In the middle 1800’s, a Sylvester Graham led one of the first health-food crusades in this country. He thought that bad health was related to sexual excesses such as intercourse more than once a month, masturbation, and erotic dreams, all of which were caused by eating rich and spicy foods. These foods “increase the concupiscent excitability and sensibility of the genital organs.” The antidote he prescribed was a vegetarian diet of plain and boring foods, one key element of which was coarse, whole-wheat flour. Although you have probably never heard of Mr. Graham, you have undoubtedly tasted a processed and sweetened version of his attempt to reduce sexual excess — the graham cracker.
Graham wasn’t the only nut rolling around in nineteenth-century America; many others were also concerned about curbing sexuality. John Harvey Kellogg gained a reputation both as a nutritionist and a sexual adviser. He thought sex the ultimate abomination and remained chaste even in marriage. Masturbation was the worst sin of all, “the vilest, the basest, and the most degrading act that a human being can commit.” In his view, it led not only to the usual stuff like tuberculosis, heart disease, epilepsy, dimness of vision, insanity, idiocy, and death, but also to bashfulness in some people, unnatural boldness in others, a fondness for spicy foods, round shoulders, and “acne, or pimples on the face.” Kellogg introduced a number of foods designed to promote health and decrease interest in sex, one of which he called Corn Flakes. The rest, as they say, is history.