Characteristics of primitive and modernized dietaries
IF PRIMITIVE races have been more efficient than modernized groups in the matter of preventing degenerative processes, physical, mental and moral, it is only because they have been more efficient in complying with Nature's laws. We have two procedures that we can use for evaluating their programs: first, the interpretation of their data in terms of our modern knowledge; and second, the clinical application of their procedures to our modern social problems. Specifically, since the greater success of the primitives in meeting Nature's laws has been based primarily on dietary procedures, it becomes desirable first, to evaluatetheir dietary programs on the basis of known biologic requirements for comparison with the foods of our modern civilization; and second, to test their primitive nutritional programs by applying their equivalents to our modern families.
The advance in our knowledge of body-building and body-repairing materials from a biochemical standpoint makes it possible even with our limited knowledge of organic catalysts, to draw comparisons between the primitive and modernized dietaries. If we use the generally accepted minimal and optimal quantities of the various minerals and vitamins required, as indicated by Sherman, (1) we shall have at once a yardstick for evaluating the primitive dietaries.
Of the eighteen elements of which the human body is composed, all of which are presumably essential, several are needed in very small quantities. A few are required in liberal quantities. The normal adult needs to receive from the foods eaten one-half to one gram of calcium or lime per day. Few people receive more than one-half of the minerals present in the food. The requirements of phosphorus are approximately twice this amount. Of iron we need from one-seventh to one-third of a gram per day. Smaller amounts than these are required of several other elements. In order to utilize these minerals, and to build and maintain the functions of various organs, definite quantities of various organic catalysts which act as activating substances are needed. These include the known and unknown vitamins.
Unlike some experimental animals human beings have not the ability to create some special chemical substances (not elements) such as vitamins within their bodies. Several animals have this capacity. For example, scurvy, which is due to a lack of vitamin C, cannot be produced readily in rats because rats can manufacture vitamin C. Similarly, rickets cannot be produced easily in guinea pigs, because they can synthesize vitamin D. The absence of vitamin D and adequate minerals produces rickets in young human beings. Neither rickets nor scurvy can be produced readily in dogs because of the dogs' capacity to synthesize both vitamins C and D. We are not so fortunate. Similarly, the absence of vitamin B (B1) produces in birds and man severe nervous system reactions, such as beri-beri. These symptoms are often less pronounced, or quite different, in other animals.
From our knowledge of the dietaries used by the various primitive racial stocks we can calculate the approximate amounts of the minerals and vitamins provided by those dietaries, for comparison with the amounts provided by modernized foods. Our problem is simplified by the fact that the food of the white man in various parts of the world being built from a few fundamental food factors, has certain quite constant characteristics. Hence the displacing diets are similar for the several modernized groups herewith considered.
As a further approach to our problem, it is important to keep in mind that, in general, the wild animal life has largely escaped many of the degenerative processes which affect modern white peoples. We ascribe this to animal instinct in the matter of food selection. It is possible that man has lost through disuse some of the normal faculty for consciously recognizing body requirements. In other words, the only hunger of which we now are conscious is a hunger for energy to keep us warm and to supply power. In general, we stop eating when an adequate amount of energy has been provided, whether or not the body building and repairing materials have been included in the food. The heat and energy factor in our foods is measured in calories. In planning an adequate diet, a proper ratio between body building and energy units must be maintained. It is important to keep in mind that while the amount of body-building and repairing material required is similar for different individuals of the same age and weight, it is markedly different for two individuals, one of whom is leading a sedentary, and the other, an active life. Similarly, there is a great difference between the amount of body-building and repairing material required by a growing child or an expectant mother and an average adult.
There are certain characteristics of the various dietaries of the primitive races, which are universally present when that dietary program is associated with a high immunity to disease and freedom from deformities. In general, these are the foods that provide adequate sources of body-building and body-repairing material. The use by primitives, of foods relatively low in calories has resulted in forcing them to eat large quantities of these foods, in order to provide the heat and energy requirements of the body. The primitives have obtained, often with great difficulty, foods that are scarce but rich in certain elements. In these rare foods were elements which the body requires in small quantities, including minerals such as iodine, copper, manganese and special vitamins. In connection with the vitamins it should be kept in mind that our knowledge of these unique organic catalysts is limited. The medical profession and the public at large think of vitamin D as consisting of just one chemical factor, whereas, investigations are revealing continually new and additional factors. A recent review (2) describes in considerable detail eight distinct factors in vitamin D and refers to information indicating that there may be at least twelve. Clearly, it is not possible to undertake to provide an adequate nutrition simply by reinforcing the diet with a few synthetic products which are known to represent certain of these nutritional factors. By the mass of the people at large, as well as by members of the medical profession, activated ergosterol is considered to include all that is necessary to supply the vitamin D group of activators to human nutrition.
The various dietary programs of primitive races which appear to be successful in controlling dental caries and deformities may be divided into three groups based upon the sources from which they derive the minerals and fat-soluble activators. I do not use the term vitamins exclusively because as yet little is known about the whole group of organic catalysts, although we have considerable knowledge of the limited number which are designated by the first half dozen letters of the alphabet. Most lay people and members of the medical and dental professions assume that the six or eight vitamins constitute practically all that are needed in an adequate nutrition. These organic activators can be divided into two main groups, water-soluble and fat-soluble. An essential characteristic of the successful dietary programs of primitive races has been found to relate to a liberal source of the fat-soluble activator group.
When we discuss the successful dietary programs of the various groups from the standpoint of their ability to control tooth decay and prevent deformity we find that for the people in the high and isolated Alpine valleys their nutrition is dependent largely on entire rye bread and dairy products with meat about once a week and various vegetables, fresh in the summer season and stored for the winter season. An analysis in my laboratory of the dairy products obtained from the Loetschental Valley in Switzerland through a series of years has shown the vitamin content to be much higher than the average throughout the world for similar foods during the same seasons. The milk in these high valleys is produced from green pasturage and stored green hay of exceptionally high chlorophyll content. The milk and the rye bread provided minerals abundantly.
