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Bread — the broken staff of life

As the "have" nations grow richer, their national state of health grows poorer.
Persons in less developed areas with a simpler life often experience
comparatively better health — even with inferior medical facilities.
The difference is often diet.
Read in this article the disastrous result of one of modern man's attempts to
"upgrade" his food supply — his tampering with bread, the traditional staff of life.


“EVER feel just plain lousy?" inquires the television commercial, sympathetically offering its product for temporary pain relief.

That question strikes a familiar chord in most people. Feeling "just plain lousy" seems to be a way of life. For many people, "good health" includes no more than a touch of sinus, bursitis, neuritis, indigestion, heartburn, gas, constipation, poor eyesight, dandruff, brittle fingernails, fatigue, frequent colds, corns, assorted allergies, decayed teeth, blotchy skin, obesity and/or occasional insomnia.

In America, the incidence of diabetes is increasing. More than seven million Americans have arthritis. One of ten supposedly "healthy" American males has a stomach ulcer. One of six is sterile.

And just about every American knows of someone who has recently died prematurely of cancer or heart failure.

In Britain, one in four suffers from chronic bronchitis. One in five develops cancer. Britons suffer in general from obesity and wretched dental conditions. Shockingly early tooth decay is even forcing some British children under six years of age to be fitted with dentures!

Medical scientists have begun to piece together a new pattern of disease in Western Europe and America — in fact, in all the "have" nations from Canada to South Africa to Australia. Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, plague, etc., used to be the main cause of lowered average life expectancies. Today's life-expectancy statistics are barely improved. Modern man is now being tortured by the degenerative diseases, which strike mainly in the second half of life.

Doctors refer now to the "twenty years abuse," meaning man can abuse his natural good health for that period of time before the effects begin to catch up with him.

Paradoxically, the Western nations have the most advanced medical science in the world — and the most disease. Yet in Africa — even with lower medical standards — persons who continue to eat their traditional foods do not develop the "new" diseases. If they switch over to refined modern foods, they become ill from Western diseases. They begin to experience tooth decay, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure and all the other civilized diseases.

One primary culprit is diet.


The Offenders

Ten years ago anyone who questioned the nutritional worth of our "civilized" diet was flatly labeled a food fanatic. Yet even then, travelers and traders in remote areas reported that certain peoples with simple diets were comparatively free of "civilized" diseases until they started eating "white man's food," at which time they started getting "white man's diseases." The situation has changed drastically of late. It has become painfully obvious that our declining state of nutrition is directly linked to our declining state of health.

So-called foodless foods have borne the brunt of the strong attack on the failing state of nutrition during the past year. Foodless foods of the obvious types — like candy bars and the much maligned diet soft drink — are, however, not wholly to be blamed.

The prime offender is the basic food we eat EACH and EVERY DAY — the food we consider to be healthy and nutritious! The food we consider staple.

Today, in the "overkill" discussion on pollution, everyone seems concerned with the foreign material we are putting into the air we breathe, the water we drink. Even when food is considered, the emphasis seems to be on the chemicals inserted into foods. But what about the "un-foods" — the natural foods which have had precious vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients taken out of them?


The Wobbly Staff of Life

Take bread, for instance. Bread, we have been led to believe, is capable of fantastic feats, from building strong bodies umpteen ways to effecting miraculous special-diet weight losses. Bread is good for making sandwiches and for spreading butter on.

But is it good to eat?

Bread used to be called the staff of life.

Historically, bread was highly esteemed in Egypt, classical Greece and Rome, and in ancient Israel. The wheat was ground between millstones which crushed the grain, but did not remove any part of it. This rather "primitive" milling process produced flour of a very high extraction rate. (The extraction rate is the percentage of the whole grain actually used for flour after milling. For example, 85% extraction rate flour contains 85% of the whole grain — 15% having been discarded)

Most people at that time ate whole-meal bread. A relatively low extraction-rate white flour was available — but only for the wealthy. It was produced by sieving the coarse flours through papyrus, rushes, horsehair, or flax.

Whole-meal bread was symbolic of the "simple life and the good countryside." Tragically, it was also equated with downright poverty. Through the Middle Ages brown flour was relegated to the lower class. It was the only kind they could afford.

Things changed with the coming of the Industrial Revolution. White flour became much more common, produced easily by machines which could mechanically separate the different components of the grain. The cost of white flour was drastically reduced. By the beginning of the 19th century, relatively high-extraction WHITE flour products were the acceptable food of the poor, although some "old-fashioned" families continued to produce their own whole-grain flour for another century.


