From The Vegetarian News.
We are informed that Stefansson and Anderson, Arctic explorers, succeed in demonstrating that it is possible to subsist on an exclusive meat diet for an entire year. They were said to have been in excellent health when they began the experiment, and from observation there were no visible evidences of their having been injured by it.
This is an agreement with the experiments on animals conducted by Dr. Louis H. Newburgh, Professor of Clinical Investigation at the University of Michigan, to ascertain the effect of certain foods on their health. He fed some rabbits on a considerable amount of beef protein. He says, “Nothing we ever fed rabbits was so pleasing to them. As a result they grew to be abnormally large and gave the appearance of great vigour.
Visitors to the laboratory were impressed by the fine appearance of these animals.” But, he says, one year on this diet “produced serious injury to the kidney tubule.” This discovery was made, and could only be made, after the animals were killed and the kidney structures were examined microscopically. So pronounced was the injury that “the cells that performed the excretory function of the kidneys,” says Prof. Newburgh, had “largely disappeared. “Yet these animals appeared to be in health at the time they were killed. He carried on the same experiments on rats, which are known to be very resistant to disease.
The results of the experiments on rats were practically the same. These animals, it must be borne in mind, were not fed on an exclusive meat diet. On an exclusive meat diet they would not have fared so well. On a twenty-five per cent, protein diet, in one years time serious changes in the kidneys had developed, although the animals appeared to be exceptionally well.
Dr. Hindhede, of Denmark, in his experiments, not upon rats but upon men, tells of a diet made up of a “cabbage soup with potatoes, eaten together with bread, mostly whole-grain bread,” upon which two of his men subsided for “eight hundred and thirty- five days, or more than two years.” One of the men put on “twenty-five pounds in weight during the first nine weeks of this experiment.” They were then tried on “whole-rye bread and prunes cooked together with sugar and starch, a dish that is much used in Denmark in summer. Two men lived on such a diet half-a-year and felt very well.
Their working power was, as shown by tests, unusual. One of them walked two hundred and sixty-two miles in four days and without training before.” For months Dr. Hindhede himself lived on potatoes and margarine alone. His assistant, he tells us, “lived this way for seventeen years.” He says, “In 1926 I made a visit to the western part of Ireland. I found there the poorest people I have ever met.
I had dinner with them, a dinner consisting of potatoes, and of potatoes alone, without butter, gravy or bacon. We were offered some buttermilk to drink with it. The evening meal was usually the same.” He says, “On this diet I found the strongest and healthiest people in the whole of Ireland, and I believe in the whole country.”.
Referring to his own experiments Dr. Hindhede says, “Two of us lived for eight months on very coarse whole-wheat bread and vegetable margarine. On this diet we felt unusually well.” He says, “We also tried to live on meat alone. But when we had lived on lean meat cooked or roasted three times a day, in only three days we were so ill that none of us could continue.” Referring to the Eskimos, who subsist largely on a meat diet, he says, “The Eskimos cannot be used, or misused, as a proof o the harmlessness of a meat diet.
They may appear strong and healthy, but the internal organs are probably ruined at an early age.” Very few of them live to old age. Referring to Americans, who live so largely upon meat, he says, “Once notices the terrible toll of death in America due to Brights disease. I can no longer doubt that a high meat diet ruins the kidneys, especially in view of Dr. Newburghs experiments, proving as they do that we may with mathematical certainly produce Brights disease even in rats by placing them on a high meat diet.”.
Professor E. V. McCollum, of Johns Hopkins University, Americas leading authority on diet, in answer to the question, “Can the highest degree of health and vigour be developed and maintained on a diet excluding meat? said, “Yes, all evidence from both animal experimentation and human experience supports, in a manner which can never be broken down, the viewpoint that meat is not necessary in the human diet. It is also supports the conclusion that the best type of diet is a lacto-vegetarian diet.
I am convinced that anyone who eats the average amount of meat consumed in this country, will improve, rather than suffer, by cutting it all out of his diet. Meats greatly increase intestinal putrefaction. There is no other class of foods which so greatly tends to promote intestinal putrefaction and unwholesome decomposition products”.
We see from these experiments that the fact that two men –Stefansson and Anderson– who were in good health were able to subsist on a meat diet for one year and maintain the appearance of health by no means proves that they were uninjured by it. An examination of the kidneys and other vital organs alone would have revealed the extent of the injury they sustained. Since it is possible to examine these organs only after death, as in the case of the animals experimented with by Dr. Newburgh, there was no possible way of determining how badly the organs of these meat-eaters were injured.
Possibly an additional six months on a meat diet would have told altogether a different story, since the animals experimented upon showed only slight injury of the kidneys during the first eight months of feeding and appeared to be unusually well, but if allowed to continue another eight months death invariably resulted. It would seem from this that it was fortunate for Stefansson and Anderson that their experiment ended when it did, at the expiration of the first year.
That changes in the kidneys and other vital organs are difficult of detection by ordinary medical examination was shown during the World War in autopsies conducted on men who had passed every examination and were considered to be in health. Dr. Keen, the eminent surgeon, in his eighth volume, informs us that forty per cent. of the autopsies he conducted on the young men under twenty years of age who fell on the battle front during the war showed degenerative changes in heart, liver and kidneys.
Only ten per cent. were found with normal kidneys at the age of forty. Fifty per cent. of them had sclerosis of kidneys, liver and blood vessels. He says, “If these figures are even approximately correct, they show that slight sclerotic changes in the liver and kidneys are present in an unexpectedly large number of young men, who are apparently in perfect health.”.
The mortality from organic and degenerative diseases is constantly increasing in all highly civilized countries. It is generally known that men who die suddenly of heart diseases usually have the appearance of health. Even a medical examination would probably fail in revealing any disease. Only a post mortem can reveal this degeneracy. The free use of meat in America is undoubtedly one of the causes of the high and ever- increasing mortality from heart and kidney diseases. It is well known that those who live to a useful old age are either very moderate users of meat, or else they are total abstainers.
Why did these men adopt an exclusive meat diet for one year? It was not to improve their health, since they were said to have been in excellent health when they began their experiment. The experiment was not made to prolong life. It if had been, they undoubtedly would have continued to subsist upon an exclusive meat diet the remainder of their days. They knew better than to attempt such a thing.
I may be pardoned for relating my own experience. I adopted a meatless diet about fifty years ago. At the time I was not in good health. One years experiment convinced me that it was beneficial for me to continue this regime. These forty-eight years both my wife and I have lived on a meatless diet, and now, at the age of over three score and ten, we are still actively engaged in work. This seems to be a fair test, since it covers not merely a period of one year, but of nearly half-a-century.
It is well known that during the past few years Americans have been eating less and less meat. This has caused a falling-off in the beef-packing business, to the extent that some alarm has been felt by its promoters. Various efforts have been made by them to encourage people to eat more meat. Money has been freely spent in advertising. I am of the opinion that the experiment of Stefansson and Anderson was really conducted in the interest of the meat trade, and that these men were probably well remunerated for attempting for one year such a hazardous experiment. I may be wrong, but I can conceive of no other explanation.