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The hidden truth behind corn flakes

Have you ever asked yourself for which purpose have corn flakes been created?


John Harvey Kellogg invented Corn Flakes in 1878. From that moment, his invention entered the diet of millions and contributed to the development and launch of a wide range of complementary breakfast products. We can say that the popular breakfast consisting of milk and cereals is the direct consequence of the Kellogg invention and expression of its vision. But what is the mystery behind corn flakes?


Many sources have presented the “healthy, ready-to-eat anti-masturbating morning meal” quote giving the idea that it was the actual advertisement for the cereal at the time. In their vision Corn Flakes were invented in the hope that plain food would stop or at least reduce the spread of masturbation among the young population.


Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the product was specifically designed for that purpose. What is clear is that Kellogg, as a doctor, wanted to create a product that was easier to digest. In addition, it appears that Kellogg promoted the corn flakes as nutritious and healthful, deliciously flavored, and dainty crispy. He tested the product at the sanitorium of his brother in Battle Creek, Michigan where most of the patients suffered from nutritional disorders. Corn Flakes indeed were designed for sick and convalescent persons mostly. We must consider that most people at the time used to eat for breakfast what was left from the previous dinner and congealed fat not easy to digest as well as starchy potatoes and highly salted meats. Digestive disorders were a burning issue at the time.


One might be asking then what is the matter with masturbation and cereals. Kellogg was famous for its belief against sex and any form of human contact. In its vision, there existed a direct connection between the food and drink a person consumed and the thoughts and needs one had. He also wrote a great deal, stressing the idea that eating flour-based bread, rich pies or cakes, spicy food, coffee, and tobacco could trigger certain thoughts. While fruits, grains, vegetables, and milk were regarded as unstimulating (Kellogg, 1887). However, there is no evidence that his personal ideas affected its company products in any way.


While corn flakes were not invented exclusively with the aim of disrupting the libido of the population, we can make few reflections on the power of product architecture and nudges.

For instance, if the corn flakes were designed to offer a more digestible product for breakfast to reduce stomach disorder, then we can look at it as a strong achievement in the field of dieting. The invention of crispy products is a success because it reminds us of other products we like, which are more caloric and make strong use of saturated fats as crispy bacon and chips.

Furthermore, the food experience starts in the mouth.

“The noise draws attention to the mouth in the way something silent does not. If you’re eating pâté, your attention can drift elsewhere, to a television or to a dining companion. But a crunch will draw your attention to what you’re eating, making you concentrate on it. Noisy foods make you think about them."
(Jake Rossen, 2018)

This is what Charles Spence, Ph.D., a gastrophysicist and professor of experimental psychology and head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford stated in one of its research.

Although cereals are caloric, their consumption with a fruit and a glass of milk is still claimed to be preferred to bacon and sweets despite spikes in the glycemic index. What is more, Integral cereals are rich in fibers which highly contribute to satiety.

In conclusion, even a simple product is able to address a social issue as stomach disorders if it captures the attention of customers and provides an experience that is comparable to unhealthy products. Corn flakes teach us that our minds are more sensitive to mouth crunchy noise than doctor recommendations. Nudges are thought to address the sensitivity problem and make things salient even to the most irrational part of our mind.


Jake Rossen. (2018, February 21). The Science Behind Why We Crave Loud and Crunchy Foods. Retrieved from Mental Floss:

Kellogg, J. H. (1887). Plain Facts for Old and Young: Embracing the Natural History and Hygiene of Organic Life. Burlington, Iowa : I.F. Segner.

Written by: Pietro Fadda

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