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“Our big, fat, soft babies are developing into nervous, restless, aimless, empty youths with teeth ravaged by decay.” Such is the observation of Dr. Martha R. Jones, one of the nation’s leading nutritionists, who has instituted a health program at Asbury Theological Seminary.
According to Dr. Jones, solution to the problem is obvious and simple, but not easy. It would mean restoring greens and old-fashioned sugar and sorghum cane syrups to their time-honored place on the American dinner table.
Backed by Own Experience
The convictions of this 82-year-old scientist-humanitarian are backed up by a lifetime of research and deep concern stemming from childhood circumstances which nearly destroyed her life.
She lived on warm cow’s milk and fresh eggs on her family’s Tennessee estate. But too many eggs and not enough greens and vegetables brought malnutrition, which showed up when she was 6 years old.
She suffered from colds, sore throat, and lost nearly all her teeth. Her face became long and narrow, dental arches and sinuses began to shrink. The physical changes brought personality changes. She became self-conscious, withdrawn.
Defied Her Family
Determined to find out what caused this in her, she defied her family’s plans to have her married at an early age, and enrolled at Peabody College for Teachers.
From Peabody, Vanderbilt and Yale, her next step was to the state penitentiary at Nashville, Tenn. She became the “angel lady” of the prison, making sure that fresh vegetables and milk were fed to the prisoners. Utilizing the prison farm produce that had been going to a privately-owned “piggery,” she saved the state $3,000 a month.
Soon she began to conduct nutrition experiments on animals. At the University of California Medical School in San Francisco, she conducted feeding experiments on puppies and came to the conclusion that teeth and bones react differently to different diets–a suggestion that was heresy at the time. She spent more than 17 years in California studying that theory in puppies and babies.
Health Center Plan–Conceived
She conceived the idea of a “health center” plan–an infant feeding clinic which would demonstrate the principles of nutrition she had discovered. In 1928, the opportunity came through the Queen’s Hospital in Honolulu.
By 1928, the 300,000-400,000 Polvnesians said to have lived in Hawaii in 1778 had dwindled to 20,000. The diet which had kept them in a state of physical dental excellence throughout centuries consisted essentially of tropical vegetation and fish. It was high in carbohydrates–roots, tubers and sugar cane juice, principally–which contained a large excess of alkalis. This was needed, apparently, to neutralize the acidity produced in body tissues by their tropical environment and muscular activity necessitated by deep sea fishing and water sports.
Refined Foods Bring Problems
With the influx of visitors to the islands came ever-increasing amounts of acid-forming grains and refined sugar. More and more, they replaced the alkaline-ash native foods in the diet of the islanders. Disease increased, and in spite of generations of sound teeth, babies were born with teeth so defective that they disintegrated in a year. Head colds were chronic. Respiratory and circulatory diseases were the principal causes of death. The infant death rate was staggering.
Dr. Jones set up a clinic at one of the villages where the infant death rate was nearly 1 out [of] 3. After two months, she had not one “customer.” Some thought the house was haunted; others just were not interested.
She finally found a dying baby whose mother allowed him to be fed at the clinic. The child lived, although his four older brothers and sisters had died before their first birthdays. Soon all the village babies were under Dr. Jones’ care. The infant death rate dropped to zero.
Older children came to the clinic. Resistance to infection became high, a flu epidemic by-passed the clinic-fed children. Viruses in the blood stream apparently did not like alkalis. The Hawaiian press lauded Dr. Jones. President Roosevelt’s physician visited her.
Human Work Disclosed
Dr. Jones told the New York Dental Centennial in 1934 of her work in Hawaii. To her, her work proved that teeth can be dirty, and still healthy; that unless the diet contains more alkalis than acid, decay will occur. Dr. Jones’ diet included such things as potatoes, carrots, turnips, beets, leafy vegetables, fruits, sugar cane, sorghum. The thinner and greener the leaf, the better, she believed. Turnip tops, beet tops, spinach and dandelion greens are among the best.
She cites the soundness of the teeth of southern Negroes as an example of the effect of an alkaline diet on teeth. Many of them eat sweet potatoes, turnip tops and sugar cane syrup.
Grass Primary Food
The primary food is grass, according to Dr. Jones. She tells a story of how grass from a California farm with unusually fertile soil was fed to race horses. “The results were fantastic,” the owner of the farm said. “Horse after horse previously below par hit the winner’s circle. One horse, after 30 days on the grass, broke the world’s record.”
Dr. Jones quotes the late scientist Dr. Charles Kettering: “When we have learned why grass is green, we shall have discovered the secret of life.” According to Dr. Jones, persons throughout the world who eat greens, grasses, unrefined grains and home-grown food are immune to cancer, arthritis, polio, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and other diseases.
Americans are a sick people, Dr. Jones says. The clergy lags behind 13 other professions in physical fitness, and Asburians fall below the national average, she says.
So Dr. Jones picked Asbury Theological Seminary to develop her health education program. Her program, now in its seventh year, includes: checking the health status of every seminarian; a nursery school and kindergarten for students’ children, and a garden where students may grow their own food in fertile soil.
What does she hope to give Asbury students and teachers? Five to ten years of additional useful life.
Editor’s note: Since the era in which this article was written, society’s understanding of respectful terminology when referring to ethnic and cultural groups has evolved, and some readers may be offended by references to “Negroes” and other out-of-date terminology. However, this article has been archived as a historical document, and so we have chosen to use the author’s exact words in the interest of authenticity. No disrespect to any cultural or ethnic group is intended.