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Pottenger’s Cats- Famous Raw Food Study
February 13, 2013
Francis M. Pottenger, Jr. (1901–1967) was the son of Francis M. Pottenger, Sr., the physician who co-founded the Pottenger Sanatorium for treatment of tuberculosis. He completed his residency in 1930 and became a full-time assistant at the Sanatorium. From 1932 to 1942, he also conducted what became known as the Pottenger Cat Study.
In 1940, he bought some of the cottages from the Monrovia sanatorium and founded the Francis M Pottenger, Jr. Hospital. Until closing in 1960, the 42-bed hospital specialized in treating non-tubercular diseases of the lung, especially asthma. One particular question that Pottenger addressed in his study had to do with the nutritive value of heat-labile elements — nutrients destroyed by heat and available only in raw foods.
He applied the principles of nutrition and endocrinology early in his practice. Dr. Pottenger was a pioneer in using crude extracts of adrenal cortex as supplements to treat allergic states and exhaustion. In his treatment of respiratory diseases such as TB, asthma, allergies and emphysema, he always highlighted proper diet based on the principles discovered by Weston Price. At his hospital, he served liberal amounts of liver, butter, cream and eggs to convalescing patients.
Pottenger used donated laboratory cats to test the potency of the adrenal extract hormones he was making. The adrenal glands of these cats were removed for the experiments and Pottenger noted that most of the cats died during or following the operation. He was feeding the cats a supposedly nutritive diet consisting of raw milk, cod liver oil and cooked meat scraps of liver, tripe, sweetbread, brains, heart and muscle.
When the number of donated cats exceeded the supply of food available, Pottenger began ordering raw meat scraps from a local meat packing plant, including organs, meat, and bone; and fed a separate group of cats from this supply. Within months this separate group appeared in better health than the cooked meat group. Their kittens were more energetic and, most interestingly, their post-operative death rate was lower. At a certain point, he decided to begin a controlled scientific study. Pottenger conducted studies involving approximately 900 cats over a period of ten years, with three generations of cats being studied.
In one study, one group of cats was fed a diet of two-thirds raw meat, one-third raw milk, and cod-liver oil while the second group was fed a diet of two-thirds cooked meat, one-third raw milk, and cod-liver oil. The cats fed the all-raw diet were healthy while the cats fed the cooked meat diet developed various health problems. By the end of the first generation the cats started to develop degenerative diseases and became quite lazy. By the end of the second generation, the cats had developed degenerative diseases by mid-life and started losing their coordination.
By the end of the third generation the cats had developed degenerative diseases very early in life and some were born blind and weak and had a much shorter life span. Many of the third generation cats couldn't even produce offspring. There was an abundance of parasites and vermin while skin diseases and allergies increased from an incidence of five percent in normal cats to over 90 percent in the third generation of deficient cats. Kittens of the third generation did not survive six months. Bones became soft and pliable and the cats suffered from adverse personality changes. Males became docile while females became more aggressive.
The cats suffered from most of the degenerative diseases encountered in human medicine and died out totally by the fourth generation. At the time of Pottenger's Study the amino acid taurine had been discovered but had not yet been identified as an essential amino acid for Cats. Today many cats thrive on a cooked meat diet where taurine has been added after cooking. The deficient diets lacked sufficient taurine to allow the cats to properly form protein structures and resulted in the health effects observed. Pottenger himself concluded that there was likely an "as yet unknown" protein factor that may have been heat sensitive.
In another study, dubbed the "Milk Study," the cats were fed 2/3 milk and 1/3 meat. All groups were fed raw meat with different groups getting raw, pasteurized, evaporated, sweetened condensed or raw metabolized vitamin D milk. The cats on raw milk were the healthiest while the rest exhibited varying degrees of health problems similar to the previous cooked meat study.
This particular Pottenger cat study has been cited by advocates of raw milk as evidence that it is likely healthier for humans than pasteurized milk.