Nutrition and Physical Degeneration
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Let us go to the ignorant savage, consider his way of eating, and be wise. Let us cease pretending that tooth-brushes and tooth-paste are any more important than shoe-brushes and shoe-polish. It is store food which has given us store teeth. Students of history have continually commented upon the superior teeth of the so-called savages including the human types that have preceded our modernized groups. While dental caries has been found occasionally in several animal species through the recent geologic ages, the teeth of the human species have been comparatively free from dental caries.
Primitive human beings have been freer from the disease than has contemporary animal life. This absence of tooth decay among primitive races has been so striking a characteristic of human kind that many commentators have referred to it as a strikingly modern disease. Dryer, 6 in discussing dental caries in the pre-historic South Africans, makes this comment: In not one of a very large collection of teeth from skulls obtained in the Matjes River Shelter Holocene was there the slightest sign of dental caries.
The indication from this area, therefore, bears out the experience of European anthropologists that caries is a comparatively modern disease and that no skull showing this condition can be regarded as ancient. In connection with the studies reported in this volume, it is of particular importance that a desire to find the cause of dental caries was the primary reason for undertaking these investigations.
Since it was exceedingly difficult to find in our modern social organization any large group with relatively high immunity to dental caries, a search was made for such control groups among remnants of primitive racial stocks that could also be examined at the point of contact with modern civilization in order that the changes associated with their racial loss of immunity might be noted.
Probably few problems with which our modern social groups are concerned have been so inadequately understood not only by the laity, but by the members of the medical and dental professions as has this problem of the cause of dental caries. The problem of correcting dental arch deformities and thereby improving facial form has developed a specialty in dentistry known as "orthodontia.
The blending of racial stocks that differ radically in facial form has been said by many to be the chief factor contributing to the creation of deformities of the face. Crowded teeth have been said to be due to the inheritance of the large teeth of one parent and the small bone formation of the other and that such inheritances would provide dental arches that are too small for the teeth that have been made for them.
A more general explanation for certain types of deformity, particularly for the protruding of the upper teeth over the lower, is that they result from thumb sucking, which tends to bring the upper arch forward and to depress the lower. Among the other contributing factors named have been faulty sleeping and breathing habits.
To these has been assigned much of the blame. This problem of facial form, as well as that of bodily design, including dental arch design, is so directly a problem of growth, not only of individuals, but of races themselves, that certain laws have been very definitely worked out by physical anthropologists as laws of development.
They have assumed that changes in physical type can occur only through the impact of changes in the environment which have affected a great number of generations. It is important to keep this viewpoint in mind as the succeeding chapters are read, for they contain descriptions of many changes in physical form that have occurred routinely in the various racial groups, even during the first generation after the parents have adopted the foods of modern civilization.
Many of our modern writers have recognized and have emphasized the seriousness of mental and moral degeneration. Laird has made a splendid contribution under the title "The Tail That Wags the Nation," 7 in which he states: The country's average level of general ability sinks lower with each generation. Should the ballot be restricted to citizens able to take care of themselves?
One out of four cannot. The tail is now wagging Washington, and Wall St. Each generation has seen some lowering of the American average level of general ability. In Laird's analysis of our present situation he has stressed a very important phase. While emphasizing that the degeneration is not limited to restricted areas, he raises the question as to whether local conditions in certain areas play important roles in the rate and extent to which degeneration has taken place.
He says further, 7 Although we might cite any one of nearly two dozen states, we will first mention Vermont by name because that is the place studied by the late Dr. In other words, nearly one-third of the whole population of that state is of a type to require some supervision. Edward Lee Thorndike, 8 of Columbia University, says that "thinking is as biological as digestion. Another of the distinguished students of mental capacity, J.
If morality and intellect are finally demonstrated to be correlated throughout the whole range of individual differences, it is probably the most profoundly significant fact with which society has to deal. The origin of backwardness in a child seems to have been assigned very largely to some experience in that child's life which becomes a conditioning factor and which thereafter strongly influences his behavior.
The problem of the relation of physical defects to delinquency in its various phases, including major crime, constitutes one of the most alarming aspects of our modern problems in social degeneration.