The diet of the people in the Outer Hebrides which proved adequate for maintaining a high immunity to dental caries and preventing deformity consisted chiefly of oat products and sea foods including the wide variety of fish available there. This diet included generally no dairy products since the pasture was not adequate for maintaining cattle. Oat grain was the only cereal that could be matured satisfactorily in that climate. Some green foods were available in the summer and some vegetables were grown and stored for winter. This diet, which included a liberal supply of fish, included also the use of livers of fish. One important fish dish was baked cod's head that had been stuffed with oat meal and chopped cods' livers. This was an important inclusion in the diets of the growing children. The oats and fish, including livers, provided minerals and vitamins adequate for an excellent racial stock with high immunity to tooth decay.
For the Eskimos of Alaska the native diet consisted of a liberal use of organs and other special tissues of the large animal life of the sea, as well as of fish. The latter were dried in large quantities in the summer and stored for winter use. The fish were also eaten frozen. Seal oil was used freely as an adjunct to this diet and seal meat was specially prized and was usually available. Caribou meat was sometimes available. The organs were used. Their fruits were limited largely to a few berries including cranberries, available in the summer and stored for winter use. Several plant foods were gathered in the summer and stored in fat or frozen for winter use. A ground nut that was gathered by the Tundra mice and stored in caches was used by the Eskimos as a vegetable. Stems of certain water grasses, water plants and bulbs were occasionally used. The bulk of their diet, however, was fish and large animal life of the sea from which they selected certain organs and tissues with great care and wisdom. These included the inner layer of skin of one of the whale species, which has recently been shown to be very rich in vitamin C. Fish eggs were dried in season. They were used liberally as food for the growing children and were recognized as important for growth and reproduction. This successful nutrition provided ample amounts of fat-soluble activators and minerals from sea animal life.
For the Indians living inside the Rocky Mountain Range in the far North of Canada, the successful nutrition for nine months of the year was largely limited to wild game, chiefly moose and caribou. During the summer months the Indians were able to use growing plants. During the winter some use was made of bark and buds of trees. I found the Indians putting great emphasis upon the eating of the organs of the animals, including the wall of parts of the digestive tract. Much of the muscle meat of the animals was fed to the dogs. It is important that skeletons are rarely found where large game animals have been slaughtered by the Indians of the North. The skeletal remains are found as piles of finely broken bone chips or splinters that have been cracked up to obtain as much as possible of the marrow and nutritive qualities of the bones. These Indians obtain their fat-soluble vitamins and also most of their minerals from the organs of the animals. An important part of the nutrition of the children consisted in various preparations of bone marrow, both as a substitute for milk and as a special dietary ration.
In the various archipelagos of the South Pacific and in the islands north of Australia, the natives depended greatly on shell fish and various scale fish from adjacent seas. These were eaten with an assortment of plant roots and fruits, raw and cooked. Taro was an important factor in the nutrition of most of these groups. It is the root of a species of lily similar to "elephant ears" used for garden decorations in America because of its large leaves. In several of the islands the tender young leaves of this plant were eaten with coconut cream baked in the leaf of the tia plant. In the Hawaiian group of islands the taro plant is cooked and dried and pounded into powder and then mixed with water and allowed to ferment for twenty-four hours, more or less, in accordance with the stiffness of the product desired. This is called poi. Its use in this form was comparable in efficiency with its use on other archipelagos as a boiled root served much as we use potatoes. For these South Sea Islanders fat-soluble vitamins and many of the minerals were supplied by the shell-fish and other animal life from the sea.
The native tribes in eastern and central Africa, used large quantities of sweet potatoes, beans, and some cereals. Where they were living sufficiently near fresh water streams and lakes, large quantities of fish were eaten. Goats or cattle or both were domesticated by many tribes. Other tribes used wild animal life quite liberally. Some very unique and special sources of vitamins were used by some of these tribes. For example, in certain seasons of the year great swarms of a large winged insect develop in Lake Victoria and other lakes. These often accumulated on the shores to a depth of many inches. They were gathered, dried and preserved to be used in puddings which are highly prized by the natives and are well spoken of by the missionaries. Another insect source of vitamins used frequently by the natives is the ant which is collected from great ant hills that in many districts grow to heights of ten feet or more. In the mating season the ants develop wings and come out of the ant hills in great quantities and go into the air for the mating process. These expeditions are frequently made during or following a rain. The natives have developed procedures for inducing these ants to come out by covering over the opening with bushes to give the effect of clouds and then pounding on the ground to give an imitation of rain. We were told by the missionaries that one of the great luxuries was an ant pie but unfortunately they were not able to supply us with this delicacy. Parts of Africa like many other districts are often plagued by vast swarms of locusts. These are gathered in large quantities, to be cooked for immediate use or dried and ground into a flour for later use. They provide a rich source of minerals and vitamins. The natives of Africa used the cereals maize, beans, linga linga, millet, and Kaffir corn, cooked or roasted. Most of these were ground just before cooking.
Among the Aborigines of Australia we found that those living near the sea were using animal life from that source liberally, together with the native plants and animals of the land. They have not cultivated the land plants during their primitive life. In the interior, they use freely the wild animal life, particularly wallaby, kangaroo, small animals and rodents. All of the edible parts, including the walls of the viscera and internal organs are eaten.
The native Maori in New Zealand, used large quantities of foods from the sea, wherever these were available. Even in the inland food depots, mutton birds were still available in large quantities. These birds were captured just before they left the nests. They developed in the rockeries about the coast, chiefly on the extreme southern coast of the South Island. At this stage, the flesh is very tender and very fat from the gorging that has been provided by their parent. The value of this food for the treatment of tuberculosis was being heralded quite widely in both Australia and New Zealand. In the primitive state of the islands large quantities of land birds were available and because of the fertility of the soil and favorable climate, vegetables and fruits grew abundantly in the wild. Large quantities of fern root were used. Where groups of the Maori race were found isolated sufficiently from contact with modern civilization and its foods to be dependent largely on the native foods, they selected with precision certain shell-fish because of their unique nutritive value.
