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Influence Of An Improperly Constituted Diet On The Female Organism

( Originally Published 1923 )

IF one enters a restaurant where a number of women and girls are eating, one readily observes how irrationally many of them, especially the younger ones, make their selections of food. Pas-try and other dainties are the chief articles chosen, and nitrogenous foods are often only to a slight extent or not at all represented.

Yet certain absolutely necessary nutrient salts, such as those of lime and phosphorus, occur in quantity precisely in such nitrogenous articles as eggs and cheese. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that these women and girls suffer from diseased teeth. We are well aware, from a number of investigations, among which those of Roese deserve special mention, that the teeth deteriorate on a diet lacking in lime.

When the teeth are destroyed, moreover, absorption of the jaw-bone sets in. The bone becomes reduced in size, the face sinks in, and the facial skin becomes loose and forms senile folds.

Consequently lime must be represented in sufficient amount in the daily food intake. Besides eggs and cheese, milk likewise contains a large quantity of lime, as do also many fruits and vegetables.

In these, including the green vegetables and many kinds of fruit, there occurs also in considerable amounts another mineral substance that is of special importance in the female organism, though contained in largest quantity in the kind of sausage prepared with hog's blood, viz., iron. Where this element is lacking in the diet, there may easily result disturbances of blood formation, chlorosis and anemia, the unfavorable influence of which upon the condition of the tissues and skin, as well as upon the activity of the sex glands, may like-wise lead to premature ageing.

Potash is also a very important element, as has been demonstrated of late by the investigations of Urbeanu. This investigator placed animals on a diet very poor in potash, and found that after a time considerable injury to the nerves and muscles, as well as to the outer skin covering, resulted. The animals thus dealt with lost their fur and grew decrepit.

When he later placed them on a mixed diet in which potassium compounds were abundantly rep-resented the fur rapidly grew again.

On the diet lacking in potash there also developed obesity, which disappeared when a diet rich in this ingredient was given.

In the human subject impaired nutrition likewise results from a diet lacking in potash, and Urbeanu refers in this connection to the baldness and obesity produced in man, and correlates them with a diet deficient in potassium compounds. These conditions in themselves belong among the earliest manifestations of old age. Thus, care must be taken that potassium compounds are ingested daily in sufficient amount.

Such compounds occur in large amount in potatoes, milk, and meat, as also in cereals and in fruits, of which a number are very rich in them, viz., plums, apricots, cherries, grapes, and whortleberries. It should be noted that, according to the researches of Stoklasa, potassium is absolutely indispensable for the tissue interchanges which occur in our bodies.

Likewise indispensable is the daily ingestion of a sufficient amount of the "vitamines." These are nitrogenous, crystalline substances which are absolutely needful for proper activity of the nerves and muscles. Where these substances are wholly lacking in the diet, there result serious disorders, represented in their highest expression by beriberi, pellagra, and scurvy. I believe I was the first to point out that such conditions may frequently occur among us as a result of a poorly balanced diet, without being recognized.

As a matter of fact, this has since been established as a result of the war diet by a number of investigators who have had many patients under observation. Even before the war, I had occasion to see a number of patients, chiefly women, who, in fear of stomach trouble, had for a long time been living on a poorly balanced diet of grits and porridge, white bread, pastry, hulled rice, and boiled milk. They exhibited a series of nervous, neurasthenic, and hysterical symptoms, together with marked lassitude and muscular weakness.

Most of these patients looked old on account of their muddy complexion and sunken features. Very striking, moreover, were their nervous heart disturbances, such as palpitation, pulse intermittences, and attacks of heart weakness and spasm. In all these cases, recovery or at least amelioration of the symptoms was procured by the administration of a generous, varied diet rich in vitamines.

I have succeeded likewise in cases of actual heart disease in considerably improving the condition, even in serious cardiac cases, by prescribing a diet rich in lime and vitamines, together with ingestion of honey or sugar. Articles of food rich in vitamines include eggs, fresh vegetables and fresh fruits, potatoes, fresh milk, and also bran.

As bran is hard to digest, it must first be properly prepared, as may be satisfactorily accomplished, e.g., by Finkler's procedure.

To obviate loss of the high vitamine content in cereals, potatoes, etc., these have to be cooked with special care. Even before the discovery of the vitamines I called attention to the fact that upon prolonged, unrestrained boiling of foods much of their "living energy" and highly useful substances are destroyed.

Very fresh foods contain the largest amount of vitamines; dried and preserved foods, on the other hand, have little or no vitamine content.

Aside from a sufficient amount of nutrient salts and vitamines, the daily diet must also include a sufficient quantity of fluids, i.e., of water.

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