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Diet and diseases of modern civilization

Heart disease and cancer of the colon, rare in centuries past, are now common killers. Diverticulitis and chronic constipation affect millions. Up to 25% of deaths are caused by diabetes or related conditions.

One common factor in the above diseases is that they are rare in rural communities which adhere to a traditional way of life involving whole-food diets. This is not to say that these communities don't suffer from other dietary deficiencies such as protein malnutrition, etc., but they do obtain the nutrients which seem to prevent the modern degenerative diseases.

Interestingly, when these communities are exposed to the Western-style diet for any length of time, Western disease patterns begin to emerge.

Intricate medical detective work has been done on the Western diet by Drs. Burkitt, Walker, Painter, Cleave, Heaton, and Trowell in Britain, and Dr. Ancel Keys and others in the United States. Their research points out at least three major flaws in the modern diet.

Many of these men note major dietary and degenerative disease changes began about the time of the Industrial Revolution when new practices of refining flour and processing food and staggering increases in sugar consumption became widespread.

New methods of milling with steel rollers in the 1840s enabled the refining of grain to take place inexpensively. Now the masses could share in the luxury of soft, fiberless white bread which had previously been available only to the wealthy. Unfortunately this was before the discovery of vitamins.

The milling process strips the flour of something like 30 vital minerals and vitamins, the best part of the protein, and vital fiber which gives roughage. Today, food technology puts back two minerals and two vitamins and labels the product "enriched."

A major flaw, according to Burkitt, is the lack of proper bulk in the diet. He reports that between 1880 and 1960 there was a fall of about 90% in the fiber content of the average Western diet.

At the same time flour milling advances were made, improved sugar-refining methods were found. Cheap sugar became available to all. In Colonial America the average person ate about 10 pounds of sugar a year. Today in both Britain and America, the figure is about 120 pounds per person per year. And sugar gives us nothing but calories. Sugar not only develops the vicious sweet-tooth syndrome and encourages tooth decay, but is also a major factor in obesity, and many researchers point out its role in the rise of diabetes and heart disease.

Refined sugar is hard to avoid.

It is in everything from broth preparations to French mustard. In an analysis of 78 breakfast cereals, only 31 were less than 25% sugar. Some modern children's cereals are over 50% sugar.

The refined-sugar, refined-flour, lack-of-fiber diet results in sluggish bowels and constipation. These diets take six to eight times longer to pass through the human body than the residues of whole-food diets. One result is a fortune to the laxative industries.


What Should You Do?

For many people it would be a big start on the road to better health to get back to a more natural, balanced diet. Whole-grain breads and cereals and fresh fruits and vegetables, rather than the bland, processed variety, are part of a good dietary foundation for the average person. Raw fruit is an excellent source of fiber. Nuts, seeds, raw vegetables, and fruit are much better between-meal snacks than candy bars.

Eating properly will probably involve changing your eating habits, perhaps a transition too great for many, despite the high stakes. What you eat is one of the most important decisions you make every day. Research has discovered some of the major flaws of modern diets. Don't take these facts lightly.