A splendid illustration of the primitive Maori instinct or wisdom regarding the value of sea foods was shown in an experience we had while making examinations in a native school on the east coast of the North Islands. I was impressed with the fact that the children in the school gave very little evidence of having active dental caries. I asked the teacher what the children brought from their homes to eat at their midday lunch, since most of them had to come too great a distance to return at noon. I was told that they brought no lunch but that when school was dismissed at noon the children rushed for the beach where, while part of the group prepared bonfires, the others stripped and dived into the sea, and brought up a large species of lobster. The lobsters were promptly roasted on the coals and devoured with great relish. Other sea foods are pictured in Fig. 74.
The native diet of the tribes living in the islands north of Australia consisted of liberal quantities of sea foods. These were eaten with a variety of plant roots and greens, together with fruits which grew abundantly in that favorable climate. Few places in the world have so favorable a quantity of food for sea-animal life as these waters which provide the richest pearl fisheries in the world. This is evidence of the enormous quantity of shell-fish that develop there. Here, as off the east coast of Australia, are to be found some of the largest shell-fish of the world. It was a common occurrence to see these shells being used by natives for such purposes as water storage and for bath tubs of a size approximately that of a wash tub. Australia and New Zealand are near enough to the Antarctic ice cap to have their shores bathed with currents coming from the ice fields, currents which abound in food for sea animals. The great barrier reef off the east coast of Australia extends north to within a few leagues of New Guinea. Murray Island is near the north end of this barrier. The fish in the water at times form such a dense mass that they can be scooped into the boats directly from the sea. Fishermen wading out in the surf and throwing their spears into the schools of fish usually impale one or several.
The incidence of tooth decay on this island was less than one per cent of all of the teeth examined. Another important sea food in these waters was dugong, referred to as sea cow in northern waters. This animal is very highly prized but is becoming scarce. We found its meat very much like lamb. It lives on the vegetation of the sea floor in shallow water. As we flew over the bays of Eastern Australia going northward in search of colonies of native Aborigines, we could see these sea animals pasturing in the clear water among the ocean plants.
During these investigations of primitive races, I have been impressed with the superior quality of the human stock developed by Nature wherever a liberal source of sea foods existed. These zones of abundant marine life were largely in the wake of the ocean currents drifting from the ice fields of the poles. The Humboldt Current is probably the most liberal carrier of marine life of any of the ocean currents. It leaves the ice field of the Antarctic and bathes the west coast of South America from its southern tip nearly to the equator, where the coast line changes direction and the Humboldt Current is deflected out into the ocean. It meets here a warm current coming down from the coast of Central America, Panama and Columbia. If the superb physiques that Nature has established among the Maori of New Zealand, the Malays of the Islands north of Australia, the Gaelics of the Outer Hebrides and the natives on several of the archipelagos of the Pacific, owe their superior physical development to sea foods, we should expect to find that the tribes which have had contact with the great Humboldt Current food would also have superb physiques. Unfortunately, very little has been known of the ancient cultures that have developed along the coast of Chile and Peru. It has been reported that of all the Indian tribes of South America, those in Patagonia were the most stalwart. While the west coast of Peru is bathed by the Humboldt Current with its nearly inexhaustible supply of human nutrition, the lands bordering that shore are among the most desolate deserts of the world. The zone between the Andes Mountains and the coast for approximately a thousand miles is utterly barren, consisting of moving sand dunes and jagged promontories. Practically the only break in this waterless, treeless desert is to be found in the few ribbons of water that trickle down from the melting snows of the Andes Coastal Range. This coast has no rainy seasons. Any vegetation grown, now or in the past thousands of years, has had to be watered from the limited supply afforded by these rivers which seem so insignificant when compared with the vastness of the territory. These river bottoms contain the alluvial deposits from the Andes and are very rich when watered. It has been only by means of gigantic engineering undertakings that the water from these rivers has been carried through great irrigation ditches, sometimes fifty to a hundred miles long for the purpose of making it possible to utilize these river bottom lands for agriculture.
In many of the primitive tribes living by the sea we found emphasis on the value of fish eggs and on some animal forms for insuring a high physical development of growing children, particularly of girls, and a high perfection of offspring through a reinforcement of the mother's nutrition. It is also important to note that in several of the primitive tribes studied there has been a consciousness that not only the mother should have special nutrition, but also the father. In this group very great value was placed upon a product obtained from a sea form known locally as the angelote or angel fish, which in classification is between a skate and a shark. The young of the angelota are born alive, ready for free swimming and capable of foraging for themselves immediately at birth. Twenty to thirty young are born in one litter. The eggs of the female before fertilization are about one inch in diameter, slightly oval but nearly spherical. They are used as food by all, but the special food product for men is a pair of glands obtained from the male. These glands weigh up to a pound each, when they are dried. They have a recognized value among the natives for treating cases of tuberculosis, especially for controlling lung hemorrhages. The sea foods were used in conjunction with the land plants and fruits raised by means of irrigation in the river valleys. Together these foods provided adequate nutrition for maintaining high physical excellence.
In Chapter 13 I have discussed the probable order of these ancient cultures and the possible extent of their duration. Very little is known of their origin. Evidence has recently been discovered in Panama indicating that both the wealth and the culture of Peru were carried northward by maritime conquerors and that the cultures of Central America, including the Maya culture may have had their origins in these ancient cultures of Peru.
