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Victorian English health

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  • Victorian English health

    How the Mid-Victorians Worked, Ate and Died
    Not that I agree with all the recommendations at the end, but it's pretty interesting. People in the Victorian age, if they survived infancy and childbirth, lived as long as we do even before modern medical advances. Eating 2x as much as we do now, they also were better able to get adequate nutrients. (We don't eat as much because our lives are more sedentary.)

    A choice quote:
    Given that modern pharmaceutical, surgical, anaesthetic, scanning and other diagnostic technologies were self-evidently unavailable to the mid-Victorians, their high life expectancy is very striking, and can only have been due to their health-promoting lifestyle. But the implications of this new understanding of the mid-Victorian period are rather more profound. It shows that medical advances allied to the pharmaceutical industry’s output have done little more than change the manner of our dying. The Victorians died rapidly of infection and/or trauma, whereas we die slowly of degenerative disease. It reveals that with the exception of family planning, the vast edifice of twentieth century healthcare has not enabled us to live longer but has in the main merely supplied methods of suppressing the symptoms of degenerative diseases which have emerged due to our failure to maintain mid-Victorian nutritional standards
    Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

  • #2
    Yep. Clean drinking water did more than anything else at raising lifespan in the 20th century.
    Disclaimer: I eat 'meat and vegetables' ala Primal, although I don't agree with the carb curve. I like Perfect Health Diet and WAPF Lactofermentation a lot.

    Griff's cholesterol primer
    5,000 Cal Fat <> 5,000 Cal Carbs
    Winterbike: What I eat every day is what other people eat to treat themselves.
    TQP: I find for me that nutrition is much more important than what I do in the gym.
    bloodorchid is always right


    • #3
      Knowledge of food preparation is the problem, I think. The Victorians knew a whole lot more than we do, and there were people at home to do it. Also their economic basis was better.

      That's an interesting article. But "To insist, as orthodox nutritionists and dieticians do, that only whole fruit and veg contain the magical, health-promoting ingredients represents little more than the last gasp of the discredited and anti-scientific theory of vitalism (‘Vitalism—the insistence that there is some big, mysterious extra ingredient in all living things" I'd disagree with. The last magical ingredient found was K2, and I bet there will be more.

      The author would not like the Paleo/Primal diet. He recommends looking to the food and beverage industries for help. Really! They're better than the Pharmacies and FDA? Who knows.
      "When the search for truth is confused with political advocacy, the pursuit of knowledge is reduced to the quest for power." - Alston Chase


      • #4
        That was interesting, thanks!


        • #5
          Very interesting stuff, even if I don't agree with all of it.
          Ancestral Health Info - My blog about Primal and the general ancestral health movement. Site just remodeled using HTML5/CSS3 instead of Wordpress.

          My MDA Friday success story - Stubborn Senior's Testimonial


          • #6

            The victorian era was the time when sanitation and health/safety standards (public health) started to be developed. that made a *huge* difference in both infant survival as well as surviving childbirth but also in overall health/well being for everyone.


            • #7
              I often wonder if we are all a bit nutrient deprived because we need fewer calories now compared to when we were actively working all day every day. (Not to mention the reduced amount of nutrients in food that we have now).

              I wonder how many calories per day paleolithic man took in? I'm sure it was quite variable, but it seems that it would have been much higher than what we need now.
              Using low lectin/nightshade free primal to control autoimmune arthritis. (And lost 50 lbs along the way )



              • #8
                Apparently, I'm doing this. I eat a crap ton of food and stand at work all day, pushing carts and squatting to draw blood, etc. Add my regular exercise to that, and the fact that I, like most of us, eat mainly nutrient-dense foods - I'm saturated with nutrition! This idea seems very intuitive, though, as I've always eaten extra food to "make sure I get enough vitamins", even on SAD.
                Crohn's, doing SCD


                • #9
                  This gives calorific expenditure ranges during the working week of between 3,000 to 4,500 calories /day (men) and 2,750 to 3,500 (women).
                  And these numbers sound about right.
                  Crohn's, doing SCD


                  • #10
                    The majority of the Victorians weren't posh townies and upper class/upper middle class who could sit and chill all day though. A lot were laborers still, and I imagine the ladies worked hard cleaning houses and such.
                    F 28/5'4/100 lbs

                    "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath; do your research."


                    • #11
                      Last edited by cantare; 03-22-2013, 03:37 PM.
                      6' 2" | Age: 42 | SW: 341 | CW: 198 | GW: 180?

                      “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”
                      ― Søren Kierkegaard


                      • #12
                        I think some of everyone's comments was the whole point of the article. First of all, hygiene and clean water stuff hadn't quite been invented yet so there was a lot of typical stuff that couldn't be factored in for their longevity. The new technology that had really helped was the railroad bringing fresh food into the cities, otherwise rural folks were enjoying good health already. Then the people living in the cities were all hard, physical laborers whose exercise allowed them to eat a crap ton of food, much of which was vegetables and fish, so they got a lot of omega 3 and a lot of general nutrition.

                        We today are basically malnourished. We don't eat enough and can't eat enough because we'll get fat because we don't work hard enough and our food is depleted of nutrition anyway. Hygiene and the germ theory helped as did trauma care, but since then, modern medicine has mostly only provided symptom relief for our degenerative diseases caused by malnutrition.

