Even as the Luftwaffe pounded London to rubble and the Japanese fleet prepared its devastating attack on Pearl Harbour, Dr Francis Pottenger dared not believe the horror his experiments predicted. Wars would end, civilisation would continue, but the analysis spread out across his desk suggested a more insidious enemy than the Axis, and this one burrowed deep into human behaviour.
He picked up the bakelite phone and dialled, straightening the front of his waistcoat as he did so.
“Morning, George. Yes, it’s Frank. The civil defense board met last night and we’ve agreed to go forward with plans for the mobile hospitals. But I have a favour to ask.”
“They’re all infertile, George. It shakes me to the bones. In just four generations. I want to repeat the experiments with a control group. The implications are unfathomable.”
For the next several years Pottenger worked to falsify his initial results. He set up two groups of cats. One group was fed a diet of raw meat, milk, and cod-liver oil while the second group was fed a diet of cooked meat, milk, and cod-liver oil.
Within one generation, cats on the cooked-meat diet began suffering from degenerative diseases and became quite lazy. Their offspring developed diseases by mid-life and lost coordination, but by third generation, some were born blind with disease evident early in life and with a reduced life span.
Many were infertile and were tormented by an abundance of parasites. Skin diseases and allergies increased from an incidence of five percent in the raw-meat cats to over 90 percent. Those kittens that were born to the did not survive six months.
The cats suffered from many of the degenerative diseases encountered in humans, and died out totally by the fourth generation. The doctor believed results could be explained by an unknown protein denatured in the cooking process, and later research confirmed his suspicions. Cats fed cooked meat lacked the essential amino-acid taurine.
This settled the argument for many years: cats are not humans, and it might have been the end of the matter if Pottenger’s fears had not been so prescient. Across the globe, diseases that set your body against itself are rampant, asthma, diabetes, multiple-sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Autism are all rapidly becoming ‘normal’. Infertility treatment is a boom industry.
In the United Kingdom, the number of women treated for infertility more than doubled between 1992 and 2007. Some 35% of men are sub-fertile and at least 2% of men are totally infertile.
Among pre-school children, sudden admissions for asthma went up from four per 10,000 in 1962 to almost 80 per 10,000 by 1985.
Until ten years ago, medical schools taught that coeliac disease was rare and affected only one in 2,500 people. It was thought to affect mainly children and young people. Recent studies show one in 133 people now have coeliac disease.
Coeliac sufferers are more susceptible to a range of auto-immune diseases and cancers, and yet their risk factors can be bought almost down to normal with a controlled diet.
It need hardly be said that the globalised diet of the twenty-first century is sub-optimal, and while Pottenger’s work with cats seemed utterly frivolous as Europe burned, the doctor understood the consequences of poor nutrition.
The horror that billions of caring parents might be gifting their children a future of disease, infirmity and perhaps infertility, not because of what they fed their kids, but because of what they ate themselves, is not one that many cared to entertain.
Yet that seems to be exactly what is now happening.