FOOD IN WAR TIME
PROFESSOR OF PHYSIOLOGY, CORNELL UNIVERSITY MEDICAL COLLEGE IN
NEW YORK CITY
PHILADELPHIA AND LONDON
W. B. SAUNDERS COMPANY
W. B. Saunders Company
PRINTED IN AMERICA
||A Balanced Diet
||Calories in Common Life
||Rules of Saving and Safety
The major parts of this small volume appeared under articles entitled "Food in War Time" in the Scientific Monthly and "Calories in Common Life" in Saunders' Medical Clinics of North America.
FOOD IN WAR TIME
A BALANCED DIET
There is no doubt that under the conditions existing before the war the American people lived in a higher degree of comfort than that enjoyed in Europe. Hard times in America have always been better times than the best times in Europe. As a student in Munich in 1890 I remember paying three dollars a month for my room, five cents daily for my breakfast, consisting of coffee and a roll without butter, and thirty-five cents for a four-course dinner at a fashionable restaurant. This does not sound extravagant, but it represents luxury when compared with the diet of the poorest Italian peasants of southern Italy. Two Italian scientists describe how this class of people live mainly on cornmeal, olive oil, and green stuffs and have done so for generations. There is no milk, cheese, or eggs in their dietary. Meat in the form of fat pork is taken three or four times a year. Cornmeal is taken as "polenta," or is mixed with beans and oil, or is made into corn bread. Cabbage or the leaves of beets are boiled in water and then eaten with oil flavored with garlic or Spanish pepper. One of the families investigated consisted of eight individuals, of whom two were children. The annual income was 424 francs, or $84. Of this, three cents per day per adult was spent for food and the remaining three-fifths of a cent was spent for other purposes. Little wonder that such people have migrated to America, but it may strike some as astonishing that a race so nourished should have become the man power in the construction of our railways, our subways, and our great buildings.
Dr. McCollum will tell you that the secret of it all lies in the green leaves. The quality of the protein in corn is poor, but the protein in the leaves supplements that of corn, so that a good result is obtained. Olive oil when taken alone is a poor fat in a nutritive sense, but when taken with green leaves, these furnish that one of the peculiar accessory substances, commonly known as vitamines, which is present most abundantly in butter-fat, and gives to butter-fat and to the fat in whole milk its dominant nutritive value. The green leaves likewise furnish another accessory substance, also present in milk, a substance which is soluble in water and which is necessary for normal life. Furthermore, the green leaves contain mineral matter in considerable quantity and in about the same proportions as they exist in milk.
Here then is the message of economy in diet, corn the cheapest of all the cereals, a vegetable oil cheaper by far than animal fat, which two materials taken together would bring disaster upon the human race, but if taken with the addition of cabbage or beet-tops they become capable of maintaining mankind from generation to generation. One can safely refer to such a diet as a balanced diet. Just as in the case of the modern experimental biological analysis of a balanced ration in which such a ration is given to rats and its efficiency as a diet is tested by its capacity to support normal growth and reproduction of the species, so here the experimental evidence is presented that corn and olive oil may become a sustaining diet when green leaves are a supplementary factor.
This preliminary sketch shows several important fundamentals of food and nutrition. If one gives an animal a mixture of purified food-stuffs, pure protein, pure starch, purified fat, and a mixture of salts like the salts of milk, the animal will surely die. But if one substitutes butter-fat for purified fat, and adds a water solution of the natural salts of milk, the animal lives and thrives.
Again, the illustration shows how corn may be so supplemented with other food-stuffs as to become extremely valuable in nutrition. It is especially valuable at the present time because corn is comparatively cheap and plentiful. But one asks how about pellagra? It must be here definitely stated that the use of cornmeal is not the cause of pellagra, provided the right kind of other foods be taken with it. Pellagra occurs in the "corn belt" of the United States, and especially among the poorer classes in the south. The disease has developed since the introduction in 1880 of highly perfected milling machinery which furnishes corn and wheat completely freed from their outer coverings. In Italy, where the milling of corn is still primitive, pellagra is not so severe as with us, because the corn offal is not completely removed and this contains the accessory food substances or vitamines which are essential to life. Pellagra is generally believed to be produced by a too exclusive use of highly milled corn and wheat flour in association with salt meats and canned goods, all of which are deficient in vitamines. The administration of fresh milk is naturally indicated. Goldberger states that after the addition of milk to the diet of a pellagrin, the typical clinical picture of pellagra no longer persists. The poor in the mill towns of the South lived too exclusively upon a corn diet without admixture of milk or fresh animal food or even of cabbage, and pellagra has been the consequence.
The Food Administrator asks us to eat corn bread and save the wheat for export. It is a very small sacrifice to eat corn bread at one meal or more a day. Indian corn saved our New England ancestors from starvation, and we can in part substitute it for our wheat and send the latter abroad to spare others from starvation. The simplest elements of patriotism demand that we do this. Therefore let us cry, "Eat corn bread and save the wheat for France, the home of Lafayette!"
The United States Department of Agriculture has estimated that only 6.6 per cent. of