Faulty Food Habits and Disease

Faulty Food Habits and Disease—No. 2

Our second article on the links between diet and disease.

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

The animal experiments reported in the previous article compared the effects of the diets of India with those of the vari­ous classes of the English nation. It seemed from these experiments that the diets of the English people resulted in a great preponder­ance of the common diseases of the respira­tory and gastrointestinal tracts. Among these respiratory diseases are many that are recog­nized as due to infections; that is, of germ origin, such as pus in the sinuses and the middle ear, bronchitis, pneumonia, broncho­pneumonia, and other infections such as boils and abscesses. Regarding the occurrence of pneumonia as related to the diet, Dr. Alexis Carrel, of the Rockefeller Institute, makes a remarkable observation:

"The frequency of pneumonia may also be modified by food. The mice belonging to one of the strains kept in the mousery of the Rockefeller Institute died of pneumonia in proportion of 52 percent while sub­jected to the standard diet. Several groups of these animals were given different diets. The mortality from pneumonia fell to 32 percent, 14 percent, and even zero, according to the food."—"Man, the Un­known," p. 207.

From voluminous research it is now known that susceptibility to pneumonia is due to lack of vitamin A, and consequent failure in the maintenance of the normal structure and function of the respiratory mucous membranes which prevent the entrance of germs into the tissues, and the further failure of the internal protective efforts of vitamin C, and possibly other dietary factors, in neutralizing the tox­ins or destroying the germ. A definite rela­tionship of the dietary lack of vitamin C to rheumatic fever has recently been discovered. Nearly all dietary deficiencies, and many dietary excesses, prepare the body for infec­tions. Sometimes they are the real determin­ing factor, as shown by susceptibility and so-called natural immunity.

Relation of Diet to Disposition

"Many spoil their dispositions by eating improperly. . . . It is possible for one to spoil his spiritual experience by an ill-use of the stomach."—"Counsels on Diet and Foods," p. 126.

"Against every transgression of the laws of life, nature will utter her protest. She bears abuse as long as she can ; but finally the retribution comes, and it falls upon the mental as well as the physical powers."—Id., p. 120.

That improper diet and eating have much to do with the disposition as well as with gross physical disease is not unknown to experi­mental science, even though animals cannot be used to demonstrate the production of mental disorders. Concerning the wide range of dis­eases produced by faulty diet, Wrench says:

"The list is, comparatively speaking, almost as complete as the list of contents of a stately book of medicine. The diseases of the mind and other very special diseases are omitted. One cannot exactly diagnose neurasthenia, hysteria, and schizophrenia, in the rat.

"Yet even in rats, conditions like these arise from faulty diet. For example, in later experiment, Mc­Carrison gave a set of rats the diet of the poorer classes of England : white bread, sweetened tea, boiled vegetables, tinned meats, •and jams of the cheaper sort. On this diet, not only did the rats grow badly, but they developed what one might call rat neurasthenia, and more than neurasthenia. They were nervous and apt to bite their attendants; they lived unhappily together, •and by the sixteenth day of the experiment they began to kill and eat the weaker ones among them. . .

"We are left, then, at the end of these experiments with two vividly contrasting sets of little animals in this small 'universe' of Coonoor—those on good and those on faulty diet; the healthy and the sickly; and certain mental characteristics in contrast—the good-tempered and live-and-let-live on the one hand, the bad-tempered and cannibalistic on the other."—"The Wheel of Health," p. 38.

Speaking of his personal visit to Doctor McCarrison's experimental station at Coonoor, Doctor Heiser says:

"As I approached the first cage, a heavy, stocky rat lunged viciously at me. His hair was rough, his whiskers bristled threateningly. . He was ready to fight at the drop of a hat. From the time he had been weaned he had been fed on white bread and jam, boiled beef, boiled mutton, boiled fish, boiled vegetables, boiled tea—the English workman's daily fare. It was apparent that he and his fellows par­took of the nature of the Britons, and never, never would be slaves.

"Next to them, pink eyes round and placid, were the rats brought up on the Sikh and Pathan diet. They were as large as the British rats, but their fur lay sleek and smooth; and they were gently dis­posed."—Reader's Digest, March, 1938.

That even insanity occurs in the deficiency disease, pellagra, has been known for many years. Very recent experiments with a newly identified fraction of the vitamin B complex in the treatment of insane pellagrins, have produced complete mental restoration in four to six days. (See Journal of the American Medical Association, May 14, 1938, p. 1665 ; June i8, 1938, p. 2065; Aug. 13, 1938, p. 584.)

To the dietary production of all this great variety of disease, one might add, if space permitted, the effects in detail of the total or relative lack of each of the various food ele­ments which regulate the growth, structure, and function of the numerous tissues, organs, and systems of the body. These regulative substances are the vitamins, minerals, and certain amino acids. The known distinct frac­tions of the vitamins or essentially separate vitamins are at least twelve main ones and sev­eral others less perfectly known, or problem­atic. It is this field of research which is re­vealing the causes of many Other diseases of hitherto obscure or unknown causation.

