Cornhill Magazine,  8 (1863), 35–47.

Over-Eating and Under-Eating

[Francis E Anstie]




Nutrition, Disease, Class, Human Development, Mental Illness, Public Health, Statistics, Narcotics, Physiological Chemistry, Neurology, Physiology, Experiment

People mentioned:

Jules Guérin , Theodor L W Bischoff , Carl von Voit , Friedrich H Bidder , John Fothergill , William Brinton , Charles Chossat , Gabriel G Valentin , John C Dalton , Karl von Vierordt , George H Lewes

    Offers some 'observations [...] intended rather to be suggestive of thought in our readers than to convey exact rules' and 'by no means intended to cast a slight upon the sacred right of private judgement in matters of supply' (47). In particular, draws attention to the dangerous dietary habits of the kind of middle-class 'men who come home exhausted by a day's laborious work at chambers or counting-house' (41). Employing insights from the latest German researches on physiology, points to the role of insufficient and 'defective nutrition', especially the giving of 'artificial food' which presents a 'very violent change [...] from the elements of food which were provided in the first place by nature' (37), in the development of childhood diseases such as rickets, as well as mental ailments like epilepsy and 'St. Vitus' dance' (38). The problem is not confined to the poor, but may also affect 'the ranks of the wealthier' due to 'the extraordinary perversity and stupidity of nurses and mothers' (37). This 'homily of ours on the evils of starvation', however, is a 'mere prologue', and, in fact, the 'very opposite error' can be far more damaging to individual health (39). Warns that a lack of nutrition 'would be a far less calamity to many of our lazy gourmandizers than is the condition which they bring themselves to by fatiguing their organisms with continual over-doses of flesh-foods'. Offers practical advice on the correct amounts and kinds of food that should be taken for different occupations, and recommends the 'nutritive value' of 'Cheese and onions', 'two articles of so extremely plebeian a character that they are apt to be unjustly depreciated', which adequately nourish even the 'low-paid agricultural labourer' because they are both 'highly nitrogenous'. (45) Also censures the preference of the poor for 'the whitest sorts of bread' which contain little nitrogen. Suggests that the quantitative study of the 'excreta of the body', of which no mention is made in the present article, is 'likely soon to receive an important development from investigations now in progress in the hands of more than one accomplished physiologist'. (46)

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