Is Refined Flour Improved?

As the Western standard of living rose, so did a demand for more of what people considered to be "purity" in their food products. The idea of "purity" was being foisted off on a gullible public by mass advertising. This "purity" invariably consisted of separating, or isolating, one part of a natural product from the rest of it. One part was called "fit for human consumption," the other discarded. As the standards of "purity" went up, the separation process became more involved, and the proportion of discarded parts became greater.

The first portion of the wheat grain to go was the bran. Some white bread proponents insist that bran is an irritant to the digestive system. (A few self-styled authorities have even proclaimed ALL wheat products to be irritants to the digestive system, and therefore, unfit for human consumption!)

Ironically, bran is often ADDED to breakfast cereals to enhance what is delicately referred to as "regularity." In other words, it will prevent constipation — an affliction caused, to a surprising degree, by eating white flour products.

Hippocrates knew that white flour passed through the digestive system more slowly than whole. He even recommended it in cases of diarrhea.

Bran contains the first three layers of the grain. Directly beneath the bran is the testa. Then there is the aleurone, rich with protein matter, minerals and certain useful fatty substances. Another component of the grain is the germ, containing a high percentage of protein, natural sugars, a considerable quantity of wheat oil, and a large amount of vitamins and minerals.

These components of the wheat grain constitute only about 12% of its weight. But remove them and you also remove nearly ALL the valuable nutrients of the grain. We feed them to the animals and reserve the germ for health food stores.

No wonder Dr. Emanuel Cheraskin of Birmingham, Alabama, remarked that the American horse and other farm animals have a better general diet than the American people! The people are stuck with the remaining endosperm — mostly plain starch and poor quality protein.


The Chemical Bath

Because of its depleted food value, white flour has a tremendous resistance to spoilage. Insects will not touch it — nor will microbes. They know better. Too bad people don't. Modern production methods demand that flour be kept on shelves over very long periods of time, so someone had to figure out a way to keep those tons and tons of flour from ruining between the mill and the consumer. Modern chemical technology has provided the answer.

The unmilled grains are generously dusted with methyl bromide to keep the wheat from spoiling in the bins. It is apparently retained within the grain to some degree. This chemical is in addition to any residue left from applications of insecticides. Hopefully they do not contaminate the flour after it has been milled. But is that hope just a blind assumption?

Then, once the flour has been ground, it is aged.

Several chemicals will induce artificial aging. Nitrogen trichloride, commonly called agene, was used widely until 1956, when its use was discontinued because it seemed to cause fits in dogs and had been traced to certain eye problems. Chlorine dioxide is used most commonly today. Chlorine dioxide bleaches, ages and preserves the flour in one operation. It also destroys the oils — such as linoleic acid, or vitamin F — and destroys methionine, an essential amino acid.

Once the flour is bleached, aged and sterilized, it is still not ready for the bread batter. It has to be conditioned for easier machine production. Calcium stearyl-2-lactylate and sodium stearyl fumarate are widely used. The recipe also calls for a pinch of softeners and emulsifiers to maintain it even when the bread goes stale. Bakers can use lecithin, polyoxyethylene monostearate, stearyl tartrate, or partial glycerol esters.

However fresh the loaf may seem, it can still go stale. Bread often sits on the grocery store shelf for much longer periods of time than most shoppers would care to know. Production bakeries therefore must add chemical stale-inhibitors. These inhibitors — including mono — and diglycerides, diacetytartaric acid esters of mono — and diglycerides, and succinylated mono — and diglycerides — don't really keep the bread from spoiling. They just make it LOOK fresh. Paradoxically, it may well be due to the lack of protein in the bread — or a poor quality of protein which helps speed staleness.

According to a paper published by Dr. Stig R. Erlander and Leatrice G. Erlander in the scientific journal Die Starke, vol. 21, pp. 305-315 (1969), the staling of bread occurs when there is a decrease in the amount of protein. By using good whole wheat flour of high protein content, the staling of bread can be essentially eliminated.


Courtesy of the Wheat Flour Institute



about 83% of the kernel Source of white flour.


BRAN . . .

about 14½% of the kernel Included in whole
wheat flour but more often removed and used in animal or poultry feed.


GERM . . .

about 2½% of the kernel The embryo or
sprouting section of the seed, usually separated because it contains fat which limits the keeping quality of flours. Available separately as human food, but usually added to animal or poultry feed.