Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Chapter 4: Isolated and Modernized Gaelics

Continuing my review of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price...

Black House on Isle of Harris (by Kevin Donner)
Korean thatched roof house (초과집)
Price visits the Outer Hebredies, off the coast of Scotland, in this chapter. I am so very much intrigued by the "black houses" of these people - I believe I would like to live in one. I have always loved thatch roofs (they are used in many traditional Korean buildings) but never really thought about how they were constructed, so I went looking and found several different ways, some involving only framed roofs and others with a full roof under the thatch. The wind blows a lot (all the time?) on an island and I imagine it's not all that warm there even in the summer and indeed, the photos of the people show very happy, healthy looking folks. I would like to live there in that way. The key to the "black houses" is that they burn peat inside the house and the smoke wafts up through the thatch thereby depositing soot on the thatch. It not only helps waterproof the roof (even though thatch is waterproof), but also the thatch is composted back onto the fields, thereby releasing the minerals that were in the soot. It's a great system with a proper experiment by Price to show the excellent growth of oats through this fertilizing method. However, by the end of the chapter we learn that the government has convinced the people to abandon their ancestors' way and build modern housing. Sigh!

In his study of these people, Price notes the excellent health of those still eating the primitive diet of oats and fish along with the poor health of those who have switched to eating modern refined foods, imported from the mainland. He found one area were those on a traditional diet had 0.7% evidence of tooth decay and those on the modern diet had 16.3% tooth decay. Here is the diet he observed in the healthy:
A dietary program competent to build stalwart men and women and rugged boys and girls is provided by the residents of these barren Islands, with their wind and storm-swept coasts, by a diet of oats used as oatcake and oatmeal porridge; together with fish products, including some fish organs and eggs. p.53
And the diet of those with tooth decay:
A seriously degenerated stock followed the displacement of this diet with a typical modern diet consisting of white bread, sugar, jams, syrup, chocolate, coffee, some fish without livers, canned vegetables, and eggs. p.53
I'm beginning to see a pattern here... a nutrient dense, limited set of foods, prepared in traditional ways gives practically perfect health; whereas the refined foods of modern industry give way to poor health and disease. That much seems clear. I'm interested to find out if there is any safe level of refined foods. I mean, is it okay to eat a sugary donut once a week, or ice cream once a month? Or perhaps only at holidays? Or is the answer that one should never have these foods? I think another way of putting that last question might be: are these foods poisonous?

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