Were Cornflakes really invented to 'cure' masturbation?

12 December 2019 - 11:25
By Sanet Oberholzer
Cornflakes were invented by Dr John Harvey Kellogg in 1894.
Image: 123RF/belchonock Cornflakes were invented by Dr John Harvey Kellogg in 1894.

With so much having happened in 2019, it's fascinating that the most-Googled question in SA this year was “why were Cornflakes invented?”.

If this question stumps you, the answer will leave you gobsmacked. Cornflakes, it turns out, were invented as an anti-masturbation meal.

Sounds like fake news doesn't it? We can only assume that many South Africans thought the same and took to the internet to find out, explaining why the breakfast cereal topped the list of trending questions in Google's 2019 Year in Search report.

Truth is often stranger than fiction, however. News.com.au reports that when Dr John Harvey Kellogg invented Cornflakes in 1894, he marketed them as a “healthy, ready-to-eat anti-masturbatory morning meal”.

A devout Seventh-Day Adventist, Kellogg advocated for a healthy, vegetarian diet that didn’t include alcohol or meat. Needless to say, the first Cornflakes were bland and tasteless, and contained no sugar. 

According Metro.co.uk, Kellogg also advocated for abstinence, believing that sex was immoral and unhealthy. He considered masturbation to be a carnal sin.

Kellog outlined what he considered to be negative effects of masturbation in his book, Plain Facts for Old and Young: Embracing the Natural History and Hygiene of Organic Life. These included mood swings, acne, bad posture, epilepsy, palpitations, stiff joints and baldness.

One of the strange effects he attributed to masturbation was an appetite for spicy food and, making the connection, Kellogg believed that our diets lead us to “sinning”.

According to Forbes, Kellogg wrote: “Highly seasoned [meats], stimulating sauces ... and dainty tidbits in endless variety irritate [the] nerves and ... react upon the sexual organs.”

Kellogg's simple remedy to fix both the poor diets of society and its immoral sins was his bland cereal which, when consumed, supposedly led to wholesome thoughts.

Whether they really lead to wholesome thoughts or not, Cornflakes took off and have become a staple on breakfast tables around the world.