A brief scanning of literature at hand shows a very large number of these diseases and disorders in which a faulty or unbalanced diet is wholly or largely the cause. Among them are night blindness, colds, acne, dental cavities, pyorrhea, gingivitis, trench mouth, spinal-cord degenerations, nerve degenerations, loss of ap­petite, constipation, stunted growth, degenera­tions and other disorders of the ductless glands (pancreas, thyroid, adrenals, testes, ovaries, pituitary, thymus), scurvy, purpora hemor­rhagica, rickets, failure of callus formation after fractures, tetany, congenital pyloric hy­pertrophy and stenosis, malformations of the teeth and jaws, cataract, psoriasis, pruritis (certain types), eczemas (certain types), secondary anemias, and pernicious anemia.

Dietary excesses of protein, acid ash, or animal fats, as well as dietary deficiencies, play an even larger part in some diseases such as Bright's•disease, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, cardiac hypertrophies, apoplexy, cir­rhosis of the liver, and in some skin diseases such as psoriasis, general pruritis, and certain eczemas.

Many years ago Sir William Osler said, "Ninety per cent of all conditions outside of acute infections and traumatisms, are directly traceable to diet." And now the predisposing and really determining cause of many infec­tions has been found to be dietetic. By far the larger proportion of degenerative diseases, such as those of the liver, heart, blood vessels, and kidneys, are also directly traceable to diet. These are the "current customs" and "popular errors in regard to diet." We cannot say what the whole truth might reveal, but from what is now known (and without any attempt to say what proportion), the statement, "The dis­ease and suffering that everywhere prevail are largely due to popular errors in regard to diet," would seem a very conservative statement.

Influence of Diet on Heredity

The statements in regard to the hereditary transmission of disease originally due to trans­gressions of parents and their faulty diet ("Counsels on Diet and Foods," pp. 117-119, 12o), deserve more consideration than can be given here. The statements concerning the effects of transgression of natural law on longevity find striking scientific confirmation by H. C. Sherman in regard to the single factor of diet:

"As there has been so strong a tendency to attrib­ute longevity entirely to hereditary factors, it may be worthwhile to emphasize the fact that here in parallel groups of exactly the same heredity, the in­fluence of food on longevity is demonstrated with such degree of mathematical certainty as is repre­sented 'by chances' much better than to,000 to 1, or with a hundredfold greater certainty than is usually considered necessary for the conclusive establish­ment of such scientific observations."—"High Blood Pressure," pp. 16o, 161".

The degenerative diseases are particularly related to longevity, for they cut the thread of life prematurely in a most notable and often tragic manner. Specifically, concerning he­reditary kidney disease due to meat eating, Doctor Newburgh, of the University of Michi­gan, reports some very enlightening experi­ments showing the deceptive effects of ex­ternal appearances while internal organs are fatally injured. (Id., p. 67.) Doctor Hind­hede of Denmark gives other facts of undeni­able significance in connection with the de­generative diseases and longevity. (Id., pp. 84-86.) Also, arteriosclerosis in its first stages has been found in young children and even in the newborn and the fetus. (Cowdry, "Arteri­osclerosis," p. 13.)

In connection with this subject, a further statement is made which all of us should heed. "Many suffer in consequence of the trans­gression of their parents. While they are not responsible for what their parents have done, it is nevertheless their duty to ascertain what are and what are not violations of the laws of health."—"Counsels on Diet and Foods," p. 122. In view of all this, we can see the im­portance of including health subjects in the curriculum of every academic and college course in all our denominational schools.

Current Medical Notations

Dr. Thurlow C. Nelson, head of the de­partment of zoology, Rutgers University, re­ported before a conference of New York and New Jersey health officers that "i8,000,000 persons in the United States have trichinosis, the worm disease from eating undercooked pork. The disease is painful, as the worms enter the more active muscles, such as chest, heart, eyes, and tongue. If too many of the parasites are eaten with undercooked pork, death is likely." Doctor Nelson said the spread of trichinosis is unrecognized, and is a national health problem. "Particularly dis­turbing," he said, "is the fact that the medical profession as a whole does not recognize this parasitic infection, but writes down a diagnosis of typhoid, intestinal flu, pleurisy, or may even operate for appendicitis. In all, some sixty diseases have been confused with trich­inosis."

Federal health statistics in the United States reveal these informative facts:

Four millon persons are incapacitated by illness in an average day of every year.

Over 40 percent of counties with a popula­tion of seventeen million in the United States do not have a registered hospital.

In 1936, nearly 250,000 women did not have a physician to care for them at time of child­birth.

Twelve thousand mothers die each year as the result of childbirth.

Every year seventy million sick persons lose a billion days of gainful labor.

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

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