Thursday, October 20, 2011

Brekafast Cereal, Snake Oil And Other Rubbish

It was heartening to see this article appear in The Guardian this week

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/nov/23/food-book-extract-felicity-lawrence?INTCMP=SRCH

It gives an excellent summary of the history of breakfast cereals and makes for very interesting reading. Its great to see an article in a national newspaper suggesting that cereals are not the healthy choice many still think they are.

Breakfast cereals were first promoted by Victorian era religious zealot Sylvester Graham as an antidote to such evils as "carnal thoughts." These guys had quite a bee in their bonnet about sex, JH Kellog (he of the corn flake) even advocated burning the sex organs with carbolic acid.

Cereals are also the ultimate example of selling a cheap commodity at a huge mark up by creating the perception of health benefits, when in fact they are simply cheap, abundant crops processed in a way that removes any and all nutritional benefits. This is a common tactic, seen also with whey (a by-product of the manufacture of cheese) and soy.

Quaint as all this seems, things haven't changed much in 100 years. Its fascinating to look back on the tactics of these early health guru's and snake oil salesman such as Bernarr McFadden (christened Bernard, he changed his name to Bernarr to sound like the roar of a lion) and Dudley LeBlanc who created the first "health tonic" Hadacol (named Hadacol because he "hadda call it something") and see just how similar they are to today's TV nutritionists and pill peddlers.

There will always be eager customers for someone willing to claim they have an easy answer to a problem. Too fat? Lacking energy? Take this pill/drink/super food and your worries will be gone. Wouldn't that be great?

I attended a convention where someone used a device to demonstrate how tap water was horribly polluted. The device, a box with two metal rods, when placed in the tap water, turned it a nasty brown colour. Anyone who studied science until the age of 15 may remember this as the process of oxidisation, or in laymen's terms, rust. Yet many were amazed and eager to buy the demonstrators magic water cleaning device.

This was pure snake oil selling, it couldn't have more authentic if the guy had rolled into town on the back of horse and cart with tales of his discoveries in the far East.

I don't see this changing. Its a very old scam and is as effective today as it was in Kellog and Sylvester Graham's day.

But if people are beginning to realise breakfast cereals one of the worst foods you can start your day with and an absolute disaster for fat loss, its a definite step in the right direction.

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