Do you know the most sickly animal of the world? It is a certain two-legged animal called “homo sapiens”– the wise man. After man comes the domestic animal and last the wild animal. I have recently been studying a large German book about the diseases of wild animals, and have found that these sometimes suffer from diseases caused by parasites, poisonous herbs and external injuries. But all the common diseases of the intestines, liver, kidneys, brain and blood vessels that kill man at the age of fifty or sixty– these do not seem to be found in wild animals.
It seems, also, that such diseases are very little known by people living outside civilization. Time will not allow me to tell what Dr. McCarrison, Dr. Azemocer and others tell us about this matter. I suppose you know that the diseases I have mentioned are diseases of civilisation.
I think that it is much easier to prevent these diseases than it is to prevent infectious diseases, but, curiously enough, the medical profession has learned to prevent epidemic diseases while, as a rule, it has not learned to prevent organic diseases. On the contrary, the medical profession has even caused people to get these diseases.
Medical science has, as you know, been built upon mistakes, one greater than the other. But the greatest of all is the mistake about diet, especially about proteins. What are called “good proteins” I call bad proteins.
EXPERIMENTS ON MAN TO FIND THE BEST DIET.
I am now sixty-six years old. The last thirty-three years I have spent in searching for the best diet for man. I have specialised in experiments with man. Scientists use rats. Of course if you want to find the best diet for rats, I agree that it is wise to use rats, but if your intention is to find the best diet for man, I suggest that it is better to use men. Why have scientists not used men?
I suppose the reason is that they have not been able to find men who would offer their bodies for such experiments. It is, first, no fun to live one year alone on potatoes and margarine, and in this year, day after day, to control not only the food but also the urine and motions. It is the life of a slave. I myself have lived this way for months, but my assistant, Fr. Madsen, has lived this way for seventeen years and others have done the same for many years. It is to such heroes that I owe my results.
Thirty-three years ago I and my whole family began to live on a low protein diet. On such a diet I have brought up my four children, all unusually strong and healthy. Ten years later I began my public propaganda for a plain, mostly vegetarian, diet. My work aroused a great sensation, mainly because I lived so very cheaply– 32d. a day. In 1910, the Danish Parliament, as a king of reward, gave me a laboratory. I can here only mention some of my laboratory experiments.
THE VALUE OF THE POTATO.
Let us begin with potatoes. Previous to 1912, when we began, the value of potatoes as food for man had never been tried in a laboratory under scientific observation. It seems incredible, but is nevertheless true.
Now, to try the value of potatoes one cannot eat potatoes together with a lot of other foods. It is necessary to try living for a long time on potatoes alone, or at most with the addition of such a long test with a single food has never been tried before. I think it had never come into the head of a scientist that a man could live a year on potatoes.
In January, 1912, two other men and myself began to live on potatoes and margarine. I did not think it would succeed, but I wanted to see what would happen on such a diet. Afterwards, I would try how much meat or eggs there ought to be added to get enough of protein. The most remarkable thing was that nothing happened.
As an example, I will mention my assistant, Fr. Madsen. He lived for six months entirely on potatoes, margarine and water. He is a gardener by profession. He works from eight to three in the laboratory, but in the spring and summer he rises at three or four in the morning and works in gardens, and again from three to ten in the afternoon. He not only works, but he does twice the work of others. He used five pounds of potatoes and five ounces of margarine per day, and was all right.
In the autumn I sent him out in the country as a farm labourer. During the three months there, he worked fourteen hours or more a day, the only difference in his diet being that he increased his potato ration to eight pounds and his margarine to eight ounces. As shown in our report, his working power was unusually great. Once he worked continually through two days and one night, pausing only for an hour and a half to eat his potatoes.