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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 2 (June, 1926)

The Gospel of Health — Another Aspect of “Safety First”

page 10

The Gospel of Health
Another Aspect of “Safety First”

Health and a good constitution are better than all gold,

And a strong body than wealth without measure.

There are no riches better than health of body.—Ecclesiasticus, Chap. 30.

It will not be out of place on this page to stress the importance of the duty which each man owes to the Department, to himself and to the community at large, in the acquisition of the essential facts upon which his health depends. The number of working hours lost every year through the ill-health of members reaches a staggering figure and represents what is very largely a preventable loss and inconvenience alike to the Department and the individuals concerned. The relief which the various benefit societies are able to afford in the matter, however liberal and desirable, leaves the major loss where it was.

What are the factors, therefore, which so largely determine the maintenance of health and upon which our efficiency and usefulness to the Department and our own happiness depend? The answer to that question is set forth by one of the greatest living authorities on the subject (Professor R. H. A. Plimmer) in a recent notable article in the “English Review.” It is a question of the quality of our food. He says:

The lessons of the past, the failures and successes in rationing the fighting forces, civilians, and prisoners during the war; the clinical experience of medical men; the exact observations and carefully controlled feeding experiments on animals by scientific workers, all come to a focus upon one point, health depends more largely upon food than upon any other hygienic factor.

Researches into the chemical composition of food during the past fifteen years have resulted in the discovery of hitherto unknown substances in the food to which the name vitamins has been given—vitamins because of their vital significance to nutrition. There are three of these vitamins already detected and they are called A, B, and C respectively. Vitamin A, is present in animal fats, butter, etc., vitamin B, in whole meal cereals, and vitamin C, in fresh fruit and green vegetables. Now it is known that these most essential body-building substances are more or less destroyed in the preparation of present-day foods, with the result that the body becomes devitalised and the prey to very serious maladies. To mention a few of these maladies: cancer, tuberculosis, diabetes, rheumatism, appendicitis, and kidney diseases. These diseases are widespread in every civilised country and the economic loss and suffering they represent are beyond calculation. What is more significant, however, is that they are unknown in the lives of certain hill-tribes in India and native races in different parts of the world. These hill-tribes “live a hard life,” says Professor Plimmer:—

… they are exposed to a rigorous climate and are housed in dark, unventilated, undrained hovels. They are of fine physique, with perfect teeth and with great powers of endurance.

What then is the secret of their physical excellence and freedom from disease? The simplicity of their diet. Improved hygienic conditions in home, office, and workshop, important as they are, will not in themselves, as we have seen eliminate disease causing agencies. We must change our habits with regard to food. The precious vitamins are either removed or destroyed in the refining and preserving processes which our food undergoes, and the remedy lies in avoiding as many of these foods as possible. What is wanted says Professor Plimmer is:

A return to as simple conditions of feeding as possible, such as the consumption of sugar in its natural form in fruits and roots; the substitution of freshly-ground whole meal flour for refined white cereals. There should also be a smaller consumption of meat and fish and a larger use of eggs, cheese, milk and fresh uncooked fruit and green salads.

This great authority adds in conclusion that by the simple expedient of changing their diet most of those who are pursuing health will reach their goal. In these days of necessary economy and efficiency, to say nothing of the eternal quest for health and happiness, it is the duty of every man to do a little introspection along these important lines, and equate himself to the knowledge which alone will make him a really living factor in the life of the Department and the community.