Tuberculosis As A Consequence Of Deficient Nutrition
( Originally Published 1913 )
It is a remarkable fact that the intelligent anthropoid apes which are exhibited in the various places of entertainment all die of tuberculosis, as do nearly all monkeys which are kept in Europe. It is rare that any of them die of any other disease.
This strange fact has excited my interest since a long time, and several years ago, in London, I studied the monkeys in a circus, with a view to elucidating this particular matter. As a result I came to the conclusion that the principal reason was a faulty method of nutrition. The monkeys are originally vegetarians, and, bearing this in mind, their owners also feed them upon vegetables, principally carrots, fruits, etc. Such a mode of feeding would undoubtedly be sufficient in the tropical climates of the Congo or of Brazil, but is not in our northern climates. Here they require richer foods containing more albumin and fats, but, since such a diet costs more, the poor monkeys are deprived of it, and consequently fall an easy prey to tuberculosis.
I might add that the few monkeys which were given milk and meat were in much better condition, and did not contract tuberculosis. The circus chimpanzees of Hagenbeck, and Max and Moritz, which are now being exhibited in various places, are fed by their trainer, Mr. Castan, upon a mixed diet, and, as I lately had the opportunity to convince myself, are in very good health.
A necessary factor in the development of tuberculosis is the entrance of the tubercle bacilli into our bodies. We frequently inhale millions of bacilli—especially when we find ourselves in the very impure air of an overfilled Berlin café, or in a moving-picture theater heated by steam—and yet do not contract tuberculosis. Other factors must therefore be essential. An important one is the inherited tendency to the disease. We very often see that the children of tuberculous parents do, nevertheless, remain immune when they grow up under favorable conditions, are in the open air a great deal, and eat plenty of good food.
On the other hand, we observe that persons having no hereditary tendencies very easily acquire tuberculosis when they live in close rooms and are, in addition, poorly fed; as, for instance, the sewing girls and dressmakers' assistants, etc. Of these two factors I would lay the greatest blame upon the deficient mode of nourishment. If the poor sewing girl could have the same food as her employer, the bad air of the work-room would affect her much less; since, however, her diet consists principally of cakes, sweets, and some few not very nutritious vegetables, and very rarely or perhaps never contains a sufficient amount of albumin (sausage or meat), the poor child becomes consumptive. That tuberculosis often occurs where there is plenty of fresh air, but where the food is inadequate, is shown by the fact that it is very prevalent among the Indians of North America. I had the opportunity, while traveling in the western portion of the United States, to visit an Indian settlement in the State of Arizona, and also one in the city of Quebec, in Canada. The inadequate composition of the diet and, more particularly, the habitual use of strong alcoholic drinks, by reason of which the food is poorly digested and assimilated, must here be held responsible. The Maoris of New Zealand are often victims of tuberculosis, no doubt primarily because they nourish themselves in a very poor and insufficient manner. They very rarely have any meat.
As an instructive example, contrasting with the above-mentioned people living in the open air, I would like to cite the inhabitants of London. The Londoners rarely acquire tuberculosis, notwithstanding the fact that they live in the foggy, smoky air of London, which is certainly not good, and where for several months they hardly see the sun. Why is this? It is because they eat meat three times a day, at break-fast, dinner, and supper, and the poor, at least twice a day. As Sir William Roberts has affirmed, no one takes as much nitrogenous food as the Londoner. I would, however, not be inclined to disregard the favorable influence of the drinking water, which in that city contains lime, while in New Zealand it is very poor in lime. Defective development of the thorax tractive substances. A diet of meat, and especially the extractive substances contained in the meat, exerts a stimulating effect upon the thyroid gland. One of the very best means for the prevention of consumption is the taking of finely chopped, raw, bloody meat, a method recommended since a number of years by a number of authors (Richet and others) and which is certainly very efficacious. The manner in which this protective agent acts has already been stated. The taking of many eggs and milk (raw, from healthy animals) may also prove very beneficial. Milk, as we have already stated, also excites the activity of the thyroid gland, owing to its content of the internal secretion of the thyroid, which passes into the milk. By means of a plentiful intake of fat in the form of cream, butter, bacon, and that contained in meat, as well as of carbohydrates, such as tapioca, sago, rice, macaroni, etc., a process of fattening-up will occur which will lessen the chances of tuberculous infection.
The best and most certain measure for the prevention of tuberculosis consists, then, in addition to other hygienic precautions,—plenty of fresh air, of an ample diet, with plenty of meat, eggs, and milk. Overnutrition may, when long continued,—as we shall show in the succeeding chapters, involve certain dangers ; these, however, are by no means so marked as those of undernutrition, and, in any case, the former will prove a powerful weapon against tuberculosis.