McCarrison Society

Health Through Nutrition, A Birthright

Historic diets pre ‘Westernisation’

Historic diets pre ‘Westernisation’ – Links and Information.

The intention is in time to build up references as to available sources, books and papers on pre-westernised diets in peoples globally.

More information will be added in due course once other more critical areas of the web site are complete.


Primary diet – for much of the year mainly meat often caribou. (as discussed elsewhere the fat and nutrient profile of domesticated and more so industrialised live stock is very different to that of truly wild caribou)

Nunamuit Ethnorarchaeology (Foundations off Archaeology)

“In Nunamiut Ethnoarchaeology the late Lewis Binford documents the hunting and butchering strategies of modern Arctic big game hunters and the archaeological remains generated during the course of their yearly round of activities-producing a unique description of a complete annual cycle of subsistence activities, viewed simultaneously from both a behavioral and archaeological perspective. The volume is now regarded as a classic of archaeological theory building. Originally published by Academic Press in 1978.”

Amazon  (Link)

Notes on the Nunamuit Eskimo and Mammals of the Anaktuvuk Pass Region, Brooks Range, Alaska. Robert L Rausch.

Copied below under digital commons  (Link)


Mainly marine birds etc with small amount of seasonal kelp blueberries etc.

Studies on Metabolism of Eskimos – Peter Heinbecker – available in PDF  (Link)

Scottish Diet (Highlands and Islanders).

Primary Diet – High unrefined carbohydrate + dairy eggs and fish

The Good Scots Diet by Maisie Steven  (Link)

The book is very much more interesting, wider content including food related social history, tales of deprivation, and dietary history, than the synopsis and cover would suggest. Particular areas of interest include consideration of the traditional Highland diet of ‘ordinary’ people, changing nutritional standards with poverty and the impact of government dietary policy in WWII.

Historically highlanders were renowned for the robust health and physiques, and army recruitment records suggest that factors (likely dietary change) resulted in some loss of height and robust physique. (information from Andrew Whitley – Bread Matters  (Link))

The observations as to dietary changes in WWII in Scotland and the consequent health increases seen in the population are highly thought provoking. The addition of cod liver oil, whole milk and orange juice in children’s diet was a consequence of recommendation based on the work of Mellanby, McCarrison and others.

Amazon  (Link)

Weston Price – Nutrition and Physical Degeneration – Ch.4 Isolated and modernized Gaelics

Partial versions free online  (Link)

Full version see page on Weston Price  (Link)

Indian Subcontinent

This section will be added to in due course

This is a McCarrison chart of lab diets on the back of one on his research posters. It is presumably selected to represent the diet of the less well off.

Courtesy of the Welcome Trust Library.  (Link)

African Subcontinent

Western Disease Burkitt and Trowell

The book “Western Disease; their emergence and prevention” by Burkitt and Trowell both doctors who practiced in East Africa, 1981 Edward Arnold is a useful if somewhat diffuse source of dietary information on traditional African and other diets as reported in the individual papers.  (more data (Link))

Civilisation and Western Disease – C.P. Donnison MD MCRP 1938

C.P. Donnison MD MCRP 1938 was another experienced UK doctor who later practiced in East Africa is also an invaluable contemporaneous record of heath and disease incidence in East Africa.  (more data (Link)).


From Wheel of Health by G T Wrench, Full free searchable PDF  (Link)

“The inhabitants of Iceland offer a similar and even more interesting picture of carcase diet. McCollum and Simmonds, in The Newer Knowledge of Nutrition (1929), summarize the chief facts. “This island was settled in the ninth century by colonists from Ireland and Scandinavia, who took with them cattle, sheep, and horses. Their diet was practically carnivorous in nature for several hundred years. Martin Behaim (quoted by Burton), writing of Iceland about A.D. 1500, stated: ‘In Iceland are found men of eighty years who have never tasted bread. In this country no corn is grown, and in lieu fish is eaten.’ Burton, quoting Pierce, states that rickets and caries of the teeth were almost unknown in Iceland in earlier times. . . . The health conditions there good and dental caries was unknown until after 1850. Stefansson exhumed ninety-six skulls from a cemetery dating from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries and presented them to Harvard University. They have been described by Hooton (1918), who found no evidence of caries in any of them. There were but three to four defective teeth in the entire series, and these had suffered mechanical injury. During the last half century caries has steadily increased in Iceland.”
Modern Iceland has not the isolation of the period which Burton described. There has been great advance in civilization and population. Fifty per cent of the people now live in towns or trading stations. There are four agricultural schools. Potatoes, turnips, and
rhubarb are cultivated. Iceland imports the trade-foods, such as flour, sugar, preserved fruits, and tinned foods. Caries has become common, as have many other ailments.”

Faroe Islands

From Wheel of Health by G T Wrench, Full free searchable PDF  (Link)

“The diet of the Faroe Islanders, when they were more isolated than now, was given in a book published by the Edinburgh Cabinet Library in 1840. It was mainly a whole carcase diet of animal, bird and fish. The islanders ate not merely meat, but everything that could be eaten. There was no such thing as offal. They also made the carcases gamey by hanging for weeks and even months. In addition to their whole carcase food they had barley meal, unleavened barley bread, a few vegetables, such as cabbages, parsnips and carrots. They drank milk, beer, and on festive occasions brandy. But the main food was animal, bird and fish.
The islanders numbered a few thousands, were of the same origin as the Icelanders, and were “in general, remarkably intelligent. They are extremely healthy, and live to a great age, and an old man of ninety-three years lately rowed the governor’s boat nearly ten miles.” One danger they incurred was an epidemic catarrhal fever, such as we call influenza, which “prevails after the arrival of the ships from Denmark in the spring,” after the winter’s scarcity. It spread rapidly and was sometimes fatal. Otherwise, “but few diseases are prevalent amongst them.”


From Wheel of Health by G T Wrench, Full free searchable PDF (Link) (Link)

” The north-west coast of Greenland, where the Polar Eskimos live, is within the Arctic Circle. It is the most isolated and the least affected by civilization of these three possessions of Denmark.
Some attempts at gardening have been introduced by the Danes, but previously the only vegetable food the Eskimos got was from the profuse but, in species, limited vegetation of the Arctic summer. Otherwise they lived mainly on sea animals and sea birds. There was no offal They ate everything that could be eaten. When it was frozen, they often ate it raw. The thick, heavy skin of the narwhal is particularly favoured. The millions of sea birds which visit their coast supply a winter store of meat and eggs.

The Eskimos are also exceptionally healthy. “The fact that the Eskimos of this polar tribe have such excellent physique, hair, and teeth, and such superb health without any trace of scurvy, rickets, or other evidence of malnutrition,” write McCollum and Simmonds, “is interesting in the light of their restricted and simple diet.”

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