Faulty Food Habits

Faulty Food Habits in Relation to the Incidence of Disease*

A look at how faulty food habits can lead to disease.

By G. K. ABBOTT, M.D., St. Helena Sanitarium

The following statements show that the universal laws of cause and effect apply also to disease, that man has largely dis­regarded this inevitable relationship, that he is willingly ignorant in the presence of great light on this subject, and point out a situation which is indeed strange and astonishing. In no other realm of science except that of human nutrition does such a peculiar ignorance and disregard exist.

"Disease never comes without a cause. The way is prepared, and disease invited, by disregard of the laws of health."—"Counsels on Diet and Foods," p.122.

"Suffering and premature death, has so long pre­vailed that these results are regarded as the ap­pointed lot of humanity; but God did not create the race in such a feeble condition. This state of things is not the work of Providence, but of man. It has been brought about by wrong habits,—by violating the laws that God has made to govern man's ex­istence."—Id., p. 118.

"The strange absence of principle which charac­terizes this generation, and which is shown in their disregard of the laws of life and health, is astonish­ing. Ignorance prevails upon this subject, while light is shining all around them,"—/d., p. 119.

Note the concise epitome of the science of nutrition as stated on page 126 in "Counsels on Diet and Foods:" "Those foods should be chosen that best supply the elements needed for building up the body." Appetite, habits, or customs are not proper guides in the choice of food, although these, rather than reason, are often allowed to determine what is eaten. Others have recognized this irrational atti­tude. One has said, "Eating has a great vogue as an amusement," and another, "Eating is the great American pastime." And Dr. Victor G. Heiser comments thus:

"Impounded rats, eating perforce what they are furnished, may thrive and grow vigorous. Reason­ing man, with laboratory knowledge at his disposal, remains a slave to dietary habits, sacrificing his health, and sometimes even his life."—"We Are What We Eat," Reader's Digest, March, 1938.

In 1905 Mrs. White stated: "The disease and suffering that everywhere prevail are largely due to popular errors in regard to diet."—"Ministry of Healing," p. 295. Her statement may have seemed wildly extrava­gant at the time it was made, for the scientific knowledge of food, diet, and nutri­tion was then in its very infancy, and the bacterial causes of disease dominated the medi­cal horizon. But just how largely is improper eating responsible for human disease? This is a question upon which science can now shed much light. Therefore, let science answer it.

Ulcer and Cancer.—Doctor Heiser, in writ­ing concerning the research work carried on at Coonoor, India, by Dr. Robert McCarrison, says:

"Diet can be the cause of many diseases. For ex­ample, the stomachs and intestines of many of the inhabitants of Southern India are riddled with ulcers. Bad as is the condition in Madras, it is much worse in adjacent Travancore, where the natives consume large quantities of pure starch as found in their tapioca root. Over a quarter of those eating Tray­ancorian food and io per cent of those on the Madrasi diet presently developed gastric or intes­tinal ulcers; these figures correspond almost exactly with the incidence of the disease among the two peoples. No ulcers occurred in the control rats fed on balanced rations.

"The Japanese in turn discovered that if diets producing ulcers in rats were continued for more than 18o days, the ulcers turned into cancers and were incurable; if the diets were reversed within that time, they disappeared."—Reader's Digest, March, 1938.

Stones in Urinary Organs—Upon the frequency of stones in urinary organs, Doctor Heiser has this to say:

"Half the 12,000,000 inhabitants of Sind in North­ern India suffer from painful stones in the bladder. Doctor McCarrison fed the Sind diet to healthy rats: with dramatic suddenness 50 per cent developed stones, again paralleling the incidence of the disease in the human population. No stones, however, formed in a group of rats fed this same diet with the addition of a daily teaspoonful of milk. It is probable the same result could be repeated and millions could be saved from pain if every day they could drink just one pint of milk."—Idem. (See also "The Causation of Stone," British Medical Journal, June 13, 1931.)

Many more extracts might be cited on the close relation of diet to other diseases, but we shall take space for only three more.

Tuberculosis.—"In this country [England] the per capita consumption of milk provides an excellent index to tuberculosis. The more milk drunk, the fewer the cases. During the World War, in food-lacking Germany and Austria, the tuberculosis rate rose rapidly. In the first few years after the war, despite overcrowding in sunless, unsanitary houses, the incidence came down quickly; the populace were once more being supplied with milk, fats, and other food essentials."—Idem. (See also The Wheel of Health," by Dr. G. T. Wrench, pages 79-82, 1938.)

Tooth Decay.—"Before the American brought his highly milled flour, cereals, and other foods to Hawaii, strong, sound teeth flashed from dark Ha­waiian faces. But no sooner had American diet been substituted for taro, the native tuber from which poi is made, than an 8o per cent tooth decay de­veloped, a high figure, identical with that in the United States. Four years ago 1,000 Hawaiian chil­dren were shifted back to the diet of their fore­fathers. In the very first year tooth decay dropped to 40 per cent, and now it appears to be about eight, an extraordinary decrease."—Idem. (See also "Na­tional Fitness," by F. Le Gros Clark.)

Pellagra.—"The person who lacks health may often lack only some essential food property. 'Hog and hominy' with sorghum for sugar has long been the diet in parts of our own South. Result—pellagra. Remedy—an ordinary vegetable garden."—Idem.

