The agricultural stations in the United States have here and there conducted extremely valuable nutrition experiments in the line of high and low proteid food. At the end of the experiments the subjects were killed and the tissues examined. These results uniformly show that under low proteid, though the animal may be fat and apparently healthy, there is a reduction of muscle, strength of bone and of the vital organs, the chest is contracted, body stunted and blood deficient. To such an extent does all this occur that there is not the slightest doubt that low proteid feeding in any growing animal, man included, is one of the most dangerous experiments possible. Dr. G. R. Pisek* uses these experiments to show the extreme danger of stunting infants and children by a diet which fattens them but starves them of nitrogen.
We now see why the best physical types of Filipinos are the Igorrotes, whose mountain life is, of course, in their favor, but who eat more nitrogenous food than the men of the lowlands. To be sure it is mostly dog meat, but that is better than rice. We now know that the tropical native of the lowlands wants and needs nitrogen, but it is unattainable. A little fish is about all he can get, and he has a veritable thirst for nitrogen which is almost insatiable. Native soldiers given our ration, eat the meat ravenously and call for more, and steadily improve in physique and endurance. When natives have a feast (fiesta) the principal articles on the table are meats with which they gorge themselves. Well-to-do classes in Porto Rico and Cuba are now known to eat as much meat as Northern peoples, even pork, the favorite of the Filipinos. The poor are the only ones starved. When Filipinos kill a deer they drink the hot blood right from the arteries - a literal blood thirst. Officers have reported to me that they have seen educated wealthy mestizos simply groveling to drink this hot blood. If a horse dies by the wayside, and we do not bury it at once, it is pounced upon, cut up and carried away. To my certain knowledge, a party of men sent out to bury a recently dead horse found only a part of a leg and the tail left. Diseased horses shot and buried have even been dug up and eaten. When we remember that these natives have all the vegetable food they need, rice and fruits, this nitrogen thirst is well understood. Every day in the Philippines we see this intense search for nitrogen - snails, all kinds of crabs and shrimps, grasshoppers - indeed, any animal which can serve for food, is caught and sold as a valuable possession. Tropical vegetable foods are deficient in nitrogen, rice being nearly pure starch, and bananas, starch and sugar. Wheat and other cereals of temperate climates, on the other hand, contain a large store of nitrogen. So that in the tropics, where cereals do not flourish, it is not possible to feed the people properly without animal foods. Rice alone is a good fuel and furnishes energy for the tremendous labor of the coolies - but they are nitrogen starved all the same.
* New York Medical Record, September 9, 1905.
In the New York Medical Record (December 22, 1900) there was an interesting article on the "Poverty of Tropical Countries as a Cause of the Feebleness of the Natives," by Dr. F. Semeleder, of Cordoba, Vera Cruz, Mexico, who, from a third of a century of experience, knew tropical people well. He gave many details of this food poverty, the overcrowding and the harmful conditions of the climate, and showed that tropical civilizations must have been built up by vigorous Northern invaders who then died out. He concludes with this quotation from Lord Macaulay's essay on Warren Hastings* in discussing the ideas of the wonderful riches of the Indies prevalent at that time: "Nobody seemed to be aware of what nevertheless was most undoubtedly the truth, that India was a poorer country than countries which in Europe are reckoned poor, than Ireland, for example, or than Portugal. It was confidently believed by lords of the treasury and members for the city, that Bengal would not only defray its own charges, but would afford an increased dividend to the proprietors of India stock and large relief to the English finances. These expectations were disappointed".
* Edinburgh Review, October, 1841, p. 174.
If white men in the tropics are not well fed with nitrogen, they are so weakened in resisting powers as to become victims of almost every infection. The testimony upon that point is almost universal. The immunity of Englishmen to infections which wipe out the natives of India is now known to be due, at least in part, to the better nitrogen diet of the white men and the physiologic poverty of the brown men. It is the same in the lower animals, for Doctor Breisacher mentions* that decided reduction of the albumin in the diet of the carnivorous animals is followed in time by grave inanition. Indeed, these four diseases - beri-beri, leprosy, relapsing fever and typhus - are now believed to attack those in a condition of nitrogen starvation. This is more fully explained in the article on "The Soldier in the Tropics," Philadelphia Medical Journal, April 7, 1900.
Modern investigations have left no doubt that beri-beri is caused by the poisons of an organism which either lives on rice or invades the body. Dr. Hamilton Wright, of London, believes he has found it, and that it resembles the germ of diphtheria. All this does not alter the overwhelming proof that the germ or its poisons are harmless to those who have plenty of nitrogen in the food. It is useless to quote all the testimony, but we can refer to Majors Pinard and Boye, of the French Army,* and E. A. 0. Travers,*¡ who all show cures by meat diet and relapses by return to nitrogen starvation. An outbreak at the Filipino leper colony was checked by an increased nitrogen diet.§