If you had orange juice with your breakfast this morning, it's probably because of this guy — Elmer McCollum, a biochemist and early advocate of nutrition science. In the late 1920s, McCollum (a respected scientist for his work with vitamin deficiencies) became the source of a nationwide food craze centered around the disorder acidosis. The idea was that, if you don't eat the right things, acid will build up in your body leading to rather broad, nebulous symptoms,such as "lack of vitality". It's a remarkably modern-sounding story. Acidosis is a real disorder, but it's pretty different from acidosis the pop-health phenomenon. And the latter quickly became an excuse to sell foods, food products, and health gurus to vast numbers of people who were suddenly convinced that they were suffering from a disease whose symptoms could be claimed by just about anybody at various times.
Out of this food/health trend emerged Sunkist, a company selling both acidosis awareness and a cure — healthful orange juice.
Adee Braun has the full story at The Atlantic. Check it out. It's absolutely fascinating.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.