Increasingly, in the face of mounting evidence, doctors are reluctantly coming to the view that what is really bad in a diet are carbohydrates and sugar. Interestingly, this was known all along; but a combination of interests from food companies, zealous researchers and politicians had suppressed this insight. Consider this study which is over half a century old.
One of the best places to measure the impact of carbohydrates and sugar was Greenland, where the traditional Alaskan Inuit lived semi-nomadic life hunting and catching fish, marine mammals and birds. They had minimal sugar and carbohydrates—all in the natural form. However, beginning around 1920, a group of Alaskan Inuit slowly developed permanent settlement in the mountains, in a pass called Anaktuvuk Pass. In 1953, a post-office was established as well as a ‘white trader’ store. Their diet started changing with the addition of more carbohydrates and sugar.
Shortly thereafter, Gisle Bang and Tore Kristoffersen, of the Gade Institute from the department of pathology and school of dentistry in Norway, conducted two studies, over two different periods, on the diet and dental health of the Inuit. They first analysed the diet in 1955–1957 by weighing all the food eaten by each person for two consecutive days once a month. They recorded the content of fat, protein and carbohydrates, as well as the total caloric intake of each individual.
In 1965, they conducted a second dietary intake study by the ‘interview method’ plus personal observations by visiting the families during meal times. The interview included questions on what, and how much of each item of food, each person ate during the year. There was a sharp increase in carbohydrates intake of ‘nearly 50%’ and a decrease in the intake of protein ‘by about 50%’ over these two periods. Increased carbohydrates intake was paralleled by an almost 90% increase in decayed, missing and filled permanent teeth for primary teeth and a fourfold increase in those more than six years old, the percentage of caries-free persons had decreased from 74.5% to zero in eight years.
In 1955-1957, 50% of the children had caries-free teeth; whereas in 1965, all the children had decayed teeth. The most dramatic change occurred in those who were in the 30+ age group. This group had no caries; all had developed caries by 1965. All this while, consumption of carbohydrates had increased by 50%. Much earlier, Dr Weston Price and Dr Melvin Page, pioneering dentists, had found that eating the wrong kind of sugar and carbohydrates (grains) causes tooth decay (though not by ‘decay-causing bacteria’) but by changing the blood chemistry.
Dr JD Boyd accidentally healed diabetic children’s decayed teeth by designing a grain-free diet, writes Rami Nagel in his book Cure Tooth Decay. “The diet meant to control diabetes not only stopped cavities, it turned soft tooth enamel hard and glossy.” These findings were published in 1928 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr Boyd’s diet consisted of milk, cream, butter, eggs, meat, cod-liver oil, vegetables and fruit.
Dr Bang and Dr Kristoffersen also explained how the Alaskan Inland Inuit diet changed. “While previously all able men in the village frequently were out hunting, trapping and fishing, only a couple of the young men were still actively engaged in such activities in 1965. Manufacture of souvenirs had proved more profitable and the income financed the purchase of refined foods from the local stores. Consequently, only some 20% of the food intake was made up of native foods, mainly caribou meat. Hunting was now mostly limited to the short periods when the caribou came close to the village. In 1955–1957, the percentage of calories obtained from protein and fat was high while the percentage derived from carbohydrates was low. In 1965, the intake of protein was about 50% lower (carbohydrates intake was 50% higher).”
The Eskimos were no longer subsisting on their native diet but, instead, a diet much higher in refined carbohydrates. They were “living under the same environmental conditions as far as geographical location, climate, housing and clothing is concerned,” wrote the researchers, compared with those from 1955 to 1957. The most important change in their lives was the change in their diet. The dental examinations in each period were carried out by the same investigators using a similar method under identical conditions.