FOOD AND HEALTH. The whole country was placed on a low-protein diet. Believers in high protein suggested that the resistance against disease would decrease. My expectations were to the contrary. Who won? Well, the result was a great victory for the low-protein diet. The state of health improved as never before.


IT is not necessary to add meat or eggs to a whole-wheat or whole-rye bread diet to get enough protein. My assistant, Fr. Madsen, could get balance on 47 g. of digestible bread protein. We were not able to get lower on bread alone because it contains so much protein. But is this a minimum? To try to get lower we must add protein-free foods. Besides more fat, we can add sugar and starch.

In this way others got down to 20 g. of protein, but after two weeks they did not feel well; they lost appetite, and felt nausea. They thought, then, that this was caused by too little protein. But that was a mistake. The trouble was the bad composition of the diet.

We found a better composition: To whole-rye breads we added prunes cooked together with sugar and starch prune porridge as we called it a dish that is much used in Denmark in the summer. In this way we succeeded in getting down to 22 g. of protein net. Two men lived on such a diet half a year and felt very well. Their working power was as shown by test unusual.

One of the men walked, after finishing, 262 miles in four days and without previously training. That proves that 22g. of rye protein is enough, or that rye protein has the same value as meat and milk protein. A very significant result. Only short experiments or experiments with bread without bran have given different results.


All in all I maintain, on a basis of thirty years of experimentation, that a diet poor in protein does not decrease but, on the contrary, increases endurance. That is quite the same result as found by Chittenden and by Irving Fisher at Yale. But it is difficult for people who have never tried it to believe. I know myself how difficult it is to free ones self from old ideas.


In this experiment two men lived for six months on barley- porridge, sugar, vegetable margarine and water. One of the two men was sick at the beginning. He had for a couple of years been suffering from indigestion, was thin and looked ill. After finishing, his indigestion was cured, he had increased 22 pounds in weight, and he looked well. The other man felt very well the whole time and had an excellent working power.

The wife of a Danish teacher told me the following: At the beginning of the War her husband had lost an extra income. Her funds were not sufficient for four children from ten to sixteen who were big eaters. So she told them to eat much of the first course, porridge, because they would not get much meat. But she could not make the children do it. Then she started to serve nothing but barley porridge four days each week. This taught the children to eat porridge. And the result was that, after some months, they looked much better. The wife continued: “Also I myself looked much better. My husband tells me that I never have been so nice-looking before”.

When guinea pigs are fed on barley only, they die from scurvy in four weeks. And I must add that when we took away the margarine and lived on barley and sugar alone, the result was quite different. The men lost weight, lost appetite, and did not feel well. Is there anything wrong with vegetable margarine? We read always that this food does not contain any vitamins at all. According to our very long experiments with different cereals plus vegetable margarine, that seems not to be correct. We must remember also, that the coco-oil is churned with milk and that a little egg-yolk is added as a rule.

From this must come a small amount of vitamins A and C. This seems to be sufficient for adults, who, in contrast to the small animal, need little of this vitamin. Children need more, but it seems that children may get ill from too much A vitamin. That is the experience of Professor Dr. Monrad, Director of the Childrens Hospital in Copenhagen. He has reported that 350 children got ill through having too much butter, whole milk, cream and eggs. They were slim, slack, tired and anaemic.

As soon as these foods were taken away and they were given instead skim milk and vegetable margarine the children got healthy, got red cheeks and increased in weight. When Monrad was told that I intended to go to the United States, he said “Tell them that they are vitamin crazy. I do not maintain that all children get sick through much butter, cream and milk, but some do”.


Two men lived eight months on oats, vegetables margarine and sugar, and felt in excellent health.

It is very surprising to some that my men, who lived for years on cereals and margarine, did not get scurvy. I would not, of course, recommend such a diet, as I suppose that some would get the disease, but that would be easy to prevent by adding potatoes.


How much fat do we need? That was a burning question during the War. In 1916 we tried to find a diet without fat possible to follow for a lengthy time. It was not easy. After many tests, we found that a diet composed of cabbage soup with potatoes, eaten together with bread mostly whole grain bread was a good composition. Now, how long do you believe it possible to exist on this composition?

I do not know, but two of my men followed this diet living 835 days, or more than two years. The only variation was that in the spring they sometimes had rhubarb-soup and in the autumn sometimes apple-soup, instead of cabbage-soup. The men always felt well. Fr. Madsen increased 20 pounds in weight in the first nine weeks of this experiment.

When in 1918 I published these results in German, I drew the conclusion: “Fat is not necessary. Greens can replace fat.”.

The German physiologists thought I was crazy. But then a year later Mendel showed that spinach and carrots can replace butter in feeding rats. Now all believe me. It is not the fat but the fat-vitamins that are needed, and these are found in greens as well.

This is a very significant result. It solves for a time the question of over-population. If animal production were wholly given up and people lived alone on bread, porridge, potatoes and vegetables, Denmark could produce food enough for twenty million. Germany for two hundred million, and Great Britain for one hundred and thirty million people. Now Great Britain imports most of the food for forty-five million. United States and Canada could, I suppose, produce food enough for half the world.

