Abstracts From Abroad

Dr. G. Arbour Stephens, writing in the Cardiff Western Mail, gives a most interesting account of the valuable research work which Dr. Larsen, the director the Queen’s Hospital, Honolulu, is doing in connection with the feeding of the people of the Hawaiian Islands.

Dr. Stephens attended the recent British Medical Association meetings at Melbourne, and called upon Dr. Larsen when the ship in which he was traveling put in at Honolulu.

“Before the arrival of the white man,” Dr. Stephens writes, “the Hawaiians were famed for their fine physique and beautiful teeth.

“To-day dental decay is rampant in these islands, whilst their general condition is poor, and they have developed a great liability to diseases of the heart and blood vessels, as well as tuberculosis.

“Formerly the ‘common cold’ was unknown, but now it is almost universal.

“This association of teeth-decay with the lowering of the general vitality is a matter of great importance, because it has a significant bearing on the condition found these days in the school-children of Wales. Educationists generally must be made to realize that an army of well-paid school-dentists will not be of much service to the community until medical officers of health learn to realize that the present ideas of feeding children need considerable modification.

“As there is only one medical school in Great Britain where the principles of feeding are taught, it is hopeless to expect medical officers of health and their assistants to know much about this important subject, especially when the Ministry of Health officials are unable to distinguish between the value of fresh home-grown food and the preserved foreign article.

“Dr. Larsen pointed out to me,” Dr. Stephens continues, “that as the result of experiments on a large scale on several of these islands he has come to the conclusion that by restoring the old national dietary it is possible to restore good national health to the children. He quotes figures to show that there has been a tremendous reduction in infant mortality—from 160.7 in 1929 to 125.4 in 1932—as well as a marked improvement in the dental and general condition, due to the reduction of rice and bread in the diet, and the inclusion of an equivalent amount of sweet potatoes.

“The reason for this change which Dr. Larsen gave Sir William Wilcox and myself when we were discussing this subject was that grain and rice gave an acid starch, whereas sweet potatoes gave an alkali starch.”

Dr. Stephens adds: “A colleague of Dr. Larsen, named Dr. Martha Jones, has shown that by adding acid to the food of dogs their teeth decayed very rapidly and their general condition was lowered.

“This experiment is very similar to the marked partiality for vinegar, pickles, and sauces to which I have drawn attention in Welsh children, and which is responsible for their lowered vitality and marked decay of the teeth.”

From the Dental Magazine and Oral Topics London.