Death Rides a Slow Bus in Hunza by Jane Kinderlehrer
How would you like to live in a land where cancer has not yet been invented?
A land where an optometrist discovers to
his amazement that everyone has perfect 20-20 vision? A land where cardiologists cannot find a single trace of
coronary heart disease? How would you like to live in a land where no one ever gets ulcers, appendicitis or gout? A
land where men of 80 and 90 father children, and there's nothing unusual about men and women enjoying vigorous
life at the age of 100 or 120?
We see a lot of hands going up. Fine. But first, you have to answer a few
more questions before setting out for a place
called Hunza, a tiny country hidden in the mountain passes of northwest Pakistan.
Are you willing to live 20,000 feet up in the mountains, almost completely
out of touch with the rest of the world? Are
you ready to go outside in every kind of weather to tend you small mountainside garden, while keeping you ears open
for an impending avalanche? Are you prepared to give up not only every luxury of civilization, but even reading and
We see a lot of hands going down. But if you want the benefits of the pure
air that whips by the icy cathedrals of the
Himalayan Mountains, the pure water that trickles down from glaciers formed at 25,000 feet, and the mental and
spiritual peace that comes from living in a land where there is no crime, taxes, social striving or generation gaps, no
banks or stores - in fact, -no money- where are you going to find it outside of Hunza?
But don't give up! Not yet, because there is still one more question to
be answered. That is: are you prepared to eat the
kind of food the Hunzas eat? If you are, then you can rightfully expect to give yourself at lease some measure of the
super health and resistance to degenerative disease which the Hunzakuts have enjoyed for 2,000 years.
What kind of exotic, ill-tasting grub do these Hunza people eat, you are
wondering. Strange as it may sound, virtually
everything the Hunzakuts eat is delectable to the western palate, and is readily available in the United States - at least
if your shopping horizons do not begin and end at the supermarket.
Not only is the Hunza diet not exotic, but there's really nothing terribly
mysterious about its health-promoting
qualities, Everything we know about food and health, gathered both from clinical studies and the observation of
scientists who have traveled throughout the world observing dietary practices and their relationship to health, tells us
that it is to be expected that the Hunza diet will go a long way towards improving the total health of anyone,
anywhere. The Hunza story is only on of the more dramatic examples of the miraculous health produced by a diet of
fresh, natural unprocessed and unadulterated food.
All systems "Go" At 20,000 Feet
Maybe you're wondering: are the Hunzas really all that healthy? That was
the question on the mind of cardiologists
Dr. Paul D. White and Dr. Edward G. Toomey, who made the difficult trip up the mountain paths to Hunza, toting
along with them a portable, battery-operated electrocardiograph. In the American Heart Journal for December, 1964,
the doctors say they used the equipment to study 25 Hunza men, who were, "on fairly good evidence, between 90 and
110 years old." Blood pressure and cholesterol levels were also tested. He reported that not one of these men showed a
single sign of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
An optometrist, Dr. Allen E. Banik, also made the journey to Hunza to see
for himself if the people were as healthy as
they were reputed to be, and published his report in Hunza Land (Whitehorn Publishing Co., 1960). "It wasn't long
before I discovered that everything that I had read about perpetual life and health in this tiny country is true," Dr.
Banik declared. "I examined the eyes of some of Hunza's oldest citizens and found them to be perfect."
Beyond more freedom from disease, many observers have been startled by
the positive side of Hunza health. Dr.
Banik, for example, relates that "many Hunza people are so strong that in the winter they exercise by breaking holes in
the ice-covered streams and take a swim down under the ice." Other intrepid visitors who have been there report their
amazement at seeing men 80, 90, and 100 years old repairing the always-crumbling rocky roads, and lifting large
stones and boulders to repair the retaining walls around their terrace gardens. The oldsters think nothing of playing a
competitive game of volleyball in the hot sun against men 50 years their junior, and even take part in wild games of
polo that are so violent they would make an ice hockey fan shudder.
