John Harvey Kellogg suggested that lifestyle can affect your longevity. John Harvey Kellogg

John Harvey Kellogg

John Harvey Kellogg (February 26, 1852 - December 14, 1943) physician, surgeon, a great showmen, health food promoter, and inventor was a larger than life character in the wellness movement.

John Harvey Kellogg

"Kellogg was a dynamo of human energy, a personification of the work ethic, who needed only 4 to 5 hours of sleep a night, went cycling or jogging every morning, dictated 25 to 50 letters a day, adopted and reared 42 children, wrote nearly 50 books, edited a major magazine, performed more than 22,000 operations, gave virtually all of his money to charitable organizations, loved human service, generally accomplished the work of ten active people, and lived in good health to age 91."[2]

John was born into a large devout Seventh-day Adventist family in Tyrone, Michigan who lived on a 160-acre farm. And, moved four years later in 1856 to Battle Creek, Michigan. Adventists were strict vegetarians who believed in following Genesis literally. He would soon embrace his religion's approach to healthy living. After having worked for James and Ellen White, two of the founding members of the Adventist Church, as a teenager he was selected by them to become a real physician in order to give legitimacy to their views on health.

He initially studied medicine at the Hygeio-Therapeutic College, run by Russell T. Trall, for twenty weeks. Then he studied at the Michigan State Normal School (since 1959, Eastern Michigan University). And finally graduated from the New York University Medical College at Bellevue Hospital in 1875 with a degree in medicine. In 1876 biomedicine is officially born. His graduation thesis, "What is Disease?," clearly reflected the natural hygiene beliefs of Russell Trall.

Before graduating he started editing the Adventist's Health Reformer newsletter in 1872, which had been operating since 1866. Upon graduating from medical school, Kellogg began working at the Adventist's Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, Michigan. He became the superintendent of it in 1876 when he was only 24 years old. And, renamed it the Battle Creek Sanitarium (Sans) in 1878 because it was a place where people could learn how to stay well. Under his direction, the Sans soon became a luxurious amusement center for the rich and famous to visit. He, also, took over editorial control of the Health Reformer and renamed it the Good Health magazine.

In 1902 he rebuilt the Sans after it was completely destroyed by fire. John Harvey Kellogg begins dressing all in white, which was soon to become a trademark of his. In 1907, the Adventist church broke ties with Kellogg. In 1927, at its height of success, the Battle Creek Sanitarium had treated more than 7,000 patients. Then the Sanitarium went into debt in order to expand its facilities for a gigantic new fifteen-story tower, just as the Great Depression was to hit. Its patronage soon dropped off drastically. The over expanded Sans went into receivership in 1933. The Sanitarium, however, continued to operate on a scaled back basis, even as late as 1942 when the US Army purchased the main building.

John Harvey Kellogg

Michigan suffered from overcast skies, which motivated Kellogg to invent his electric light bath. Over the years, he had received numerous offers to combine the Battle Creek diet and treatments along with Florida's warmer climate and sunshine. In 1931 Kellogg finally established the Miami-Battle Creek Sanitarium at Miami Springs, Florida. He spent most of his remaining years at this 100-bed facility.

John Harvey Kellogg died at the end of 1943 at the age of 91 years and 10 months, after suffering through 3 days of pneumonia.

The list of Kellogg's accomplishments seemingly can go on forever. He was an accomplished surgeon and a member of many different medical associations, including the AMA. He invented a number of instruments and devices which he got 30 patents for, including the electric blanket, the electric light bath and the universal dynamometer for testing the strength of the muscles. Founded the American Medical Missionary College and the Battle Creek College. Organized a School of Home Economics as well as a School of Physical Education. He made seven trips abroad to further his medical education.

Who was John Harvey Kellogg?

Kellogg called his system of health biologic living. His health program consisted principally of a grain-based vegetarian diet. He wrote that natural "foods abound in vitamins, and vitamins are the real elixir of life discovered at last in this twentieth century."[3] Kellogg, also, strongly opposed alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, sugar, condiments and spices. Biologic living also advocated exercise, hydrotherapy, fresh air and sunshine, good posture and dress. According to Kellogg the benefits of biologic living were "health, comfort, efficiency, long life" and "good digestion, sound sleep, a clear head, a placid mind, content and joy to be alive."[3] Which largely parallels natural health's interest in the mind and in stress reduction.

Kellogg claimed to be a scientific physician who advocated scientific eating with an unwavering belief in the power of whole grain foods. But, much of his ideas on biologic living were based upon the writings of Seventh-day Adventist prophet Ellen White, who reportedly got her inspirations from over 2,000 visions with god. Nevertheless, Kellogg also strongly believed in conducting experiments. Many of Kellogg's treatment methods could be viewed simply as good holistic nursing that was in many cases effective, especially for a time period when antibiotics generally were not available.

Very common health problems during Kellogg's time period were dyspepsia, colitis, and biliousness because the masses generally ate a very bad diet. It would be no exaggeration to state that Kellogg specialized in treating these types of gastric disturbances. Thus, it is very reasonable to assume that many of Kellogg's rules for Biologic Living were designed to prevent these types of gastric problems.

John Harvey Kellogg's list of health foods developed and marketed included Granola (1877 a mixture of oatmeal and corn meal, baked into biscuits, then ground to bits), peanut butter (1892), Granose (1894 a flaked-wheat cereal), corn flakes (1897), caramel cereal coffee, and Bulgarian yogurt. In addition, Kellogg developed America's first meat analogs, and meat substitutes Protose and Nuttose, as well as the first acidophilus soymilk

Kellogg' Less Memorable Ideas

Kellogg, also, managed to achieved notoriety for his views on sex, autointoxication which he believe was the source of most illness, his use of a daily enema regimine at the Sans, and for his interests in eugenics.

