Poor rural population had best diet and health in mid-Victorian years

Poor, rural societies retaining a more traditional lifestyle where high-quality foods were obtained locally enjoyed the best diet and health in mid-Victorian Britain. A new study, published in JRSM Open, examined the impact of regional diets on the health of the poor during mid-19th century Britain and compared it with mortality data over the same period.

The peasant-style culture of the rural poor in more isolated regions provided abundant locally produced cheap foodstuffs such as potatoes, vegetables, whole grains, milk and fish. These regions also showed the lowest rates, with fewer deaths from pulmonary tuberculosis, which is typically associated with better nutrition.

The study's author, Dr Peter Greaves, of the Leicester Cancer Research Centre, said: "The fact that these better fed regions of Britain also showed lower is entirely consistent with recent studies that have shown a decreased risk of death following improvement towards a higher Mediterranean dietary standard."

Dr Greaves explained: "The rural was often better for the poor in more isolated areas because of payment in kind, notably in grain, potatoes, meat, milk or small patches of land to grow vegetables or to keep animals."

"Unfortunately, these societies were in the process of disappearing under the pressure of urbanisation, commercial farming and migration. Such changes in Victorian society were forerunners of the dietary delocalisation that has occurred across the world, which has often led to a deterioration of diversity of locally produced food and reduced the quality of diet for poor rural populations."

Dr Greaves added: "Conversely, in much of rapidly urbanising Britain in the mid-19th century, improvements in living conditions, better transport links and access to a greater variety of imported foods eventually led to improved life expectancy for many of the urban poor."


Explore further

A more complete Mediterranean diet may protect against aggressive prostate cancer

Provided by SAGE Publications
Citation: Poor rural population had best diet and health in mid-Victorian years (2018, March 8) retrieved 24 March 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-03-poor-rural-population-diet-health.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
5 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more