The Science of Eating

cornsyrup ad1One of the things that I have noticed in looking at old food ads, especially in old cookbooks published to advertise brand-name products for gelatin, corn syrup, corn starch, and so forth, is how much they stress ‘purity.’ In an ad for corn syrup posted here yesterday, we read the claim that it is ‘purer than honey.’ There had been legitimate issues over the contamination of the food supply, sick animals used for bologna, toxic chemicals used to brighten the colors in candy and dried fruits, tuberculosis in the milk supply, products adulterated with sawdust and fillers that put more money in the manufacturer’s pockets, but added nothing to the product and may have been injurious to the consumer’s health (hmm. This sounds ominously familiar, doesn’t it?).

In 1919 Alfred Watterson McCann wrote a book he titled The Science of Eating: How to Insure Stamina, Endurance, Vigor, Strength and Health in INfancy, Youth, and Age, where he condemns manufacturers for greedily disregarding concerns about health and nutrition, and addresses, among other things, the need for clean, unadulterated foods and the need for some understanding of what ‘pure’ food really is. He says:

As late as April 1918 the United States Public Health Service called attention to one of the many preventable ravages of food folly. There may be plenty of milk or eggs or meat, said the government, but if you prefer to live mainly on cereals, starchy foods, and sweets, pellagra will result. This warning will not be heeded because the people cannot understand it. They do not know what the government means by cereals, for the reason that 90 per cent of the cereals now prepared for human consumption in no manner resemble physiologically the cereals provided by Mother Nature. The government’s phrase ‘starchy foods and sweets’ has no meaning for the plain people who do not know that pure starch or pure sugar are not found in nature Pure starch and pure sugar are laboratory refinements from which the impurities essential to life have been removed.

Read The Science of Eating: How to Insure Stamina, Endurance, Vigor, Strength and …By Alfred Watterson McCann

“Our Washington authorities,” he complains, “although they have occasionally spoken in plain terms, do not now refer to the menace of refined cereals, of improved starches, of denatured sweets and fats, of patent wheat flour, of de-germinated corn flour, of polished rice, of demineralised corn starch and potato starch, of robbed rye flour, of pearled barley, of refined sugar, or of any of the other manipulated foods sold in beautifully decorated packages that attack the vitality” of every man, woman, and child who partake of them.

He also wrote:

” Food manufacturers declare their chemical preservatives are ‘harmless.’ Scientists are found to agree with them. Thus they set up arguments of such plausible and convincing character that the government has been prevailed upon to permit them to employ chemicals in the manufacture of a hundred food products.’

In an article published in the Journal of the A. M. A. McCann’s discussions of food problems in our country’s food supplies were characterized as ‘wild,’ and his ideas on therapy as ‘hopeless.’ I don’t know much about his ideas on therapeutics, but so far his ideas on food have been vindicated.

Where there are but 150,000 cases of pellagra there are millions of cases of malnutrition which, though they do not reach the pellagra stage, are nevertheless symptoms of the great national folly which commercial science encourages and defends.

“The increased price of food is responsible,” says Dr. Baker, “for the 216,000 children of New York City now suffering from undernourishment.”

“It is most important,” says the United States Public Health Service, “that at least three glasses (one and one-half pints) and preferably more milk be taken daily.” The irony of these comments is solemn.

The importance of eggs, fresh vegetables and fresh fruits is emphasised as in the past has been emphasised the importance of whole grain foods, whole wheat bread, whole corn bread, natural brown rice. But what are the facts?

High prices do not keep these “offsetting” foods out of the hands of the poor. They are not offered to the poor at any price. Yet the government itself tells us that among the poor the symptoms of malnutrition are mostly prevalent.

On page 484, No. 14, Volume 33 of the Public Health Reports issued by the United States Public Health Service, are found these words:

“The unbalanced diet composed mainly of biscuits, corn bread, grits, hominy, rice, gravy and syrup with only a few vegetables develops disease.”

Why such foods develop disease, and why all other similar foods, of which these are but typical, develop disease, will be explained here in the government’s own phrases, although they are phrases rarely acted upon by the individual and never by the food manufacturer.

Yet as we saw in the government recommended diet for children as published in 1929, there was a shocking shortage of fresh fruits or vegetables of any sort, and an over-reliance on breads.

And yet, as I worked on this post I ate chicken enchiladas made with white flour tortillas, drank a cup of coffee (it was organic, does that help?) sweetened with flavored creamer from the grocery store.

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