Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/527

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DIET IN RELATION TO AGE AND ACTIVITY.

DIET IN RELATION TO AGE AND ACTIVITY.
By Sir HENRY THOMPSON.

[Concluded.]

ANOTHER agent in the combination to maintain for the man of advancing age his career of flesh-eater is the dentist. Nothing is more common at this period of life than to hear complaints of indigestion experienced, so it is affirmed, because mastication is imperfectly performed for want of teeth. The dentist deftly repairs the defective implements, and the important function of chewing the food can be henceforth performed with comfort. But, without any intention to justify a doctrine of final causes, I would point out the significant fact that the disappearance of the masticating powers is mostly coincident with the period of life when that species of food which most requires their action—viz., solid animal fiber—is little, if at all, required by the individual. It is during the latter third of his career that the softer and lighter foods, such as well-cooked cereals, some light mixed animal and vegetable soups, and also fish, for which teeth are barely necessary, are particularly valuable and appropriate. And the man with imperfect teeth who conforms to Nature's demand for a mild, non-stimulating dietary in advanced years will mostly be blessed with a better digestion and sounder health than the man who, thanks to his artificial machinery, can eat and does eat as much flesh in quantity and variety as he did in the days of his youth. Far be it from me to undervalue the truly artistic achievements of a clever and experienced dental surgeon, or the comfort which he affords. By all means let us have recourse to his aid when our natural teeth fail, for the purpose of vocal articulation, to say nothing of their relation to personal appearance: on such grounds the artificial substitutes rank among the necessaries of life in a civilized community. Only let it be understood that the chief end of teeth, so far as mastication is concerned, has in advancing age been to a great extent accomplished, and that they are now mainly useful for the purposes just named. But I can not help adding that there are some grounds for the belief that those who have throughout life from their earliest years consumed little or no flesh, but have lived on a diet chiefly or wholly vegetarian, will be found to have preserved their teeth longer than those who have always made flesh a prominent part of their daily food.

Then there is that occasional visit to the tailor, who, tape in hand, announces in commercial monotone to the listening clerk the various measurements of our girth, and congratulates us on the gradual increase thereof. He never in his life saw you looking so well, and "fancy, sir, you are another inch below your armpits"—a good deal