The energy and endurance of the Hunzakuts can probably be credited as much
to what they don't eat as what they do
eat. First of all, they don't eat a great deal of anything. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that the
average daily food intake for Americans of all ages amounts to 3,300 calories, with 100 grams of protein, 157 grams
of fat and 380 grams of carbohydrates. In contrast, studies by Pakistani doctors show that adult males of Hunza
consume a little more than 1,900 calories daily, with only 50 grams of protein, 36 grams of fat, and 354 grams of
carbohydrates. Both the protein and fat are largely of vegetable origin (Dr. Alexander Leaf, National Geographic,
That amounts to just half the protein, one-third the fat, but about the
same amount of carbohydrates that we
Americans eat. Of course, the carbohydrate that the Hunzakuts eat is unrefined or complex carbohydrate found in
fruits, vegetables and grains, while we Americans largely eat our carbohydrates in the form of nutritionless white
sugar and refined flour.
Needless to say, the Hunzakuts eat no processed food. Everything is as
fresh as it can possibly be, and in its original
unsalted state. The only "processing" consists of drying some fresh fruits in the the sun, and making butter and
cheese out of milk. No chemicals or artificial fertilizers are used in their gardens. In fact, it is against the law of Hunza
to spray gardens with pesticides. Renee Taylor, in her book Hunza health secrets (Prentice-Hall 1964) says that the
Mir, or ruler of Hunza, was recently instructed by Pakistani authorities to spray the orchards of Hunza with pesticide,
to protect them from an expected invasion of insects. But the Hunzas would have none of it. They refused to use the
toxic pesticide, and instead sprayed their trees with a mixture of water and ashes, which adequately protected the
trees without poisoning the fruit and the entire environment. In a word, the Hunzas eat as they live - organically.
Apricots Are Hunza Gold
Of all their organically-grown food, perhaps their favorite, and one of
their dietary mainstays, is the apricot. Apricot
orchards are seen everywhere in Hunza, and a family's economic stability is measured by the number of trees they
have under cultivation.
They eat their apricots fresh in season, and dry a great deal more in the
sun for eating throughout the long cold
winter. They puree the dried apricots and mix them with snow to make ice cream. Like their apricot jam, this ice cream
needs no sugar because the apricots are so sweet naturally.
But that is only the beginning. The Hunzas cut the pits from the fruits,
crack them, and remove the almond-like nuts.
The women hand grind these kernels with stone mortars, then squeeze the meal between a hand stone and a flat rock
to express the oil. The oil is used in cooking, for fuel, as a salad dressing on fresh garden greens, and even as a facial
lotion ( Renee Taylor says Hunza women have beautiful complexions).
The Apricot Kernel Anti-Cancer Theory
Do these kernels have important protective powers which in some way play
an important role in the extraordinary
health and longevity of the Hunza people? The evidence suggests they very well might.
Cancer and arthritis are both very rare among the Taos (New Mexico) Pueblo
Indians. Their traditional beverages is
made from the kernels of cherries, peaches and apricots. Robert G. Houston told PREVENTION that he enjoyed this
beverage when he was in New Mexico gathering material for a book dealing with blender shakes based on an Indian
recipe. Into a glass of milk or juice, he mixed a tablespoon of honey with freshly ground apricot kernels (1/4 of an
ounce or two dozen kernels) which had been roasted for 10 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. It is vitally important
to roast the kernels first, Houston points out, "in order to insure safety when you are using the pits in such quantities."
Roasting destroys enzymes which could upset your stomach if you eat too many at one time. In any event the drink
was so delicious that Houston kept having it daily. On the third day of drinking this concoction, Houston says that a
funny thing happened. Two little benign skin growths on his arm, which formerly were pink had turned brown. The
next day, he noticed that the growths were black and shriveled. On the seventh morning, the smaller more recent
growths had vanished completely and the larger one, about the size of a grain of rice, had simply fallen off.
