Dietary Timeline

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The decades surrounding the turn of the century are described by Levenstein as the golden age of food faddism. Vociferous vegetarians did battle with ardent meat eaters in an attempt to gain the moral and scientific high ground on all things relating to diet. Also competing were the 'no breakfast faddists', the 'raw food faddists' and those who refused to contemplate any food that was fermented. Often their strict regimes were supported by their own personal struggles with poor health as had been the case with Cornaro in the 1550s.

Levenstein H.A. (1988) Revolution at the table: the transformation of the American diet, Oxford University Press, New York, 1993.

The Chewing Movement
– "British Prime Minister, William Gladstone stated that to assure proper digestion he chewed each bite of food 32 times, once for each tooth. American businessman Horace Fletcher took this advice to the extreme and chewed food until it dissolved in his mouth…[he]claimed that a shallot had once required 720 chews. Although mistaken in his belief that digestion took place in the back of he throat, Fletcher produced remarkably odour-free stools, which he distributed freely by mail."

Pilcher, J.M. (2000) Food Fads. Cambridge World History of Food. Cambridge University Press. UK.

Fletcher, aided by his substantial financial resources, began working with prominent scientists, most notably Russell Chittendon, director of the Sheffield School of Science at Yale. Chiitendon studied Fletcher's regime and found that he was able to survive on far less food than that recommended by previous dietary gurus Atwater or Voit for a man of his size. Chittenden calculated that Fletcher functioned on 45grams of protein a day with no sign of ill health. Chittenden wisely ignored the dubious conclusions made by Fletcher regarding digestion taking place in the back of the throat but was aware that his arguments for moderation and a cut in the recommended levels of protein might have some substance. This was flying in the face of conventional wisdom since the work of Leibig high protein intake had been deemed essential to body function and athleticism for sportsmen.