Divers Diseases Due to Unbalanced Diet

Space does not permit the quotation of other statements, but to show the widest range in the least possible space we quote from "The Wheel of Health," by G. T. Wrench, M.D. Doctor Wrench makes a comparison of the experi­mental use in animals of the complete and excellently balanced diets of the Hunza, Sikh, and Parthan peoples of northern India with the faulty, unbalanced diets of other peoples of India.

"The only thing that was common to rat and man in this first experiment was the diet. Here in the great cleft of Hunza was a little oasis of a few thousand beings of almost perfect health, and here in the cages of Coonoor was a little oasis of a thousand and more albino rats also in perfect health. The only link connection between these two other­wise dissimilar sets of living things was a similar kind of diet.

"McCarrison now linked up other batches of rats in the same constant conditions of cleanliness and comfort with other peoples of India by their diets. He was in a most enviable position for trying out diets as a whole. The Indian subcontinent provides so many different races and different habits and diets. Hence McCarrison was able to sit in his sanctum at Coonoor and connect up his rats with teeming peoples near and far, and in the mirror of the rats read the dietetic fates of the peoples.

"He took the customary diets of the poorer peoples of Bengal and Madras, consisting of rice, pulses, vegetables, condiments, perhaps a little milk. He gave these to rats, Now, this diet immediately opened the lid of Pandora's box for the rats of Coonoor, and diseases and miseries of many kinds flew forth. McCarrison made a list of them as found by him in 2,243 rats fed on faulty Indian diets. Here it is as given by him at the Royal College of Surgeons in, necessarily, technical language :

'Diseases of the nose and accessory sinuses : sinusitis.

'"Diseases of the ear : otitis media, or pus in the middle ear.

'"Diseases of the upper respiratory passages : adenoid growths.

" 'Diseases of the eye : conjunctivitis, corneal ulceration, keratomalacia, panophtha/mitis.

" 'Gastrointestinal diseases : dilated stomach, gas­tric ulcer, epithelial new growths in the stomach, can­cer of the stomach (in two cases only), duodenitis, enteritis, gastrointestinal dystrophy, stasis.

''Diseases of the urinary tract: pyonephrosis, hydronephrosis, pyelitis, renal calculus, ureteral cal­culus, dilated ureters, vesical calculus, cystitis, in­crusted cystitis.

" 'Diseases of the reproductive system : inflamma­tion of the uterus, ovaritis, death of the foetus in utero, premature birth, uterine hemorrhage, hydrops testis.

" 'Diseases of the skin : loss of hair, dermatitis, ab­scesses, gangrene of the tail, gangrene of the feet, subcutaneous oedema.

" 'Diseases of the blood : anemia, a "pernicious" type of anemia, Bartonella Mars's anemia,

'"Diseases of the lymph and other glands : cysts in the subrnaxillary glands and accessory glands in the base of the tongue, abscesses in the same, and occasionally also in the inguinal glands, enlarged adrenal glands, atrophy of the thymus, enlarged mesenteric, bronchial, and other lymph glands.

"'Diseases of the endocrine system: lymph-adenoid goiter, and, very occasionally, hemorrhage into the pancreas.

" 'Diseases of the nervous system : polyneuritis.

"'Diseases of the heart : cardiac atrophy, occasion­ally cardiac hypertrophy, myocarditis, pericarditis, and hydropericardium.


"That is the complete list. Freeing it of its tech­nical dressing, in plain English it means that the rats, which were fed on the diets eaten by millions of Indians of Bengal and Madras, got diseases of every organ they possessed; namely, eyes,, noses, ears, lungs, hearts, stomachs, intestines, kidneys, bladders, reproductive organs, blood, ordinary glands, special glands, and nerves. The liver and the brain, it may be noted, do not occur in the list. The liver was, as a fact, found to be diseased in conjunction with the diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. The examination of the brain requires a careful opening of the small bony brain case of the rat and adds greatly to the time needed for postmortem exami­nations.

"This list denotes a pretty comprehensive lot of troubles to be loaded on to simple little creatures like rats as a result of eating faulty Indian diets. In a list given five years later in the Cantor Lec­tures, McCarrison adds a few further diseases, such as general weakness, lassitude, irritability, loss of hair, ulcers, boils, bad teeth, crooked spines, distorted vertebrae, and so on.

"Considering again the simplicity of the rat and its limitation in things human, the list is, comparatively speaking, almost as complete as the list of contents of a stately textbook of medicine."—"The Wheel of Health," G. T. Wrench, M.D. (See also "Some Surgical Aspects of Faulty Nutrition," British Medi­cal Journal, June 6, 1931.)

A classified summary reveals in the white rat sixty-one diseases in fourteen different parts, organs, or systems of the body, all due solely to defective diet, with ten more dis­eases in other animals on a defective diet. The diseases of this list are among the most promi­nent and common of human ailments. Among them are diseases in which we have hitherto considered the causes as mechanical, infec­tious, congenital, or hereditary. New growths or tumors, ductless-gland disorders, and heart disease might also be included. To all of these there have been no definitely assigned causes.

________ To be concluded in July

* Parallel scientific discussion to be read in con­nection with Section VI, "Improper Eating a Cause of Disease," in the book "Counsels on Diet and Foods."

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By G. K. ABBOTT, M.D., St. Helena Sanitarium

June 1939

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