This section is from the book "The Natural Food Of Man", by Emmet Densmore. Also available from Amazon: How Nature Cures Comprising a New System of Hygiene.
When I first caught a glimmer that perhaps nuts and sweet fruits are the natural and adequate, and only desirable, food of man, I was enabled to find a solution of some problems that had greatly perplexed me. In the practice of my profession, in an attempt to wean my patients from the diet of civilisation to a hygienic and Vegetarian diet, I had been struck by the persistence with which nearly all people cling to sweets. In all civilisations we find sweet confections and desserts. It at once occurred to me that if sweet fruits are an important part of man's natural food, and if in his journeyings on earth he has strayed out of reach of those foods and learned to live on flesh and cereals, that this persistent demand for sweets is an effort on his part to get a needed food from which he has unwittingly been deprived. The key of nuts and sweet fruits enabled me to understand the universality of our habits of sweet desserts and candy eating.
In weaning patients from the usual to the Vegetarian diet, I pondered much upon the tenacity with which the races of men cling to oily foods. I was never able to understand the problem of why the negroes of the South so persistently demand bacon with their hominy. With this newfound key, I can see that, if nuts are also a necessary portion of man's natural food, and if in his journeyings he has been and is deprived of this food, then his substitution of milk, butter, and fat meat, may be explained as a persistent demand of his bodily needs to get a lost but much needed element of food. I can see that, after all, the impulse to eat bacon with hominy may not be so far out of the way.
For years a Dr. Salisbury has been astonishing the thinking members of the medical profession in this city by a repetition of wonderful results from his methods of practice. Dr. Salisbury's treatment is largely dietetic; and, whether his patients be obese or emaciated, the food is the same - all the lean beef the patient can eat, and all the hot water he can drink. To the emaciated, or to those not obese, he allows the addition of as much butter with the beef as may be desired. For food and drink, beef and hot water - absolutely nothing else. Let it be observed that this food is free from starch. I was reminded, in meditating upon this, that my natural foods for primal man - nuts and sweet fruits - are also free from starch.
The physicians of Europe have been greatly astonished at the marvellous cures performed at certain institutions, commonly known as "The Grape Cure." I have read that at these institutions the patients are given all the grapes that they desire to eat, and absolutely no other food. It is my intention to verify this report; if it be a fact, it is significant. I am reminded that in this food there is no starch. I have read also of similar cures, called "Milk Cure," "Whey Cure," and "Cherry Cure." Absence of all starch foods is a feature in all these institutions.
In meditating upon this subject, I said to myself: But starch is a good food for cattle and horses; and, pursuing the subject, I could see that very naturally it is so, since all our cereals are at the outset grass seed, and the Great Designer would not make animals calculated to subsist on grass that would not also be prepared to use the seeds of grass. Many years ago, when I read of Vegetarians who had become very radical in diet, and who were making experiments on raw wheat, I was unable to conjecture how the wheat could be obtained in its best estate for eating raw. American green corn is most palatable when the grain is in the milk; and one can easily strip our large ears of maize of the husk, and it is quite a palatable food eaten raw; but to procure the grains of wheat in this state always presented a difficulty. It occurred to me that, since grass is the natural food of cattle, it was easy to see that to the ox or the horse this presents no difficulty; and I began to have a suspicion that perhaps wheat and rice, and the cereals generally, being only grass seed, are the natural food for cattle, and not for man. Straightway I remembered that one of the greatest difficulties I have in the treatment of dyspeptics, is to get their stomachs able to digest bread. Even if the wheat and meal were baked in the form of "gems," entirely unleavened and unfermented, the difficulty seemed quite as great; also, if the wheat or oats be simply boiled, it is still very difficult food for many stomachs to digest. In our own practice, we had found it necessary to use a large proportion of milk with the bread; we found many patients whom we carried triumphantly to a surprising degree of bettered health on an exclusive diet of brown bread with milk, but whom we were unable to manage on a diet of bread and fruit, excluding all animal foods. At the time, I accounted for this fact by conjecturing that the digestive organs had been weakened by long generations of meat-eating, and that, although wheat forms a large proportion of the best food for man, he, from lack of exercise and the resultant vigour, has become too feeble to digest it. If, however, it will finally be made clear that the cereals (only grass seed) are the natural and desirable foods for cattle, but are not adapted for the digestion of man, there will be developed another explanation.
For years Mrs. Densmore and myself made a speciality of the reduction of obesity, and the treatment of chronic diseases resulting from weakened and disordered conditions of the digestive system. We early saw and affirmed that obesity and emaciation are different expressions of the same difficulty; that they are each the result of a diseased and weakened state of the digestive apparatus. True, given foods, as bread and potatoes, are instrumental in creating excessive weight in individuals; but we were reminded that usually men and women do not become obese until after forty, and the foods which in middle life rapidly create obesity, are eaten at twenty and twenty-five years of age with impunity. Hence we saw that it is not the food, so much as the state of the system. In emaciation we saw patients eating large quantities of nourishing foods, only to continue to emaciate, the same patients, early in life, had been able on the same foods, and in less quantities, to keep up a full quota of flesh. We early saw that obesity and emaciation spring from a common cause; and, since I have had my suspicions aroused that perhaps starch foods, while excellent for cattle, are not good for man, I have meditated further on this subject. It is quite universally known, by physicians and laymen alike, that the greatest promoters of obesity are bread and potatoes. The thought occurred to me that if starch foods are the cause of obesity, and if obesity and emaciation spring from a common cause, we have another hint that starch foods may perform an important part in laying a foundation for all the diseases of the digestive tract. Every thinking and candid hygienic physician must have been surprised at the occasional spectacle of patients who had tried for months, and even years, to live on cereal foods and fruits, who had made indifferent success, and who appeared to be much benefited upon a return to a flesh diet. I have seen instances of this at various times during the last twenty-five years, and have been greatly perplexed by it.* If it shall transpire that starch is an unnatural and undesirable food, it will help to solve the problem.