You remember that during the war hundreds of thousands of people in Germany were “starving”. They did not need to starve; they starved from superstition. Science should have helped, but it did quite the contrary. In 1915 I wrote an article about nutrition in a German paper. I closed with the following: “The Germans know that they fight against three Great Powers, but they do not know that also they fight against a fourth, more dangerous than the three, namely, the German swine.” I was right. It was the swine that caused the starvation, caused the desperation, caused the dreadful submarine war that brought the Americans to Europe.


According to the structure of the teeth, man seems to be mainly a fruit-eater. We tried for about five months to live alone on fruits apples, pears, bananas and on nuts, but curiously enough Fr. Madsen, who was a strict vegetarian and who therefore thought beforehand that this would be an ideal diet, was forced to change his mind. He and his comrade did not feel so well on the fruit diet as on the simple bread, potato or oats diets. One cannot live on apples and pears. Bananas in Europe are not the same as bananas in the tropics. Madsen also spent considerable time in masticating the necessary nuts.

A fruit diet may be good in the tropics, where one has a great many kinds of fruits, but not in Denmark. A fruit diet is very expensive, and why induce people to live on fruits alone when it does not give so good a feeling of well-being as the plain and cheap bread and potato diet. Fruit can be, however, a good addition. A diet of bread from sifted rye and margarine plus tomatoes gave excellent results.


We also tried to live on meat alone. But when we had lived on lean meat, boiled or roasted, eaten three times a day, in only three days we were so ill that none of us would continue. What was the cause? Well, when the intestines are filled with lean meat, putrefaction occurs, and the result is diarrhoea with very badly smelling stools. This process produced toxins, which on absorption cause poisoning. A pure lean meat diet is poisonous for man. There is no doubt about that.

But this does not prove that a certain small amount of meat is poisonous. When, together with meat, great portions of cereals and potatoes are given, acid bacteria are produced that kill the bacteria of putrefaction. I suppose that it is best not to eat meat at all, but this I am not able to prove, and it is a principle of mine not to make claims that I am unable to prove.

How much meat different persons may endure without getting ill varies, but that many people eat more meat than is good for them is proved through the numerous diseases of digestion that are cured through a vegetarian diet. All doctors know that. Many patients if put on a vegetarian diet are cured. When they go back to meat they again get sick. What is said about meat also holds good for eggs and party for milk. Milk seems to be a good food for many, but not for others who get indigestion from it.


As white bread seems to be the main staff of life in England and America, I think that milk is a good addition, but if you changed to whole-wheat or whole-rye bread and more potatoes, I should not think that milk would have much effect.

Of course, it is not my intention to induce people to live on potatoes alone, on whole-wheat or whole-rye bread alone, or on barley alone. These diets were necessary for the scientific determination of the values of the different foods. But when one can live on any one of these foods alone, a mixture of all is still more likely to give a well-balanced diet.

As a result of all my studies and experiments, I draw the conclusion, therefore, that the best diet should be composed mainly of whole-wheat or whole-rye bread, barley oats, potatoes, butter (or margarine), some green vegetables, and some fruit as a relish.

I have not been able to find that it makes any difference whether or not in addition we give a pint of milk. We have found that three of the very best foods we have are potatoes, barley and bran. But such food the Danes are foolish enough to give to the pigs and cows. When the pigs have wasted eighty per cent of the nutrients, and that the very best, for instance all the vitamins, then we eat the pigs.

My experiments were conducted with only two men at the same time. It would have been better, of course, to have had more men, but it is easier to catch a rat than a man for such purposes, not mentioning the difference in expenses.


In 1917 I got an unique chance. The Danish Sovereign asked me to plan, in conjunction with Prof. Mollgaard, the rationing for Denmark during the war blockade. This blockade was enforced in February, 1917. The Allies would not allow us to import food on account of a possible sale to starving Germany. We came into a dreadful situation, which perhaps would be difficult for you to understand. You may think that it would be easy for us to get food enough because we have a very large animal production, but you must not forget that more than half of this production is based on imported foods.

Denmark normally grows forty-four million bushels of rye, wheat and barley. It imports sixty million bushels, which makes a total consumption of one hundred and four million bushels.

The sixty million bushels were stopped, and through drought we lost twelve million bushels of our normal crop. We had only thirty-two and would need one hundred and four million bushels. The situation seemed desperate and it was no conclusion that the Germans were starving although they normally raised about twice as much rye and double as many potatoes per million inhabitants as Denmark.

It seemed desperate, but the solution was nevertheless extremely simple. The fact was that both people and pigs could not live. In Germany the pigs were allowed to live and therefore the people died. In Denmark we killed our pigs and lived directly on the pigs food their barley and potatoes. We took all the wheat bran from the cows and put it in our whole-rays bread. The half of our bread consisted of bran. Moreover, we took the grains from the distillers, which left us without brandy and whisky, while the English deprived us of our coffee. Some doctors were angry and wrote that Hindhede put the people on pig-food and chicken-food.

Yes, I did. It was my intention to put my people on pig-food, a natural diet, to show how foolishly we humans have lived.

The whole country was placed on a low-protein diet. Believers in high protein suggested that the resistance against disease would decrease. My expectations were to the contrary. Who won? Well, the result was a great victory for the low-protein diet. The state of health improved as never before. The doctors lost their business. The death rate went down during this period of rationing October 1st, 1917, to October 1st, 1918 to 104 per 1,000, the lowest known death rate of any European country at any time. The total deaths in our little country during this time was 6,306 lower than the year before the War, when the death rate had been the lowest ever known before in Denmark.

M Hindhede