Chapter 2

A striking instance of abstemiousness is that of Cornaro, a Venetian nobleman, who died in the year 1566 at the age of 98. Up to the age of 40 he spent a life of indulgence, eating and drinking to excess. At this time, having been endowed with a feeble constitution, he was suffering from dyspepsia, gout, and an almost continual slow fever, with an intolerable thirst continually hanging upon him. The skill of the best physicians of Italy was unavailing. At length he completely changed his habits of diet, and made a complete recovery. At the age of 83 he wrote a treatise on a "Sure and certain method of attaining a long and healthful life." He says, what with bread, meat, the yolk of an egg and soup, I ate as much as weighed 12 ozs., neither more nor less. I drank 14 oz. of wine. When 78 he was persuaded to increase his food by the addition of 2 oz. per day, and this nearly proved fatal. He writes that, instead of old age being one of weakness, infirmity and misery, I find myself to be in the most pleasant and delightful stage of life. At 83 I am always merry, maintaining a happy peace in my own mind. A sober life has preserved me in that sprightliness of thought and gaiety of humour. My teeth are all as sound as in my youth. He was able to take moderate exercise in riding and walking at that age. He was very passionate and hasty in his youth. He wrote other treatises up to the age of 95.

Kumagara, Lapicque and Breis-acher, have, as the result of their experiments, reduced the quantity of proteid required per 24 hours to 45 grammes. T. Hirschfeld states, as the conclusion of his research, that it is possible for a healthy man (in one case for 15 days and in another for 10 days) to maintain nitrogenous balance on from 30 to 40 grammes of proteid per day. Labbé and Morchoisne (Comptes Rendus, 30th May, 1904, p. 1365) made a dieting experiment during 38 days, upon one of themselves. The proteid was derived exclusively from vegetable food. The food consisted of bread, lentils, haricots, potatoes, carrots, chestnuts, endives, apples, oranges, preserves, sugar, starch, butter, chocolate and wine. At the commencement, the day's food contained 14.1 grammes of nitrogen = 89.3 proteid, which was gradually diminished. On the 7th day 11.6 g. N. = 73.5 g. proteid was reached; during this time less N. was eliminated, indicating that the proteid food was in excess of that required for the wear and tear of the body. As the quantity of nitrogenous food was diminished almost daily, the N. eliminated was found to diminish also. This latter was in slight excess of that absorbed; but when a day or two's time was allowed, without further reduction in the food, the body tended to adjust itself to the dimished supply, and there was an approximation of income and expenditure. The smallest quantity of food was reached on the 32nd day with 1.06 N. = 6.7 proteid, which was obviously too little, as 2.19 N. = 13.9 proteid was eliminated. On the 21st day 4.12 N. = 26 proteid was injested, and 4.05 N. was eliminated. The inference drawn from the research is that about 26 grammes of proteid per day was sufficient. The weight of the body remained practically constant throughout, and the subject did not suffer inconvenience. Of course the full amount of calories was kept up; as each succeeding quantity of the proteid was left off, it was replaced by a proper quantity of non-nitrogenous food. These experiments were carried out in the usual approved scientific manner. It may, however, be urged against any generalised and positive conclusions as to the minimum quantity of proteid required for the body, being drawn from such experiments, that the period covered by them was much too short. A prolonged trial might have revealed some obscure physiological derangement. We are quite justified in concluding that the usual, so-called "standard dietaries" contain an unnecessarily large proportion of proteid. In some practical dietaries, 50 grammes and under have seemed enough; but for the ordinary adult man, who has been accustomed to an abundance of proteid, and whose ancestors have also, it is probably advisable not to take less than 70 or 80 grammes per day (2½ to 3 ounces). If it is desired to try less, the diminution should be very gradual, and a watch should be kept for any lessening of strength.

