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JAMA 100 Years Ago
February 23, 2011

A Revolution in Bread

JAMA. 2011;305(8):834. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.91

Medical News


(From Our Regular Correspondent)
LONDON, Feb. 11, 1911.

A remarkable agitation in favor of more nutritious bread than the ordinary white bread which is almost exclusively eaten by all classes has produced an immense change in the bread supplied by bakers. White bread, introduced as a luxury for the rich, has been adopted by all classes. In order to obtain the more attractive white appearance valuable ingredients contained in the germ and inner husk of the wheat and consisting of protein and salts are removed. Prominent among the evils attributed to the consumption of white bread is dental caries, which is so prevalent and severe that it may be described as a national disaster. In the presence of this great evil of removing from the most important food some of its most valuable ingredients, the medical profession has been very supine. From time to time an occasional article has appeared in medical journals pointing out the defects of white bread, but it has had no more effect than the periodical wail on the abandonment of blood-letting. The only persons who have shown themselves alive to the situation are the vegetarians, who in renouncing most animal foods have shown a keen desire to get as much as possible out of their vegetable food; they have always consumed whole-meal bread. But outside their own sect they have no influence. One association, the “Bread and Food Reform League,” somewhat allied to the vegetarians, has for years made praiseworthy attempts to advocate the use of whole-meal bread and has pointed out that much of the underfeeding of the poor is due to ignorance of the value of this bread rather than to want of means. But their words have fallen on deaf ears and it is very difficult to obtain a good whole-meal bread. The bakers sell an inferior article, a brown loaf which is made from a mixture of ordinary white flour with a little bran. In the lay press an agitation in favor of the old cream-colored loaf which is termed “standard bread,” and defined as “bread made from unadulterated wheat and containing at least 80 per cent of the whole wheat, including the germ and semolina,” has produced such an effect in a few days that the result must be described not as a reform in but as a revolution in bread. Prominent physicians and health officers are supporting the movement. It is proposed to introduce a bill into parliament for the standardization of bread and the proposal has received the support of members of all parties.