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Here's a fun article:

How the Mid-Victorians Worked, Ate and Died

Analysis of the mid-Victorian period in the U.K. reveals that life expectancy at age 5 was as good or better than exists today, and the incidence of degenerative disease was 10% of ours.

That's a pretty bold statement, yes?

It's a very interesting analysis that draws from a wide variety of data sources.

The basics: A diet high in non-processed foods, supported by new agricultural innovations that hadn't yet slipped into industrialization, combined with a high level of physical activity/challenge resulted in a life expectancy equal to today's--and arguably of better physical quality in later years.  Infection caused most deaths, particularly in the young years, before immunity would have a chance to strengthen from exposure to daily pathogens.  Infection during childbirth also resulted in a woman's life expectancy being slightly lower than a man's during the era.  (Handwashing was an incredible innovation.)

A couple points related to the article:

Canadian research found the seven minutes of vigorous exercise daily was the minimum needed for a child to remain healthy.  They also found most children didn't get that seven minutes a day.  Not even a freaking seven minutes?  Really??

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology published new research again correlating a high incidence of peanut allergy among the affluent.  Many allergists consider it another arrow pointing to over-sanitation as the trigger for the national spike in autoimmune disorders.

A recent article in New Yorker gives a decent overview of current and ongoing research regarding how important bacteria is to our health and longevity, and how our quest to kill bacteria may be a primary cause of our current rise in degenerative disease and autoimmune disorders.  For example: the presence of H. pylori bacteria, vigorously attacked by antibiotics in an effort to avoid ulcers, is actually protection against allergies and asthma.  Folks without the bacteria are prone to allergy-induced asthma.

Lastly, American Journal of Medicine has published research indicating that women who eat a high amount of antioxidant-rich foods have a far greater chance of avoiding a heart attack than women who eat small amounts.  The correlation between antioxidant intake and health was independent of weight/BMI and exercise frequency.  The article is titled, "Rethinking the Way We Eat."

Because I'm in a touchy mood tonight, I'll go ahead and point out how often I've been called an ignorant, uneducated, and a quack for saying nutrition has a profound impact on disease, and degenerative diseases don't need to be accepted as "normal."

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
marycatelli
Nov. 10th, 2012 01:29 am (UTC)
" A diet high in non-processed foods"?

Really? The Pure Food and Drug Act did not come out of nowhere.
blairmacg
Nov. 10th, 2012 02:04 am (UTC)
Very true. The mid-Victorian era in the UK--upon which the research I linked to is based--was very different from the late- and post-Victorian era in the US. It was the end of the Victorian era when advances in food production morphed into industrialized food processing.

Either way, though, I would submit it's a true statement the population at far less processed foods than we do today. The most common "serving" of vegetables counted in modern surveys is usually catsup. Some families have, perhaps, on non-processed component in their daily meals. It's usually the salad... covered in bottled dressing.

"Unadultered" food is not the same as "non-processed." International industry has worked very hard to have us equate "safe to eat" with "good for your health."
spaceintheway
Nov. 10th, 2012 04:58 am (UTC)
Our attitude toward keeping healthy is very different than it used to be. We've gone from saying "there's a risk so don't overdo it" to "there might be a risk so don't do it at all". Hence the restrictions my mother was given when she was pregnant with me (no fatty foods or alcohol in the last month) to what I was told when I said I wanted to get pregnant (immediately no alcohol, no caffeine, no fish, no honey, and the list goes on).

When I was a kid I didn't know anyone who had an allergy more severe than sneezes or sniffles around household pets. Now I have to be extremely careful what snacks I send to school with my kids due to classmates with peanut allergies. Our population genetics haven't changed sufficiently to account for this influx- there has to be an environmental contribution of some kind. Could it be our obsession with being over-protective of our health? That's a really interesting idea.

A friend of mine whose mother taught preschool told me that her mom could always tell which kids would never get sick through the wintertime- it was the ones who, on the first day of cool weather, were NOT sent to school bundled up in their winter coats.
blairmacg
Nov. 10th, 2012 05:01 pm (UTC)
Could it be our obsession with being over-protective of our health? That's a really interesting idea.

It's an idea already accepted by many, backed up by numerous studies comparing the health of children raised in rural versus urban environments, in sanitized versus not-so-clean environments, and diversity of gut bacteria.

If you can get your hands on the issue of the New Yorker, I highly recommend the article. It's well-written and well-researched.

And if you really want to dig into how beneficial bacteria can be, google for "fecal transplant c. diff." The bacteria C. difficile often present in healthy folks, but can be life-threatening (6% overal death rate) if healthy gut bacteria is wiped out by broad-spectrum antibiotics.

What has almost an 85-90% cure rate, even when all other treatments have failed? A fecal transplant from a healthy relative.

That's not fringe woo-woo. It comes from the American College of Gastroenterology's annual scientific meeting--last year.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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