Chassell 10 has made an exhaustive study of the reports from workers in different fields in several countries and summarizes her finding as follows: Both at London and at Birmingham between 60 and 70 per cent belong to the innately "dull" category. In the majority the outstanding cause is a general inferiority of intellectual capacity, presumably inborn and frequently hereditary. In discussing the relationship between general physical weakness and the mentally backward, he writes: Old and time-honoured as it must seem to the schoolmaster, the problem of the backward child has never been attacked by systematic research until quite recently.
We know little about causes, and still less about treatment. Thirdly, though the vast majority of backward children per cent in an area like London--prove to be suffering from minor bodily ailments or from continued ill-health, nevertheless general physical weakness is rarely the main factor.
Among the many surveys made in the study of the forces that are responsible for producing delinquency and criminality, practically all the workers in this field have testified to the obscure nature of those forces. Burt 12 says that, "it is almost as though crime were some contagious disease, to which the constitutionally susceptible were suddenly exposed at puberty, or to which puberty left them peculiarly prone. Most repeated offenders are far from robust; they are frail, sickly, and infirm.
Indeed, so regularly is chronic moral disorder associated with chronic physical disorder that many have contended that crime is a disease, or at least a symptom of disease, needing the doctor more than the magistrate, physic rather than the whip.
The frequency among juvenile delinquents of bodily weakness and ill health has been remarked by almost every recent writer. In my own series of cases nearly 70 per cent were suffering from such defects; and nearly 50 per cent were in urgent need of medical treatment.
Of all the psychological causes of crime, the commonest and the gravest is usually alleged to be defective mind. The most eminent authorities, employing the most elaborate methods of scientific analysis, have been led to enunciate some such belief.
In England, for example, Dr. Goring has affirmed that "the one vital mental constitutional factor in the etiology of crime is defective intelligence.
Healy has likewise maintained that among the personal characteristics of the offender "mental deficiency forms the largest single cause of delinquency.
The assertion of the obscurity of the fundamental causative factors of delinquency constitutes one of the most striking aspects of the extensive literature that has been accumulated through the reporting of intensive studies made by workers in many countries. Thrasher, 13 in discussing the nature and origin of gangs, expresses this very clearly: Gangs are gangs, wherever they are found.
They represent a specific type or variety of society, and one thing that is particularly interesting about them is the fact that they are, in respect to their organization, so elementary, and in respect to their origin, so spontaneous.
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Formal society is always more or less conscious of the end for which it exists, and the organization through which this end is achieved is always more or less a product of design. But gangs grow like weeds, without consciousness of their aims, and without administrative machinery to achieve them. They are, in fact, so spontaneous in their origin, and so little conscious of the purposes for which they exist, that one is tempted to think of them as predetermined, foreordained, and "instinctive," and so, quite independent of the environment in which they ordinarily are found.
No doubt, many cities have been provided, as has Cleveland, with a special school for delinquent boys. The institution there has been given the appropriate title, the "Thomas A.
Watson, 14 who has been of outstanding service in the organization of this work, makes an important comment on the origin of the student population there: Edison student population consists of a group of truant and behavior boys, most of them in those earlier stages of mal-adjustment which we have termed predelinquency. In general, they are the products of unhappy experiences in school, home and community. They are sensitive recorders of the total complex of social forces which operate in and combine to constitute what we term their community environment.
It will be seen from these quotations that great emphasis has been placed upon the influence of the environment in determining factors of delinquency.
Hooton, the distinguished physical anthropologist of Harvard, has made important observations regarding our modern physical degeneration. As an approach to this larger problem of man's progressive degeneration, he has proposed the organization and establishment of an Institute of Clinical Anthropology, 15 the purpose of which he has indicated: I am entirely serious when I suggest that it is a very myopic medical science which works backward from the morgue rather than forward from the cradle.
Very important contributions have been made to the forces that are at work in the development of delinquents through an examination of the families in which affected individuals have appeared. Sullenger, 16 in discussing this phase, states: Abbott and Breckinridge found in their Chicago studies that a much higher percentage of delinquent boys than girls were from large families.
However, Healy and Bronner found in their studies in Chicago and Boston that the large family is conducive to delinquency among children in that the larger the family the greater percentage of cases with more than one delinquent.
They were unable to detect whether or not this fact was due to parental neglect, poverty, bad environmental conditions, or the influence of one child on another. In each of the series in both cities the number of delinquents in families of different sizes showed general similarity. As the investigations outlined in this study are reviewed, many problems not anticipated by the writer when these investigations were undertaken will be presented.
