NASTY, BRUTIS H AN D SHORT?
By all accounts the Maoris of New Zealand were, and still are, where their customs have not changed, in excellent health.
in the Andes. Insects were another common food, in all regions except the Arctic. The foods that allow people of every race and every climate to be healthy are whole natural foods - meat with its fat, organ meats, whole milk products, fish, insects, whole grains, tubers, vegetables and fruit - not newfangled concoctions made with white sugar, refined flour and rancid and chemically altered vegetable oils.
Modern nutrition researchers are showing renewed interest in the food ways of our ancestors, but myths about primitive diets abound. The first is easily dismissed - that traditional diets were largely vegetarian. Anthropological data confirm what Price found, namely that throughout the globe, all societies show a preference for animal foods and fats.3 Modern scientific literature does not support the claims made for vegetarian diets.4
Dr Price's trip to Africa gave him the opportunity to compare primitive groups composed largely of meat eaters, with those of similar racial stock that were mostly vegetarian.5 The Maasai of Tanganyika, Chewya of Kenya, Muhima of Uganda, Watusi of Ruanda and the Neurs tribes on the western side of the Nile in the Sudan were all cattle-keeping people. Their diets consisted largely of milk, blood and meat, supplemented in some cases with fish and with small amounts of grains, fruits and vegetables. The Neurs especially valued the livers of animals, considered so sacred "that i t may not be touched by human hands .. . It is eaten both raw and
cooked." These tribes were noted for their fine physiques and great height - in some groups the women averaged over six feet tall, and many men reached almost seven feet. Until his Africa trip, Price had not found groups that had no cavities at all, yet Dr. Price found six cattle-herding tribes that were completely free of dental decay. Furthermore, all members of these tribes exhibited straight, uncrowded teeth.
Bantu tribes such as the Kikuyu and Wakamba were agriculturists. Their diet consisted of sweet potatoes, corn, beans, bananas, millet and kaffir corn or sorghum. They were less robust than their meat-eating neighbours, and tended to be dominated by them. Price found that vegetarian groups had some tooth decay - usually around 5 or 6 per cent of all teeth, still small numbers compared with whites living off store-bought foods. Even among largely vegetarian tribes, dental occlusions were rare, as were degenerative diseases. It is a mistake, however, to think that these groups consumed no animal products at all, as is often claimed. Some Bantu tribes kept a few cattle and goats which supplied both milk and meat; they ate small animals such as frogs; and they put a high value on insect food. "The natives of Africa know that certain insects are very rich in special food values at certain seasons, also that their eggs are valuable foods. A fly that hatches in enormous quantities in Lake Victoria is gathered and used fresh and dried for storage. They also use ant eggs and ants." Other insects, such as bees, wasps, beetles, butterflies, moths, cricket, dragonflies and termites are sought out and consumed with relish by tribes throughout Africa.6 It is significant that the vegetarian groups prac-
The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 1, January/February 1999