Houston says that two of his friends have since tried the apricot shakes
and report similar elimination of benign skin
growths in one or two weeks.
What is there in apricot pits that could produce this remarkable effect?
Some foods, especially the kernels of certain
fruits and grains, contain elements known as the nitrilosides (also known as amygdalin or vitamin B17) says Dr. Ernst
T. Krebs, Jr., biochemist and co-discoverer of Laetrile, a controversial cancer treatment (Laetrile is the proprietary
name for one nitriloside). Nitrilosides, says Dr. Krebs, are non-toxic water-soluble, accessory food factors found in
abundance in the seeds of almost all fruits. They are also found in over 1,000 other plants. Wherever primitive people
have been found to have exceptional health, with marked absence of malignant or degenerative disease, their diet has
been shown to be high in the naturally occurring nitrilosides, Dr. Krebs maintains.
"These nitrilosides just might be to cancer what vitamin C is to scurvy,
what niacin is to pellagra, what vitamin B12
and folic acid are to pernicious anemia," says Dr Krebs (Cancer News Journal, May/August, 1970).
There are other common foods (all seeds) which provide a goodly supply
of this protective factor. Millet and
buckwheat, both of which the Hunzakuts eat in abundance, are two. Lentils, mung beans and alfalfa, when sprouted,
provide 50 times more nitriloside than does the mature plant, Dr. Krebs points out. And the Hunzas, as you might
expect, spout all of their seeds, as well as using them in other ways. Since other essential protective elements are
increased in the sprouting of such seeds, young sprouts are excellent foods which give us more life-giving values than
most of us realize.
Apricots Rich in Vitamin A and Iron
Aside from whatever anti-cancer properties the seeds of apricots may offer,
the fruit itself is exceptional in its own
right. There is probably no fruit which is as nourishing as the apricot. When they are dried, and most of the moisture
removed, the concentration of nutrients becomes even greater. A generous handful of dried apricots (3 1/2 ounces) is
packed with nearly 11,000 units of vitamin A, or more than twice the recommended daily allowance. In fact, if this
much vitamin A was put into a capsule the FDA would arrest the person selling it. because they consider this amount
both "useless" and "potentially dangerous." The Hunzas eat it every day. Dried apricots also contain a great deal of
iron, potassium and natural food fiber.
The Style For Longer and Better Life
Besides apricots, the Hunzas also grow and enjoy apples, pears, peaches,
mulberries, black and red cherries, and
grapes. From these fruits, the Hunzas get all the vitamin C they need, as well as the other nutritional richness of fresh
fruit, including energy from the fruit sugars. From the grapes, they also make a light red wine that helps make their
simple fare into more of a real "meal".
The World's Freshest Bread
The bread which accompanies each meal enjoyed by the Hunza's, and sometimes
forms the mainstay of the meal, is
called "chappati" - and is quite different from any bread that we are used to. The grain is kept intact as long as
possible, and is ground at the very last moment. The housewife grinds only as much as she needs for the next meal,
and kneads it again and again with water - no yeast! She then beats it into very thin, flat pancakes similar to the
tortillas of the Mexican Indians.
Chappatis can be made from wheat, barley, buckwheat or millet, so although
the chappati is something new to us, the
ingredients are all familiar and easily available. Sometimes the flours are mixed together and baked in several shapes,
small or large, depending on the occasion.
While bread baking at home in our country is practically a lost art because
of the time involved, a surprising feature
about chappatis is the incredibly short "baking time", if you can call it baking at all. The dough is simply placed on the
grill for hardly more than a moment and it is finished.
"Just long enough to grow warm and no longer taste raw," Dr. Ralph Bircher
noted in his book on Hunzas published by
Huber in Bernie, Switzerland. "No more effective method of preserving the health value of the grain exists and the
taste is excellent even without butter or jam," Dr. Bircher notes.