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British Food Journal Volume 20 Issue 6 1918

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 June 1918


At a meeting of the Section of Epidemiology and State Medicine of the Royal Society of Medicine on March 8th, Captain M. Greenwood, of the Lister Institute, and Miss Cecily M. Thompson reported the results of an epidemiological study of the food problem. In an introductory account of the present state of physiological knowledge it was pointed out that, although certain matters—such, for instance, as the precise significance of the specific dynamic energy of foodstuffs —were still obscure, “ the real difficulty of the subject is not so much uncertainty respecting the justice of the physiologists' conclusions as the quantitative application of principles themselves clearly established.” In the second section of the paper the problem of muscular efficiency was discussed, and it was shown that existing knowledge is insufficient for the formulation of general rules, that each class of work must be specially considered with particular reference to the external conditions under which it is carried out. In the third section of the paper the statistics of consumption were reviewed, and it was shown that in them the relation between energy used and surface was not so close as might be expected on general grounds ; the authors concluded that the necessary uncertainty attaching to such data explained the lack of close concordance. They then gave a minute analysis of some data due to Amar with reference to muscular work, which they showed were fully concordant with physiological expectation. Standard tables giving the probable energy need for workers of different weights and doing different amounts of work had been calculated. A table containing Lefèvre's results on the heat loss of a clothed man exposed to different temperatures and air velocities was also exhibited ; the importance of this aspect of the matter and the value of Hill's investigations upon rates of cooling in connexion with rationing were emphasized. In the concluding section of the paper the effects of food shortage were discussed, and it was pointed out that a majority of the recorded famine sicknesses were not pure hunger effects, shortage of fuel and antecedent or coincident epidemic disease being chiefly responsible. The siege of Paris in 1870, that of Kut‐el‐Amara in 1915, and the historical outbreak of disease at the Millbank penitentiary mentioned recently although not pure famine effects, approximated more nearly to such a condition than any others recorded. From a study of the sequence of events in these cases in relation with the energy value of the diets consumed, it appeared that in each case the onset of sickness was gradual, and that its form depended upon local epidemiological considerations. The authors held that there was no one disease which stood in a peculiarly close relation to inanition ; that there was a general and gradual lowering of resistance to all forms of infection.


(1918), "British Food Journal Volume 20 Issue 6 1918", British Food Journal, Vol. 20 No. 6, pp. 67-76.




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