Are We Starving at Full Tables?

Author unknown

Summary: One of the fundamental discoveries of early nutrition research was the connection between ill health and soil deficiency. Investigations like the one featured in this 1950 article showed that mineral shortages in worn-out land lead to malnutrition and disease not only in plants and animals grown on that land but in humans who eat those plants and animals. In the study described here, diseased dairy cows raised on mineral-deficient pastures are returned to health through dietary supplementation with trace minerals—those elements so often lacking in the overworked soils of conventional, nonorganic farms. The author also discusses the negative nutritional consequences of pasteurizing milk as well as the nutrient-robbing effects of industrial food processing in general. Thanks to a loss of nutrients at just about every step of the modern food manufacturing process, he says, Americans suffer widespread malnutrition despite a preponderance on their plates. From Steel Horizons magazine, 1950. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 41A.

Are We Starving to Death?

By Neil M. Clark

Summary:  Dr. William Albrecht was the Chairman of the Department of Soils at the University of Missouri and the foremost authority of his time on the subject of soil fertility and its relation to human health. In this 1945 article from the iconic Saturday Evening Post, author Neil Clark recounts Dr. Albrecht’s pioneering experiments demonstrating the critical connection between the trace mineral content of a soil and the health and hardiness of plants grown in that soil—and, consequently, the health and hardiness of animals and humans who eat those plants. Dr. Albrecht warns the magazine’s readers in no uncertain terms that unless America makes a concerted effort to restore the trace minerals to its depleted soils, the country’s population will suffer a slow extinction from the “hidden hunger” of mineral-poor foods, as evidenced by ever increasing rates of degenerative disease. With the “chronic disease problem” worse today than ever, Dr. Albrecht’s prophecy rings ominously true, and his findings demand the adoption of organic farming practices across the board in America’s agricultural industry. From The Saturday Evening Post, 1945. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 21.

Calcium

By Dr. William A. Albrecht

Summary: A comprehensive discussion of the amazing role of calcium in the soil and its effect on crops and animals, written by one of the greatest soil scientists of all time. Dr. Albrecht, who chaired the soils department at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, is known in the organic farming movement as the “father of soil fertility research.” Born in 1888, he published his first article on soil fertility in 1918 and would publish research papers continually until his death in 1974. Albrecht was a friend of Dr. Royal Lee, and the Lee Foundation published several of his papers, which are available in this archive. From The Land magazine, 1943. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 8.

The Cause of Erosion

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: Dr. Royal Lee grew up on a farm in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, giving him firsthand knowledge of what he called the “two most important problems of the land—the problem of erosion and the problem of maintenance of fertility of soil.” In this 1947 commentaryDr. Lee suggests that the two go hand in hand. He speculates that a depletion in mineral salts—or an unnatural imbalance of them like that created by artificial fertilization—leads to an inability of the soil to absorb water and leach from it the organic matter necessary for its health. In turn, he says, a precise make-up of organic matter is required in the soil to ensure the proper mineral constitution. “It seems,” he says, “that we must have organic matter to hold the mineral elements needed by plant life, and we must have mineral salts…to hold the organic matter.” Dr. Lee follows his discussion with excerpts from the classic 1863 text The Natural Laws of Husbandry by German chemist and agriculturist Justus von Liebig, who decries the simplicity with which most agricultural scientists view soil constitution and warns of the profound danger of partial soil fertilization—a practice that nonetheless has become the calling card of modern agriculture. Finally, in an unrelated piece from the January 21, 1944, issue of Science, Dr. Lee comments on the similarity of nutrient factors within and across species in an article titled “Vitamer or Isotel? Both?” Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 29, circa 1947. Multiple original sources.

A Concept of Totality

By Joe Nichols, MD

Summary: Pioneering holistic medical doctor Joe Nichols writes about the “six chief causes of disease”: (1) emotions (2) malnutrition (3) poisons (4) infections (5) accidents, and (6) inheritance. The worst, he says, are the emotions. “Worry, fear, anxiety, hate, envy, jealousy—these are the great killers,” he explains, recommending the three A’s (acceptance, approval, and adoration of others) as a remedy. A second great killer, Dr. Nichols says, is malnutrition, which starts with soils that have been exhausted of minerals through irresponsible farming practices utilizing artificial fertilizers. “The end result of chemical farming is always disease, first in the land itself, then in the plant, then in the animal, and finally in us. Everywhere in the world where chemical farming is practiced the people are sick. The use of synthetic chemicals does not make land rich. It makes it poorer than before.” Dr. Nichols founded the Natural Foods Associates and edited its magazine, Natural Food and Farming, one of the first natural-food magazines published in the United States. From Natural Food Associates, 1954. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 58. 