These new problems were not, at first, generally thought of as related directly or indirectly to our modern racial degeneration, but have been found recently to be so related. Since it will be seen that the size and shape of the head and sinuses, including the oral cavity and throat, are directly influenced by forces that are at work in our modern civilization, we shall consider the speaking and singing voice.
In traveling among several of the primitive races, one is frequently impressed with the range and resonance of many of the voices--in fact, by almost every voice. We are quite familiar with the high premium that is placed on singing voices of exceptional quality in our modern social order. This is illustrated by the following comment: Opera impresarios count on the fingers of one hand the lust-high-voice Latins. Since the death of Enrico Caruso opera houses have shown a steady decline.
Important light will be thrown on this phase of the problem--the cause of fewer good voices in Italy today than of old--as we note the narrowing of the face and of the dental arches and as we see the change in the form of the palate of the various primitive races.
These changes occur even in the first generation after the parents have adopted the foods of modern white civilizations. As we study the primitives we will find that they have had an entirely different conception of the nature and origin of the controlling forces which have molded individuals and races.
Buckle, 18 in writing his epoch-making "History of Civilization" about the middle of the last century, summed up his years of historical studies with some very important conclusions, some of which are as follows: It is proved by history, and especially by statistics, that human actions are governed by laws as fixed and regular as those which rule in the physical world.
Climate, soil, food, and the aspects of Nature are the principal causes of intellectual progress. Religion, literature, and government are, at best, but the products, and not the cause of civilization. This important view was not orthodox and was met by very severe criticism. The newer knowledge strongly corroborates his view. My early studies of the relation of nutrition to dental problems were related chiefly to growth defects in the teeth produced long before the eruption of the permanent teeth, chiefly from one year of age to the time of eruption.
These often appeared as lines across the teeth. I was able to trace these lines directly to the use of a few highly processed baby foods. I published an extensive report on this phase of the problem, together with illustrations, in These disturbances occur much less frequently in connection with the baby foods used today.
The problems of modern degeneration can in general be divided into two main groups, those which relate to the perfection of the physical body and those which relate to its function. The latter include character as expressed in behavior of individuals and of groups of individuals which thus relate to national character and to an entire culture. In an enumeration of the phases in which there is a progressive decline of modern civilization, it is essential that we keep in mind that in addition to an analysis of the forces responsible for individual degeneration, the ethical standards of the whole group cannot be higher than those of the individuals that compose it.
That recent mass degeneration is in progress is attested by daily events throughout the world. The current interpretation for individual character degeneration largely places the responsibility on a conditioning factor which exerts an influence during early childhood and therefore is directly related to the environment of the child.
These, therefore, are postnatal conditioning factors.
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An important contribution to this phase comes directly from the experience of primitive races and indicates that a more fundamental conditioning factor had developed in the prenatal period. If, therefore, large groups of individuals suffer from such a prenatal conditioning influence, new light will be thrown upon the larger problems of group deterioration.
History seems to provide records of such mass degeneration as, for example, those which culminated in the so-called "dark ages.
Price and his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. But his underlying theme and conclusion is very helpful and enlightening. I wanted to introduce this remarkable man to you today. Weston A Price was a dentist who lived from to when industrial foods were just starting to spread like wildfire. That question led him onto a much larger journey where he studied the effect that new industrial foods had on people in comparison to their traditional diets.
His discoveries are very relevant and helpful to us today. He observed and studied 14 healthy peoples groups varying from the United States, to Switzerland, to Peru to Africa.
All of these people groups ate very different diets, but they had more in common then you would think at first glance. Those who ate a lot of the new foods, like refined sugar and flour and the vegetable oils, often had rampant tooth decay and little resistance to disease. The difference was often alarming. Afterwards, he treated children who were sick and who had severe tooth decay by feeding them a very full and good lunch with excellent results. A very large percentage of these children started healing their cavities something I had no idea was possible until I read his bookdespite the fact that this was only their lunch.
Being poor, they ate white flour based breakfasts and dinners.
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While he documented a limited amount of people groups and there are so many people groups it would have been fascinating for him to have been able to studyhe was able to pick up very distinct patterns in all 14 of the healthy robust people groups he did study. While their diets varied dramatically, certain principles were true across the board.
But what does that mean? Price actually used that phrase, his research uncovered a significant difference in traditional diets.