Friday, November 18, 2016

Christoph Hufeland's Macrobiotic Diet Recommendations, c. 1842

Christoph Hufeland.  Public Domain,
Many people seem to think that the idea that a diet low in animal foods promotes health and longevity emerged only in the 20th century as a component of what they consider a scientifically unsupported lipid hypothesis.  They imagine that prior to 1900, physicians were promoting low carbohydrate diets because they were so advanced in their understanding of the "fact" that eating carbohydrates makes the body fat and sick. 

Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland (1762-1836) was the most prominent physician of his time in Germany.  He was physician for Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Johann Gottfried von Herder, Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, and Christoph Martin Wieland.

He wrote 11 major works on medicine, including one in which he introduced a term he invented – macrobiotic:  Macrobiotics:  The Art of Prolonging Life.  This is from the introduction to this book:

Among the practices Hufeland advances as beneficial for prolonging life, he has this to say about diet:

John Wesley was an Anglican cleric.  In describing animal flesh as heating, stimulating, and richly yielding blood and nourishment, Hufeland is in resonance with the Oriental medicine view that animal flesh is more yang than plant food.  Basically, he maintains that animal food accelerates metabolic processes, resulting in acceleration of aging. 
"We find that it is not those who lived on flesh, but on vegetables, pulse, fruit, and milk, who attained to the greatest age."
If I remember correctly, Vilhjalmur Stefansson noted in one of his works, I think it was Cancer: Disease of Civilization, that Eskimos had significantly shorter life spans than Canadians eating mixed diets, and he also wondered whether the highly stimulating effect of a high meat diet was responsible for this.

In any case, Hufeland was not indoctrinated by a modern lipid hypothesis.  The observation that people who live on more plant-based diets tend to have longer life spans is not some 20th century fabrication from the lipid hypothesis.  This was observed at least as long ago as ancient Greece, as evidenced by the fact that Socrates suggests the same in Plato's Republic, Book II.  

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