Adelle Davis bigraphy, stories - Activists

Adelle Davis : biography

February 25, 1904 - May 31, 1974

Daisie Adelle Davis (25 February 1904 - 31 May 1974), popularly known as Adelle Davis, was an American author and nutritionist who became well known as an advocate for specific nutritional stances such as unprocessed food and vitamin supplementation. She gained prominence in the 1960s and 1970s with widespread media attention and became the most recognized nutritionist in the country. Despite her popularity, she was heavily criticized by her peers for many recommendations she made that were not supported by the scientific literature, some of which were considered dangerous.

Publications

Books on nutrition:

  • Optimum Health (1935)
  • You Can Stay Well (1939)
  • Vitality Through Planned Nutrition (1942)
  • Let's Cook it Right (1947)
  • Let's Have Healthy Children (1951), ISBN 0-451-05346-X
  • Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit (1954)
  • Let's Get Well (1965), ISBN 0-15-150372-9

Other publications:

  • Exploring Inner Space: Personal Experiences Under LSD-25 (1961) - published under the pen name Jane Dunlap, describing her experience with lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD.http://books.google.com/books?id=AEAEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA70#v=onepage&q&f=false "Earth Mother to the Foodists," Life magazine, October 22, 1971, p. 70

Health and nutrition work

Davis wrote a series of four books, starting with a cookbook in 1947, that ultimately sold over 10 million copies in total. Although her ideas were considered somewhat eccentric in the 1940s and 1950s, the change in culture with the 1960s brought her ideas, especially her anti-food processing and food industry charges, into the mainstream in a time when anti-authority sentiment was growing. She also contributed to, as well as benefited from, the rise of a nutritional and health food movement that began in the 1950s, which focused on subjects such as pesticide residues and food additives, a movement her critics would come to term food faddism. During the 1960s and 1970s, her popularity continued to grow, as she was featured in multiple media reports, variously described as an "oracle" by the New York Times, "high priestess" by Life and was compared to Ralph Nader, the popular consumer activist, by the Associated Press. Her celebrity was demonstrated by her repeated guest appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, as she became the most popular and influential nutritionist in the country.

A significant part of her appeal came from her credentials, including her university training, and her apparent application of scientific studies and principles to her writing, with one book totaling over 2100 footnotes and citations. Some of her nutritional ideas such as the need for exercise, the dangers of vitamin deficiencies as well as the need to avoid hydrogenated fat, saturated fat and excess sugar consumption remain relevant to even modern nutritionists. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy commended her views in 1998 as well, in remarks meant to support a law protecting free speech on food safety from the threat of lawsuits.

Scientific criticism

Despite her celebrity, Davis received significant and strong criticism from fellow nutritionists, with one review commenting that her works were "at best a half truth." While lauded for her ability to open the public to the concept of science in nutrition, she was nevertheless heavily criticized for misusing the science in her nutritional works to come to "ridiculous conclusions," especially in light of her scientific training. Amongst the many views not supported by nutritionists include her view that not only physical health but mental and social ills could be cured with the proper diet, stating alcoholism, crime, suicide and divorce were the product of mere poor diet. Although she was very popular with the public in general in the 1970s, none of her books were recommended by any significant nutritional professional society of the time. Independent review of the superficially impressive large number of citations to the scientific literature in her books found that the citations often either misquoted the scientific literature or were contradicted by or unsupported by the proposed citation, and that errors in the book averaged at least one per page. One review noted that only 30 of 170 citations in a sample taken from one chapter accurately supported the assertions in her book. Additionally, the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health labelled her probably the single most harmful source of false nutritional information.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine