Natural Foods and Health
IN ANY COMMUNITY, a stranger who wants an introduction to local right-wing circles needs only walk into the nearest “health food” store. There, among the shelves of sunflower seeds, dried seaweed, and wheat germ he is sure to rub elbows with any number of LOLITS (Little Old Ladies In Tennis Shoes), Minute Men, Birchites, and others of a generally rightist hue — and perhaps a few SDS’ers too, for many members of the New Left have also shown a growing interest in so-called health foods in the last couple of years.
Unfortunately, he will also meet his fill of diet faddists, religious weirdoes, certified crackpots, and even a few paranoiacs who are dead certain that all food preservatives and chemical additives are part of a communist plot to poison America. This fringe element has, in fact, rather colored the public’s mental image of the average health-food consumer, giving a somewhat crankish or oddball aspect to the whole health-food picture.
This is a shame, because there are interesting implications to the recent surge in the popularity of health foods, particularly those which also fall in the category of “natural” foods.
It is easy to see this trend as a growing rejection, on the part of the more sensitive elements in the population, of our over-organized, over-crowded, over-adulterated, over-mechanized, over-synthesized, over-polluted civilization; as a yearning for the simple instead of the complex, for the natural or “real” instead of the artificial or “plastic,” for the plain and homely instead of the slick and gimmicky, for the pure and pristine instead of the preserved and refined.
But is there, perhaps, more to it? Is man’s instinct for survival, as well as his esthetic outrage, asserting itself? One might almost suspect that to be the case, in the light of recent studies by UCLA anthropologist R.D. McCracken.
Man a Meat-Eater
Ancient man, according to McCracken, was a healthier animal than modern man — at least where his eating habits are concerned. Before the advent of agriculture, a bare 10 millennia ago, man lived on a diet of fish, game, edible roots and berries, and fruit. This was his diet during a period of millions of years-many thousands of millennia — as he evolved from his subhuman primate ancestors.
Thus, his body chemistry had ample opportunity, through the slow process of mutation and natural selection, to adapt itself perfectly to this diet.
Then, almost overnight on the evolutionary time scale, man’s diet underwent a radical change. Instead of meat and fruit, cereal grains — the produce of agriculture — became his staple.
And this change, says McCracken, played havoc with man’s body chemistry: “The carbohydrates, or starches, are an unnatural diet for him.”
McCracken traced the rise in prevalence of a long list of degenerative diseases, including heart disease, stroke, schizophrenia, alcoholism, and some forms of diabetes and cancer, to man’s increasing ingestion of grains and other high-carbohydrate foods — such as sugar.
“Two hundred years ago the per-capita consumption of sugar in England was about 7 1/2 pounds a year,” he said. “Today it is 120 pounds.”
He pointed out that it is precisely during the last century or so that almost all the degenerative diseases have assumed such devastating importance in the morbidity and mortality statistics.
It is comforting to think that we now have scientific backing for our vague and undefined feeling that the highly artificial nature of modern man’s selection of edibles is somehow “wrong.”
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From Attack! Issue No. 3, 1971, transcribed by Michael Olanich, from The Best of Attack! And National Vanguard, edited by Kevin Alfred Strom