Western Civilization Abstracts 3

© 2012

Nutrition and food commodities in the 20th century

         (Martini and Phillips 2009) Download

Nutrition in the 20th century is examined with respect to changes in the American diet due to changes in the economy and evolution from an agrarian to an industrialized society. The American farm family diet from two regions of the United States during the 1930s is studied on the basis of overall availability of food commodities. A discussion of the diet staples and differences in farm family health is presented and related to nutritional deficiencies. Beginning in the 1920s through the early 1930s dietary deficiencies became a major focus of public health officials in the United States. Identification of the cause of these human nutritional deficiencies prompted significant research by government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and National Institutes of Health. Medical schools, universities, pharmaceutical corporations, and private institutions directed their resources into basic chemical research and clinical trials to assess the role of vitamins, minerals, proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and nutrients for improving human health and nutrition. Chemists played an important role in the discovery of vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients, validating the efficacy through tedious clinical trials. They developed synthetic vitamins affording food manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to capitalize upon fortifying foods for consumers. The American chemist was also responsible for the development of commodities to maximize crop yield through pesticides and fertilizers.

Milk consumption: aggravating factor of acne and promoter of chronic diseases of Western societies

            (Melnik 2009) Download

Consumption of cow's milk and cow's milk protein result in changes of the hormonal axis of insulin, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1(IGF-1) in humans. Milk consumption raises IGF-1 serum levels in the perinatal period, adolescence and adulthood. During puberty with the physiological onset of increased secretion of growth hormone, IGF-1 serum levels increase and are further enhanced by milk consumption. IGF-1 is a potent mitogen; after binding to its receptor in various tissues, it induces cell proliferation and inhibits apoptosis. Keratinocytes and sebocytes, as well as the androgen-synthesizing adrenals and gonads, are stimulated by IGF-1. The epidemic incidence of adolescent acne in Western milk-consuming societies can be explained by the increased insulin- and IGF-1-stimulation of sebaceous glands mediated by milk consumption. Acne can be regarded as a model for chronic Western diseases with pathologically increased IGF-1-stimulation. Many other organs, such as the thymus, bones, all glands, and vascular smooth muscle cells as well as neurons are subject to this abnormally increased hormonal stimulation. The milk-induced change of the IGF-1-axis most likely contributes to the development of fetal macrosomia, induction of atopy, accelerated linear growth, atherosclerosis, carcinogenesis and neurodegenerative diseases. Observations of molecular biology are supported by epidemiologic data and unmask milk consumption as a promoter of chronic diseases of Western societies.

Hemochromatosis: a Neolithic adaptation to cereal grain diets

            (Naugler 2008) Download

The Neolithic period in Europe marked the transition from a hunter-gatherer diet rich in red meat to an iron-reduced cereal grain diet. This dietary shift likely resulted in an increased incidence of iron deficiency anemia, especially in women of reproductive age. I propose that hereditary hemochromatosis and in particular the common HFE C282Y mutation may represent an adaptation to decreased dietary iron in cereal grain-based Neolithic diets. Both homozygous and heterozygous carriers of the HFE C282Y mutation have increased iron stores and therefore possessed an adaptive advantage under Neolithic conditions. An allele age estimate places the origin of the HFE C282Y mutation in the early Neolithic period in Northern Europe and is thus consistent with this hypothesis. The lower incidence of this mutation in other agrarian regions (the Mediterranean and Near East) may be due to higher dietary intakes of the iron uptake cofactor vitamin C in those regions. The HFE C282Y mutation likely only became maladaptive in the past several centuries as dietary sources of iron and vitamin C improved in Northern Europe.

Effects of a traditional lifestyle on the cardiovascular risk profile: the Amondava population of the Brazilian Amazon. Comparison with matched African, Italian and Polish populations

            (Pavan, Casiglia et al. 1999) Download

OBJECTIVE: To determine the relationships between lifestyle and cardiovascular risk factors among the Brazilian Amondava, one of the world's most isolated populations. DESIGN: Cross-sectional, population-based study. Four age- and sex-matched samples from Brazil Africa, Italy and Poland, representing different levels of modernization, were compared. Body weight, height, blood pressure, serum cholesterol and glycaemia were measured, and a standard questionnaire administered. Data concerning dietary habits and physical activity were collected. A personal socio-economic score was calculated, on the basis of type of economy, level of formal education, type of occupation, type of habitat, availability of piped water and electricity, main source of income, housing conditions, availability of radio, television or personal computer, knowledge of a second language, and organized health facilities. SETTING: Primary epidemiological screening, at an institution. RESULTS: Among the Amondava blood pressure was always <140/90 mm Hg, it did not increase with age and was not correlated with any other variable; 46.6% of subjects had systolic blood pressure <100 mm Hg. Blood pressure among the Amondava (109.6+/-11.1/69.5+/-6.4 mm Hg) was on average lower (P<0.0001) than in all other samples. Among the Amondava, the concentration of total cholesterol was always <200 mg/dl, i.e. similar to that of Africans whose diet included large amounts of vegetable foodstuffs; 90% had glycaemia (<80 mg/dl), and their mean value was the lowest (55.1+/-14.9 mg/dl) of all the groups. CONCLUSIONS: In addition to a possible genetic predisposition not analysed in this study, a traditional lifestyle (no contact with civilization, diet based on complex carbohydrates and vegetables, high energy expenditure) may protect against the development of hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia, and diabetes.


Martini, S. A. and M. Phillips (2009). "Nutrition and food commodities in the 20th century." J Agric Food Chem 57(18): 8130-5.

Melnik, B. (2009). "Milk consumption: aggravating factor of acne and promoter of chronic diseases of Western societies." J Dtsch Dermatol Ges 7(4): 364-70.

Naugler, C. (2008). "Hemochromatosis: a Neolithic adaptation to cereal grain diets." Med Hypotheses 70(3): 691-2.

Pavan, L., E. Casiglia, et al. (1999). "Effects of a traditional lifestyle on the cardiovascular risk profile: the Amondava population of the Brazilian Amazon. Comparison with matched African, Italian and Polish populations." J Hypertens 17(6): 749-56.