“It is my contention,” Jerome Rodale once declared, “that the deficient, fragmentized, refined modern diet is at the bottom of much crime today. The brain is not nourished properly. Thus there is confused thinking, and vicious behavior.” Like many social conservatives, Rodale was horrified by the street violence and hippie drug culture that became a regular feature of the news during the 1960s. He thought that America’s youth—the baby-boomer generation—had been “spoiled by a life of affluence” and were “too lazy to work for a ‘straight’ living.” Jerome Rodale was a self-made millionaire, a man who read Horatio Alger novels in his free time. He subscribed to the American Dream without reservation and, for the life of him, simply could not understand why anyone would want to “drop-out” or engage in public protest in the United States. Minority anger and student activism were, for Rodale, essentially pathological in nature. Resentment toward “the system” was really just misdirected hostility stemming from poor dietary habits.
Rodale did not understand why sociologists and criminologists concerned with juvenile delinquency refused to entertain the possibility that America’s horrendous eating habits might have something to do with the growing crime problem. “They scoff,” he grumbled, “at such suggestions.” Yet while they do, “the crime rate seems to be going up and up, until one of these days it won’t be safe for anyone to walk down any side street at night, or perhaps even in the daytime.” In a disapproving nod toward the Moynihan Report, Rodale claimed that experts in government and academia seemed convinced that the juvenile delinquency problem was essentially a cultural problem—that, in sum, “these hoodlums come from broken homes.” “Well I have news for them,” Rodale declared. “This is not so.” “The world,” as Prevention’s John Yates put it, “is a very orderly place, everything follows from something else, and if you abuse your body, you’ve got more of a chance of getting into trouble with the law.”
In answer to the question—Who Created the Undisciplined Generation?—Prevention staff writers professed, in 1971, that “a whole generation was raised in the United States on potato chips, soda, greasy hamburgers and assorted candies and snacks. Such a typical teenage diet, loaded with refined starches and sugars, produces chronic ups and downs in blood sugar levels.” A diet such as this led to “mental confusion, depression, anxiety and abrupt mood changes.” Young people brought up in such a dissolute fashion shunned moral complexity and tended toward extremes; they were attracted to radicalism, outlaw culture, and violence like moths to a flame. Even so, Rodale piously declared: “It is my considered opinion that we can feed our young ones into decency, and even honesty.” Proper nutrition improves the character and can turn a criminal into “a model citizen.” Thus, Rodale maintained that the “best place to solve the problem of juvenile delinquency [was] in the cooking pots of the homes.”
In Natural Health, Sugar and the Criminal Mind (1968), Jerome Rodale went as far as to suggest that the Communist threat, the Kennedy assassination and Hitler’s crimes against humanity might have all, albeit indirectly, been caused by the excessive consumption of refined white sugar. In a particularly creative historical stretch, Rodale claimed that if Ivan the Terrible had “understood the principles of nutrition, the entire course of the Russian monarchy might have been different, the revolution might never have happened, and there might be no Soviet menace today.” Likewise, Rodale contended that Lee Harvey Oswald must have been suffering from hypoglycemia, and that he probably would have refrained from shooting the President of the United States were it not for his abominable addiction to the sweet stuff.
“Adolf Hitler,” argued Rodale, “makes a startling case for the harmful effect of sugar on an individual, for Hitler was a sugar drunkard. This, no doubt, is one of the factors that contributed to his becoming a restless, shouting, trigger-brained, raving maniac.” “There can be no question,” contended Rodale, “that Hitler suffered from low blood sugar, due to an over-consumption of sugar.” “Hitler could never get enough of his favorite whipped-cream cakes. There was always a box of candy near him”—and he quite simply “could not drink wine unless he put sugar in it.” Rodale maintained that all of that sugar caused Hitler “to lose his sense of values.” The same thing, incidentally, happened to Napoleon, who was also “addicted to sugar and pastries.”
Virginia B. Jaspers, the Connecticut nurse made infamous in the 1960s by the murder of three babies under her care, was also, argued Rodale, a sugar junkie who had been rendered mentally defective by an over-consumption of sweet snacks. Jaspers had lost her patience and shaken the infants to death after they refused to take their bottles. Rodale insisted that the root of her maniacal behavior was to be found in her “child’s passion for ice cream and soda pop. She was a sugar addict and had to have a box of candy at her side all the time. All day long she drank sweet carbonated beverages.” Thinking along similar lines, Adelle Davis maintained that sugar consumption was behind the atrocious murder of Sharon Tate. Charles Manson’s “Family” had been, she claimed, subsisting on candy bars for days before they went on their infamous rampage. The diet had, she insisted, driven them mad. “Where the diet is good,” Davis declared, “there is no crime.”
Jerome Rodale could not believe that such a dangerous substance had been granted such wide public acceptance. In 1968, with palpable disgust, he described a family excursion to an ice cream festival sponsored by the local Parent Teacher Association, wherein “more than five hundred persons” gorged themselves “on all kinds of over-refined carbohydrate foods—ice cream, candy, cakes, soda pop, hot dogs and the rest.” Rodale lamented the fact that children learn from their elders, and that the elders at the festival were setting such a terrible example. “Grown men were eating away on the circus type of sugar cotton on a stick—great big colored puffballs which were pure sugar.” If nothing changed and current trends continued, Rodale maintained that by 1988 “marriage and the family” would “be threatened” and half the adult population would consist of hippies.
In 1971, it was already well known that the Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, had presidential ambitions; it was also known that Reagan had quite a sweet tooth, and that he kept a bowl of jellybeans on his desk at all times. Jerome Rodale sympathized with Reagan’s conservative politics and his mistrust of hippies. Even so, he could not support the idea of a Reagan White House because he found the Governor’s penchant for candy profoundly disturbing. Rodale issued public statements to newspapers warning “that a man who eats jelly beans, gum drops and chocolate-covered peanuts would be a poor performer in the presidency.” He did not relish the thought of an emotionally unstable jellybean addict in the White House with his finger next to the button.
—John Faithful Hamer