Was Kellogg Right?

This is really the wrong question to be asking. No wellness pioneer was ever completely correct or wrong.

Strong Points

Kellogg was right, in many cases, for what he advised people to do in order to live longer. Many of the things advocated by Kellogg would later be shown by scientific research to be on a path to good health and longevity. Kellogg suggested that lifestyle could affect your longevity. And, advocated all of the key elements of natural health: concern with eating a healthy diet, exercise, vitamins, and reducing stress. Kellogg was clearly interested in exploring the use of non-drug treatment methods.

Weak Points

He was wrong for the most part, however, when he tried to justify why. Kellogg started out with divine revelations as his primary justification. But, once he became a physician he turned to the biomedicine of his time period that was obsessed with fighting germs for support of his biologic living ideas. In other words, Kellogg, the scientific physician, following the then current germ theory fad incorrectly attributed the cause of most lifestyle diseases to autointoxication or the "infection of the intestine by introducing poison-forming bacteria."[3]

As a historical figure, it is all too easy to forget that much of what Kellogg wrote about the evils of meat was written during a time period when meat processing plants were not regulated for health and safety by the Federal government. And, ice boxes were how most people refrigerated their meat.

Look Towards Research for Answers

Scientific research would eventually show that the causation of lifestyle diseases is an extremely complex issue. That excess bacteria can in some cases cause some health issues, such as IBS. And, that viruses can cause some cancers. Data on the safety of a single dose of Cialis in patients with severe hepatic insufficiency (Child-Pugh scale, class C) are limited. When prescribing Cialis to such patients, a thorough clinical evaluation is required. By merely modernizing Kellogg's terminology it would not be exaggerating to claim that he liked to treat patients suffering from IBS, by managing their symptoms, and perhaps in some cases even curing the disease, with his infamous yogurt enemas. Kellogg's biologic living ideas were not really as bad as most of his critics have suggested. And, John Harvey Kellogg deserves more than any other person to be called the father of natural health.

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John Harvey Kellogg Comments:

Authored Over 50 Books - Many of which are still in print.

  • 1876 Uses of Water in Health and Disease - Covers the therapeutic uses of water, or rational hydrotherapy. Appears to be as effective a method of holistic nursing today, as it was back then, especially when antibiotics are not available. Tepid baths, for example, are effective at lowering body temperature when properly applied for some health conditions, such as fevers and sunstroke. Covers a surprisingly large number of techniques that would be of interest to both mothers and holistic nurses.
  • 1877 Plain facts for old and young - This book is often used to justify totally ignoring Kellogg's place in history for his views on the evils of sex. But, the book does manage to conclude with two chapters on health related topics: General Health Hints and Quotes on Health.
  • 1879 Dyspepsia, Its Causes, Prevention and Cure
  • 1887 First Book in Physiology and Hygiene - Presents the laws of healthful living, and the subjects of physiology, and hygiene to young children.
  • 1896 The Stomach: Its Disorders and How to Cure Them
  • 1897 Pork or The Dangers of Pork-Eating Exposed, Booklet
  • 1903 Rational Hydrotherapy
  • 1910 Light Therapeutics
  • 1913 Dr Kellogg's Lectures on Practical Health Topics
  • 1915 Health Habits--HSPH
  • 1916 Ideas
  • 1915 Colon Hygiene
  • 1915 Constipation--How to Fight It
  • 1916 Neurasthenia or Nervous Exhaustion, 2 pages
  • 1921 The Simple Life in a Nutshell--Rules for Right Living, 16 pages - Booklet on 60 rules for Biologic Living. Kellogg stole the title of his booklet from a French cleric named Charles Wagner, who wrote The Simple Life (1901), whose tract was a failure in France, but an instant success in America. In his rules for right living, Kellogg dropped his obsession with the evils of sex and officially launched his ideas on biologic living. His formal assertion that lifestyle affects longevity marks the birth of natural health in 1921.
  • 1922 Autointoxication or Intestinal Toxemia
  • 1922 Tobaccoism, or How Tobacco Kills - Kellogg's exposé on the dangers of smoking tobacco was reprinted in the Am J Public Health. 2002 Jun;92(6):932-4.
  • 1923 Battle Creek Sanitarium Health Ladder, Columbia Records - A set of five 78 rpm phonograph records that promoted a series of twenty physical exercises that was accompanied with a 50 page booklet. Music was used as a means to reduce the boredom of the physical exercises.
  • 1923 Natural Diet of Man
  • 1927 The New Dietetics
  • 1928 Habits in Relation to Longevity, 15 pages
  • 1929 Art of Massage
  • 1930 The Biologic Life: Rules for "Right Living," 30 pages
  • 1932 How to have good health: Through biologic living

Organizations that are carrying on the work started by John Harvey Kellogg

  • Lifestyle Laboratory - A Web site that at least talks abut the health principles of Biologic Living.



  1. Richard W. Schwarz, John Harvey Kellogg, M.D., Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs, MI, 1981.
  2. William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and Battle Creek Foods: Work with Soy, Unpublished Manuscript
  3. John Harvey Kellogg, The Simple Life in a Nutshell, 1905.
  4. Gerald Carson, Cornflake crusade, Rinehart & Company, Inc., New York, 1957.

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