German writer, Bernard Moncriff, discovers an exclusively animal based diet and conducts several dietary experiments that lead him to conclude this diet is superior to a mixed or vegetarian diet.
The Philosophy of the Stomach; on, an Exclusively Animal Diet (Without any vegetable or condiment whatever) is the Most Wholesome and Fit for Man. Illustrated by Experiments upon Himself.
I have recently come across a vintage book that caught my attention. It was published by a German writer, Bernard Moncriff, in 1856 in London. The author supposedly experienced remarkable health benefits on an exclusively animal diet and even conducted a few dietary experiments. He also attempted to bring attention of the contemporary scientific community and general public to this diet as being superior to the mixed and vegetarian ones. In his opinion, humans could and should live exclusively on an animal diet.
Below are some of the highlights I made while reading it that you may find interesting:
"I cannot help looking upon much of what has been written about the stomach and digestion with a similar smile to that of modern astronomers when perusing astrological works".
"I like the sweetness of milk better than that of sugar, and the acidity of meat better than that of fruits".
"Among all beverages I like milk best, hence I take no other fluid but milk. Of all eatables I like meat best, I eat, therefore, of it in preference to anything else".
"Wholesomeness, was, and is my principal motive in adhering to an exclusively animal diet".
"I do not eat for the mere sake of gratifying my palate, but to satisfy my appetite, I cease eating when I have had enough. But with your condiments, drugs, and drinks, you cannot say when you have had enough".
"Leave the appetite sole master to determine the hours and frequency of the meals, as well as the quantity of food. I now make most frequently only two meals of meat daily, while I take a glass of milk whenever I please. As a rule, however, I take nothing in the last two hours before going to bed, which greatly contributes to the uninterrupted soundness of sleep".
"The most wholesome diet is that which requires the least quantity of matter to be introduced into the digestive cavity for the support of the system".
"The quantity of animal food required for the full support of the system is so much smaller, as to constitute a very considerable diminution of blood flowing into the heart and the lungs, - I hope to see it generally admitted that the strength of men would be much increased by their adoption of my diet. I myself have experienced a considerable increase of the strength of my body, especially as far as locomotion is concerned. I run over the same distance in nearly the third part of the time it took me formerly".
"Plain butcher's meat, from a roast joint, is more than six times as nutritive as potatoes, and more than seven times as nutritive than wheaten bread".
"It has also been found, not alone as a matter of general personal experience, but by direct experiment, that animal food is more digestible than vegetable food".
"Men had better abstain altogether from fruits and everything else unfavorable to the teeth or the stomach. Fruits, it would appear, are destined in the economy of nature for birds, which are destitute of teeth, and the bill of which is constructed exactly of that substance Professor Valentin would have our teeth made of. All vegetables are, in my opinion, fit only for animals, which in their turn are to serve as food for man".
"There will be a time when the entire human race will live upon an exclusively animal diet".
"An exclusively animal diet, on the contrary, is capable of being adopted by the entire human race, and in all corners of the globe, under the burning sun of Africa as well as the Arctic regions".
"Children brought up with an exclusively animal diet, and made conscious of the great advantages of such diet, would stand proof against the temptations of pot-houses as well as of divans".
"The matter introduced into my stomach daily is not much more than the third part of that previous to my change of diet, my appetite is much better satisfied, and my body stronger than formerly".
"Meat is the food which does the least, if any injury to the teeth, either mechanically or chemically. Not to speak of vegetable fibers and grains by which the teeth of the vegetarian animals are being worn away, even mealy and pulpy vegetables, as bread and potatoes, are acting in the same direction, though to a less degree, by their attrition".
"An exclusively animal diet is unique, simple, and harmonious in its character, although the articles may be derived from animals of various orders. Because there is less chemical difference between the flesh of an elephant and that of a chicken, or a salmon, then there often exists between the potatoes of one and the same field".
“My face, from being rather shallow, became clear and youthful, my eyes serene and mirrors of happiness. It gave me unknown, or rather, forgotten pleasure, to jump over ditch and hedge, and to make those exercises which required muscular strength”.
"I have not felt the slightest disagreeableness arising from the bowels, either in the shape of eructations from the stomach, or obstruction, or dysentery, or of any denomination whatever. Indeed, it if was not from memory, and from books, I should not know that I had such things as a stomach and intestines. The evacuation of the bowels takes place with ease and regularity once every other day. The quantity of both urine and feces is, as might be expected, much less than formerly. My nasal secretion has also very much diminished; and my throat and mouth being perfectly clean, I have no occasion to spit".
