Saturday, July 14, 2012

Are the Amish healthier?

Jen commented that the Amish seem to be pretty healthy. But are they? Apparently so, depending on what health factors you're looking at. According to a study done a couple years ago in Ohio, the Amish have lower incidences of cancer. They don't smoke or drink, and are generally not promiscuous, all factors associated with an unhealthy lifestyle. They grow most of their own food (although I've seen them drinking soda and eating Subway sandwiches, and when I go there for milk I often see cereal boxes on the kitchen table).

I tried to find specific research about dental health, but most of what I read was anecdotal. Some communities, like my neighbors, believe in pulling teeth and replacing them with dentures at a young age to avoid the expense of lifelong dental care. (And part of the cost of care is finding and paying someone to drive them to a practitioner.)


Sometimes a member of a community will act as a dentist, pulling diseased teeth for a small donation. (Being unlicensed, he would not be permitted to charge for his services.)

My experience with the 13 families who live near me is that the men and most of the younger women appear to be fit and healthy, while the older women are quite fat. That doesn't, of course, mean they're not healthy. The gardens are tended by the women and children, and I know from experience that hoeing and chopping weeds is good physical exercise. I tend to think that their additional weight is an accumulation from multiple and closely spaced pregnancies. (One family has 13 children, aged 4 to 25!)

The specialty at the bakery is donuts – huge, doughy, fried, glazed yeast doughnuts, for 85¢ each. We only buy them when we have guests. Our normal weekly purchase is a couple loaves of wheat bread, one of dill (my husband loves their dill bread, which is made with cottage cheese) and a couple dozen eggs from their flock of 60 chickens.

The owner also stocks natural health remedies and cleaning supplies (Shaklee products), dry goods (flour, sugar, salt, spices, herbs), homemade dried noodles, cookies/fried pies/slicing pies, jams, jellies and sorghum syrup. Oh, and they've added pepperoni rolls to their "menu." Pepperoni rolls are a West Virginia food group – a cheesy yeast roll studded with chunks of pepperoni. You can buy them just about anywhere in the state.

Our neighbors seem to be happy here, and we're happy to have them as part of our community. The clip-clop of horses' hooves on the blacktop road is a gentle sound, one that always sends me running to the window to watch the buggy drive by. The baker's husband will be here Monday morning to chop our fallen trees into manageable pieces, which he and his wife will use for firewood. He wanted to pay us for the wood, and we were willing to pay him for removing them from our yard! So neither of us is paying the other and we both feel we're getting a good trade.

And the denture diet appears to be working. I've lost two pounds since Tuesday. Not at all remarkable, considering how little I'm able to eat and how long it takes to eat it. I used to finish my single serving of dinner while my husband was working on his second helping. Night before last I was still eating a small bowl of pasta with tomato sauce and ground beef after he'd finished two big bowls and the rest of the sauce! Same thing last night: He finished two and a half grilled cheese sandwiches and two bowls of gazpacho before I finished half a sandwich and a bowl of chilled soup.

Whatever. It's a helluva way to lose weight, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Unless you're Amish.

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