Diets Throughout History: Chew on That!

Chewing our food is something we do every day, but seldomly think about (unless we accidentally bite our tongue). And while it’s good to thoroughly chew when we eat, one man in the early 1900s deemed it important enough to create an entire diet out of it.

Horace Fletcher, otherwise known as “The Great Masticator” was a self-taught nutritionist and businessman who believed that the way to becoming healthier was to chew food until it was liquified. He created a regimen known as “Fletcherism,” and his teachings were so prolific that he gained a widespread following and even became a millionaire for his ideas.

“Fletcherism” essentially means “to chew one’s food extremely thoroughly,” but that’s just scratching the surface of what the diet entailed. Here are a few of the basic principles of his regimen:

“1. Eat only in response to an actual appetite, which will be satisfied with plain bread and butter.

2. Chew all solid food until it is liquid and practically swallows itself.

3. Sip and taste all liquids that have taste, such as soup and lemonade. Water has no taste and can be swallowed immediately.

4. Never take food while angry or worried, and only when calm. Waiting for the mood in connection with the appetite is a speedy cure for both anger and worry.”

Fletcher also wrote that food should be chewed up to one hundred times, and it’s only “ready for the stomach” when it no longer tastes like anything. He even advised spitting out any “indigestible sediment” that couldn’t be chewed until liquid. This is starting to sound less and less dinner party-friendly.

Despite the popularity of his diet, Fletcher was widely criticized by health experts for his radical views. The apparent benefits that Fletcherism was said to have weren’t supported by scientific evidence, and it was found that following it could even lead to severe constipation.

So what do we take from this?

Essentially, we don’t need to chew our food until it’s liquid. Instead, we can focus on simply eating slower. Doing so helps us eat mindfully, take time to enjoy our food, and prevent ourselves from choking. There is also research showing that when we take time to eat our meals, we can hear our body’s satiety cues better and keep from overeating. Take it one bite at a time, notice the flavors and textures of your food, and enjoy.

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[1] Christen, A.G., Christen, J.A. Horace Fletcher (1849-1919): “The Great Masticator.” Journal of the History of Dentistry. 1997.

[2] Smit, H.J., Kemsley, E.K., Tapp, H.S., Henry, C.J.K. Does prolonged chewing reduce food intake? Fletcherism revisited. Appetite. 2011. Vol 57(1). Pg. 295-298. 10.1016/j.appet.2011.02.003.

[3] Hamada, Y., Hayashi, N. Chewing increases postprandial diet-induced thermogenesis. Sci Rep. 2021. Vol 9(11) Pg. 23714. 10.1038/s41598-021-03109-x.

[4] Fletcher, H. The Project Gutenberg EBook for The New Glutton or Epicure. Released, 2014.

[5] The World’s Work, Volume 11.