Some comments may now be made upon the table of dietaries. That of the London sewing girl contained 53 grammes of proteid, which should have been ample, according to some of the authorities we have given; yet she was badly nourished. The food was doubtless of bad quality, and it appears deficient in carbo-hydrates; this latter is shown by the low number of calories. The long hours and unhealthy conditions of work, and not a deficiency of food constituents, is probably the cause of the bad health of such persons. There is no reason to think the proteid insufficient, although some persons have said as much. We have no particulars of the German vegetarians, but the calories appear satisfactory. In the poor German labourer's family the calories are too low. In Dr. T.R. Allinson's experiment on a wheatmeal dietary, it will not do to assume that less than 82 grammes of proteid would have been insufficient. It is probable that a smaller quantity of proteid would have been enough if the fat and carbohydrates had been increased. The calories are below the usual standard. In the succeeding example the calories are considerably higher, being not far from the usual standard, yet 54 grammes of proteid sufficed. It is a common error to place an undue value on the proteids to the extent of overlooking the other constituents. Dr. Alexander Haig in "Diet and Food," p. 8, cites the case of a boy aged 10, fed on 2¼ pints of milk per day. The boy lost weight, and Dr. Haig is of opinion that the quantity of milk was very deficient in proteid; more than twice as much being required. 2¼ pints of milk contain about 45 grammes of proteid, whereas, according to the usual figures (125 x 6/10) a boy of this age requires 75 g. This quantity of 45 g. is however, higher, allowing for the boy's age, than that in several of the dietaries we have given in our table. A little consideration will show that Dr. Haig has overlooked the serious deficiency of the milk in the other constituents, which accounts for the boy's loss of weight. The quantity of milk contains only about 160 g. of total solid matter, whilst 400 g. is the necessary quantity. Milk is too rich in proteid matter to form, with advantage, the sole food of a human being. Human milk contains much less in proportion to the other constituents.

The old doctrine enunciated by Justus von Liebig was that proteid matter is the principal source of muscular energy or strength. He afterwards discovered and acknowledged his error, and the subject has since been thoroughly investigated. The makers of meat extracts and other foods, either from their own ignorance of modern research or their wish to take advantage of the lack of knowledge and prejudice of the public, call proteid matter alone nourishment. The carbo-hydrates and fats are equally entitled to be called nourishment.

Our reason for devoting so much space to the consideration of the quantity of proteid matter required, is that in the opinion of many eminent writers it is the crux of vegetarianism. They have stated that it is impossible to obtain sufficient from vegetable foods alone, without consuming an excessive quantity of carbo-hydrates. We will summarise the argument as given in Kirke's Physiology, as edited by Morrant Baker, a standard work, and which is repeated in Furneaux's "Animal Physiology," a book which is much used in elementary science schools: "The daily waste from the system amounts to, carbon 4,500 grains (or 300 grammes), and nitrogen, 300 grains (or 20 grammes). Now let us suppose a person to feed on bread only. In order to obtain the necessary quantity of nitrogen to repair this waste he would have to eat nearly 4¼ lbs. daily.... He would be compelled to take about double the quantity of carbon required in order to obtain the necessary weight of nitrogen.... Next, let us suppose that he feeds on lean meat only. Then, in order to obtain the necessary quantity of carbon, he must eat no less than 6½ lbs. daily.... In this case we notice a similar waste of nitrogen, the removal of which would give an undue amount of work to the organs concerned.... But it is possible to take such a mixed diet of bread and meat as will supply all the requirements of the system, and at the same time yield but little waste material." (These extracts are from Furneaux, the next is from Kirke. The figures and argument is the same in each, but we have chosen those sentences for quotation which are the briefest and most suitable; certain calculations being omitted.) "A combination of bread and meat would supply much more economically what was necessary ... so that ¾ lbs. of meat, and less than 2 lbs. of bread would supply all the needful carbon and nitrogen with but little waste. From these facts it will be plain that a mixed diet is the best and most economical food for man; and the result of experience entirely coincides with what might have been anticipated on theoretical grounds only." Professor Huxley, in his "Elementary Physiology" uses almost the same figures and argument.

