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November 08, 2006

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Dean Esmay

This very much reminds me of the research done by early 20th Century anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson. In his work for Dartmouth and other institutions, he was a polar explorer who did some of the first and most important anthropological studies of the Inuit (i.e. "eskimo") populations of the arctic circle.

A little-known fact about Stefansson, however, is that he discovered that vitamin C is not the only cure for scurvy: in fact, what he determined was that if you live on a 100% (or nearly 100%) meat diet, you not only never get scurvy but you can be otherwise perfectly healthy.

This was met with enormous skepticism in the medical community when he published it. But how did he find it out? Simple: he lived among the Inuit for a few years, and found that for an average of 9 months a year the Inuit live on nothing but meat and fish--there being nothing else to eat in such a barren frozen environment. Even during the summer months there really wasn't much in terms of edible plant life, so walrus and whale and fish and such made up the vast bulk of the people up there's diet--and while he was there, that's what he ate too.

No one ever got scurvy.

Back home he was met with massive skepticism from medical authorities who said that a diet of nothing but meat would destroy the liver and the kidneys, throw the whole system out of balance, and probably kill a person within a few days or weeks at most.

So Stefansson agreed to undergo, along with a fellow arctic explorer, a controlled study under the auspices of the Journal of the American Medical Association. They were locked up in a lab and under constant guard for two weeks and ate nothing but meat. The only negative thing they discovered is that very lean meat made them sick very quickly, but meat rich in fat was just fine. They not only did fine for two weeks but under rigorous testing were found to be able to exercise and perform all normal activities without a problem. Then, just to be sure, they were both followed around for a solid year by a guard and pledged to do nothing but eat that whole time.

The results were published in JAMA.

And by the way, some arctic and antarctic researchers still use this diet by the way. Instead of stocking up on vitamin C they simply switch to a 100% meat diet.

Funny thing being, medical authorities will still tell you this is impossible and such a diet would kill you in short order. When informed that there are still Inuit in the far north eating their traditional all-meat diet, they'll try to tell you there must be something genetically weird about the Inuit. Never mind the non-Inuit who do the same thing--it's impossible I tell ya!

Dean Esmay

Oh and by the way, when I have in the past cited the JAMA study--which I do have the specifics for, not offhand but will supply upon demand--I have been met with this answer:

"Don't you have anything more recent than a study published in the 1920s?"

Never mind that no refuting study was ever published after that.

But you know, truth is determined by who has published most recently. Or so I have learned from the Elder Priests of Science.

More on Dr. Stefansson here and here and here and here.

(I hope Otis doesn't mind me cluttering up YBYL's comments section with this stuff. But what a fascinating guy he was.)

By the way (still relying on Otis' good graces here) I want to correct one small linguistic mistake I made above. I said, "The only negative thing they discovered is that very lean meat made them sick very quickly, but meat rich in fat was just fine."

Just to be clear, what I meant was that they determined that a diet made up of NOTHING BUT very lean made the subjects sick very quickly. Very lean cuts of meat or fish with almost no fat made them sick very very quickly. But meats (including fish) very rich in fat had no such effect.

When they did the JAMA studies this actually surprised Stefansson because he was confident in his "I can eat nothing but meat and be healthy and robust" assertion. But for a few days they made him eat nothing but almost fat-free meat, and he got incredibly sick after only a couple of days. But that was just an experiment the controlling scientists proposed. Yet instead of taking him off the all-meat diet, they agreed to let him eat a diet rich in brains and fatback for a couple of days, then suddenly he was fine. And he finished out the rest of the year-long experiment without a problem.

His fellow arctic explorer was fine the whole time, because they never asked him to eat nothing but lean meat.

You can say that this was not double-blind and that more experiments should be required to really establish the facts in the case. Which I would agree with. But few since the 1920s have even tried.

Still you encounter "dieticians" who will tell you that the whole thing I just described is impossible.

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