Could vitamins really stop bedwetting? Cure baldness? Rheumatoid arthritis? Extend your life to 125? According to a series of booklets held in the National Archives, vitamins could achieve all these things and much, much more.
The discovery of vitamins, and just how crucial they were to our well-being, opened up a whole world of health marketing in the 20th century that still exists today. Vitamins were cheap to produce; they could be sold without prescription; they could be marketed to the health conscious; and they could be added to anything.
There are many books about the virtues of vitamins in the National Archives’ copyright collection, but the ones I particularly like were from a Sydney company called Vitamin Supplies Pty Ltd – written and sold in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The Archives has about 30 of their booklets.
The series was titled ‘Science of Life’. They were slightly repetitive, but the message was clear. Diet and nutrition was everything.
But Vitamins Supplies could help! By changing your eating habits and then supplementing your new diet with about 20 shillings’ worth of vitamins a week, you could live to 125 years old – on the way overcoming:
- rheumatism and arthritis
- high blood pressure
- ‘women’s troubles’
- plain looks
- child ailments such as bedwetting
- liver ailments
- heart ailments
- poor eyesight
- kidney and bladder troubles
- enlarged tonsils and adenoids
- weight problems (whether over or under_
- varicose veins
- ulcers; and much much more
All the books used the quote: ‘Man does not die, he kills himself’. According to them, good nutrition and vitamin supplements made longevity a matter of choice.
The books emphasized the need for a good diet as well as vitamins – perhaps different to modern claims that vitamins can prop up a poor diet. But would people today necessarily agree with their version of a good diet? With some points yes, but perhaps not others.
The following is quote from the booklet ‘Healthy Old Age’
Eight secrets of good health
The secret of good health is sound nutrition, the principles of which are as follows:
1. Sound nutrition consists of vital foods. Thus, all the dead, stodgy, non-vital foods must be cut out. These are: white bread, white flour products (biscuits and pastry), pies, and sugar. Cut out all re-cooked foods, pickled (embalmed) meats, fried foods, confectionery, sausage meats, jam and flaked breakfast foods.
2. Reduce meat to once a day at most.
3. Cut down on starch foods. If you are not doing hard work, two or three slices of bread are ample. White bread, refined porridge meals, cakes and pastry are stodgy and constipating.
4. Substitute wheatgerm for porridge. Wheatgerm contains some 15 minerals … Wheatgerm is a wonder-food that everybody should take from childhood to old age.
5. Have a salad daily and three or four pieces of fruit, thus getting further essential minerals.
6. Have some cheese and milk daily, thus making sure of calcium thus making sure of calcium for bone structure and nerve relaxation. The nerves cannot relax in the absence of calcium.
7. Have the juice of two oranges or a lemon or grapefruit daily. Failing which, take three 50 milligram vitamin C tablets.
8. Take one vitamin A capsule, one B1 tablet (10mg), one B complex tablet, one vitamin C tablet (50mg), and one 10, 20 or 50 milligram vitamin E tablet or capsule after each meal, as a routine daily health practice of maintaining first class health.
It is interesting that the booklets make absolutely no mention of giving up smoking – a very popular past-time in those days!
Each particular ailment came with its own set of instructions. For instance, the book about curing arthritis encouraged sufferers to give up coffee and tea, stop drinking with meals, and to stop eating incompatible food combinations.
And just in case you are interested, the book on Child Ailments recommended that to stop bedwetting you should give the offender vitamin E, B complex and 2 calcium tablets.