The Bizarre, Anti-Masturbation History of Breakfast Cereal

engin akyurt, Unsplash
engin akyurt, Unsplash / engin akyurt, Unsplash

Breakfast cereal wasn't always a colorful, sugary treat hawked by cartoon characters. When John Harvey Kellogg developed corn flakes around the turn of the 20th century, he wanted them to be bland and basic. The doctor thought a diet of plain foods was the secret to fighting masturbation—something he and other fundamentalists considered a public health crisis. The product didn't have the effect he had hoped for, but consumers didn't care. That was just the beginning of cereal's strange, fascinating history.

In this episode of Food History, host Justin Dodd explores how cereal became part of a complete breakfast. The evolution of cereal reflects health trends and advertising innovations over the past century of American history. If you've ever wondered what the sugariest cereal is, or why there are so many cereal mascots, you can find the answers in the video below.

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