Health & Culture

Written by Alana Jolley

October 15, 2014

Health & Culture

Health & Culture have always been connected. They are connected in so many ways; ways that we are usually unaware of.  This fact struck home when reading a comment below an article on the National Geographic website, which stated:

“Why don’t we eat it then?  I brush, I floss, I pick, I waterpick, I eat less sugar, but still my teeth form cavities.”  Perhaps we shouldn’t ask,  “Why don’t we eat it then?” We should be asking, “Why do we eat certain foods now?”  We eat so many things that are bad for our health – and not just our dental health.  It is culture that persuades us to eat what is either good or bad for our health, especially what we eat in our daily diets.

The article in National Geographic is about people who lived 2,000 years ago in the Sudan region of Sub-Saharan Africa. Their skeletons revealed clean teeth and relatively little tooth decay.  Why was this so?  The populations there ate a plant called purple nutsedge (nut-sedge) or Cyperus rotundus.  This plant is close to grass.  It is usually referred to as a “noxious weed,” especially in California during the summer.  Read more about the people and the noxious weed they ate in the following link.

https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2014/research/tooth-plaque-ancestors-diet/

Do you think the people in the Sudan region, so long ago, realized they were eating a “noxious weed?”  Probably not. This weed grows with a [glossary]tuber[/glossary] forming underground, which the people ate. Tubers are rather like potatoes; and many kinds of tubers have been eaten as food nearly everywhere around the world. The nutsedge is used today in both India and China for medicinal purposes, but not noted for an association with dental health.

This new information, from the past, is a great example why learning about the past is relevant to our high-tech world. Explore More! in Cultural Anthropology and learn about the Global Villages and the people who live in them.

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