Historical Events

Ancel Keys dismisses findings of the health of primitive Eskimos.

a newspaper exchange with Mr. C. N. Pearson

 

On behalf of the skeptics, nonbelievers in a high longevity among the pre-statistical Eskimos, I quote Dr. Ancel Keys, director of the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene of the University of Minnesota. In a newspaper exchange with Mr. C. N. Pearson, Dr. Keys wrote on December 30, 1958:

“May I correct some errors in your letter to the Minneapolis Star dated November 23rd?

“First, you should know that extremely little is known about the health of primitive peoples, including the tiny remnant of primitive Eskimos. It is known, however, that their life expectancy is very short and that a primitive Eskimo above the age of 50 is a great rarity.

“Second, primitive Eskimos eat no beef, pork, lamb, or chicken and never have butter, milk, ice cream or cheese.”

The frontier doctors, quoted in this book as believing that the natives formerly had good health and kept it so long as they remained primitive, would surely agree with Dr. Keys that an Eskimo can no longer be called primitive if he habitually eats the foods here listed. Some Eskimos have been eating most of them for decades, if chiefly in canned form. To find Eskimos who had not been contaminated by civilized diet, we must go to one of two sources, the records of the Moravian Church in Labrador or the Russian Church in Alaska. I have consulted both, seeking statistically significant material bearing upon the divergent views of Dr. Greist and Dr. Keys.

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