McCarrison Society

Health Through Nutrition, A Birthright

Institutional Intertia to New Ideas – Good and Bad

100 years of more

Often the time take for a new idea to gain widespread acceptance and implementation is protracted, for example 100 years or more for among others; vitamin C, hand-washing by surgeons before attending delivery, and smoking being bad for health. Often the idea seemed very obvious at the outset and easily determined, at least in retrospect!

It would be nice to believe that the benefit in the normal course of events of a degree of conservatism was to provide a filtering process, however the reality is ideas with commercial opportunities will take hold quickly even in the face of opposition, as evidenced by the history of smoking. (see below)

Possibly good ideas of little commercial but enormous public interest, economic and health value, only start to crystalise in the wider consciousness when the cost of ignoring the reality becomes viewed as unacceptable, and sufficient to at least equal commercial pressures.

Examples of modern commercial pressures impacting research or current policy advice include iodine and Vitamin D. For example the market for sunscreens is skewing the resources available to generate advice towards melanoma, without consideration of wider impacts on health and health costs of Vitamin D insufficiency, or alternative dietary factors that maybe driving up melanoma incidence such as increased oxidative stress profiles consequent on common deficiencies and imbalances consequent on the ‘Western Diet’. Similarly research into and policy to ensure adequate iodine in the diet is limited because there is no commercial driver to support them.

It is about 100 years since McCarrison, Albrecht, Howard and others first unraveled and raised the issue of the essentiality of minerals and other nutrients to plant livestock and human health.  They really were at the forefront of nutritional and wider related research.

For example, hard as it is to believe in retrospect, it was not until the 1920s (Link) that it was widely understood and accepted that rickets was due to lack of vitamin D, and vitamin D was made by certain wavelengths of sunlight. a fact the wider public appear to still have not fully grasped in 2016.

Chief Medical Officer ‘ashamed’ as rickets makes a comeback

40 per cent of English children have some kind of vitamin D deficiency ” Independent News Paper story 2013 (Link)
Less than 7% of children met the recommended vitamin D level, and insufficient intake of vitamin D has been associated with poor health, including rickets.” Independent 2016 (Link)
The Chief Medical officer suggested in her report, “Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays“, that a more proactive approach was taken including supplementation for children; an alternative would be provision of more nutrient dense foods with fortification where necessary including with nutrients that are not widely available including Vitamin D and iodine.
There is precedent for fortification with natural nutrients and minerals as happens with flour; we are in any event subject often without choice to a host of products that are not native to food including additives pesticides and antibiotics, and methods of preservation, pathogen and insect control, and preparation, about which we have little knowledge and no control.

After 100 years arguably the health cost of the status quo to individuals societies and national purses is approaching the point that the observation of McCarrison and others that living things depend on nutrients for optimal health can no longer be ignored; so maybe we will now begin to see a new paradigm emerging that the aim and raison d’etre of food production and manufacture must primarily be focused to optimally nourish humans.

Humans are defined and enabled by their brains

Over all and crucially it is our brains that define our humanity and they are exquisitely sensitive to diet. Diet affects neural function, so as well as impacting on brain function it must also alter behaviour. Poorly nourished animals were observed by McCarrison, Price and Pottenger to exhibit aggression and other behavioural and or related functional disturbances.

Now is the time

Live long and prosper

If we are going to “live long and prosper” so meet our potential as a species we will need all of the intelligence, empathy, creativity and goodwill that we can muster, and sooner rather than later given current population and carbon dioxide related pressures, including  inevitable ocean acidification (Link to videos), on the planetary ecosystems that permit our existence.

Viewpoints on the need for, resistance to and likelihood of humans adopting better dietary strategies

Alexander Walker in ‘Western Disease; emergence and Prevention’, Trowell and  Burkitt, Edward Arnold 1981 Par ‘What are the chances of prevention, amelioration or regression of Western Disease.?‘ has a bleak view of the chances of the adoption of better dietary practice, suggesting they will only occur if forced upon us. I have extracted the relevant pages (here Link) as highly thought provoking; he ends:

there is no doubt that it lies within man’s ability and choice to lessen significantly morbidities and mortalities from several important diseases.  But it is equally clear, from our knowledge of changes in diet and lifelstyle that have occurred or are occurring, that in the masses there is neither enough will nor conviction to make changes of sufficient magnitude to engender a meaningful improvement in present ill health situation in developed, and to a lesser extent, in developing populations.”