While the coastal area of Peru saw the development of many magnificent cultures through past ages, the highlands of Peru also have left much evidence of superior attainments and wisdom. The two great Indian linguistic groups of the Andean highlands of today are the Aymara of Southern Peru and Bolivia and the Quichus of central and northern Peru. The Aymara are credited with being the descendants of the Tauhuanocan culture which preceded the Incan culture in the highlands. The Quichu are credited with being the descendants of the Incan culture which had its zenith just prior to the coming of the Spaniards. In Chapter 14 I have shown photographs of these racial stocks as they are found today in the Andean Sierras. It may be possible that in former times the vast mountain ranges provided large herds of grazing wild animals of the deer family. Because of the vastness of the population and the extent to which all available land surfaces were utilized for agriculture, it does not seem possible that wild animal life could have been an adequate source of nutrition. The members of the camel family, the llamas, alpacas, and vicunas were utilized for food. Of these the first two were used to considerable extent as they are today. When it is recognized that in the Sierra the available water is largely that provided to the streams from the melting snows and from rains in the rainy season, it will be realized that these sources of fresh water could not provide the liberal quantity of iodine essential for human growth and development. It was, accordingly, a matter of great interest to discover that these Indians used regularly dried fish eggs from the sea. Commerce in these dried foods is carried on today as it no doubt has been for centuries. When I inquired of them why they used this material they explained that it was necessary to maintain the fertility of their women. I was informed also that every exchange depot and market carried these dried fish eggs so that they were always available. Another sea product of very great importance, and one which was universally available was dried kelp. Upon inquiry I learned that the Indians used it so that they would not get "big necks" like the whites. The kelp provided a very rich source of iodine as well as of copper, which is very important to them in the utilization of iron for building an exceptionally efficient quality of blood for carrying oxygen liberally at those high altitudes. An important part of their dietary consists today as in the past of potatoes which are gathered and frozen, dried and powdered, and preserved in the powdered form. This powder is used in soups with llama meat and other products. Since the vitamin D group of activators is absent from nearly all plant products but must be synthesized in animal bodies from the plant foods, where it is largely stored in organs, an adequate source had to be provided. The Indians of the highlands of Peru maintained colonies of guinea pigs which were used in their stews. The ancient burials also show that the guinea pig was a common source of food since mummified bodies of this animal were found. This is significant since of all the animals that are used for experimental work the guinea pig is probably the most efficient in synthesizing vitamin D from plant foods. They are very hardy. They live on a great variety of green plant foods and twigs and are very prolific. They apparently played a very important part in the physical excellence of the ancient cultures.
It is unfortunate that as the white man has come into contact with the primitives in various parts of the world he has failed to appreciate the accumulated wisdom of the primitive racial stocks. Much valuable wisdom has been lost by this means. I have referred to the skill of the Indians in preventing scurvy and to the many drugs that we use which the white man has learned of from the primitives.
In this connection the Indians of British Columbia, who have been so efficient in preventing scurvy, have a plant product for the prevention and cure of diabetes. This has recently become known to the white man through the experience of a patient who was brought into the hospital at Prince Rupert, British Columbia, as reported in the Canadian Medical Journal, July 1938. Prince Rupert is near the boundary between British Columbia and Alaska on the coast. The patient came to that hospital for an operation and suddenly showed signs of diabetes, which required treatment with large doses of insulin. Dr. Richard Geddes Large asked him regarding the history of his affection and what he had been taking. He was told that for several years he had been using an Indian preparation which was a hot water infusion of a root of devil's-club which is a spiny, prickly shrub. This medicine was in common use by the British Columbia Indians. The material was obtained and used in this hospital for the treatment of diabetes and was found to be quite as efficient as insulin and had the great advantage that it would be taken by mouth whereas the insulin which is destroyed in the stomach by the process of digestion must be injected. They could see very little difference in the efficiency of this preparation whether taken internally or used hypodermically. This promises to be a great boon to a large group of individuals suffering from diabetes. It is also probable that its use will prevent the development of diabetes and since the Indians used it for other affections it may also become a very important adjunct in modern preventive medicine.
One of the sources that I have found to be helpful in studying primitive races is an investigation of knapsacks. I have asked for the privilege of seeing what is carried in their knapsacks. I found dried fish eggs and dried kelp in the knapsacks in the high Andes. It is also of interest that among this group in the Andes, among those in central Africa, and among the Aborigines of Australia, each knapsack contained a ball of clay, a little of which was dissolved in water. Into this they dipped their morsels of food while eating. Their explanation was to prevent "sick stomach." This is the medicine that is used by the native in these countries for combating dysentery and food infections. It is the treatment that was given me when I developed dysentery infection in central Africa while making studies there. The English doctor in Nairobi whom I called in said he would give me the native treatment of a suspension of clay. It proved very effective. An illustration of the way in which modern science is siowiy adopting practices that have been long in use among primitive races, is to be found in the recent extensive use that is made of clay (kaolin) in our modern medicine. This is illustrated in the following: (3)
In the course of an expedition to Lake Titicaca, South America, financed by the Percy Slade Trustees in which one of us (H.P.M.) took part, an interesting observation was made in regard to the diet of the Quetchus Indians on the Capachica Peninsula near Puno. These people are almost certainly descendants of the Incas and at the present time live very primitively. They exist largely on a vegetable diet of which potatoes form an important part. Immediately, before being eaten, the potatoes are dipped into an aqueous suspension of clay, a procedure which is said to prevent "souring of the stomach."
We have examined this clay and found it to consist of kaolin containing a trace of organic material, possibly coumarin, and presumably a decomposition product of the grass from underneath which the clay is dug. The local name for the clay is Chacco, and the Indians distinguish between good and bad qualities. This dietetic procedure is universal among the Indians of the Puno district, and is probably of very ancient origin.
Such a practice by a primitive people would appear rather remarkable in view of the comparatively recent introduction of kaolin into modern medicine as a protective agent for the gastric and intestinal mucosa and as a remedy for bacterial infections of the gut.
It is of interest that both the British and American Pharmacopeias have added kaolin to their list during the last two decades.
The Indians of the past buried, with their dead, foods to carry them on their journey. From an examination of these one learns that in many respects the Indians living in the high Sierras are living today very much as their ancestors did during past centuries. Items of importance now and in the past are parched corn and parched beans which are nibbled as the people walk along carrying their heavy burdens. Today these are the only foods eaten on many long journeys. We found the parched beans pleasant to taste and very satisfying when we were hungry.
