University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group > Eating to win: How sportsmen used health foods, and vice versa, from 1890 to the Great War.

Eating to win: How sportsmen used health foods, and vice versa, from 1890 to the Great War.

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Many new industrially processed foods such as Bovril beef extract and Plasmon protein powder were launched during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These, and several others, were made of the waste left over from other industrial and food manufacture. Nevertheless, the food manufacturers used overt and covert advertising to position them as health foods by associating them with sportsmanship and muscularity. They linked the eating of these peculiar foods, in the minds of consumers, both to the sciences of nutrition and of fitness (physiology), and to the social and cultural values associated with sports. Some sportsmen also used and endorsed such industrial health foods as part of their training regimes, not just for their apparent health benefits or for the money that the manufacturers paid them, but also to display their own expertise in the new sciences of the body. This paper explores how food manufacturers exploited the positive values associated with sportsmanship to promote their foods, and how sportsmen used the foods to increase their scientific standing as well as their muscularity.

Lesley Steinitz is mid-way through writing her History PhD which looks at industrially manufactured health foods during the decadent era around the turn of the twentieth century. She is a mature student.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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