"My nasal secretion has, together with the other secretions, greatly diminished, especially since I replaced a quantity of milk by meat".
"It is extremely probable that my bladder, liver, stomach, and the rest of the intestinal canal have gradually decreased in size, which is the case with every animal changing a vegetable for a carnivorous diet. So, for instance the tadpole, which lives upon vegetables, possesses an extremely long digestive tube; but in its perfect state, and when its appetite has become altogether carnivorous, the intestines become very much shortened, losing four-fifths of the length".
"The mouth of man has not been made to kill the prey, but to eat its flesh, for which purpose the teeth, tongue, and the whole gustatory apparatus, are admirably adapted".
"The mere form of the human teeth matters very little in a dietetical point of view. Knife and fork will outmatch the most formidable cutting teeth of any lion or any antediluvian monster".
"The stomach, however, does not tax the articles by their marketable price, but by their weight, digestibility, and other chemical and mechanical properties. There is no such thing as neutrality in our system. Everything that enters it must do something - either good or bad".
"For six days consecutively I took, instead of meat, two pounds and a quarter of baked potatoes daily, without salt or any other ingredient. My appetite was not at all as well satisfied as with the three-quarters of a pound of meat, and I felt also a greater thirst to quench, for which I was obliged to take more than two pounds weight of water, besides the usual quantity of milk".
"I made a similar experiment with home-made wheaten bread, free from salt and other ingredients, for eight days continually. I took two pounds and a half of bread instead of meat, without my appetite being satisfied, while the thirst was still greater than was the case with respect to the potatoes so as to oblige me taking, besides the milk, more than two pounds and a half of water".
"Of omnivorous animals it has also been observed, that they preferred animal to vegetable food".
"The teeth of carnivorous animals in a state of nature have not been seen to be decayed, what is always the case with those of vegetable eaters. The dog, which is often subject to toothache, has probably to thank this to the corruption his natural diet is undergoing in the domesticated state".
"The domesticated cat, which lives on a mixed diet, has its intestines two-fifths longer than the wild cat".
"While colds and pulmonary diseases are common among cattle, they are rarely, if at all to be met with among carnivorous animals".
"I may assert without fear of contradiction, that all dead animal matter introduced somehow or other into the digestive cavity of every animal, without an exception, is being converted into living matter of the same animal".
"Some plants live upon some other plants, but no plant can convert every other vegetable matter into its own living matter, and the mutual convertibility is entirely wanting. I presume, therefore, that the unlimited mutual convertibility is a single character, sufficient to mark the line between the two kingdoms; it being present in the animal, and absent from the vegetable kingdom. It is this chemical similarity and mutual convertibility which gives to an exclusively animal diet the character of singleness, simplicity, and harmony".
"The great superiority of strength of the carnivorous over the vegetarian animals is due to this double ration, namely, the greater development of the lungs, and the smaller size of the abdominal contents".
"The first repulsive effects of most condiments, liquors, tea, coffee, and etc, are quite forgotten by most people, these articles being, unfortunately, introduced into the diet of children of all classes. Yet it is frequently to be observed of children, not yet quite habituated differently, that they reject, when left to their own choice, everything salt, sour, bitter, and hot".
"The popular notion is still in vogue, according to which every eatable and drinkable thing, either in a state of nature or manufactured, is to be presumed as wholesome and fit for man, until the contrary be proven. This notion is based upon another popular notion, that everything has been made to suit man. The truth, however, is, that man, though entitled to eat, or use otherwise, everything he can take hold of, meets with a comparatively very small number of vegetables that suit him well".
"I have been very scrupulous to observe the rule, not to take of anything but as much as my stomach can easily digest, and to use those things only which agree with me".
"A sound appetite ought not to be restrained, such appetite being the indication of the wants of the system, which must be satisfied to the full".
"A perfectly healthy man could have only one appetite, and this a sound one, while the false appetite could only exist with imperfect health".
"Man should have been furnished with a sense of taste so perverted as to make him like those things best which are the least wholesome for him".
"Brutes spurn whatever is hurtful to them, and distinguish poisonous plants from salutary by natural instinct; and that they eat only of noxious plants when pressed by extreme hunger".
"Men had better eat to live, than live to eat".
Another Review also helps elucidate Moncriff's writing.
Moncriff sets out an ambitious project of arguing against the traditionally accepted view by the medical doctors that mixed diet or eating vegetables is more nutritious for us, and instead takes a view that an exclusive animal diet is the true path to follow if we want to be healthy. He argues that consulting doctors about what our diet should be is ridiculous, since “the healthy want no doctors, and if they wish to know how to preserve their health, they must first study themselves, and then learn from others the means by which these have actually succeeded,” and warns the doctors that they too should learn from his principles, which offers “perfect health and true enjoyment of life.” He repeatedly instructs us that it is important not to consume anything that is disagreeable to our stomach, however agreeable it may appear to be to our palate. It is in this spirit that he writes his account of the philosophy of the stomach as “a seed of life strewn in the future.”
