Eat Bread for Health! - The Champlain Society August Findings/Trouvailles

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The Champlain Society is pleased to present a preview of its August 2021 Findings/Trouvailles. Read the full post at


Eat Bread for Health!


By Brian Payne

Although we can trace some of the first diet fads to the 1830s (namely American Sylvester Graham’s campaign to use food as a tool for sexual self-repression), the interwar years were the “golden age” for some of the most outrageous dietary promotions. The diet movement of the 1920s and 30s was grounded on increased awareness of and interest in food health. Yet, as these 1937 and 1938 advertisements for bread found in the Canadian Home Journal indicate, corporate promotion of their food products, either consciously or not, often misrepresented what was then known about calories, vitamins, and minerals and how those elements shaped nutritional health, promising weight loss, health, vigour, wholesomeness, and a host of other positive outcomes often based on questionable, if any, scientific data.


During the interwar years, research conducted in Great Britain and the United States, mainly by Sir John Boyd Orr and Dr. Hazel Stiebeling, identified a “hidden hunger crisis.” Although people seemed to be eating enough to stay alive, their diets were not giving them the nutrients needed for optimal health. These researchers, especially Orr, further cast the issue as one of social equity, arguing that there was a direct connection between poverty and poor nutritional health. Subsequent research in Canada included scientific assessments of different foods, sociological surveys of community food habits, and experimental production of “proper meals.” By the mid-1930s, dietitians specifically critiqued processed white flour. They charged that milling out the bran transformed flour into the “nutritional desert” known as white bread. Influenced by nutritional public awareness campaigns, Canadians gradually decreased the amount of bread they consumed, replacing it with more fruits and vegetables.[1]


Yet these scientific findings and public awareness campaigns were not the only, or even the primary, sources of public information on nutrition for Canadians. The interwar era was also a period of commercialization and consolidation of food production. These large food corporations, along with their trade associations, often drove public discourse about nutrition through advertisements in large circulation newspapers and magazines. These ads paid little heed to scientific data, but Canada’s wheat farmers, flour millers, and bakers found them a useful counterweight to the public awareness campaigns that had damned their products as nutritionally empty.[2]


These two widely circulated Canadian advertisements for bread reveal the bread industry’s response to nutritionists’ critiques in the 1930s. Produced by Standard Bread Limited, a conglomerate of Ontario-based bakeries, the advertisements appeared throughout Canada’s print media and catered to multiple cultural ideals of the period. These particular images come from the Canadian Home Journal in 1937 and 1938, which is held at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. …  Read the full post at:




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