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A Healthier Past?

I had a lot of fun and laughter with my uncle Cruz Nunez this past Sunday as I usually have every Sunday. In our conversation came the topic or rather question: “Why did people in the past live much longer than people today?” It was observed that a lot of people of the past lived up to 85 and 90 years of age and today they can barely reach 60. The years after sixty are considered “bonus”.

Another observation and a bit puzzling is the fact that in the past the folks ate a lot of salted pork and salted beef, which today are considered high cholesterol stuff and very harmful to the body. A trip to the fishing camp meant taking a lot of this salted meat, which was eaten in abundance. Salted fish was another popular meal and according to the doctors today, salt consumption should be minimal.

Another popular foodstuff was pork lard. After making the “chicharon” or crispy pork skin, several buckets of lard were stored for human consumption. Salted pork lard was simply rolled up in some hot tortillas and there you had some delicious tacos. This lard was used for frying, kneading bread, baking and everything else in the kitchen. How come, if it is very high in cholesterol and that was all the people ate, they still lived very long. The water we drank in the past well water and never was it boiled for people thought it lost its nice taste. Today it must be purified water or you will get sick.

I tried to reason that the high cholesterol foods did not affect the people in the past because of the nature of their jobs. Heavy activity with machete and axe and working in the coconut plantations tended to burn the extra energy in the high cholesterol foods. However, according to my uncle Cruz, that was total nonsense. The problem with cholesterol has never existed.

Another observation was that cancer and heart attack did not exist twenty five years ago or in the past. Others said that they did exist, but because the village people did not go to the doctor, such illnesses were not diagnosed. When someone had a sudden heart attack, people thought one died of some strange malady. If one had epileptic convulsions, people thought of “mal de ojo” or “mal de viento” or obeah.

So the conclusion was that because people did not go to the doctor, there were no warnings about unhealthy foodstuffs, but nature had a way of dealing with that. And because there were no doctors, an explanation had to be given to certain sudden unexpected deaths and those were related to strange phenomena like “mal de ojo” or evil eye. Yeah, those things killed if not careful.

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