Question about nutrition and immunity

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created December 03, 2012 at 5:53 AM

This is an idiotic question, I know, but I was always wondering...

So Native Americans had those wonderful superior diets and then came the first white settlers who ate Neolithic foods and whose immune systems were compromised.

Well, apparently White people's immunity was superior since they so many Taino people and many other Native Americans were infected with various diseases.

Actually, it is quite a recurrent theme. A new tribe was found in the jungle - here come the anthropologist and the missionaries - the tribe is now gone because they all got sick and died from those diseases the white people brought to them.

I know that Native Americans were not immunized to small pox or chicken pox but still - should their superior diets help them to recover? I don't get it.



on December 03, 2012
at 12:37 PM

Smallpox is a bad example though, tons of people - European-descended included - died from smallpox.



on December 03, 2012
at 06:31 AM

Europeans could easily carry smallpox around without dying because their systems got frequent exposure to disease organisms of various strengths/weaknesses. Sort of like immunization. Native AmerIcan immune systems had never had a chance to build a defense, so it could easily kill outright.



on December 03, 2012
at 06:27 AM

Europeans lived in close quarters which were hotbeds of infectious disease. Constant exposure to pathogens increased population immunity. Native Americans lived in small groups far from one another. They had less exposure to infectious disease and zero exposure to European diseases (until we brought them), thus they were vulnerable. A good diet helps, but it's not bullet proof.

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3 Answers


on December 03, 2012
at 06:03 AM

Good question, and it's not idiotic, its completely logical.

When people think of the immune system, some don't realize that its SOO complex. It's not simply a police force, more like a whole government system (CIA, army, IRS, FBI).

Search Antibodies on wikipedia and you can kind of get a peak at the diverse system. Well we have different immunoglobulins (antibodies) for different diseases IgG, A, E, M and when your memory antibodies are passed through your mom or after getting sick your immune system recognizes the pathogen and can easily eliminate it. When your body has not been accustomed to it and gets overwelmed with what it can handle you can get sick (like the indians).

Note: I'm not a DR., this is my educated opinion



on December 03, 2012
at 03:42 PM

Not to mention deliberate infection as a war tactic (aka genocide tactic): http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1088/did-whites-ever-give-native-americans-blankets-infected-with-smallpox



on December 03, 2012
at 07:28 AM

Europeans had seen so many diseases over the last 3,000 years (mostly because they'd trade, so they would catch new stuff all the time) that their immune system was more evolved than that of isolated tribes. A new article a few days ago said that most human mutations happened in the last 200 generations, mostly in "advanced" places of the world. So while Europeans were rather sick all the time, their immune system was also more evolved because of this.

The tribes, that had little contact and had seen fewer variations of viruses, didn't have an immune system as evolved. So it wasn't a matter of eating clean, but rather constant exposure for thousands of years and training of the immune system.

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