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Study: Why did poor rural people live longest in the past?


Experts examined the diet of people in the Victorian era

Unfortunately, many people do not have a very healthy diet these days. Researchers have now found that people from poorer rural societies used to eat particularly healthily. They had high quality local food and had the healthiest diet and health in Victorian Britain. The food consumed was similar to today's so-called Mediterranean diet.

The Leicester Cancer Research Center researchers found that in Victorian times people in poor, rural areas were in the best health due to their diet. The experts published the results of their current study in the English-language journal "RSM Open".

People in isolated areas were particularly healthy

In the Victorian era, life was healthiest in the regions of Britain that were particularly isolated - measured by death rates. In these areas, people consumed locally produced potatoes, whole grains, vegetables, fish and milk. At the same time, there were fewer deaths from pulmonary tuberculosis in the regions mentioned, the doctors explain. This suggests that the people there benefited from the healthier diet.

Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of dying early

The experts found that the most nutritious forms of nutrition occurred in remote rural areas in England, on the mainland and on the islands of Scotland. The fact that these better-nourished regions in the UK also had lower mortality rates is in complete harmony with recent studies, which demonstrate a reduced risk of death in connection with a so-called Mediterranean diet, explains study author Dr. Peter Greaves of the Leicester Cancer Research Center.

Quality of food in the country was better

The rural diet was often healthier for people in remote areas - because of the quality of cereals, potatoes, meat and milk. At that time, those affected often had small areas to grow vegetables or keep animals. People often exchanged food with one another and paid for services in material goods. Unfortunately, these societies disappeared under the pressure of urbanization, commercial agriculture, and migration, the authors explain.

Food became less diverse

These changes in Victorian society have resulted in poorer eating habits among poor rural populations and have resulted in locally produced foods becoming less diverse, explains Dr. Greaves. This process has taken place in many areas around the world over the years.

How many people lived in the country at that time?

In the mid-19th century, less than half of the nearly 19 million people in England and Wales lived in large urban centers. Of the three million inhabitants of Scotland, only one million lived in boroughs and in Ireland less than 30 percent of the 5.5 million inhabitants.

What did poor people eat then?

For many poor people across the UK, white bread made from peeled wheat flour was the main part of the diet. If they could afford it, people would supplement their meals with vegetables, fruits and animal foods such as meat, fish, milk, cheese and eggs, which corresponds to a Mediterranean diet, the scientists explain.

Many rural people reached old age

Poor people in more affluent rural areas, which were usually paid in cash, often had great difficulty getting these foods on a regular basis, but milk and fish were more accessible in remote areas of the UK. A large number of the rural population reached an old age at that time. For example, in the poor rural areas of Connaught in western Ireland, almost 20 percent of people reached the age of 65 or grew older. Some people lived up to the age of 95 or even 100 years, the experts add. (as)

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