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"Food Will Build A New America!" The US National Nutrition Program in 1943
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December 6, 2011
6:13 am
First-Eater
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An alert reader (Michael Plunkett, mpix123) sent me the following scan from the "National Nutrition Edition" of a Kerr Canning Co. booklet published in 1943. (This was the height of World War II.)

"Every Day, Eat This Way"

I recommend clicking on the picture below so you can read the text.

Can you imagine the phrase "vitamin-rich fats" in any government or mainstream dietary recommendation today? I can't either.

Just for fun, let's figure out how many changes we have to make in order to turn this chart into a guide to…

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December 6, 2011
7:06 am
Todd B
Guest

All I can say is thank you for sharing the Meat Planet. Made my day.

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December 6, 2011
8:02 am
Paul Jaminet
Guest

Hi JS,

I'm glad we didn't choose a pyramid for our food apple!

Merry Christmas!

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December 6, 2011
9:59 am
goddesslynne
Guest

I'm reminded of an article I read a few years ago about spending a week in the life of the 50's housewife. This isn't the one I read, but it's similar: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1375913/50s-housewife-Amanda-Cable-loses-weight-finds-inner-peace.html

Thanks you JS for everything!! I received my t-shirts and they're awesome!!

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December 6, 2011
10:09 am
Timothy
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That is awesome. Nutritional science in 1943 was already right on the major nutrients. Note that the milk would have been raw and the beef grass-finished. Even more remarkable, this was a time of war rationing and good food was in short supply.

It's weird to think there was a time when the government was more interested in advancing public health than exploiting it. Maybe if Yamamoto had been luckier at Midway, there would have been more time for these good habits to sink in.

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December 6, 2011
10:40 am
Jennifer
Guest

Any idea what the major health problems (that would have been affected by nutrition) were in the 1940's?

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December 6, 2011
10:44 am
Keoni Galt
Guest

From Egypt to Central America, pyramids have meant endless, grinding, grain-fueled slavery for the glory and enrichment of the ruling class. In modern America, they mean……well, basically the same thing.

I'd be laughing if I didn't feel like crying...

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December 6, 2011
11:46 am
Halifax, UK
Gnoll
Forum Posts: 365
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June 5, 2011
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Damn it! I've just drawn up my pyramid :)

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Living in the Ice Age http://livingintheiceage.pjgh.co.uk
December 6, 2011
3:05 pm
Portland, OR
Gnoll
Forum Posts: 16
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October 7, 2011
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MEAT PLANET!!!

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December 6, 2011
9:12 pm
First-Eater
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Todd B:

That video is genius!  I have no idea how it had been around since summer and only had 17K views (it's up to 24K now).

Paul:

I was initially skeptical of the PHD food apple, but you've made it into a helpful reference.  And I laughed when I first noticed the brown apple stem labeled "Chocolate".

My best holiday wishes to you and Shou-Ching!

goddesslynne:

That's a great article!  It reminds us that devices we now take for granted — like clothes washers and dryers — really did save women a lot of labor.

It also reminds us that automobiles went very quickly from "luxury" to "mandatory" in just a few decades…the entire concept of the "suburb" assumes that everyone owns an automobile, because it's no longer possible to walk to anywhere that sells food or other daily necessities.

I'm glad you like the T-shirts!  Nothing but first quality will do for my readers.

Timothy:

I'm not sure if the government has ever been interested in nutrition: dietary recommendations have always been "eat more of what we're producing".  I believe the change in recommendations is mostly due to the massive change in US farm policy in the early 1970s (due to Earl Butz) — from one designed to maintain price stability for a nation of mostly small farmers, to one designed to produce the maximum output of a few commodity grain crops from large industrial farms.

Jennifer:

I think the major health problems in 1943 were being shot by the Germans or Japanese!

Keoni:

Pyramids have stood for authority since ancient Egypt, all the way through the one on our dollar bills.

You can't live or work in a pyramid: it's of absolutely no use to anyone.  What a pyramid says is "You are my slave, and I will make you stack rocks until you die.  You and your family will be reminded of my power over you every waking moment by the shadow of this gigantic useless edifice that towers over you." 

The Aztecs underscored the point by sacrificing people on them.

Paul:

Building one is the hard part: it generally requires a kingdom and a steady supply of slaves.  Get cracking!

Brynn:

Would it be enriched by adding spices?  No one can say.

JS

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December 7, 2011
3:04 pm
Halifax, UK
Gnoll
Forum Posts: 365
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June 5, 2011
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Slaves? You sorely underestimate the power and committment of a determined Yorkshireman! If determined Yorkshiremen were around in ancient Egypt, we'd 've built way bigger and they'd 've lasted longer, too … and had a purpose for the people!

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Living in the Ice Age http://livingintheiceage.pjgh.co.uk
December 8, 2011
3:22 am
eddie watts
Guest

this is a great write up thanks, the graph of obese rising is very striking.
odd that the merely overweight barely changed but the obese shot up like that!

looking forward to watching meat planet when i get home.

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December 8, 2011
3:24 am
eddie watts
Guest

of course part of that is that a defined level of fatness was decided as being obese, whereas before there was no definition for being obese.

it was kind of like art before "i don't know how to quantify it, but i know it when i see it"

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December 8, 2011
9:16 pm
mike
Guest

Money from major AgCons didn’t contaminate our social fiber yet. Simple honest rule one vote one man was still the norm. Today the corporate buck rules our interests with lies and deceit.