The Indians of the Amazon Basin have had a history very different from either those of the high Sierras of the Andes or those of the coastal region. The fact that vast areas of the Amazon Basin have not only never been surveyed, but never even penetrated, indicates the nature of the isolation of these groups. Very little progress has been made in the effort to conquer or modernize these Indians. A few explorers have made expeditions into parts of the interior and have reported the characteristics of the plant and animal life, as well as of the native races. Our sole contact was with the tribe which came to the coffee plantation to assist in the gathering and the harvest of the coffee beans. In Chapter 14 I have described these people in considerable detail. Since the Amazon Basin has vast quantities of rain as well as abundant streams from the eastern watershed of the Andes, the tribes live largely in tropical jungles where there is an abundance of water. They are expert, accordingly, in the use of river crafts and in fishing for the various types of marine life. Unlike the Indians of the high Andes or of the coast regions they are not agriculturists. They live on wild native foods almost entirely. They are expert with the blow gun, with the bow and arrow and in snaring with both nets and loops. They use very large quantities of a tuber root called yucca which has many qualities similar to the roots of the edible variety of the lily family. This plant is boiled and eaten much as are potatoes. They use also large quantities of fish from the streams, birds and small animals of the land, together with the native fruits including bananas. Their dietary provides a very liberal supply of minerals and vitamins together with an adequate quantity of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
In evaluating the nutritive value of the dietary programs of primitive races and our modernized cultures, it is important that we have a yardstick adequately adjusted to make computation in terms of specific body needs for building good bodies and maintaining them in good health. The advance in modern chemistry has gone far toward making this possible.
The problem of estimating the mineral and activator contents, in other words the body-building and repairing qualities of the displacing foods used by the various primitive races, is similar in many respects to estimating these qualities in the foods used in our modern white civilizations, except that modern commerce has transported usually only the foods that will keep well. These include chiefly white flour, sugar, polished rice, vegetable fats and canned goods.
Very important data for typical American dietaries are now available provided by the Bureau of Home Economics, United States Department of Agriculture, and also by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor. These surveys provide a basis of estimating the nutrition of various income groups both with regard to the type of foods selected in our American communities and the quantities of each type used, together with the chemical content of these foods expressed quantitatively. Those who wish to have detailed reports are referred to the bulletins of the above departments. In my clinical studies of the mineral constituents of individuals, affected with dental caries and other disturbances of physical deficiency, I find a wide range of variation in the calcium, phosphorus and fat-soluble activator content of the dietaries used, although in general the calorie content is adequate. This latter factor is controlled by appetite. These computations reveal that the individuals studied have a calcium intake ranging from 0.3 to 0.5 grams; and a phosphorus intake of from 0.3 to 0.6 grams. The minimum adult requirements as provided by such an authority as Sherman, whose figures are used by the United States Department of Labor, are for the average adult 0.68 of a gram of calcium and 1.32 grams of phosphorus per day. It can be seen readily that the amounts given above are far short of the minimum even if individuals absorbed from the foods all of the minerals present. A question arises at this point as to the efficiency of the human body in removing all of the minerals from the ingested foods. Extensive laboratory determinations have shown that most people cannot absorb more than half of the calcium and phosphorus from the foods eaten. The amounts utilized depend directly on the presence of other substances, particularly fat-soluble vitamins. It is at this point probably that the greatest breakdown in our modern diet takes place, namely, in the ingestion and utilization of adequate amounts of the special activating substances, including the vitamins needed for rendering the minerals in the food available to the human system. A recent report by the Council on Foods of the American Medical (4) Association makes this comment on spinach:
Spinach may be regarded as a rich source of vitamin A and as a contributor of vitamin C, iron and roughage to the diet. It is therefore a valuable food. (But) the iron is not well utilized by infants . . . (and) the feeding of spinach is of no value during early infancy as a source of calcium.
Even though calcium is present in spinach children cannot utilize it. Data have been published showing that children absorb very little of the calcium or phosphorus in spinach before six years of age. Adult individuals vary in the efficiency with which they absorb minerals and other chemicals essential for mineral utilization. It is possible to starve for minerals that are abundant in the foods eaten because they cannot be utilized without an adequate quantity of the fat-soluble activators.
This is illustrated in the following case. A minister in an industrial section of our city, during the period of severe depression, telephoned me stating that he had just been called to baptize a dying child. The child was not dead although almost constantly in convulsions. He thought the condition was probably nutritional and asked if he could bring the boy to the office immediately. The boy was badly emaciated, had rampant tooth decay, one leg in a cast, a very bad bronchial cough and was in and out of convulsions in rapid succession. His convulsions had been getting worse progressively during the past eight months. His leg had been fractured two or three months previously while walking across the room when he fell in one of his convulsions. No healing had occurred. His diet consisted of white bread and skimmed milk. For mending the fracture the boy needed minerals, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. His convulsions were due to a low calcium content of the blood. All of these were in the skimmed milk for the butter-fat removed in the cream contains no calcium nor phosphorus, except traces. The program provided was a change from the white flour bread to wheat gruel made from freshly ground wheat and the substitution of whole milk for skimmed milk, with the addition of about a teaspoonful of a very high vitamin butter with each feeding. He was given this meal that evening when he returned to his home. He slept all night without a convulsion. He was fed the same food five times the next day and did not have a convulsion. He proceeded rapidly to regain his health without recurrence of his convulsions. In a month the fracture was united. Two views of the fracture are shown in Fig. 93, one before and one after the treatment. Six weeks after this nutritional program was started the preacher called at the home to see how the boy was getting along. His mother stated that the boy was playing about the doorstep, but they could not see him. She called but received no answer. Presently they spied him where he had climbed up the downspout of the house to the second story. On being scolded by his mother, he ran and jumped over the garden fence, thus demonstrating that he was pretty much of a normal boy. This boy's imperative need, that was not provided in white bread and skimmed milk, was the presence of the vitamins and other activators that are in whole milk but not in skimmed milk, and in whole wheat, freshly ground, but not in white flour. He was restored to health by the simple process of having Nature's natural foods restored to him.