                        The author did mention the paleo diet but his article was on Victorian England since there is actually real data about Victorian life.
                        Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.


                        • #13
                          i think the authors offer some good points, especially this: The Victorians died rapidly of infection and/or trauma, whereas we die slowly of degenerative disease.

                          however, they seem to wear rose-colored glasses about what was really going on the u.k. during their timeline:

                          the irish potato famine began in 1847, killing at least 1 million irish and pressing at least that many to emigrate.

                          during the 1860s and 70s, british beer consumption was over 50 gallons per capita, and that beer was MUCH stronger than the modern brew -- possibly 50% stronger. booze was sold off street carts and in the many, many alehouses. urban laborers drank more than the farmers, men more than women and young men more than old. during the latter part of that century, the working poor spent more on hooch than on bread or meat.

                          in scotland, where the drinking was harder, whisky was graded by the devastation it caused: sudden death, fighting stuff, over-the-wall, pick-me-up, knock-me-down. sudden death was nearly pure alcohol. one mid-century observer thought most navvies (canal diggers or track-layers) averaged thirty gallons of booze a week. Another thought a thousand pounds was spent on drink for every finished mile of track: twenty-five thousand pounds, perhaps, in today's money. even with the hyperbole of a temperance zealot that was an ocean booze.

                          it was not uncommon for children to consume alcohol, especially since the water wasn't always potable and milk possibly tainted:

                          The Silk-Buckingham Committees of 1834 reported that in 14
                          public houses in London, 18,391 children entered one of these during one week. Twenty
                          years later, a select committee reported of public houses in Manchester “on a single Sunday
                          in 1854 there were 212,243 visits to drink shops and 22,132 of these were made by
                          children, some of whom went to drink on their own account - some to fetch drink”.
                          Hope of the Race -The Centenary History of the Band of Hope).

                          while citrus had been traveling to britain in ships for many decades, (easily transportable because of its thick rinds), and lemons were easily had, fresh imported fruit was something only the very wealthy could afford.

                          poor boys and girls did not attend school, since their parents couldn't afford the fees.

                          even by the authors' account, it was less than a generation before these brits supposedly went from being strong and tall to being too poorly nourished to serve in the army.

                          Last edited by noodletoy; 03-22-2013, 07:31 AM.
                          As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.

                          – Ernest Hemingway


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by noodletoy View Post

                            during the 1860s and 70s, british beer consumption was over 50 gallons per capita, and that beer was MUCH stronger than the modern brew -- possibly 50% stronger. booze was sold off street carts and in the many, many alehouses. urban laborers drank more than the farmers, men more than women and young men more than old. during the latter part of that century, the working poor spent more on hooch than on bread or meat.

                            I have just read the article - I didn't draw from it the same conclusions that you did. It makes quite clear that the average beer in this period was SUBSTANTIALLY weaker than present beers. And that much less was consumed than now. And that 30 % + of households were teetotal.


                            Beer was the most commonly consumed form of alcohol, but with an alcohol content significantly lower than today’s beers. Careful reading of contemporary sources including cookery and domestic economy books suggest that the alcohol percent of beer consumed in the home was probably only 1% to 2%; often less as it was watered down, especially for consumption by women and children [43,46,47]. In pubs, the alcohol content of beer was more regulated and generally higher, ranging from 2% to 3%. These are still weak beers, compared to today’s average of around 5%. Spirits were more intermittently consumed by men and rarely by women: respectability and gin did not go together [48]. Working class men and women seldom drank wine, except for port or sherry. A third or more of households were temperate or teetotal, partly due to the sustained efforts of the anti-alcohol movement. [49,50]."

                            And fruit was commonly consumed


                            Apples were the cheapest and most commonly available urban fruits from August through to May; with cherries taking over in the May– July period, followed by gooseberries in June, up to August, then plums and greengages in July through to September [41]. Dried fruits and candied peel were always cheaply available, and used to sweeten desserts such as bread puddings and for cakes and mincemeat. They were also consumed as an afternoon snack, particularly by children, according to Victorian cookery books [42,43] and many other sources from Dickens to Mayhew. All fruits and vegetables were organically grown, and therefore had higher levels of phytonutrients than the intensively grown crops we eat today [44]."

                            And the authors intentionally make the point that the population went from being tall strong and well nourished to being smaller and poorly nourished due in part to imports of less nutritious foods. It is surely one of the main thrusts of the article that the population began to eat less nutritious foods and suffered the consequences.

                            "Unfortunately, negative changes that would undermine these nutritional gains were already taking shape. Thanks to her dominant global position, and developments in shipping technology, Britain had created a global market drawing in the products of colonial and US agriculture, to provide ever-cheaper food for the growing urban masses. From 1875 on and especially after 1885, rising imports of cheap food basics were increasingly affecting the food chain at home. Imported North American wheat and new milling techniques reduced the prices of white flour and bread. Tinned meat arrived from the Argentine, Australia and New Zealand, which was cheaper than either home-produced or refrigerated fresh meat also arriving from these sources. Canned fruit and condensed milk became widely available [25]."
                            Last edited by breadsauce; 03-23-2013, 04:04 AM.


                            • #15
                              Fascinating, thank you.