Being a typical up-to-date-mid-century American baby, my very first mouthful of nourishment was a doctor prescribed, sugar sweetened bottle formula.
Modern babies, we were advised, should begin life on Dextrose, cutting their sweet tooth at an early age.
But, Americans were warned, the end of infancy did not end the body’s need for dextrose.
On the contrary- Everybody needed dextrose every day of life regardless of age.
Thanks to the wise wizards of food processors and the Mad men of Madison Avenue, Americans could start on a life long addiction to sugar from the very first sip of their Karo syrup-enriched baby formula.
It may be hard to swallow but once upon a time sugar was not the unhealthy villain it is viewed as today but an essential nutrient.
Through the first half of the 20th century, sugar was deemed essential to health- good tastin’ and good for ya’. In fact it was sanctioned by Uncle Sam as part of the seven essential food groups.
Since my mid-century mother was chief cook and homemaker in our home, she understood that if hers was to be a perfect American family, her husband and her children must be perfectly fed.
And dextrose, that all American sugar, would be an essential part of any good health diet.
“By all means,” one advertisement encouraged,”let ‘em eat cake…and candy too!” It’s nature’s way according to the ad produced by the Corn Products Refining Company, producers of dextrose sugar.
“Nature has her own way of telling us there is more energy in sweets. Today corn syrup rich in dextrose is playing a more important role than ever in supplying active Americans with the sugar that gives power to the body and keeps wits sharp.”
Candy for example wasn’t just a treat but a nutritious wholesome food! With the modern homemaker’s knowledge of nutrition, she understood that:
“Candy is a veritable bulwark against between meal fatigue. Even doctors consider candy a desirable requirement of the daily diet…”
Candy is Dandy
The age-old question of Why Do Children Crave Candy? was answered in one ad my mother read with great interest.
“Many parents fail to realize that the family menu is generally planned to suit their own appetites and bodily needs. The growing bodies of children have quite different requirements. For instance an active child may need twice as much energy food as an adult and the childs craving for sweets shows that this need is unsatisfied.”
“Candy is an energy food”
“Most candy contains dextrose which is food energy in its most readily available form. Pure, wholesome candy, is a valuable factor in balanced nutrition at all age.”
“Whenever you buy foods labeled Enriched with Dextrose you can be assured of added enjoyment and genuine healthful food energy value.” the ad declared proudly.
All those High School Home Ec classes Mom excelled in during 1940’s war time had really come in handy. “She who eats right, gets more out of life,” the textbook told her. “The important 3 P’s –personality, pep and popularity could be attained by anyone if they followed the rules of good nutrition.”
And the key to pep was sugar, natures energy fuel.
“Sugar,” we were told, “has an important place in every diet. It furnishes an easily available and economical form of energy and aids in the digestion of fats and proteins. Adequate sugar should be included in the diet.”
And no sugar was deemed more healthful in mid-century America than the all American Sugar Dextrose, made from all American corn.
Consumers were told to not merely ask for that corn derived concoction, but demand foods enriched with Dextrose.
How Sweet It Is
In the 1940’s a great deal of money in advertising was spent by the Corn Products Refining Company promoting the virtues of corn syrup, an inexpensive form of dextrose much favored by manufacturers.
Just as today the Corn Refiners are trying to re-brand High Fructose Corn Syrup as “corn sugar,” so 70 years ago the Corn Products Refining Company was fighting a similar battle to have sugar derived from corn accepted as a wholesome, nutritious ingredient, superior to old-fashioned cane or beet sugar.
And they succeeded
Dextrose became the new wonder nutrient touted for its energy giving properties. It was not just an ingredient or sweetener, it enriched food with the energy of the sun.
“Everybody needs Dextrose every day of life, regardless of age,” the ads proclaimed.
Sugar as Savior
One ad with copy as cloying and saccharine as the product itself, revealed Dextrose’s miraculous powers:
“Dextrose is more than “just a sugar”- it’s the sugar for which there is no substitute…the sugar your body uses directly for energy. In fact all other sugars must be changed into Dextrose before they can be used by the body for activity.
“Doctors prescribe it for young and old in health and in sickness, even for life emergencies!”
“In short, Dextrose is the one sugar that supports life most efficiently.”
“That was why intelligent, health minded people prefer products made with Dextrose because they appreciate its great value as the energy fuel of the body…whenever you buy a bar or box of candy look among the ingredients on the wrapper for Dextrose.
But Dextrose was not just for candy.
“You’ll find most foods enriched with this great natural sugar more enjoyable.”
Naturally all the dextrose produced in the US was used by progressive food manufacturers, the ads explained to improve the quality and taste of fine foods, breads, biscuits candies cereals, soft drinks, ice cream and so much more.
Promoters of canned fruits rhapsodized: “The fine flavorful canned fruits and fruit juices which America enjoys the year round are just bursting with energy dextrose. It actually enhances natural flavor and protects natural color.”
Corn syrup, this miraculous substance had a somewhat dubious past. This cheap sugar substitute that was less expensive than beet and cane sugar, and that had been around for years, was something food manufacturers who substituted it in their products, had once tried to keep secret from consumers.
But with the great success of the Corn Products Refining Company’s advertising campaign selling the public on the health benefits of their product, food manufacturers began proudly declaring Dextrose it on their labels.
Just as today’s consumer carefully reads food labels for vitamins or whole grains, the 1940s homemaker were admonished to scan labels in search of dextrose.
“Many progressive food companies recognize that thinking women today select foods for their health benefits as well as for their enjoyment. Next time you market look for “Dextrose among the ingredients listed on food and beverage labels.”
Sugar Goes to War
It was WWII that gave Dextrose the real boost it needed With wartime sugar rationing, dextrose stepped up to fill a real need.
Dextrose was now not only the scientific alternative to sugar, it was patriotic.
“Dextrose,” the Corn Products Refining Company boasted in all its wartime ads “is an ALL American sugar, derived from American corn, refined in American factories by American workers , distributed by American companies.Amrerica can supply every pound of Dextrose sugar needed for American consumption. Dextrose is wholly completely American.”
By the time I was a toddler the bloated basic 7 food groups of my mothers youth-the FDR approved WWII guidelines went on a reducing diet and were whittled down to a streamlined 4.
Sugar got the axe but it was still considered vitally essential and was to be included in every diet. Americans prodigious sweet tooth would make sure of that
It was felt that because no American diet was likely to lack any sugar, it was unnecessary to include specific recommendations for their use.
My childhood would be filled with sugar-coated goodness.
Copyright (©) 2013 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved
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