Friday, May 30, 2014

Eades Quoting "Big Fat Surprise"

Meanwhile the Native Americans of the Southwest were observed between 1898 and 1905 by the physician-turned-anthropologist Aleš Hrdlička, who wrote up his observations in a 460-page report for the Smithsonian Institute. The Native Americans he visited were eating a diet predominantly of meat, mainly from buffalo, yet, as Hrdlička observed, they seemed to be spectacularly healthy and live to a ripe old age. The incidence of centenarians among these Native Americans was, according to the 1900 US Census, 224 per million men and 254 per million women, compared to only 3 and 6 per million among men and women in the white population. Although Hrdlička noted that these numbers were probably not wholly accurate, he wrote that “no error could account for the extreme disproportion of centenarians observed.” Among the elderly he met of age ninety and up, “not one of those was either much demented or helpless.”
Hrdlička was further struck by the complete absence of chronic disease among the entire Indian population he saw. “Malignant disease,” he wrote, “if they exist at all — that they do would be difficult to doubt — must be extremely rare.” He was told of ‘tumors’ and saw several cases of the fibroid variety, but never came across a clear case of any one kind of tumor, nor any cancer. Hrdlička wrote that he saw only three cases of heart disease among more than two thousand Native Americans examined, and “not one pronounced instance” of atherosclerosis. Varicose veins were rare. Nor did he observe cases of appendicitis, peritonitis, ulcer of the stomach, nor any “grave disease” of the liver. Although we cannot assume that eating meat was responsible for their good health and long life, it would be logical to conclude that a dependence on meat in no way impaired good health. [My italics]

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