The adoption of this high proteid or nitrogen figure would lead to some ridiculous conclusions. One writer states that 18 eggs would contain sufficient flesh forming substance for a day's ration, but a very much larger quantity would be required to supply enough carbon. On the other hand, Professor Church says that, no less than 70 lbs. of pears would have to be eaten per day, to supply the necessary quantity of nitrogen; although the carbon would be in excess. The curious may calculate the proper quantity of each that would make a theoretically perfect dietary. People are apt to assume that what they themselves eat, or what their class, race, or nation eat, is the proper and necessary diet; at least as far as the elementary constituents and quantities are concerned. The error is in attempting to make a vegetarian diet, however contrary to common sense and the experience of the greater part of the earth's inhabitants, agree in composition with the ordinary lavish flesh dietary of the well-to-do European. It is significant that John Bull is caricatured with a large abdomen and a coarse, ruddy, if not inflamed face, indicative of his hearty dining on flesh, coarse food and alcoholic drinks. An unhealthy short lived individual. Even if we accept a high proportion of proteid, it is possible to combine purely vegetable foods so as to give the required quantity of the various constituents, without a superfluity of the carbo-hydrates. In "Food Grains of India," Professor A.H. Church shows by elaborate analyses and dietary tables, how this can be accomplished by various combinations of cereals, pulses, etc. He takes Forster and Voit's standard of 282 grains of nitrogen and 5,060 grains of carbon, with a suitable deduction for the smaller weight of the Indians. In his examples of daily rations he gives from 5 to 9 ounces of various beans, balanced by the addition of the proper quantity of rice—4 to 16 ounces, and a little oil. Such a large quantity of pulse appears to us excessive, and would cause discomfort to most persons. We much doubt whether those Indians who are strict vegetarians could consume such quantities.

Some valuable investigations were made on the diet of a family of fruitarians, at the Californian Agricultural Experimental Station, July, 1900, by Professor M.E. Jaffa (bulletin 107). The proportion of food, both proteid and carbo-hydrate used was surprisingly small. The research is particularly important, as the diet was not an experimental one, tried during a short period only; but that to which the family were accustomed. The family consisted of two women and three children; they had all been fruitarians for five to seven years, and made no change in their dietary during the experiment. They only had two meals a day, the food being eaten uncooked. The quantities of all the foods and other particulars are detailed in the bulletin. The first meal was at 10-30 a.m., and always consisted of nuts followed by fruits. The other meal was about 5 p.m., when they usually ate no nuts, substituting olive oil and honey. The nuts used were almonds, Brazil, pine, pignolias and walnuts; the fresh fruits were apples, apricots, bananas, figs, grapes, oranges, peaches and pears. Other foods were dates, raisins, pickled olives, olive oil and honey. One person (b) ate a little celery and tomatoes, and another (c) a little cereal food. In the following table are given the average daily quantities of the food constituents in grammes:—Proteids, fat, carbo-hydrate, crude fibre, value in calories and nutrient ratio. The crude fibre is classed as a carbo-hydrate and included in the calorie value, and also in calculating the nutrient ratio.

The last research extended over ten days; the period during which each of the other subjects was under observation was from 20 to 28 days.

