The Nations Food Habits, Editorial

THE NATION’S FOOD HABITS

 

                It is an acknowledged fact that many millions of American people are consuming a diet entirely inadequate to maintain general and dental health. There are a great many people who are not receiving the necessary vitamins in the foods they consume, and others who do not have sufficient basic foods. Many diets are lacking in minerals and a great many people are eating in excess of their needs. A balanced diet is essential, and a deficiency or over abundance can only lead to systemic derangements.

Neither the medical or dental professions have interested themselves particularly in determining the food habits of the American people or in educating them in the fundamentals of nutrition.

Both professions have been interested in local organized health service such as in schools, and community welfare, but have not been especially concerned in the nutritional needs of the nation, though they acknowledge that a bad dietary situation exists.

When we consider the perils resulting from lack of nutrition among the people of the nation, it should be a matter of vital concern both from a health standpoint and as it affects the character of citizenship.

In recent years the United States government has interested itself to a great extent in the general welfare of its people.

Many surveys have been conducted to determine living conditions throughout the country and the different needs of the people, but to my knowledge no survey has been made in connection with food habits as related to health nutrition. Yet I believe they could do no greater service to the American people if conducted with a view of improving this condition. It would no doubt be quite revealing to learn exactly what food elements are consumed by the different classes of people.

In a recent survey of the food habits of the British people, carried on by Sir John Boyd Orr in co-operation with the Agricultural Marketing Board and various trade organizations, it was found that a diet completely adequate for health is reached at an income level above that of 50 per cent of the population.

In this survey, the population was divided into six groups, defined by the average income per head in the family and the total earnings divided by the number of individuals in the family.

The diet of the poorest group, 41/2 million people, or 10 per cent, was found to be deficient in every constituent. The next highest group, 20 per cent, has a diet deficient in all accessory factors. The diet of the next group, 20 per cent, lacks several important vitamins and minerals. In the fourth group, 20 per cent, an adequate diet is reached, and in the fifth and sixth groups, 30 per cent, there is an excess of all food factors.

It was found that the consumption of bread and potatoes is uniform throughout all groups. The consumption of milk, eggs and fruit rises with income. The use of sugar is five times as great as it was 100 years ago. The consumption of bread and flour is 80 per cent less than it was 100 years ago. Bread and cereals account for only 9 per cent of the money spent on food. Meat stands first in money expended for food.

The complete survey is published in Food, Health and Income, by Sir John Boyd Orr (Macmillan & Co.).