Radio 4 History of Food Gurus

March 20th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, onanism | 7 Comments »

I’m presenting a show on Radio 4 this Easter Monday at 8pm (24th March) looking at the history of miracle nutrition cures, woven in with the history of genuine research into food and nutrition. I think it’s quite good fun, although hearing a trailer last night – where the man from radio 4 speaks a phrase which I wrote, but in his funny radio 4 voice – was a bit freaky.

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www.badscience.net/wp-content/uploads/rise-b.mp3

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The music is advertising for Hadacol, a fabulous snake oil cure-all which made Senator J Le Blanc a multimillionaire in the 1950s. He held travelling medicine shows, where the entrance fee was paid in Hadacol bottle tops, and where you could see exhibitions on the “History of the Bathing Suit” . Bands would play, and many wrote songs in honour of their patron. I think they’re totally excellent, and so I’ve posted a couple below:

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If this floats your boat then there’s a great book by Ann Anderson called “Snake Oil, Hustlers and Hambones”, as well as the weightier (and broader) “Quacks” by Roy Porter. Or if you’re a skinflint you can read The Medical Messiahs by James Harvey Young in its entirety online for free.


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7 Responses



  1. used to be jdc said,

    March 20, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    I look forward to hearing it. Radio 4 is the only station still worth listening to.

  2. LittleMonkey said,

    March 20, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Should be a good show. I always find listening to technical stuff easier to take in than reading… speaking of which, update your podcast more often!! ;)

  3. jackpt said,

    March 20, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Cheers for the tip-off, I will probably listen on Monday. Sounds fascinating. Hopefully it will be on listen again if I miss-it. My gran was (not dead, just sensible and possesing false teeth) one of those Fletcherizing people who believed you absolutely have to chew your food N times, and my great-grandmother was one of those people who believed in drinking a couple of pints of hot boiled water in the morning and at night. My great-grandmother used to have a (I think late Victorian/early 20th century, IIRC it was quite compact) ‘therapeutic’ electric shock machine which had two cans and a hand crank.

  4. MataHari said,

    March 20, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    I can tell you’ve read The Medical Messiahs by James Harvey Young. Good, isn’t it?

  5. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 20, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    heh no, but i have read the hadacol chapter online. it’s all here:

    www.quackwatch.com/13Hx/MM/00.html

  6. evidencebasedeating said,

    March 21, 2008 at 11:03 am

    ah

    www.badscience.net/wp-content/uploads/rise-a-long.mp3

    So thats Susan Jebb and Tom Sanders so far….got to be good!

  7. Robert Carnegie said,

    March 24, 2008 at 1:50 am

    I have wondered about the chewing. According to [Harry Hill's TV Burp], the latest [Freaky Eaters] programme featured a man who chews every mouthful 40 times, I think they said. And only eats biscuits. He appears to be a chef and even with the backlash from recent scandals I strongly suspect they are making it all up by now. Or perhaps Harry Hill is. Can other readers confirm the existence of [Freaky Eaters], the TV programme?

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