Saturday, April 29, 2006 05/02/06-Nutrition

In today's excerpt, the contribution of nutrition to the steep post-industrial revolution decline in disease and death:

"The third (and last key) element in the decline of disease and death was better nutrition. This owed much to increases in food supply, even more to better, faster transport. Famines, often the product of local shortages, became rarer; diet grew more varied and richer in animal protein. These changes translated among other things into taller, stronger physiques. This was much slower than those medical and hygienic gains which could be instituted from above, in large part because it depended on habit and taste as well as income. As late as World War I, the Turks who fought the British expeditionary force at Gallipoli were struck by the difference in height between the steak- and mutton- fed troops from Australia and New Zealand and the stunted youth of British mill towns. And anyone who follows immigrant populations from poor countries into rich will note that the children are taller and better knit than their parents.

...This world is divided roughly into three kinds of nations: those that spend lots of money to keep their weight down; those whose people eat to live; and those whose people don't know where their next meal is coming from."

David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, Norton, 1998, p. xix


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