My last two posts — here and here — looked at the work of the late Dr Charles Northen, an American physician who devoted much of his career to replenishing worn out farm soil with minerals necessary for animal and human health.

In 1936, he said:

Sick soils mean sick plants, sick animals, and sick people. Physical, mental, and moral fitness depends largely upon an ample supply and a proper proportion of the minerals in our foods.

He was optimistic for the future, based on his own experiments and those of others on returning essential minerals to American soil for better nutrition.

Re-mineralising was relatively inexpensive and would bring down food costs. Farmers would be happy with better quality crops and yields. Americans would be much healthier, avoiding infection and disease.

His work was so important that an article from The Cosmopolitan (earlier iteration of the current title, Cosmopolitan, but with serious, family-oriented journalism) was included in the 74th Congress 2nd Session, Senate Document #264, 1936, at the request of Duncan Fletcher (D – Florida). At the time, Dr Northen, based in Orlando, was considered

the most valuable man in the State.

After the Second World War

After the war ended, nitrogen fertilisers became very popular. However, what appeared to be impressive on the surface — initially fantastic yields — hid an unseen, unexpected consequence. Eco Organics explains:

as those over fertilized crops extracted the complex of micro mineral nutrients from the soil, past the capacity of the soil to sustain the loss of micro nutrient minerals, the quality of food borne nutrients decreased along with yield.  It’s like a gold mining operation – at some point all the gold is mined out.  So it was with our nation’s crop lands. 

As elated growers applied more nitrogen, it bound up with calcium in the soil which, in turn, produced weak cell walls in crops. Insects then arrived to eat the less-than-optimum plants. Growers then applied petrochemical-based insecticide which killed the pests — along with micro-organisms necessary for good, nutritious plants. Further nitrogen applications burned the decomposed plant matter necessary for any other micro-organisms to exist.

Eventually, although decent-enough looking crops were produced, their nutritional value was scant. Northen described it in the 1930s as very different to the previous century when:

our forefathers [and foremothers] thrived on a selection of foods that would starve us! … No one of today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply their system with the mineral salts they require for perfect health, because their stomach isn’t big enough to hold them! And we are running to big stomachs.

It was true in the 1930s and became truer in the latter half of the 20th century. Once again, farmers and fertiliser companies had neglected to think of the soil nutrients — essential minerals — being depleted.

‘Sick soil’

Another Eco Organics page, ‘Sick Soil’, tells us what has been happening in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

We should not feel optimistic about the state of our commercially-grown food — and, by association — the meat we eat.

Eco Organics has an excellent chart — one which you must see — which traces two steady movements:

1/ Decreasing food-borne minerals between 1914 and 1992;

2/ Increasing mineral deficiency diseases between 1900 and 1994.

American food contains no iron, no copper, no magnesium, no cobalt and no selenium.

It still has phosphorus, calcium and zinc — but far less than in 1900.

The graph shows that at the beginning of the 20th century, diseases and disorders common today — cancer, obesity, heart and lung conditions — began rising in the 1950s. Cancer and obesity are now out of the stratosphere, according to the chart.

It is also interesting to note that bone deformities and tinnitus cases have been on the rise since 1980.

Therefore, anyone who says that we don’t need some form of vitamin/mineral supplement is misinformed.

My perspective

Physicians such as Dr Z, who did not like what the 1936 Senate addendum says, are the first to tell patients they receive all necessary nutrients from food. I think my late mother would have benefited from a daily multi-vitamin, but her doctor told her she did not need one. She got Alzheimer’s a few years later. I shall watch for future studies to see if poor nutrition causes this and certain types of dementia.

We can appear to be well fed — sometimes too well fed — and yet suffer from malnutrition, despite our best efforts. As Dr Northen said in 1936, we need to eat more and more food to get vital nutrients. Even then, as his work showed, some food is not worth eating because it has so little nutritional value.