He begins his investigation by supposing that we should be able to tell naturally what food is hurtful to us and what is not, just as “brutes can spur whatever is hurtful to them, and distinguish poisonous plants from salutary, by natural instinct… [and] only such as either accidentally or pressed by extreme hunger eat of it.” But our experience tells us that we taste junk food agreeable to our palate, even though we know it is bad for us. Can we really tell what is disagreeable to our stomach simply by something’s being agreeable or disagreeable to our palate?
Having first complained that his paper was rejected by a number of journals for his novel, and consequently incredible, idea of commencement of exclusive animal diet, he explains to us that the present condition of our palate is not conducive to the experiment to finding out that animal diet is in fact the healthiest human diet. This is because our palate, after a long abuse by eating artificially added condiments on cooked food, has been confused as to what tastes essentially good to us. So his first step is to get rid of this confusion from our palate, and only then can we have a sound appetite, as he is convinced that “there could be no unison between a sound, or true appetite, and a false one; that a perfectly healthy man could have only one appetite, and this a sound one, while the false appetite could only exist with imperfect health.” He argues that had we been truly healthy and our palate not corrupted, we would be able to know instinctively, just like those brutes in the wild, what is wholesome and would come to “reject everything unwholesome to [us], not out of a knowledge of its unwholesomeness, but simply because it was repulsive or indifferent to [our] taste.” In order to achieve a immaculate taste, as if in infancy, he spends six months or so “exclusively or mainly upon plain milk, without sugar, salt, or any condiment whatever,” and “I thus made myself, as it were, a baby again, fancying for a moment dietetics as a ‘tabula rasa,’ and myself as having nothing to guide me except my own experience.”
After six months of nothing but milk and almonds, “[m]y face, from being rather shallow, became clear and youthful, my eyes serene and mirrors of happiness,” and “[i]t gave me unknown, or rather, forgotten pleasure, to jump over ditch and hedge, and to make those exercises which required muscular strength.” In this way, he recounts that he had never been happier and felt healthier than before, resulting in him being “always cheerful, indulging frequently in songs.” Indeed, he now tells us that it is such a miserable pittance to have a sumptuous dinner, compared to having a single hour of perfect health and true enjoyment of life.
However, this is only the first phrase of his project. He now spends the next twelve months eating only fresh meat and milk. It has frequently been said in opposition to animal diet that it can be least economical in supporting us. Yet, he fends off this claim by providing us with the information about how much quantity of meat and milk he has consumed, and proves that it is much more economical than mixed diets.
He further reports that since he began his exclusive animal diet, he has “not felt the slightest disagreeableness arising from the bowels, either in the shape of eructations from the stomach, or obstruction, or dysentery, or of any denomination whatever.” Further, he entertains us with the empirical account of his that the “quantity of both urine and feces is, as might be expected, much less than formerly,” and is pleasantly surprised that “no bad odour is to be detected in the latter.”
He also has a rather teleological as well as functional argument that meat does not injure our teeth either mechanically or chemically, as vegetables are known to do with fibres and grains mechanically, and with fruits chemically, for “[a]cid, even when considerably diluted, corrode the enamel, and penetrate in small quantities into the dental sac,” not to mention there is this inconvenience arising from “the cracking of hady substances, as nuts, &c., by which the enamel is often being broken,” which results in the “subsequent destruction of the teeth unavoidable.”
In like manner, he argues that fruits are to be consumed only by birds who are destitute of teeth,” and concludes that “there is not a slightest doubt in my mind that there will be a time when the entire human race will live upon an exclusively animal diet.”
His extensive empirical study of the stomach is resonant of the period in many ways, as his argument is based on a quantitative science as is echoed from his citation from Lavoisier, yet his argument from functions and teleology shows the kind of science done during the period, as Darwin would publish his book on the Origin of Species in the following years. His inclination to empiricism does not, however, reject a rational theoretical science, as he says at one point that “a man without grand theories will never arrive at a great fact.” Yet in the end, his commitment in the science lies in the belief often seen in the progressive thinkers that when the fact is found, “the theories must be relinquished or corrected without hesitation.” In sum, this book offers an alternative view on a rational ground to the currently predominant view that vegetable diet is healthier than and preferable to the exclusive animal diet.