This problem of borrowing from the skeleton in times of stress may soften the bones so that they will be badly distorted. This is frequently seen as bow legs. An illustration of an extreme condition of bone softening by this process is shown in Fig. 94, lower section, which is the skeleton of a monkey that was a house pet. It became very fond of sweets and was fed on white bread, sweetened jams, etc., as it ate at the same table with its mistress. Note that the bones became so soft that the pull of the muscles distorted them into all sorts of curves. Naturally its body and legs were seriously distorted. In this condition my patient, whom I was serving professionally, asked me for advice regarding her monkey's deformed legs and distorted body. I suggested an improved nutrition and provided fat-soluble vitamins consisting of a mixture of a high vitamin butter oil and high vitamin cod liver oil with the result that minerals were deposited on the borders of the vertebrae and joints and on the surfaces of the bones as shown in the illustration. This of course, could not correct the deformity and the animal was chloroformed.
The necessity that the foods selected and used shall provide an adequate quantity of fat-soluble activators (including the known fatsoluble vitamins) is so imperative and is so important in preventing a part of our modern degeneration that I shall illustrate its need with another practical case.
A mother asked my assistance in planning the nutritional program for her boy. She reported that he was five years of age and that he had been in bed in hospitals with rheumatic fever, arthritis and an acute heart involvement most of the time for the past two and a half years. She had been told that her boy would not recover, so severe were the complications. As is so generally the case with rheumatic fever and endocarditis, this boy was suffering from severe tooth decay. In this connection the American Heart Association has reported that 75 per cent of heart involvements begin before ten years of age. My studies have shown that in about 95 per cent of these cases there is active tooth decay. The important change that I made in this boy's dietary program was the removal of the white flour products and in their stead the use of freshly cracked or ground wheat and oats used with whole milk to which was added a small amount of specially high vitamin butter produced by cows pasturing on green wheat. Small doses of a high-vitamin, natural cod liver oil were also added. At this time the boy was so badly crippled with arthritis, in his swollen knees, wrists, and rigid spine, that he was bedfast and cried by the hour. With the improvement in his nutrition which was the only change made in his care, his acute pain rapidly subsided, his appetite greatly improved, he slept soundly and gained rapidly in weight. In the first view, to the left, in Fig. 94, the boy is shown sitting on the edge of the bed at the end of the first month on this program. His joints were still badly swollen and his spine so rigid that he could not rotate his head farther than shown in the picture. In the center view he is shown about six months later, and in the third view, one year later. This occurred six years ago. As I write this a letter has been received from the boy's mother. She reports that he is taller and heavier than the average, has a good appetite and sleeps well.
In the newer light regarding the cause of rheumatic fever, or inflammatory rheumatism (discussed in Chapter 21) there appear to be three underlying causes: a general lowered defense against infection in which the fat-soluble vitamins play a very important part; minute hemorrhages in joint tissues as part of the expression of deficiency of vitamin C, a scurvy symptom, and a source of infecting bacteria such as streptococcus. This could be provided by his infected teeth. These typical expressions of modern degeneration could not occur in most of the primitive races studied because of the high factor of safety in the minerals and vitamins of their nutrition. It is important to emphasize the changes that were made in our modern dietary program to make this boy's nutrition adequate for recovery. Sugars and sweets and white flour products were eliminated as far as possible. Freshly ground cereals were used for breads and gruels. Bone marrow was included in stews. Liver and a liberal supply of whole milk, green vegetables and fruits were provided. In addition, he was provided with a butter that was very high in vitamins having been produced by cows fed on a rapidly growing green grass. The best source for this is a pasturage of wheat and rye grass. All green grass in a state of rapid growth is good, although wheat and rye grass are the best found. Unless hay is carefully dried so as to retain its chlorophyll, which is a precursor of vitamin A, the cow cannot synthesize the fat-soluble vitamins.
These two practical cases illustrate the fundamental necessity that there shall not only be an adequate quantity of body-building minerals present, but also that there shall be an adequate quantity of fat-soluble vitamins. Of course, water-soluble vitamins are also essential. While I have reduced the diets of the various primitive races studied to definite quantities of mineral and calorie content, these data are so voluminous that it will not be appropriate to include them here. It will be more informative to discuss the ratios of both body-building and repairing material in the several primitive dietaries, in comparison with the displacing foods adopted from our modern civilization. The amount of food eaten by an individual is controlled primarily by the hunger factor which for our modernized groups apparently relates only to need for heat and energy. The dietaries adopted have all been built on the basis of the heat and energy requirements of the body for the groups living in the several districts and under their modes of life. These have been calculated for the principal foods eaten by the various groups. The figures will be published in detail in a more technical report. There are two simple ways in which these comparisons can be made. One is in terms of normal body requirements; and the other in terms of the ratio between the mineral and the vitamin content of the native foods and the displacing foods. If we use as a basis the ability of individuals to remove half of the minerals present even though their bodies need more than this, we will be more generous than the average individual's capacity will justify. This will require that we double the amount, as specified for minimum body use by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, in their Bulletin R 409, that is, for calcium 0.68 grams; for phosphorus 1.32 grams; for iron 0.015 grams. The figures that will be used, therefore, are for twice the above amounts: 1.36 grams of calcium; 2.64 grams of phosphorus; 0.030 grams of iron.
Few people who have not been in contact with experimental data on metabolism can appreciate how little of the minerals in the food are retained in the body by large numbers of individuals who are in need of these very chemicals. We have seen that infants cannot absorb calcium from spinach. If we are to provide nutrition that will include an adequate excess as a factor of safety for overloads, and for such periods as those of rapid growth (for children), pregnancy, lactation and sickness, we must provide the excess to the extent of about twice the requirements of normal adults. It will therefore, be necessary for an adequate nutrition to contain approximately four times the minimum requirements of the average adult if all stress periods are to be passed safely.
