A few evenings ago I had a delightfully long catchup with a good friend who has been living in Pakistan for the past few years. Amazingly and bizarrely she has also become interested in nutrient dense food, Nourishing Traditions and natural skincare. It was a treat to be ask her all about the impact of changing diet trends, health and traditional wisdom in Pakistan.
Pakistan is obviously a very diverse country, but on the whole it has experienced a fairly fast rate of industrialisation over the past few decades. A greater number of people are living in cities rather than in small villages. There, as here, there has been a strong public health message that traditional saturated fats should be avoided, ghee (ranked as a superfood amongst foodies here!) is ‘bad’ for you, traditional products such as soapnuts have been scrapped for harsh shampoos.
What has been the result? Greater wellbeing, fewer heart attacks and a population that is physically stronger than ever before? WRONG! Heart attacks have massively increased, sleep problems have become common and nagging low key chronic conditions have skyrocketed. Hmm! What a surprise!
She said that many of her friends look back fondly on the good old days in the villages where the food is pure, the sleep is sweet and people had strong healthy bodies. I am sure that rose tinted spectacles have a big part to play in this widespread view. The foods bought in shops are also often highly adulterated so the sugar may not actually be all that sweet, the milk is watered down and the flour may be slightly dubious (Victorian England, anyone?) However in my mind this really clarifies the link between an industrialised diet and poor health. There does seem to be something so real and tangible about the good health experienced in a pre-industrialised setting that the benefits can be felt when dipping between the city and the village setting. My Weston Price-ometer was in overdrive, I was thinking how the swiss villagers may have had tooth decay when away from the village but experienced healing upon their return!
However, there is one key blessing in Pakistan that we don’t really have the benefit of here: grannies! Old ladies who use ghee liberally, still wash their hair in soap nuts and who will liberally share the wisdom passed down to them from their mothers. I’d love to find these ladies here in the UK but our grannies have generally been brought up to avoid butter, cholesterol and saturated fat. However, I’m looking for you grannies!