Talk with the Doc: Peanut butter history and food facts

It is reported that peanut butter was first introduced nationally in the USA at the St. Louis World’s Fair in the year 1904. When more and more people learned about it, and had an opportunity to taste it, peanut butter became a very popular food in the USA. When peanut butter was then evaluated for its nutritional value, it also became a source of delicious protein for our military personnel fighting in World War I, and in World War II.

History also tells us that Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (of the Kellogg cereal family) invented a version of peanut butter in 1895. Then it is believed that a St. Louis physician may have developed a similar version of peanut butter as an excellent source of protein for his patients. He initially gave peanut butter to his older patients who had poor teeth and couldn’t chew meat. Peanut butter then continued to grow in popularity as a delicious food that truly was an excellent source of protein. As its popularity grew, the decision was made to make more and more USA people aware of this great popular tasty source of protein. It was then introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, as noted above.

Our military also noted the health benefits of peanut butter as an excellent source of protein and were impressed that it does not need refrigeration. It then became an essential part of the foods provided to our military personnel. Further, it is believed that the U.S. Army popularized the peanut butter and jelly sandwich to provide healthy tasty nutrition during their many military maneuvers in World War II.

According to The American Peanut Council, it is estimated that our peanut farmers in the USA produce over one billion dollars worth of peanuts every year. This makes peanuts the 12th most valuable cash crop grown in the USA, showing peanuts to be a very significant part of our economy. Of course, they are sold as various peanut products, and not just peanut butter. It is estimated that about half of these peanuts grown in the USA are used to make peanut butter. The annual peanut butter sales in the USA are estimated to be about $850 million in retail sales every year. Certainly, much of this peanut butter is used as a very popular sandwich spread, enjoyed by both children and adults.

Of course, as with numerous other foods, there are adults and children who may have a true peanut allergy, and this certainly includes peanut butter as well. It has been reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that peanut allergies affect an estimated 1.8% of the overall USA population.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a peanut allergy is one of the most common causes of severe allergy attacks. For some people with peanut allergy, even tiny amounts of peanuts can cause a serious allergic reaction that can even be life-threatening. The Mayo Clinic also reports that peanut allergies have been increasing in children. If you or your child have ever had even a very mild allergic reaction to peanuts, it is very important to avoid all peanut products, including peanut butter, and be sure to promptly review this with your health care provider. This needs to be done without any delay to avoid the risk of a more serious future allergic reaction. Further, if you have any known family history of a peanut allergy, this information should also be given to your health care provider.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of the best-selling SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet book and his new Joke Book, entitled “Laughter Is Good Medicine”. Dr. Jim’s website is sosdietbook.com.


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