A Critical Discussion of Trace Elements and Biodynamic Agriculture

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: By the close of the 1940s, Dr. Royal Lee had seen many “peeps behind…the iron curtain that is so carefully maintained by the makers of fraudulent foods to keep the American people in ignorance as to the real cause of their chronic diseases.” Thus, in commenting on the opinion of a committee who’d concluded, on very little evidence, that fertilizing soil with trace minerals is unnecessary to produce nutritious plants, Dr. Lee could not help but question the motives of the committee’s so-called experts. “Such haste in promoting one side of a vital question that cannot be settled without a great amount of research certainly throws a lot of doubt upon the integrity and honesty of the committee.” Lee would spend the next two decades calling out such formulaic chicanery, the kind of which would later lead to some of the great shams of modern nutrition, including cholesterol theory and low-fat diets. 1949. Original source unknown.

Current Thinking on Nutrition

By Jonathan Forman, MD

Summary: “What I want to talk about is the relation of nutrition to productive farming,” writes Dr. Jonathan Forman, a leading pioneer in environmental medicine during the 1940s. Here, Forman reviews research on nutritional deficiencies and degenerative diseases and traces their origins to poor farming practices throughout the entire food chain. “Poor land makes poor people, poor people make poor land, the people get poorer and the soil gets still poorer.” This is nutrition from the soil to the table. From the Ohio State Medical Journal, 1945.  Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 32.

Deaf Smith’s Secret: An Explanation of the Deaf Smith Country

By A.W. Erickson

Summary: With tooth decay ravaging virtually every town and city in mid-twentieth-century America, the inhabitants of one region remained famously free of cavities. The oral health of Deaf Smith County, Texas, was so legendary, in fact, that rumor had it one could grow a new set of teeth just by moving there. Of course this was just fancy, but it bespoke Deaf Smith’s reputation as a place “where the best man develops,” with residents boasting not just superior dental health but overall health as well. In this captivating booklet, crop reporter A.W. Erickson reveals Deaf Smith’s secret to be the food grown on its extraordinarily mineral-rich soil and water. Erickson, detailing how unique climatic and geographical factors result in the continual deposition of myriad minerals across Deaf Smith’s farmland, affirms one of the great discoveries in early nutrition research and the reason why organic farming is so important today: human health is only as good as the land we grow our food in. Published by Field Notes Crop Reporting Service, 1945. (For a comprehensive look at the connection between human health and soil health, see Empty Harvest by Bernard Jensen and Mark R. Anderson.)

The Direct Effect of Malnutrition on Tissue Degeneration

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: In this 1949 address to the Seattle chapter of the American Academy of Applied Nutrition, Dr. Royal Lee touches on some of the major findings of early nutrition history that are still, incredibly, ignored to this day. Topics include the importance of calcium, phosphorus, and raw protein to tooth health; the total destruction of nutrients in bread caused by bleaching; the connection between vitamin E deficiency and heart disease; the dependency of connective-tissue integrity on adequate vitamin C levels; and the various lesions of B vitamin deficiencies. Dr. Lee explains that most of the health problems caused by nutrient deficiency are the result of the consumption of overcooked and processed foods and concludes with perhaps the most important edict for good health: “We must take the trouble in our homes to prepare our foods from the basic materials as far as possible, even to the extent of growing our vegetables and fruits on properly composted soil if we can. The dividends will be quite possibly twenty years added to our life span, to say nothing of the life added to our years.” 1949. Reprinted by Selene River Press in Lectures of Dr. Royal Lee, Volume I

Diseases as Deficiencies via the Soil

By Dr. William A. Albrecht

Summary: In this article world-renowned soil scientist William Albrecht, former Chairman of the Department of Soils at the University of Missouri, connects the dots between unhealthy soil created by unsustainable farming practices and deficiency-related disease. “The degenerative diseases of the modern world,” Albrecht says, “need to be traced not only to the supplies in the food and feed market where the family budget may provoke them but a bit farther and closer to their origin, namely the fertility of the soil, the point at which all agricultural production takes off.” From the Iowa State University Veterinarian, 1950. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 37A.

