats lead him to recognise that food changed humans in wider ways including their physical structure, which was also observed by McCarrison Weston Prices and Albrecht in their research.

The observations below are truly thought provoking, and logical why at an evolutionary level would food not affect stature and wider function. Research in the UK in the 1930s showed better diet increased health. We have seen big height increases in some populations over the last 50 years.

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Discussion as to Pottenger’s achievements and the issues surrounding unpasturised milk

Wikipedia entry

Pottenger’s Cats

Video Pottengers CatsVideo may be viewed  (Click here)

Pottenger noted that cats fed a raw diet exhibited better health than those fed quality cooked food. He conducted trials feeding various forms of milk plus a basal diet with varying proportions of raw food and observed the outcomes over several generations.

He also reversed the process over several generations to see if the skeletal and health changes brought about by poor diet could be reversed; they were in limited cases but the outcome was not guaranteed, and generally the cats at the end were not the same or as healthy as the cats at the start.

Interestingly the ground in the cages of cats fed more processed diets was less fertile than that fed whole food diets. Assuming faeces was removed from cages this effect is likely mainly due to soluble factors in urine. Were the minerals bound in such a way as to unabsorbable by the cats, or did the urine contain some product that inhibited plant growth.

This important work that lasted over ten years, fits in with the observations of McCarrison in his research into the effects of a European Diet, and the relative nutritional value of refined flour, autoclaved foods on rats, and that of Weston Price comparing the effects of white flour, white flour plus bran, and whole fresh ground wheat on mice.

Cats are obligate carnivores so likely more sensitive to dietary deprivation including of long chain Omega 3 and 6 due to lower desaturase 6 function, as well as inability to make taurine.

However the overall results observed by McCarrison Pottenger and Weston Price are similar; deficiency of key nutrients leads to failure to reproduce; exhibition of animal equivalent of western diseases; degradation and changes in bone structure / the creation of an ‘economy’ skeleton; and behavioural change particularly increased aggression.

Watson P, Diet and Skin Disease in Dogs and Cats  J. Nutr. December 1, 1998 vol. 128  no. 12  2783S-2789S


Pottengers Cats cover

Pottenger’s book is a thought provoking read and available at the Price Pottenger Foundation and other booksellers including Amazon


Pottenger apparently publish in the order of 50 papers.

This one highlights his key findings on the effect of poor nutrition of cats over several generations.

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Abstracted from UCLA the FULL copy of original paper with Figs. which may be found here

Francis M. Pottenger, Jr., M.D., F.A.C.P., Monrovia, Calif.

“WE PERFORMED a feeding experiment with cats in our laboratory a few years ago to determine the effect of heat-treated foods upon growth and development. This experiment stemmed from the fact that we suffered steady mortality among the eats on which we were performing adrenalectomies for the purpose of standardizing adrenal cortical material. We were feeding these animals the meat scraps from the Sanatorium, together with raw milk and cod-liver oil. The eats were poor operative risks although our- technique was good. In time, more cats had been given to us than we were able to feed on the scraps from the Sanatorium. We placed an order for raw-meat scraps at the market where the Sanatorium meats were bought; these scraps included muscle, bone, and viscera. This raw meat was fed each day to the same group of eats. Within a very short time the eats in those pens survived the operations, the unoperated cats appeared to be in better health, and the kit-
tens born were vigorous. The contrast in apparent health between the cats in the pens fed on raw-meat scraps and those fed on the cooked-meat scraps was so startling that we decided to do a feeding experiment.

The cats were kept in open-air pens with a yard 4 feet wide, 7 feet high, and 12 feet long, one end having a roof, and a floor with bedding. A routine procedure was followed with all eats. They were weighed, numbered, and described. In the case of donated cats, all possible information was obtained from donors regarding the history of development and the type of food the eat had received before being placed, in our pens. Clinical notes, including weights, were kept. Each kitten was described and weighed on the day of birth, giving parentage, behavior of the mother during the birth, and other pertinent data, and clinical notes continued on all viable kittens. In-the case of death an autopsy was performed, cataloguing gross and microscopic findings.- Calcium and phosphorus determinations were done on the femur.
At the close of the experiment, which ran for ten years, all remaining animals were autopsied.                                                                                 

In the first series of experiments, one group of cats was fed a diet of two-thirds raw meat, one-third raw milk, and cod-liver oil. The second group was fed a diet of two-thirds cooked meat, one-third raw milk, and cod-liver oil. Within the ten-year period, approximately nine hundred cats were studied; upon nearly 600 of whom we have complete records. The amount of data accumulated is large. In this paper only the general resume of predominating findings  is presented.                                                                                ,

The cats receiving raw meat and raw milk (Figs. 1 and 2) reproduced in homogeneity from one generation to the next. Abortion was uncommon, litters averaged five, and the mother cats nursed their young in a normal manner. The eats in these pens had good resistance to vermin, infections, and parasites. They possessed excellent equilibrium; they behaved in a predictable manner.