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December 9, 2011
4:22 am
First-Eater
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February 22, 2010
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eddie:

Those statistics are solid: all the data points in that graph use the same definition of "overweight" and "obese".

Also, the fact that the number of "overweight" didn't change proves that the rising number of obese is not a statistical fluke: just as many normal-weight people are becoming overweight as overweight people are becoming obese.  In other words, everyone is getting heavier.

If the proportion of overweight changed substantially, then we could say that rising obesity is due to fat people getting fatter while everyone else stayed the same -- or due to a "lumpy" statistical distribution of BMI.  But that is not the case.

Of course, BMI is an imperfect proxy for obesity.  But it is indisputable that Amerian has become dramatically heavier since 1978...and I see no evidence that this is due to a nationwide epidemic of muscle-building exercise.

mike:

The corporatization of agriculture is a whole another topic, which I've touched on in "Real Food Is Not Fungible."

JS

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December 9, 2011
5:17 am
eddie watts
Guest

i posted the graph on my facebook and was shortly after asked what changed in 1956 and 1977.
i responded that in the mid 70's HFCS became commonly used sweetener in US and that pre the graph dates these sort of details were not collated so details not available so comprehensively.

also was there not a political situation where food became an electoral issue which lead to grain subsidies in the 70s?

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December 12, 2011
7:52 am
John
Guest

Eddie,

Lots of changes happened in the 70's (I believe that's when Canola Oil was first introduced too), but the big one is listed at the top of the graph- The government guidelines to eat more grains, and less meat and fat.

Food Manufacturers responded by creating foods that were healthy according to the guidelines.

Scientists responsded by creating and doing experiments that tried to support the guidelines (because most science funding comes from the government).

The Government also feeds about 50 million people (like the military, prisoners, and school children), and meals have to conform to these guidelines.

So even if the average person ignored the guidelines, they still had a massive impact, and it doesn't appear to have been any good.

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December 12, 2011
3:47 pm
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February 22, 2010
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eddie, John:

Those are both important pieces of the puzzle, and they're related.  The statistics clearly show that fat was not just replaced by sugar in our diet -- we ate far more calories in total, and the increase was almost all from sugar.  I'm sure that cheap HFCS had something to do with that.

One of the important facts I try to keep in mind when puzzling out reasons for increased obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome in America is "Did the prevalence of this activity accelerate dramatically after 1978?"  

It's not enough for the prevalence to be rising smoothly -- because that doesn't explain the acceleration of obesity that began sometime between 1978 and 1988.  That's why I don't find hypotheses like "People became lazy and gluttonous and that's why we're fat" or "Food became tasty and that's why we're fat" to be compelling: people didn't suddenly become lazy in 1978, and food didn't suddenly become tasty in 1978 either.

Yes, the rate of fast food consumption was increasing...but it had been increasing steadily since the late 1950s, yet obesity didn't accelerate until after 1978.  Also recall that the 1970s were the golden age of junk food and advertising to kids: perhaps I'll post some scans from comic books of the era. 

 

I think that our agricultural policy was the primary driver: as I said above, it shifted from maintaining profitability for small farmers to maximizing production for a few commodity crops (corn, soy, wheat, cotton).  This created mountains of cheap surplus corn, soy, and wheat that needed to be eaten.  Therefore, our dietary guidelines changed to emphasize the consumption of products made from corn, soy, and wheat (e.g. "whole grains", "vegetable oils") -- and manufacturers naturally took advantage of the cheap grains to produce processed food products based on them (cereal, bread, pasta, chips and fried snack foods, sodas, cookies, and sweets via HFCS).  

The combination of cheap grain-based ingredients and institutional support for their consumption is, I believe, the largest contributor to obesity -- though the mechanisms by which that occurs are still being investigated, and I believe there are major roles for other contributors.

JS

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December 15, 2011
12:37 am
Franco
Guest

I don't know if such a graph exists for Germany/Europe but I do remember that from end of 70ies/beginning of 80ies my mother started to buy margarine instead of butter and lard (for frying) was replaced by sunflower oil. Good (or any) olive oil was almost unknown those times in Germany (that changed by the 90ies luckily). And wasn't it around that time that coke became sweeter?
Oh and nutella replaced (home made) jam and honey on my breakfast bread more and more. Snack bars became more common too. And albeit I was never fat I became a bit chubby around the midesection that time but leaned out again a few years later when I had my final growth spurt and started jobbing. BTW, my younger brother (by 5 years) never got rid of his (even bigger) chubbiness. Maybe because he was always lazier then me (started working later/didn't do sports
) or maybe because he wasn't lucky enough to grow verry fast to 6"4" like I did. I think he must be around 5"11".

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December 15, 2011
2:00 pm
Will
Guest

RE your "yeah, that worked" remark: The flaw in your reasoning with your graph showing the rising levels of obesity is that very few, if any Americans were actually following the government's recommendations--in fact, total fat consumption throughout that period actually increased. Since very few people ever even pay any attention to the various government food pyramind, one cannot look at the current state of health of Americans in general and point to the government recommdations as the cause.

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