Fundamentals of Nutrition for Physicians and Dentists

By N. Philip Norman, MD

Summary: Weston Price. Harold Hawkins. Percy Howe. Melvin Page. Royal Lee. What do these giants of early nutrition science have in common? They were all dentists—firsthand witnesses to the explosion of modernity’s most common disease, tooth decay. In their search for the cause of the epidemic confounding their profession, these practitioners discovered a startling fact: those patients with the worst oral health tended to have the worst overall health as well. Digging deeper, each researcher discovered that the reason for both tooth decay and the other degenerative diseases afflicting their patients was the same—malnutrition, brought on by a diet of industrially processed and adulterated foods. In this rousing 1947 article, New York City Hospital physician and nutritionist N. Philip Norman lauds the maverick dentists for their groundbreaking work while lambasting both mainstream dentistry and medicine for virtually ignoring the connection between diet and disease and allowing deranged foods to destroy the health of America. “The medical and dental professions failed to oppose the wholesale adulteration of our food supply, thereby allowing the insidious extension into our food culture of processed foods whose nutritional value was never questioned until after the damage was done.” From the American Journal of Orthodontics and Oral Surgery, 1947. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 33. 

He Enriches Soil for Crops That Go into Vitamin Pills

By John T. Alexander

Summary: A bittersweet newspaper account of a man who remineralizes soil using special organic composts, developed with the help of nutritional and agricultural scientists, to grow crops for concentration into whole-food supplements. On the one hand, the story is exciting and inspirational, revealing the difference that well-mineralized, well-bacterialized soil makes in the nutritional quality of foods grown in it. On the other hand, this is a sad reminder of the path industrial agriculture in this country did not take, opting instead for producing nutrient-deficient plants from sapped soil propped up with artificial fertilizers. Includes the famous quote by Dr. C.W. Cavanaugh of Cornell University: “The fact is there is only one major disease—and that is malnutrition.” From The Kansas City Star, 1952. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 55.

Interrelation of Soils and Plant, Animal, and Human Nutrition

By Dr. E.C. Auchter

Summary: In this 1939 article from Science magazine, a USDA scientist discusses the budding awareness of the nutritional dependency of the plant on the soil and, in turn, of the animal and human being on the plant, making the health of the soil critical for human wellness. “These developments in the science of nutrition,” Auchter writes, “suggest that we ought to give more attention to producing crops of the highest nutritional quality for man and animals.” Too bad the USDA never took his advice. Reprint 79, 1939.

Medical Testament—Nutrition and Soil Fertility

By Sir Robert McCarrison, MD, and Sir Albert Howard

Summary: In 1911 Britain passed its National Insurance Act, a law intended to “provide for the prevention and cure of sickness” of its citizens. Yet despite the bill’s aim, rates of chronic disease proceeded to explode in the country over the ensuing decades. While medical officialdom was at a loss to explain or prevent the events, in 1939 the 600 family doctors of Cheshire county gathered to issue a public “testament” naming both the cause of the new epidemics and the means of their reversal. The physicians, reflecting on nearly three decades of clinical experience, named malnutrition at the hands of industrially processed foods as the common cause of chronic disease while marveling at the “amazing benefits” of switching patients to a diet of nutrient-dense, organic foods. Two researchers instrumental in guiding the doctors to their findings were Sir Robert McCarrison and Sir Albert Howard, both of whom were invited to speak at the famous Cheshire meeting, as recorded here. In their speeches McCarrison and Howard articulate the basic principles of what might be called “ecological nutrition,” that the health of humans depends on the health of the foods they eat, which in turn depends on the health of the soil those foods are grown in and on. With the medical industry still baffled by the cause and prevention of chronic disease, the words of these farsighted researchers offer a blueprint for building true health and wellness in humankind, literally from the ground up. Originally published in New English Weekly, 1939.

