Advantages Of Meat In Small Quantities, And Its Disadvantages In Large Amounts
( Originally Published 1913 )
We would probably not be justified in going so far as to consider small amounts of meat as a poison, as is done by so many; even as quite limited quantities of alcohol should not be regarded as a poison. The latter may, indeed, be of some service to many. Meat in small amounts is not only useful, but is absolutely necessary for growing children. For these, especially at the age of puberty, when the growth is stimulated, large amounts of albumin are necessary, in order to meet the requirements of the organism in regard to this substance. The growing child, in which the albuminous tissues are to be built up, and the adult, who has through disease lost much of these tissues, require a large amount of albumin. We have seen that this is most readily absorbed and assimilated in the form of meat, especially in the cases where, owing to previous illness, intestinal activity is impaired. Another important circumstance is greatly in favor of its use, namely, that probably in no food, and least of all in vegetable foods, can the most important component of an albuminous diet, namely, the nuclein, be so quickly absorbed by our bodies. This has been conclusively shown by the experiments of Jebbink, which have recently been made in Professor Salter's Institute of Chemistry in Amsterdam. There is probably no more important substance in our bodies than this very nuclein, which forms a basic portion of the cell nuclei, from the nucleoproteids of which the nuclein is freed during the process of digestion.
As Aron has admirably stated, the cell-nuclei are the carriers of the life process, since the propagation of the cells is furthered by them. The very important white blood-corpuscles, according to Lilienfeld, contain, in the thymus, for in-stance, not less than 77 per cent. of 'nucleoproteids in their dry substance. The spermatozoa necessary for the propagation of mankind and of the lower animals as well consist, to a great extent, of these nucleoproteids, as their heads have a similar composition as that of the cell-nuclei.
Moreover, a whole series of organs among the most important of our bodies, as the glands of internal secretion and the brain,—in fact, all the glandular organs,—consist largely of nucleins; they are the tissues of the body most rich in this substance. It is an undisputed fact that these cellular nuclei are built tip with the aid of the nucleins which are absorbed with our food, and which are then used for this purpose. The greatest quantity of and the most rapidly assimilated nucleins are at our disposal in animal food, especially in the form of meat rich in nuclein, such as glandular organs, sweetbreads, liver, and kidneys, for instance. We may, in this connection, also be justified in resorting to the teachings of organotherapy, now undisputed, from which it follows that when we take portions or extracts of any glandular organ, such as the thyroid or the ovaries, etc., a powerful influence is exerted upon the corresponding glands in our bodies. With this object in view the other glandular organs, such as the kidneys and liver, have been used, and not without results, according to the labors of a whole series of authors. In other words : I cannot convince myself that the substance so important and necessary for our bodies, albumin, which is, for instance, found in spinach, or even in vegetables such as beans and peas, can be used with such good results as the albumin of meat, which so closely corresponds in its composition with that of our bodies, the cells of which it is to rebuild. The animal albumin must, in comparison with others of vegetable origin, be considered as more valuable, and better adapted to take the place of the body albumin, especially when we consider that, according to Fischer and Abderhalden, the various albuminoid bodies, even when they are built from the same stones, as it were, group them-selves in various ways, according to the variety or kind. Furthermore, as stated by Osborne and Clapp,l the various constituents of albumin, as they are, for instance, contained in wheat, glidin, glutein, and leucosin, give off large quantities of decomposition products. It is, therefore, to be supposed that these differences of the albumin bodies would likewise manifest themselves in their physiological actions and in our nutrition, and that there would be a difference, in this respect, between the animal and vegetable varieties of albumin. When, thus, both animal and vegetable albumins are at the disposal of the body for the building up of its tissues, it is owing to these facts, very probably, that after the absorption in the blood, and the transformation of the albuminoid bodies of various origins i Quoted after Chittenden, into the albumin of our bodies, the animal varieties are given the preference, i.e., chiefly utilized by our cells.
While, with animal food, more nucleins are absorbed, more organic phosphorus, which is the most useful combination for us, is likewise absorbed, so that we may here also see an advantage in the nuclein-rich animal and fish diet. By this diet, also, which is most important, the action of certain duct-less glands, particularly the thyroid, is stimulated, and the increased activity of this gland has a protective influence against infectious diseases, as tuberculosis. This would explain the fact, as has been found by Richet and others, that raw meat possesses a special activity against tuberculosis which is entirely absent in cooked meat. The elucidation of this fact is furnished by the experiments of Breisacher, in the laboratory of Munk, who states that the extractives of meat excite the thyroid, while cooked meat does not have this effect. It is especially to be remembered that the extract of the thyroid gland which is given off into the blood is found in the blood of raw meat, so that the latter will, in the same way as is done by the therapeutic administration of the thyroid extract, stimulate the activity of this gland. It follows, therefore, that in the case of delicate children with a predisposition to tuberculosis, and especially during the period of growth, rare beef-steaks and similar foods should not be spared, while with growing children, particularly at the time of puberty, nucleinrich foods in the form of liver, kidneys, etc., should be given the preference, since they are also rich in lecithin and phosphorus. In this way the growth of these children will be greatly helped. It is, however, a striking fact in regard to our diet that there is scarcely one of the most useful foods that does not have its disadvantages, and consequently, in the case of adults, and particularly persons of advanced age, foods rich in nucleins may prove very injurious. The nucleins form purin bases during the disintegration process, and from these uric acid is formed, so that with food rich in nuclein gout is furthered. All such patients, and also those suffering from arteriosclerosis, should avoid such foods, as otherwise the blood-pressure will be greatly increased. In arteriosclerotics a meat diet is harmful, because it increases the inner resistance of the vessels to the blood-stream (Determann). The elimination of sugar in diabetes is also very injuriously affected by such a diet, to which fact I have already called attention in former works. In all the above-mentioned affections meat is not indicated; in diabetes its use must be restricted as far as is possible, and in severe cases should be entirely avoided, for reasons which I have fully explained in my recently published book on this disease.
The milk-egg-vegetable diet is the best for all such patients, and is likewise indicated in many chronic diseases of the intestines, especially where bacterial decomposition influences are present, in which case a meat diet is to be avoided. Neither should it be taken in liver affections, in which the extractive substances of the meat would have a very injurious action. When, in experiments on dogs, as Pawlow has shown, the liver is excluded from the circulation, as by means of an Eck fistula, these dogs instinctively avoid all meat. When it is introduced into the stomach in the form of powder, through a stomach tube, the dogs fare very badly. They show symptoms of poisoning, and would soon die if the meat diet were continued. It is most surprising that bouillon—the extractive substances of the meat—alone will surely bring on such at-tacks. It follows, therefore, that rare, bloody meat and bouillon, in particular, should not be given to liver patients. Meat in general is a poor food for them, and in diseases of the kidneys, except in certain cases, it is likewise not indicated. Boiled and white meats might be given the preference, since the extractives are withdrawn by the cooking process, especially in the case of white meats and fish, in which the tissues are tender, while in beef, which is so much harder and firmer, these juices are not so readily given off.
While during youth, especially during the period of growth, the use of meat may be very beneficial, when not taken in too large quantities, it is not required by the adult, nor by persons of advanced age; and when, on the contrary, it is taken in large quantities, as in England and America, three times per day, or with us twice a day in large amounts, there is no doubt that the action of the decomposition products may prove very prejudicial to our organs. When therefore, in advanced age, it is not desired to suppress meat entirely (which would be decidedly the best) and to limit one's self to a milk-egg-vegetable diet, which I consider the most rational one for man, it would at least be advisable to take only very limited quantities of meat, and this not oftener than once each day.