Their organic development was complete and functioned normally. Cats receiving the cooked-meat scraps (Fig. 3). reproduced a heterogeneous strain of kittens, each kitten of the litter being different in skeletal pattern”. Abortion in these eats was common, running about 25 per cent in the first generation to about 70 percent in the second generation. Deliveries were in general difficult, many cats dying in labor. Mortality rates of the kittens were high, frequently due to the failure of the mother to lactate (Fig, 4),. The

kittens were often too frail to nurse. At times the mother would steadily decline in health following the birth of the kittens, dying from some obscure tissue exhaustion about three months after, delivery. Others experienced increasing difficulty with subsequent pregnancies. Some failed to become pregnant. For all breeding purposes, except special studies not reported here, we used a normal, raw-meat-fed male of proved fecundity, thus eliminating the possibility of male sterility.                                            ‘                         •

Cooked-meat-fed eats were irritable. The females, were dangerous to, handle, occasionally viciously biting the keeper. The males were more docile, often to the point of being unaggressive. Sex interest was slack or perverted. Vermin and intestinal parasites abounded. Skin lesions and allergies were .frequent, being progressively worse from one generation to the next. Pneumonia and empyema were among the principal causes of natural death among, the adult eats. Diarrhea, followed by pneumonia,, took a heavy toll of the kittens. Osteomyelitis was also both common and often fatal. Cardiac lesions, some ascertained clinically during life, were frequent. Hyperopia and myopia, thyroid disease, nephritis, hepatitis, orchitis, oophoritis, paralysis, meningitis, cystitis, arthritis, and many other degenerative lesions familiar in human medicine were observed.

Of the eats maintained entirely on the cooked-meat diet, with raw milk, the kittens of the third generation (Pigs. 5 and 6) were so degenerated that none of them survived the sixth month of life, thereby terminating the strain.

One group of cats was fed first on raw meat, then placed on a. cooked-meat diet for six months, and then returned to a raw-meat diet. “When females of this group became pregnant, their kittens suffered some of the afore-mentioned stigmas, although the females themselves appeared to be in good health. Their succeeding litters would show irregularities that tended to lessen in intensity for the first two or three years, and then to increase again. The generations following improved as long as they’ received the raw-meat diet. Their resistance tot disease, greatly diminished when the cooked-meat diet was administered, gradually improved upon their return to the raw.-meat diet.

They would partially maintain their skeletal form, hut their calcification would continue to diminish (Pigs. 7 and 8). Their reproductive efficiency would be injured from the standpoint of the size and vitality of their kittens, and was particularly noticeable in the failure of the subsequent litters to conform to a homogeneous pattern.

Cats of the first and second generation cooked-meat-fed groups were returned to a raw-meat diet. These were classified as “regenerating” animals of the first and second order, first, second, third, and fourth generations.

It apparently, requires four generations for either order to regenerate. However, because of lack of reproductive efficiency, it is only the occasional animal that returns to the normal homogeneous pattern noted before deficiency was imposed on the strain of cats. Improvement in resistance to disease is noted in the second generation regenerating cat. Allergic manifestations persist. Reproduction is erratic. In the third generation regenerating animal, skeletal and soft tissue changes are still noticeable to a lesser degree. In the fourth generation, the occasional animal appears to have returned to normal skeletal and tissue form.

At autopsy, cooked-meat-fed females frequently presented the picture of ovarian atrophy and uterine congestion, whereas the males often showed failure in the development of active spermatogenesis. The long bones tended to increase in length in these animals, while diminishing in diameter. It was common to find the hind legs increasing in length over the,-forelegs. The trabeeulation of the hones became coarser and showed evidence of less calcium (Fig. 9). In the third generation of cooked-meat-fed animals, some of the bones became as soft as rubber and a true condition of osteogenesis imperfecta was present (Pigs. 10 and 11).

In the cooked-meat-fed animals, visceral volume- decreased, which was evident from the size of the thoracic and abdominal cavities. However, the males on the sweetened condensed milk were overly fat and showed distended.

Before I describe the dental conditions that obtained in the cats on the raw- and cooked-meat diets, I wish to state briefly that we did three other series of feeding experiments. In these series we used the following kinds of milk: raw milk, raw metabolized vitamin D milk, pasteurized milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk (Figs. 12, 18, 14 and 15). Roughly, our results corresponded with those of the previous experiments; animals on raw milk and raw meat reproduced a homogeneous strain, the usual causes of natural death being old age or injuries from fighting.                                    ‘

The male cats fed on metabolized vitamin D milk (from cattle fed irradiated; yeast) and raw meat showed osseous disturbances very like those on pasteurized milk, while the female seemed unaffected.

However, an interesting, circumstance occurred in the males fed on this milk. Young males did not live beyond the second month, and adult males died within ten months. The most notable fact was that there is a tendency for the calcium’ phosphorus ratio to become unbalanced, approaching 2.5 to 1, as compared with a normal of 2 to 1. (Tables I, H, and m.) This was accompanied by osseous changes, including the development of rickets in certain of the young animals. As was pointed out by Becks4 in Ms experimental work with dogs, natural cod-liver oil did not appear to bother the cat.          .

The cats fed pasteurized milk as their principal item of diet, and raw
meat as a partial diet, showed lessened reproductive efficiency in the females, and some skeletal changes, while the kittens presented deficiencies in development. Cats fed evaporated milk showed even more damage. However, the most marked deficiencies occurred in the sweetened condensed milk fed cats. We believe that the excessive carbohydrate in this milk was responsible for much of this heavy damage.

Later, we made a comparative study of several types of milk on white
rats, the general results of which coincided with those found in the cats. Among the findings is the change in trabeculation of the hones, which was well demonstrated in the elbow (Figs. 16A, 16B, and 160).                         .                 .

Of particular interest are the dental structures of these animals (Figs. 17A, 17B, 170, ISA, 18B, 180, 19A, 19/1, and 190). The cats fed on the raw-meat diet from generation ‘to generation maintained a regular, broad face with prominent malar and orbital arches, adequate nasal cavities, broad dental arches-and regular dentition. The configuration of the female skull is distinct and different from the male, and each maintained the normal outlines. The membranes- were firm and of a good, pink color, with no evidence of infection or degenerative change. In older cats, particularly the males that had engaged in much fighting, the incisors had often been lost; but in raw-meat-fed eats of raw meat-fed ancestry, gingivitis or paradentosis was seldom seen.

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