Medical Testament of the Doctors of Cheshire, England

By the Local Medical and Panel Committee of Cheshire, England

Summary: This 1939 declaration by the physicians of Cheshire, England, is one of the great documents of nutrition history and a clarion call for preventive medicine in the twenty-first century and beyond. In it the 600 family doctors of Cheshire county lament the failure of their profession to reverse the soaring rates of chronic disease in Britain, naming the reason for the new epidemics in no uncertain terms: “a lifetime of wrong nutrition” in their patients. While medicine’s political institutions were spinning the notion that only total vitamin deficiencies bring illness, such as the lethal scurvy or rickets, many practicing physicians were confirming what decades of experimental research had shown—that the human body is incredibly susceptible to partial deficiencies of vitamins and minerals as well, these lacks manifesting as practically every modern health complaint, from tooth decay to gastrointestinal disorders to chronic fatigue to mental illness. Unless Britain moved from its “white bread and margarine” diet of industrially processed foods to one with food that is “little altered by preparation,” with “no chemical or substitution stage,” and grown in soil in which “the natural cycle is complete,” the doctors warn, chronic disease would only continue to increase in Britain. In 1957 England’s prestigious Soil Association would resurrect Cheshire’s Medical Testament in a declaration of its own, published in the medical journal The Lancet, noting that time had done nothing but affirm the document’s dour predictions while repeating its assertion that whole, organically grown food is not a luxury but a necessity for human health. Over half a century later, with rates of chronic disease ever increasing across the globe, the institution of medicine continues to ignore the prophetic practitioners of Cheshire—at the risk of humanity’s very existence. From the British Medical Journal, 1939. Reprinted by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research.

Mineralized Garden Brings Health, Acclaim to Kentucky Soil Doctor

By F.A. Behymer

Summary: A newspaper report of soil expert Albert Carter Savage, who in the 1940s warned of the depletion of soil and its effect on the quality of the food supply. Ostensibly about Savage’s prodigious garden, the article presents his ideas for restoring fertility and immunity to agricultural lands. “A program of countrywide mineralization could and would create, within a generation, a new type of human being,” Savage says. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1945. Lee Foundation for Nutrition and Research reprint 14.

Modern Miracle Men

By Rex Beach

Summary: A fascinating document from the U.S. Senate that originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine. Beach describes the work of Dr. Charles Northen, whom he credits as the first person to show conclusively that mineral-deficient soils produce nutrient-deficient food plants, which in turn lead to nutrient deficiencies in the livestock and humans that eat them. A historically significant record of the decline of America’s soils, nutrition, and health. Reprint 109, 1936.

Natural Versus Artificial Nitrates

By Sir Albert Howard

Summary: In this 1945 article from Organic Gardening magazine, Sir Albert Howard, father of the British organic farming movement, writes about the inherent inferiority of artificial soil fertilizers, specifically synthetic nitrates. He quotes the magazine New English Weekly: “It is always good to see the difference between natural and laboratory products emphasized, in recognition of the imponderable elements with which Nature endows substances, which can by no scientific skill be added to the synthetic product.” He also cites a study from an American university showing that “natural nitrates have something that the artificial lacks, and there is no completely adequate substitute for it in the field of [artificial] agricultural fertilizers.” Substituting crude imitations for Nature’s complex, synergistic compounds is a great way to destroy the health of soil and crops, he adds. Howard, the author of the classic book on organic farming An Agricultural Testament, was also the mentor of J.I. Rodale, the founder of Prevention magazine. From Organic Gardening, 1945. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 13.

Nutrition and Health

By Sir Robert McCarrison, MD

Summary: Dr. Robert McCarrison, the famed British nutrition researcher knighted for his work in India (which culminated in the classic reference Studies in Deficiency Disease), gives a lecture to London schoolchildren about diet and nutrition. He recounts his famous rat-feeding studies mimicking the diets of differing populations in India and, based on the results of his studies, gives his prescription for a basic healthful diet: freshly milled grains, raw milk and milk products, legumes, fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs, and meat. Reprint 43, 1937.

Our Teeth and Our Soils

By William A. Albrecht, PhD

Summary: Today, the standard explanation for tooth decay goes something like this: a carbohydrate-rich film develops on the teeth; bacteria in the mouth feed on that carbohydrate; acid produced by the bacteria attack and degrade the teeth. Yet this explanation fails to account for numerous observations regarding cavity development, which, as many nutritionists of the early twentieth century showed, appears to have more to do with systemic nutritional deficiency in the body than a localized pathogenic assault. In this fascinating 1947 article, renowned agronomist Dr. William Albrecht adds weight to the malnutrition theory of tooth decay, correlating regional differences between soil fertility, plant constitution, and dental health in America. In short, he concludes, the more fertile a soil, the fewer cavities in people who eat food grown in that soil. With tooth decay the most common and widespread degenerative disease in the United States—just as it was in Dr. Albrecht’s day—it seems obvious that brushing carbohydrates off of our teeth is not enough to prevent cavities. We need nutrient rich foods, produced by fertile soils, to thwart oral bacteria from proliferating in the first place. From the Annals of Dentistry, 1947. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 37.