According to a recent study on the standard American diet published in the BMJ Open, Americans get 57.9% of their calorie intake from ultra-processed foods.

The study, conducted on 9,000 participants, also found that a further 29.6% came from minimally-processed foods in the form of meat, plants, eggs and pasta.

That’s almost 90% of all food consumed that has been tainted or processed in some way, leaving a meagre 10% to provide the body with the nutrients needed to keep us strong and healthy.

For many years, scientists have studied the detrimental effects of the long-term consumption of processed foods.

Probably the most famous was the study carried out by one of the pioneers of modern nutrition, Weston Price, also the author of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (1939).

In the 1930s, Price documented the changes in health of indigenous populations after processed foods were introduced into the communities he was studying in Africa and Polynesia.

His studies, including over 15,000 photos, was widely applauded by his peers, but even he had little idea of the long term detrimental effects of processed foods, not just on the individual, but on the genetic material the subjects passed on to their future generations.

That discovery was left to another bright young doctor called Francis Pottenger, who conducted a 10-year study on four generations of over 900 cats.

The Pottenger’s Cats study conducted between 1932 and 1942 scientifically proved the cumulative degenerative effects of a poor diet of cooked or bio-actively “dead” foods on the DNA or genetic material of cats and other mammals.

Dr Pottenger was a research scientist who worked with laboratory cats, performing operations to remove their adrenal glands. Cats will die without their adrenal glands, so product manufacturers used cats to calibrate the strength of their adrenal extracts to determine how much of the product was needed to keep the cats alive.

In the process, Dr Pottenger fed his cats a diet of raw milk, cod liver oil and cooked meat scraps, which was considered the optimum diet. However, he was concerned by the cat’s poor postoperative survival rates and by the health issues he started noticing in the offspring of those cats.

At one point, Dr Pottenger began ordering raw meat scraps from a local meat packing plant as a means of feeding his large cat population.

Ever the scientist, he decided to separate a group of cats and feed them the raw meat scraps instead of the cooked meat to see if it would have any effect on their health and vitality.

It did!

Intrigued by the initial results, Dr Pottenger then devised a series of controlled experiments along with Dr Alvin Ford, a professor of pathology at the University of Southern California and pathologist at the Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, United States.

In the first experiment, the cats were divided into two groups. A control group of cats was fed a raw food diet composed of raw meat, raw milk and cod liver oil.

A second group was fed a diet composed of cooked meat and processed milk, plus the cod liver oil.

The following results occurred over four generations of cats:

Control group cats fed raw food diet

The control group of cats fed a raw food diet remained healthy and gave birth to healthy kittens with each succeeding generation.

Each generation grew up to be of uniform size and development, with normal fur, tissues and skeletal structure.

Calcium and phosphorous levels in their bones were normal.

Their organs and nervous system functioned normally and their coordination was perfect.

They were very resistant to infections. Their mental state was stable and friendly, and you could play with them.

There were no birth complications and nursing was normal. The cats gave birth to an average of five kittens, each one weighing roughly 119 grams.

Cooked foods diet (CFD) group of cats

The CFD cats gave birth to healthy-appearing offspring in the first generation. However, they developed diseases and illnesses near the end of their lives.

These diseased conditions developed midlife in the second generation of offspring.

The third generation began manifesting unhealthy conditions at the beginning of their lives and many died before six months of age.

There was no fourth generation of CFD cats. No CFD cats of the third generation could give birth to healthy offspring. Either the third generation parents were sterile or the fourth generation cats died before birth.

The poor health conditions included increasingly poor eyesight – nearsightedness or farsightedness, heart problems, thyroid and bladder problems, nervous system problems, meningitis and paralysis, infections of various organs, ovary and testis problems, liver problems, inflammations, uterine congestion and atrophy of various organs.

A second experiment was conducted on the surviving CFD cats. The cats were fed the same raw food diet being fed to the control group of cats to see what would happen.

It took about four generations of the raw food diet for the offspring of the sick cats to return to full health.

These studies are invaluable as they redefine our understanding of genetic disease, and it leaves me wondering what percentage of congenital defects are down to a history of bad nutrition and lifestyle choices, rather than bad DNA.

So, the implication is that an exclusively cooked or processed foods diet can cause degeneration in body systems, which gets carried over and multiplied in our offspring.

The upside is much, or all, of this degeneration is reversible over time when we revert back to a natural, healthy diet.

Additional supporting studies

A similar study was done using pigs. Again, one group of pigs was given a diet of processed foods. And once again, they had health problems and deformed offspring.

However, with pigs, it only took one generation of healthy eating for the offspring to be “normal” again.

So, it appears that different animal species, eating different foods, have different rates of degeneration and regeneration due to the introduction of processed foods.

But all of them degenerated when fed cooked food diets. That is the one constant, the degeneration of the body, the mind and emotions with the introduction of processed foods.

How do we correlate these studies with human health?

It’s unclear how many generations it takes for human body functions and systems to degenerate and fail to the degree of Pottenger’s cats.

And of course, the average human diet is far removed from that of an experimental study group with controlled variables.

But we do already see signs of this happening in the general population.

Each human generation being born today has more complications and health issues at younger ages than previous generations.

Children are developing diseases that were previously only seen in older people. And most of us have heard the statistics on the rising infertility rates in both men and women.

Dr Pottenger himself said, “While no attempt will be made to correlate the changes in the animals studied with malformations found in humans, the similarity is so obvious that parallel pictures will suggest themselves.”

I find my own conclusion echoed in an ancient Essene passage translated from the Dead Sea Scrolls written 2,500 years ago: “Live only by the fire of life, and prepare not your foods with the fire of death, which kills your foods, your bodies and your souls also.”

Liam Harkness is a qualified sports therapist with certificates in Active Isolated Stretching and Strength-ening (AIS), visceral manipulation and holistic lifestyle coaching. His two current goals are to help Malaysian athletes beat Singapore and help combat the rise of non-communicable diseases in the country. For further information, e-mail The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.