The Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine has proposed that the familiar, "basic four" food groups that have been around since 1956 be changed to the four new food groups, which would be, "whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruit." Meat, dairy products, fats, and oils are to be optional.
Of course it does not surprise anyone here in Battle Creek, Michigan. One hundred years ago Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a vegetarian and director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, was saying some of the same things we're hearing today.
The Battle Creek Sanitarium was a nationally known health resort, popular for many years, especially prior to the Depression. It was founded by the Seventh-day Adventists in 1866 as the Western Health Reform Institute. As director, Dr. Kellogg changed the name to the Battle Creek Sanitarium a name he said meant, "a place where people learned to stay well." It was at this institution that ready-to-eat cereal was developed. W.K. Kellogg, founder of the Kellogg Company, was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg's brother.
Dr. Kellogg proposed "biologic living," which for the most part meant preventive medicine. His goal was to help people stay well rather than to recover from illness. To him, "biologic living" meant total abstinence from alcohol, tea, coffee, chocolate, and tobacco. He stressed a simple vegetarian diet as the most "natural." He also believed in proper rest, exercise, fresh air, and healthful dress, with proper diet being the most important.
Today, spokespersons from The Livestock Marketing Association, The National Wholesale Grocers' Association, and the National Dairy Council are not so happy with The Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine's new proposal, and neither were those kinds of organizations thrilled with Kellogg when he proposed such things years ago.
According to Richard W. Schwarz, in his book, John Harvey Kellogg, M.D. (Southern Publishing Association, Nashville, Tennessee 1970), the meat packers arranged for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prepare a large poster portraying meat as a highly desirable food. The posters were displayed in post offices around the country. Dr. Kellogg objected. He protested by having the same poster produced, at his expense, adding the words, "See other side." On the back of the poster he listed all the reasons why people should not eat meat.
The meat packers filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., to prohibit Dr. Kellogg from circulating his revised posters. An attorney was sent to Battle Creek to investigate.
After spending time here with Dr. Kellogg, the counselor decided to drop the matter. He saw Kellogg some time later and said, "You know, Doctor, I haven't tasted meat since I saw you in Battle Creek!"
Regarding eating meat, Dr. Kellogg had an argument for everyone. For the religious he would quote from the Bible. For the Darwinists, who believed that we're descendants of monkeys, he told them that the great apes ate no meat. To the moralists he would point out that it was not right to kill animals.
He often remarked that it took huge amounts of grain to produce small amounts of beefsteak, grain that could just as well have been used as food, a point environmentalists are making today. He also said that the average American ate more protein than needed, something not only wasteful, but possibly harmful. He believed a low protein diet increased resistance to disease, encouraged longevity, and contributed to greater physical and mental endurance. Meat-eating he thought was responsible for cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses.
At one time, Dr. Kellogg, recommended against cheese, eggs, and milk. He did, however, later support clean fresh raw milk from healthy cows as being superior to pasteurized milk and especially recommended yogurt. He also believed that humans consumed too much salt. Humans' natural diet he maintained was a combination of grains, fruits, and nuts.
Dr. Kellogg promoted two seeds, sesame and psyllium, being the first to introduce psyllium into the United States. He was one of the first Americans to recognize the potential use of soybeans as a food.
He believed that Americans ate too much food in general. For everyone he recommended two or three meals a day, with the heaviest meal at noon, the lightest one in the evening, and no eating between meals.
Doctor Kellogg attributed his own longevity to the ideas which he proposed in "biologic living." At the age of 77 he founded and directed the Miami, Florida, branch of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. At 78 he took the Florida state medical licensing examination and passed the two-day test with a score higher than many younger examinees. In his eighties he was riding his bike, giving lectures, doctoring, and working every day. He performed 22,000 operations, the last when he was 88.
Although he believed in regular rest and relaxation, Dr. Kellogg didn't always follow his own advice. In his sixties he could work for weeks at a time on an average of only about 4 hours of sleep per night. By the age of 80 he cut his workday to 12 to 15 hours.
At the age of ninety, Dr. Kellogg went to Washington to negotiate for materials to renovate a building into a new location for the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Because of World War II, he was told to forget his idea and to close up the Sanitarium. He didn't give up and after going from office to office, he came home with orders for the necessary materials.
Doctor Kellogg based his theories on studies he had made of Asian people, and that is exactly what many studies are being based on today. It has taken a long time for the world to come around to the thinking of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, but here in Battle Creek we're not surprised.
Amy South resides in Michigan.
This article appears in Vegan Handbook, published by The Vegetarian Resource Group.