Historical Events

Dr Lieb conducts a case study on Stefansson's experience in the north.

THE EFFECTS OF AN EXCLUSIVE, LONG-CONTINUED MEAT DIET BASED ON THE HISTORY, EXPERIENCES AND CLINICAL SURVEY OF VILHJALMUR STEFANSSON, ARCTIC EXPLORER

Clarence W. Lieb

The dietetic observations and experiences of Vilhjalmur Stefansson during his career as an arctic explorer are worthy of careful scrutiny by students of nutrition. Because of his contributions, he is entitled to prominence in many departments of science, among them anthropology, geography, geology, oceanography, languages and comparative religions. Whether reading Stefansson's books, attending his lectures, or in private conversation with him, one is impressed not only by his broad knowledge of biology but also by the keenness of his observations and deductions in the domain of metabolism, particularly as applied to the science of practical dietetics. An anthropologist by training, an arctic explorer by choice, he became a student of nutrition by necessity. Perhaps there is no other man living today whose experimental studies have been so well controlled and done on so large a scale. His laboratory was the arctic circle, his experimental subjects human beings, and his experimental material, meat.

 

This paper reviews the medical history of this unique man. It is hoped that the facts gleaned from the study of his arctic dietetic regimen and body physiology may throw additional light on a subject about which our knowledge is still somewhat vague and controversial ; namely, protein metabolism.

 

During the month of September, 1922, I made a medical survey of Mr. Stefansson. He suggested at that time that the facts elicited from the studies might be of sufficient scientific interest to warrant publication. The present paper represents the work done on him at that time, amplified by a clinical survey of his condition some two years later.

The following facts regarding Stefansson's life in the Far North are noteworthy:

 

1. He spent altogether eleven and one-half years within the arctic circle.

2. He lived for a number of days, totaling nine years, on an exclusive meat diet.

3. He lived for nine successive months on an exclusive meat diet.

4. He reached his maximum weight while subsisting on meat (fish).

5. His sense of physical and mental well being was at its best during that period of his life. 6. He found that the exclusive meat diet worked as well when he was inactive as when active, and as well in hot weather as in cold.

7. Constipation was never present. One month's entire absence from exercise produced neither constipation nor muscular weakness.

8. His hair thickened, and his scalp became healthier.

9. Teeth decay was apparently much less rapid. Stefansson avers that not a single case of constipation was observed in 600 exclusively meat-eating Eskimos for a period of three years

Neither Stefansson nor any of his men, so far as we could determine, suffered any ill effects from long continued meat diet.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Reddit's r/Ketoscience