Another thought has occurred to me. In Britain, Channel 4 has a weekly series called Food Unwrapped. The presenters often ask about food myths, i.e. how many apples, pineapples or other foodstuffs do we need to eat in order to derive a long-held belief in nutritional benefit. I don’t remember the answer to ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’, but the answers growers and university researchers often give is too many per day. In other words, we couldn’t possibly eat as much as we would need to.

Such answers, given regularly, make me think that adages like ‘an apple a day’ were true until the early 20th century. Now that most soil has been depleted of its minerals, the modern-day response of ‘dozens’ is, sadly, the new norm.

Recent studies

Eco Organics — admittedly, selling mineralisation products for human and crop use — makes excellent points which reinforced by summarised studies from Western universities and government bodies. If this doesn’t convince us that we are nutrient starved, what will?

United States

Donald Davis at the University of Texas studied Agriculture Department figures on food nutrients:

Davis says historical data spanning 50 to 70 years show apparent declines of 5 percent to 40 percent or more in minerals, vitamins and proteins in vegetables.

Professor Stephen Jones and researcher Kevin Murphy from Washington State University analysed modern wheat used in bread baking. Today, protein content — rather than the traditional iron, zinc and selenium — is the big priority. They conclude:

You would have to eat twice as many slices of modern bread as you would of the older variety to get the same nutritional value.

In 2004, the Journal of the American College of Nutrition examined US Department of Agriculture data on food nutrients from 1950 through 1999:

Forty-three crops were examined showing statistically reliable declines for 6 nutrients. The declines were observed in protein, calcium, phosphorous, iron, riboflavin and ascorbic acid; 6% in the case of protein and 38% for riboflavin.

United States / United Kingdom

In 2001, the Journal of Complementary Medicine studied American and British nutrients in food as their governments recorded between 1940 and 1991. The data show:

a decline in trace minerals of up to 76% in fruit and vegetables.

United Kingdom

In 2008, Food Magazine analysed changes in the nutritional content of British food between 1940 and 2002:

In an analysis of milk: iron content had fallen 62%; magnesium was down 21%; copper content had disappeared completely. Parmesan cheese had a 70% decrease in magnesium. The calcium and iron content of all the foods examined was reduced dramatically. Beef rump steak iron content fell 55%.


A 2003 report in News Canada discussed findings on nutrition values in food between the 1950s and the present day then compared those to data from the beginning of the 20th century:

Potatoes, for example, had lost 100 % of vitamin A content, 57% of vitamin C and iron, and 28% of calcium. The report examined data from the US Department of Agriculture involving vegetable quality. Over the entire 20th century the average mineral content in cabbage, lettuce, spinach and tomatoes, declined from 400mg to less than 50mg.

It is so sad to see Dr Northen proven right, when we should have corrected these deficiencies by now.


No wonder we are getting all sorts of maladies which were unheard of in the 19th century. We cannot get the nutrients we need in order to be healthy. I was going to write ‘remain’ but a lot of us have probably lived our whole lives without getting the proper minerals and vitamins we need.

Yet, ‘experts’ and medical professionals blame us for our own diseases!

Whilst this example of Dr Northen’s concerns magnesia-deficient children in the 1930s, the principle behind it pertains in general to all of us today (emphases mine):

Many backward children are “stupid” merely because they are deficient in magnesia. We punish them for OUR failure to feed them properly.

Too right — then and now. Enough with the health scares about coffee, cheese and cured meats. Give us the nutritious foods — fruit, vegetables and meat — we need to live!

In closing, this involves more than crop rotation, which is another forgotten concept which needs reviving. Yet, I remember learning about it in science and history classes in primary and secondary school.

This has to do with putting back essential minerals in our soil. As the 1936 US Senate document says:

Certainly our physical well-being is more directly dependent upon the minerals we take into our systems than upon the calories or vitamins or upon the precise proportions of starch, protein, or carbohydrates we consume.

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, this is, in some ways, criminal and involves many guilty parties.