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Adelle Davis, Daisie

Category: Healer

 

The observations for this section may look confusing as they are under the name Jane Dunlap, but Jane Dunlap was the pen-name of Daisie Adelle Davis (25 February 1904 - 31 May 1974), also known as Adelle Davis, an American author and promoter of healing through food

She used the pen name Jane Dunlap for the book Exploring Inner Space: Personal Experiences Under LSD-25 (1961) – a book that, as its name implies, describes her experiences with lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD.  All the observations are from this book.  But Daisie Adelle Davis had another side to her, which is also of interest.

In her capacity as a nutritionist and author, and writing under her actual name, she became well known as an advocate for ‘specific nutritional stances’. Despite the unorthodox nature of her advice, she gained prominence in the 1960s and 1970s with widespread media attention and became the most recognized nutritionist in the USA. Davis wrote a series of four books, starting with a cookbook in 1947, that ultimately sold over 10 million copies in total.

 

 Not all of her recommendations were well advised.  She was a great promoter, for example, of vitamin and mineral pills and supplements. The rationale for recommending supplementation was based on the problems of vitamin deficiency, which is justified, as many westerners are, for example, vitamin D deficient.  But the use of supplements was very poor advice.  As a consequence of her advice in this area, a number of children became ill and court cases ensued.

But in other respects she was way before her time.  She was very much against food processing and she was criticised heavily by the food industry who saw her advice to ‘cook your own food’ using basic raw ingredients, to be a major threat.  Some of her nutritional ideas such as the need for exercise, as well as the need to avoid hydrogenated fat, and excess sugar consumption remain relevant to even modern nutritionists.

 

Amongst the many views not supported by her contemporaries, was that not only physical health but mental and social ills could be healed with the proper diet.  In effect, an imbalanced diet contributes to mental problems as well as physical illness.  She also spoke and wrote about the dangers of pesticide residues and food additives.  In many respects she was an early advocate for ‘organic’ food.

Needless to say her unorthodox stance put her in conflict with the farming community and chemical companies and as a consequence “she was heavily criticized for many recommendations she made”.  Those who opposed her, stated that her findings were “not supported by the scientific literature” and even that her recommendations were “dangerous”.

 

But Adelle Davis was extremely well qualified as a nutritionist and scientist.  She studied Home Economics at Purdue University from 1923 to 1925 and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Household Studies from the University of California at Berkeley in 1927. After receiving dietetic training at Bellevue and Fordham Hospitals in New York, she supervised nutrition for Yonkers Public Schools as well as consulted as a nutritionist for New York obstetricians.  From 1931 through 1958, Davis was a private consulting nutritionist in Oakland and Los Angeles, California. She received her Master of Science degree in Biochemistry from the University of Southern California.

 

Adelle Davis also researched all her books exhaustively.  Despite the criticism, she used scientific studies and applied scientific principles to her writing, with one book alone totalling over 2100 footnotes and citations.  One of her major problems however appears to have been the quality of the scientific studies.  Her advice on vitamin supplements and mineral supplements was based on flawed or misunderstood research, and a number of cases of overdosing resulted from her advice. 

Adelle Davis eventually spent her time speaking on the lecture circuit on college campuses as well as in Latin America and Europe, and became sought after for guest appearances on television talk shows.  In 1973, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and later died of the same disease in 1974 in her home at the age of seventy.

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