Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Who was Vilhjalmur Stefansson?

Born in 1879, Vilhjalmur Stefansson was a Canadian explorer and anthropologist known for his expeditions to the Arctic and his research on Inuit culture including a total of 12 years living among the Inuit.

Stefansson's research included an extensive study of the Inuit traditional diet and its impact on their health. Stefansson observed that the Inuit people, who lived in the Arctic regions of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland, subsisted almost entirely on a diet of meat and fish, with very little plant food.

The Inuit diet was high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate, and they were healthy with near zero rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. In fact, Stefansson said they were the healthiest people he had ever seen despite the fact they lived in near darkness for much of the year unable to hunt or work outside.

The Inuit people subsisted almost entirely on a diet of meat and fish, with very little plant food. They ate caribou, muskox, seal, walrus, wolves, and polar bear. They also ate various types of fish, such as Arctic char, halibut, and whitefish. The Inuit savoured the fat, they prioritised the fatty deposits behind the eyes, jaw and around the organs of the animals they hunted. The lean meat and organs were fed to the dogs.

Based on his observations of the Inuit people, Stefansson became a proponent of an all-meat diet and argued that such a diet was optimal for human health. He believed that the traditional Inuit diet, which was high in saturated fats and cholesterol, was actually healthier than the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet recommended by most nutritionists at the time.

Stefansson’s findings were met with scorn from the academic community who believed an all meat diet must be vitamin-deficient and harmful. Surely you would get scurvy?!

To prove his critics wrong, Stefansson voluntarily checked himself into New York’s Bellevue hospital with a fellow explorer and began an experiment where they ate nothing but fatty meat for an entire year. Stefansson only got sick once and that was when experimenters had him cut out the fat from his diet.

At the end of the year both men reported that they felt fantastic and were in amazing health.

The experimenters reported: “Both men were in good physical condition at the end of the observation. There were no subjective or objective evidences of any loss of physical or mental vigor. The teeth showed no deterioration and gingivitis had disappeared. There was, however, an increase in the deposits of tartar on the teet of Stefansson. Bowel elimination was undisturbed.” They also noted that the participants' stools were smaller and did not smell.

Stefansson was a prolific writer and wrote extensively about his time with the Inuit and his discovery of a high fat, high protein and zero carb diet. His books include Not by Bread Alone (1946), The Fat of the Land (1956) and My Life with the Eskimo (1912).

There is endless wisdom in traditional cultures. It’s only in recent years with the corruption of our nutritional guidelines by religious ideology and profit focused food and pharmaceutical companies that we’ve forgotten what a proper human diet is.

A diet of fatty meat worked for the Inuit and other traditional cultures like the Maasai, Plains Indians and Aborigines, could it work for you?

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