Putrid food of the 19th Century

November 29, 2023- by Steven E. Greer, MD

I have been watching a 48-part lecture by a University of Virginia historian on the Civil War. I noticed how similar the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, and Abraham Lincoln both looked. Their cheeks were sunken and their eye sockets were hollow. They did not look healthy. Before that, President Zachary Taylor died of food poisoning in 1850.  I also learned that Confederate General Bragg had chronic ailments of his gastrointestinal tract.

It is well known that the food served to the soldiers of the Civil War on both sides was disgusting. The food supply before the 20th century was putrid. Formaldehyde and borax were used to preserve food and meat, for example. The invention of refrigerators and ice had not become mainstream yet.

The ingestion of these toxic chemicals led to stomach ulcers. It was so bad that the Kellogg brothers created a healing spa in Michigan that led to them serving cornflakes to heal the stomach ulcers. The Battle Creek Sanitarium was created in 1866.

The FDA was created in 1906 with the Pure Food and Drugs Act. The food supply improved.

I do not know exactly how, medically speaking, but this poor diet of the 19th century contributed to the unique facial appearances we see in Lincoln and Davis, I suspect. Gut hormones were likely triggered similar to how Ozempic works now.

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