It is of interest that the diets of the primitive groups which have shown a very high immunity to dental caries and freedom from other degenerative processes have all provided a nutrition containing at least four times these minimum requirements; whereas the displacing nutrition of commerce, consisting largely of white-flour products, sugar, polished rice, jams, canned goods, and vegetable fats have invariably failed to provide even the minimum requirements. In other words the foods of the native Eskimos contained 5.4 times as much calcium as the displacing foods of the white man, five times as much phosphorus, 1.5 times as much iron, 7.9 times as much magnesium, 1.8 times as much copper, 49.0 times as much iodine, and at least ten times that number of fat-soluble vitamins. For the Indians of the far North of Canada, the native foods provided 5.8 times as much calcium, 5.8 times as much phosphorus, 2.7 times as much iron, 4.3 times as much magnesium, 1.5 times as much copper, 8.8 times as much iodine, and at least a ten fold increase in fat-soluble activators. For brevity, we will apply the figures to calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and fat-soluble activators in order. The ratio in the Swiss native diets to that in the displacing diet was for calcium, 3.7 fold; for phosphorus, 2.2 fold; for magnesium, 2.5 fold; for iron, 3.1 fold; and for the fat-soluble activators, at least ten fold. For the Gaelics in the Outer Hebrides, the native foods provided 2.1 times as much calcium, 2.3 times as much phosphorus, 1.3 times as much magnesium, and 1.0 times as much iron; and the fat-soluble activators were increased at least ten fold. For the Aborigines of Australia, living along the eastern coast where they have access to sea foods the ratio of minerals in the native diet to those in the displacing modernized foods was, for calcium, 4.6 fold; for phosphorus, 6.2 fold; for magnesium, 17 fold; and for iron 50.6 fold; while for the fatsoluble activators, it was at least ten fold. The native diet of the New Zealand Maori provided an increase in the native foods over the displacing foods of the modernized whites of 6.2 fold for calcium, 6.9 fold for phosphorus, 23.4 fold for magnesium, 58.3 fold for iron; and the fatsoluble activators were increased at least ten fold. The native diet of the Melanesians provided similarly an increase over the provision made in the modernized foods which displaced them of 5.7 fold for calcium, 6.4 fold for phosphorus, 26.4 fold for magnesium, and 22.4 fold for iron; while the fat-soluble activators were increased at least ten fold. The Polynesians provided through their native diet for an increase in provision over that of the displacing imported diets, of 5.6 fold for calcium, 7.2 fold for phosphorus, 28.5 fold for magnesium, 18.6 fold for iron; and the fat-soluble activators were increased at least ten fold. The coastal Indians of Peru provided through their native primitive diets for an increase in provision over that of the displacing modernized diet of 6.6 fold for calcium, 5.5 fold for phosphorus, 13.6 fold for magnesium, 5.1 fold for iron; and an excess of ten fold was provided for fat-soluble vitamins. For the Indians of the Andean Mountains of Peru, the native foods provided an increase over the provision of the displacing modern foods of S fold for calcium, 5.5 fold for phosphorus, 13.3 fold for magnesium, 29.3 fold for iron; and an excess of at least ten fold was provided for fat-soluble vitamins. For the cattle tribes in the interior of Africa, the primitive foods provided an increase over the provision of the displacing modernized foods of 7.5 fold for calcium, 8.2 fold for phosphorus, 19.1 fold for magnesium, 16.6 fold for iron and at least ten fold for fat-soluble activators. For the agricultural tribes in Central Africa the native diet provided an increase over the provision of the displacing modern diet of 3.5 fold for calcium, 4.1 fold for phosphorus, 5.4 fold for magnesium, 16.6 fold for iron and ten fold for fat-soluble activators. All the above primitive diets provided also a large increase in the water-soluble vitamins over the number provided in the displacing modern diets.
From the data presented in the preceding chapters and in this comparison of the primitive and modernized dietaries it is obvious that there is great need that the grains eaten shall contain all the minerals and vitamins which Nature has provided that they carry. Important data might be presented to illustrate this phase in a practical way. In Fig. 95 will be seen three rats all of which received the same diet, except for the type of bread. The first rat (at the left) received whole-wheat products freshly ground, the center one received a white flour product and the third (at the right) a bran and middlings product. The amounts of each ash, of calcium as the oxide, and of phosphorus as the pentoxide; and the amounts of iron and copper present in the diet of each group are shown by the height of the columns beneath the rats. Clinically it will be seen that there is a marked difference in the physical development Qf these rats. Several rats of the same age were in each cage. The feeding was started after weaning at about twenty-three days of age. The rat at the left was on the entire grain product. It was fully developed. The rats in this cage reproduced normally at three months of age. The rats in this first cage had very mild dispositions and could be picked up by the ear or tail without danger of their biting. The rats represented by the one in the center cage using white flour were markedly undersized. Their hair came out in large patches and they had very ugly dispositions, so ugly that they threatened to spring through the cage wall at us when we came to look at them. These rats had tooth decay and they were not able to reproduce. The rats in the next cage (illustrated by the rat to the right) which were on the bran and middlings mixture did not show tooth decay, but were considerably undersized, and they lacked energy. The flour and middlings for the rats in cages two and three were purchased from the miller and hence were not freshly ground. The wheat given to the first group was obtained whole and ground while fresh in a hand mill. It is of interest that notwithstanding the great increase in ash, calcium, phosphorus, iron and copper present in the foods of the last group, the rats did not mature normally, as did those in the first group. This may have been due in large part to the fact that the material was not freshly ground, and as a result they could not obtain a normal vitamin content from the embryo of the grain due to its oxidation. This is further indicated by the fact that the rats in this group did not reproduce, probably due in considerable part to a lack of vitamins B and E which were lost by oxidation of the embryo or germ fat.
