A 1934 ad promises that Kelp-A-Malt (contains “more FOOD IODINE than 1600 lbs. of beef”) will pack on the pounds. Er…I mean “solid flesh.”
Today the girl on the left would be highly paid as a super model.
Click here to see the full ad.


  1. Things do indeed change. And then sometimes they stay the same. My first introduction into true low-carb dieting was in 1960 when as a chubby kid I read the Royal Canadian Air Force diet. One of its main rules was keeping carbohydrate intake under 60 grams a day. You think the RCAF was on to something?
    Hi Gary–
    Low-carb diets go way back further than that.  There were published versions of low-carb diets in the 16th century.

  2. One of the major influences of body idealization is wealth. In 1934, six years of intrusive government had given us so much poverty that thin was normal, and having some body-weight was a sign of success.
    Likewise, the easier it is for people to feed themselves, the more “thin” becomes exotic. Being tanned will grow increasingly sexy as the unhealthy taboo against going out in the sun without SPF 64 becomes stronger.
    Now that we’ve had (according to your reckoning by dates) 80 years of increasingly intrusive government, why aren’t we all underfed and skinny now?
    I agree with you, though.  Whatever veers from the norm is more exotic and more desirable.

  3. Take a look at this bathing beauty postcard from the 1920’s. I love it, but I’m sure many of my readers just looked at it and wondered why I was putting the picture of that fat woman on my site!
    Hi Laura–
    Thanks for the great photo.  I doubt that this subject would be highly sought in today’s modeling world.

  4. Caution: Some soft drinks may seriously harm your health
    Expert links additive to cell damage
    By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent
    Published: 27 May 2007
    A new health scare erupted over soft drinks last night amid evidence they may cause serious cell damage. Research from a British university suggests a common preservative found in drinks such as Fanta and Pepsi Max has the ability to switch off vital parts of DNA.
    The problem – more usually associated with ageing and alcohol abuse – can eventually lead to cirrhosis of the liver and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.
    The findings could have serious consequences for the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who consume fizzy drinks. They will also intensify the controversy about food additives, which have been linked to hyperactivity in children.
    Concerns centre on the safety of E211, known as sodium benzoate, a preservative used for decades by the £74bn global carbonated drinks industry. Sodium benzoate derives from benzoic acid. It occurs naturally in berries, but is used in large quantities to prevent mould in soft drinks such as Sprite, Oasis and Dr Pepper. It is also added to pickles and sauces.
    Sodium benzoate has already been the subject of concern about cancer because when mixed with the additive vitamin C in soft drinks, it causes benzene, a carcinogenic substance. A Food Standards Agency survey of benzene in drinks last year found high levels in four brands which were removed from sale.
    Now, an expert in ageing at Sheffield University, who has been working on sodium benzoate since publishing a research paper in 1999, has decided to speak out about another danger. Professor Peter Piper, a professor of molecular biology and biotechnology, tested the impact of sodium benzoate on living yeast cells in his laboratory. What he found alarmed him: the benzoate was damaging an important area of DNA in the “power station” of cells known as the mitochondria.
    He told The Independent on Sunday: “These chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it: they knock it out altogether.
    “The mitochondria consumes the oxygen to give you energy and if you damage it – as happens in a number if diseased states – then the cell starts to malfunction very seriously. And there is a whole array of diseases that are now being tied to damage to this DNA – Parkinson’s and quite a lot of neuro-degenerative diseases, but above all the whole process of ageing.”
    The Food Standards Agency (FSA) backs the use of sodium benzoate in the UK and it has been approved by the European Union but last night, MPs called for it to investigate urgently.
    Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat chair of Parliament’s all-party environment group said: “Many additives are relatively new and their long-term impact cannot be certain. This preservative clearly needs to be investigated further by the FSA.”
    A review of sodium benzoate by the World Health Organisation in 2000 concluded that it was safe, but it noted that the available science supporting its safety was “limited”.
    Professor Piper, whose work has been funded by a government research council, said tests conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration were out of date.
    “The food industry will say these compounds have been tested and they are complete safe,” he said. “By the criteria of modern safety testing, the safety tests were inadequate. Like all things, safety testing moves forward and you can conduct a much more rigorous safety test than you could 50 years ago.”
    He advised parents to think carefully about buying drinks with preservatives until the quantities in products were proved safe by new tests. “My concern is for children who are drinking large amounts,” he said.
    Coca-Cola and Britvic’s Pepsi Max and Diet Pepsi all contain sodium benzoate. Their makers and the British Soft Drinks Association said they entrusted the safety of additives to the Government.

    Just one more reason to avoid soft drinks.

  5. We haven’t had 80 years of increasingly intrusive government. Government grew increasingly intrusive from 1928 through 1946, when the Republicans took over Congress, stripping much of the socialism imposed by the New Deal and allowing the real end of the Great Depression. It took a great many years for government to get that bad again.
    Another climax of government intrusiveness occurred in the seventies, resulting in Stagflation. The Reagan era ended that, reducing the growth of government enough for the real productivity of the private sector to pass it up.
    We’re suffering another major expansion of government, during the last six years. Fortunately, technology has gotten to the point where it’s usually something other than food that we have to do without, by now.

  6. You know, I think “skinny” is a codeword for flat-chested, in this case. It looks to me like this stuff was one of many products and devices marketed right through my adolescence in the late 1960’s to “add inches to your bustline”.
    I was interested to see that the ad appeared in a 1930’s diet and weightlifting magazine named “Physical Culture”.
    Hi robyn–
    I’ve got a great ad from back in the 1920s that I’ll post sometime.  It is obviously an ad for breast enhancement but is described as being a device to help take bigger breaths.


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