(a) The tentative standard for a woman at light work calls for 90 grammes of proteids and 2,500 calories; it is thus seen that the quantity of food eaten was far below that usually stated as being necessary. The subject, however, was a very small woman, 5 feet in height, taking almost no physical exercise. She believed, as do fruitarians generally, that people need far less raw than cooked food. (b) The food eaten was even less in quantity than in the previous dietary. One reason for this was the fact that the subject was, for part of the time at least, under great mental strain, and did not have her usual appetite. Even this small amount of food, judging by her appearance and manner, seemed sufficient for her needs, enabling her to do her customary housework and take care of her two nieces and nephew, the subjects of the other experiments. (c) This girl was given cereals and vegetables when she craved them, but her aunt says she never looks nor feels so well when she has much starchy food, and returns to her next meal of uncooked food with an increased appreciation of its superiority. The commonly accepted dietary standard for a child 13 years old and of average activity, is not far from 90 grammes of proteids and 2,450 calories, yet the girl had all the appearance of being well fed and in excellent health and spirits. (d) During the 22 days of experiment, there was an increase in weight of 2 pounds, due to the fact that the family had been in straitened circumstances, and the food provided was more abundant during the study. (e) The subject had been very delicate as a baby. She was very small for her age, being 10 pounds under the average weight, and 7 inches less than the average height. It is interesting to note that her only gain in weight during the past year was made during this dietary and the one immediately following. This was due to her being urged to eat all she wanted, of what she most preferred, as the food was provided by those making the study. The proteid is less than the tentative standard for a child of 1 to 2 years old, but the subject appeared perfectly well and was exceedingly active. She impressed one as being a healthy child, but looked younger than her age. (ee) The subject is the same as in the previous experiment (e), but after an interval of 8 months, her seventh birthday occurred during the time.

Professor Jaffa, who made the investigation, says:—"It would appear that all the subjects were decidedly under-nourished, even making allowance for their light weight. But when we consider that the two adults have lived upon this diet for seven years, and think they are in better health and capable of more work than they ever were before, we hesitate to pronounce judgment. The three children had the appearance of health and strength. They ran and jumped and played all day like ordinary healthy children, and were said to be unusually free from colds and other complaints common to childhood. The youngest child, and the only one who has lived as a fruitarian almost from infancy was certainly undeveloped. She looked fully two years younger than she was. Still, there are so many children who are below the average in development, whose dietaries conform to the ordinary standards, that it would be unfair to draw any conclusions until many more such investigations are made."

The research shows that not only is there need of a revision of the "standard" quantity of proteids, but also of the carbo-hydrates and fats. It is generally said by those who have no practical experience amongst vegetarians, that the latter require a much larger quantity of food than do those who include flesh. The truth is that vegetarians eat less, often much less. It is a common experience that vegetable food has a more staying power, and a much longer period can be allowed between meals, without the inconvenience that a flesh-eater, especially a flesh and alcohol consumer, suffers. This is due, in part at least, to its less stimulating character and its slower digestion. This fact has been shown by the success of vegetarians in feats of strength and endurance, and especially in the comparatively fresh condition in which they have finished long walking, cycling, tennis, and other matches. Those who attempt to prolong their powers of endurance by flesh extracts and stimulating foods and drinks, usually finish in a very exhausted condition. The superior endurance and recovery from wounds, when compared with our English soldiers, of simple feeding men, such as the Zulus, Turks and Japanese, has often been remarked. It is often said that vegetable food, as it contains more fibre and is slower of digestion, taxes the bodily organs more. If we attempted to eat uncooked, the more fibrous vegetables, the grains, and unripe fruit, it would be quite true, but it is not so of the ordinary food of vegetarians. A slowness of digestion does not necessarily imply a greater strain on the system. As vegetables, in particular, are for the longest period of time in the intestines, and undergo the greater part of their digestion there, a gentle and slow process of digestion in that organ may be more thorough. It may also entail less expenditure of nervous energy than if the food had been of such a stimulating character, as to be hurried along the digestive tract. Digestion is for the most part a chemical process. If the food is of right kind and quantity, thoroughly masticated, assisted if necessary by cookery, and the digestive ferments are normal, digestion proceeds without any sensible expenditure or energy or consciousness of its accomplishment. There is nothing improbable in a flesh-eater requiring more food than a simple living vegetarian. His food contains more proteid, and excrementitious matter or extractives; these stimulate the digestive organs and overtax the excretory ones. Generally, he is fond of condiments, salt, and elaborate cooking, often also of alcohol; if a man, probably of tobacco. He lives, as it were, at high pressure.