There is a misapprehension with regard to the possibility that humans may obtain enough of the vitamin D group of activators from our modern plant foods or from sunshine. This is due to the belief viosterol or similar products by other names, derived by exposing ergosterol to ultraviolet light, offer all of the nutritional factors involved in the vitamin D group. I have emphasized that there are known to be at least eight D factors that have been definitely isolated and twelve that have been reported as partially isolated.
Coffin has recently reported relative to the lack of vitamin D in common foods as follows: (5)
- A representative list of common foods was carefully tested, by approved technique, for their vitamin D content.
- With the remote possibility of egg yolks, butter, cream, liver and fish it is manifestly impossible to obtain any amount of vitamin D worthy of mention from common foods.
- Vegetables do not contain vitamin D.
It will be noted that vitamin D, which the human does not readily synthesize in adequate amounts, must be provided by foods of animal tissues or animal products. As yet I have not found a single group of primitive racial stock which was building and maintaining excellent bodies by living entirely on plant foods. I have found in many parts of the world most devout representatives of modern ethical systems advocating the restriction of foods to the vegetable products. In every instance where the groups involved had been long under this teaching, I found evidence of degeneration in the form of dental caries, and in the new generation in the form of abnormal dental arches to an extent very much higher than in the primitive groups who were not under this influence.
Many illustrations might be presented showing the special wisdom of the primitives in the matter of reinforcing their nutrition with protective foods.
Few people will realize how reluctant members of the primitive races are, in general, to disclose secrets of their race. The need for this is comparable to the need for secrecy regarding modern war devices.
The Indians of the Yukon have long known the cure for scurvy and history makes an important contribution to their wisdom in treating this disease. It is of interest that W. N. Kemp (6) of Vancouver states:
The earliest recorded successful treatment of scurvy occurred in Canada in 1535 when Jacques Cartier, on the advice of a friendly Indian, gave his scurvyprostrated men a decoction of young green succulent 'shoots' from the spruce trees with successful results. These happy effects apparently were not appreciated in Europe, for scurvy continued to be endemic.
Since that time untold thousands of mariners and white land dwellers have died with this dreaded disease.
Shortly before our arrival in Northern Canada a white prospector had died of scurvy. Beside him was his white man's packet of canned foods. Any Indian man or woman, boy or girl, could have told him how to save his life by eating animal organs or the buds of trees.
Another illustration of the wisdom of the native Indians of that far north country came to me through two prospectors whom we rescued and brought out with us just before the fall freeze-up. They had gone into the district, which at that time was still uncharted and unsurveyed, to prospect for precious metals and radium. They were both doctors of engineering and science, and had been sent with very elaborate equipment from one of the large national mining corporations. Owing to the inaccessibility of the region, they adopted a plan for reaching it quickly. They had flown across the two ranges of mountains from Alaska and when they arrived at the inside range, i.e., the Rocky Mountain Range, they found the altitude so high that their plane could not fly over the range, and, as a result, they were brought down on a little lake outside. The plane then returned but was unable to reach the outside world because of shortage of fuel. The pilot had to leave it on a waterway and trudge over the mountains to civilization. The two prospectors undertook to carry their equipment and provisions over the Rocky Mountain Range into the interior district where they were to prospect. They found the distance across the plateau to be about one hundred miles and the elevation ranging up to nine thousand feet. While they had provisions and equipment to stay two years they found it would take all of this time to carry their provisions and instruments across this plateau. They accordingly abandoned everything, and rather than remain in the country with very uncertain facilities and prospects for obtaining food and shelter, made a forced march to the Liard River with the hope that some expedition might be in that territory. One of the men told me the following tragic story. While they were crossing the high plateau he nearly went blind with so violent a pain in his eyes that he feared he would go insane. It was not snow blindness, for they were equipped with glasses. It was xeropthalmia, due to lack of vitamin A. One day he almost ran into a mother grizzly bear and her two cubs. Fortunately, they did not attack him but moved off. He sat down on a stone and wept in despair of ever seeing his family again. As he sat there holding his throbbing head, he heard a voice and looked up. It was an old Indian who had been tracking that grizzly bear. He recognized this prospector's plight and while neither could understand the language of the other, the Indian after making an examination of his eyes, took him by the hand and led him to a stream that was coursing its way down the mountain. Here as the prospector sat waiting the Indian built a trap of stones across the stream. He then went upstream and waded down splashing as he came and thus drove the trout into the trap. He threw the fish out on the bank and told the prospector to eat the flesh of the head and the tissues back of the eyes, including the eyes, with the result that in a few hours his pain had largely subsided. In one day his sight was rapidly returning, and in two days his eyes were nearly normal. He told me with profound emotion and gratitude that that Indian had certainly saved his life.
Now modern science knows that one of the richest sources of vitamin A in the entire animal body is that of the tissues back of the eyes including the retina of the eye.
In Chapter 18 I refer to the work of Wald on studies of vitamin A tissues. He states that extracts of eye tissue (retina, pigment, epithelium, and choroid) show the characteristic vitamin A absorption band and that they are potent in curing vitamin A deficient rats. He shows also that the concentration of vitamin A is constant for different mammals.
I have been impressed to find that primitive racial stocks in various parts of the world are familiar with the fact that eyes constitute an invaluable adjunct for nutrition. Even the one time cannibals of the Fiji Islands, and the hereditary king of the Fiji Islands, told me in detail of the practices with regard to the use of eyes as an adjunct to diet. The chief, his father, and grandfather had the privilege of reserving the eyes of captives for their personal use. When among the natives of the islands north of Australia, I learned to enjoy greatly fish head soup made from certain selected tissues. After the fish had been cleaned the heads were split and the eyes left in.
The space of the entire book might be used for discussing the nutritional wisdom of the various primitive races. It is a pity that so much of their wisdom has been lost through lack of appreciation by the whites who early made contact with them.
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