I suggest and earnestly hope that is only partially true. Most people, if not all, are interested in their health, and respond to heath messages; they just do not understand some of the basic issues that arise from the processing of foods. To that can be added the need for consistent dietary advice and education, which includes the need for recognition of the basic premise that cells require minerals and essential nutrients to function, and are not overly worried where they originated, as evidenced by the wide range of diets that sustained non-westernised population groups. Insensitive processing removes minerals and damages other nutrients. Further current industrial farming practices are directed simply to quantity, without regard to the consequential compromise of nutrient quality.

There is huge market opportunity for healthy food, but change requires paradigm shifts of focus from quantity to nutrient quality, from price to value, both by the consumer and market makers. Cheap food that fails to nourish, so promotes ill-health and more aggressive less intelligent less empathetic humans, however cheap does not represent value for the individual, nation or species.” (R A Brown in a submission to a food forum)

Human health

Humans do many things that are not good for them, including the use of heavily refined foods including sugar and flour, excess alcohol, tobacco, and degradation of soils so food nutrient including mineral content etc.

The purpose of the McCarrison Society is not to pass judgement or decide which are the greater social issues, risks to individual health, prosperity, economic costs, or contributors to national ill-health.

Ideas that took a long time to be or are not yet fully accepted

Not the center of the universe
Hand washing by surgeons prior to delivery
Vitamin C
Vitamin D
Refined flour and sugar are not good for humans

This 1921 book “Tobaccoism or How Tobacco Kills” by John Harvey Kellog (Courtesy of the Library of Congress (Link) where it available for download in several formats (Link)) arguable inventor with his brother of Kellogs cornflakes is to say at the least thought provoking,  as are some of his other ideas that have not stood the test of time.

Some of the language and thoughts are indicative of views held at that time by at least some, which we now rightly regard as offensive. Human history is full of examples of the same.

The book contains interesting historical references including efforts of then Monarchy, to unsuccessfully stop the practice of smoking in the face of commercial pressures; as with King Canute’s attempts to control the tide; they failed!


King Canute tries to control the tide; similarly later Monarchs failed to restrain smoking presumably because it quickly lead to new and wide spread opportunities for commercial gain.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the image

ABSTRACT  “Tobaccoism or How Tobacco Kills” by John Harvey Kellog (Link) arguable inventor with his brother of Kellogs cornflakes. (PDF full copy of book below)

“Sir Walter Raleigh helped to create a demand for the weed by smoking or “drinking” tobacco, as it was then called, in public and private. King James beheaded Sir Walter for treason and tried to stop the use of tobacco by means of a “counter blaste” in which he condemned tobacco-using as “A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black, stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.” Tobacco was extolled as the panacea for all human ills. A veritable tobacco “craze” seized the country.
In London there were more than seven thousand tobacco shops. King James, by royal edict opposed the practice, but
the shrewd business methods of the promoters of the tobacco traffic kept the practice alive. King James evidently had a very healthy aversion to the weed. He declared, “Surely, smoke becomes a kitchen far better than a dining chamber.” The spread of the practice during the 17th century was so rapid that numerous sovereigns thought it necessary to make efforts to suppress it. The Sultan of Turkey (Amurath IV.), prohibited smoking and condemned smokers to death. In Russia (Michel III.) smokers were punished by cutting off their noses. The Shah of Persia (Abbas II.) made equally stringent laws against tobacco, and Pope Urban VIII. anathematized smoking in church.
In spite of the opposition of King James and his successors, Charles I. and Charles II., the culture and use of tobacco increased until the tobacco plantations in the colonies exceeded in size all other crops together. The habit grew during the period of the commonwealth, and even Cromwell smoked.
At Eton the boys had lessons in smoking every morning and a pupil was “Soundly whipped because he refused to smoke.”

It also provides then evidence as to the likely health related consequences of smoking.

Dr, Kellog did have one positive thing to say about tobacco use p27:


“A decoction of tobacco is speedy death to lice and ticks and makes an ideal dip for pigs and poultry.”


The book is also interesting in its suggestion that a number of cardiovascular and neurological conditions had their major roots in smoking, adding to indications their increased incidence was viewed as a new phenomenon; many of these ‘western’ conditions are still with us, and often found in those who do not smoke, indicating they had a wider origin than smoking, albeit smoking was unquestionably a contributory factor; dietary change and nutrient loss arguably being significant changes that happened in the same time frame.

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