There are on record certain experiments which appear to indicate the necessity of a large proportion of proteid, especially when the diet has been of vegetable origin. These experiments are inconclusive, because the subject has been accustomed to an ordinary flesh diet, perhaps also to alcoholic drinks. The change to a comparatively non-stimulating diet cannot be made, and the digestive organs expected to adapt themselves in a few days. Perhaps not even a month or a year would suffice, for some people, and yet that same diet would suit others. In some experiments the food has not been appetising, the subject has even taken it with reluctance or even loathing; an excess of some food has been eaten which no vegetarian or anybody else would think of using in a practical dietary.

Sometimes persons on changing from an ordinary flesh dietary, lose weight and strength. Generally, it is found that they have done little more than discontinue the flesh, without substituting suitable foods. Authorities think it is from a deficiency of proteid, and recommend an addition of such foods as pulse, wheatmeal, oatmeal, eggs, milk, cheese, and such as a reference to the table of analyses, show a low nutrient ratio figure. This may also be due to an insufficiency of food eaten, owing to the comparatively insipid character of the food and want of appetite. In making a change to a vegetarian diet, such foods had better be taken that are rather rich in proteid, and that approximate somewhat in their flavour and manner of cooking to that used previously. A further change to a simpler diet can afterwards gradually be made, according to conviction, tastes and bodily adaptability. It must not be expected that a change, even an ultimately very advantageous one, will always meet with an immediate and proper response from digestive and assimilative organs which have been accustomed for many years, perhaps by inheritance for generations, to another manner of living. There are several preparations produced from centrifugalised milk—that is milk from which the butter fat has been removed, which consist chiefly of proteid. These have a value in increasing the proteid contents of foods which may be thought deficient. The addition of these manufactured products appear unnecessary, as most of our food contains an abundance of proteid, and we can easily limit the quantity or avoid altogether those that are thought defective.

The later apologists for a flesh diet have had to admit that it is not a physiological necessity; but they have attempted to justify its use by a theory somewhat as follows. It is admitted, that any excess of proteid over that necessary for its special province of producing tissue, is utilised as a force-producer, in a similar manner to the carbo-hydrates. When the molecule is split up, and the carbon utilised, the nitrogen passes off in the form of urea by the kidneys. The theory propounded is that at the moment the nitrogen portion is liberated, it in some manner stimulates the living protoplasm of the nerve cells in its immediate neighbourhood to a higher state of activity. These views are given by Dr. Hutchison in his book on "Food," but there are no substantial grounds for them. It is only prompted by a wish to excuse a cherished habit. Sir William Roberts, M.D., in "Dietetics and Dyspepsia," p. 16 says that "high feeding consists mainly in a liberal allowance of meat, and in the systematic use of alcoholic beverages, and that low-feeding consists in a diet which is mainly vegetarian and non-alcoholic," and he proceeds to say that the high-fed classes and races display, on the whole, a richer vitality and a greater brain-power than their low-fed brethren. That "it is remarkable how often we hear of eminent men being troubled with gout, and gout is usually produced either by personal or ancestral high-feeding." We can only spare room for a few remarks on this subject. Intellectual and business ability brings wealth, wealth frequently leads to the pleasures of the table, but such habits are detrimental to sustained effort and clearness of mind. The children and grandchildren of such high livers are usually common-place, intellectually, and of deteriorated physique. The aristocracy who are generally high livers, notwithstanding their great advantages of education, travel and leisure, are not as a rule famed for their intellectual gifts. In the recent war the frugal living Japanese soldier has proved himself the most enduring and bravest in history; whilst the Japanese officers are more resourceful and tactful than the wealthier, high-fed Russian officers, with their aristocratic lineage. What is called high-feeding, is of the greatest benefit to the doctors and the proprietors of remedies for digestive and nervous disorders.

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