Major Austin says: "Truly, popular tastes and prejudices are rooted more in social habits than in basic physiological demands." It should be known that the three-meals-a-day custom is really a modern one, and is not universally practiced even today. So far as history records none of the nations of antiquity practiced it.

At the period of their greatest power, the Greeks and Romans ate only one meal a day. Dr. Oswald says: "For more than a thousand years the one-meal system was the rule in two countries that could raise armies of men every one of whom would have made his fortune as a modern athlete--men who marched for days under a load of iron (besides clothes and provisions) that would stagger a modern porter." He also says, "The Romans of the Republican age broke their fast with a biscuit and a fig or two, and took their principle meal in the cool of the evening." Among the many things that have been offered as an explanation for their physical, mental and moral decline has been their sensuous indulgence in food which came with power and riches.

Herodotus records that the invading hosts (over five millions) of the Persian general Xerxes, had to be fed by the conquered cities along their lines of march. He states as a fortunate circumstance the fact that the Persians, including even the Monarch and his courtiers, ate one meal a day.

The Jews from Moses until Jesus ate but one meal a day. They sometimes added a lunch of fruit. We recall reading once in the Hebrew scriptures these words (quoting from memory): "Woe unto the nation whose princes eat in the morning." If this has any reference to dietetic practices it would indicate that the Jews were not addicted to what Dr. Dewey called the "vulgar habit" of eating breakfast. In the oriental world today extreme moderation, as compared to the American standard, is practiced.

Dr. Felix Oswald says that "during the zenith period of Grecian and Roman civilization monogamy was not as firmly established as the rule that a health-loving man should content himself with one meal a day, and never eat till he had leisure to digest, i.e., not till the day's work was wholly done. For more than a thousand years the one meal plan was the established rule among the civilized nations inhabiting the coast-lands of the Mediterranean. The evening repast--call it supper or dinner--was a kind of domestic festival, the reward of the day's toil, an enjoyment which rich and poor refrained from marring by premature gratifications of their appetites."

A sixteenth century proverb says, "To rise at six, dine at ten, sup at six and go to bed at ten, makes a man live ten times ten."

Katherine Anthony informs us that the average English family adopted the habit of eating three meals a day during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Andrew Borde, a physician who lived during the reign of Henry VIII, wrote that: "Two meals a day is sufficient for a rest man; and a laborer may eat three times a day; and he that doth eate ofter lyveth a Beestly lyfe." Salzman's English Life in the Middle Ages, tells us that: "Breakfast as a regular meal is little heard of, though probably most men started the day with a draught of ale and some bread."

"Barely two centuries ago," says Major Austin, "the first meal of the day in England was taken about noon. Breakfast was an unrecognized meal and it originated in the practice of ladies taking an early dish of chocolate before rising. The ancient Greeks--the finest of people, physically and mentally, that ever lived--ate but two meals a day. The same was true of the ancient Hebrews and it is the custom of some of the best fighting races in India today."

The Countess of Landsfeld, writing in 1858, describes the eating habits of the English upper class of that time in these words: "After this meal comes the long fast from nine in the morning till five or six in the afternoon, when dinner is served." This would indicate that the two-meals-a-day plan had survived in England up to that time.

The adoption of three meals a day, in England, came along with the increasing prosperity of that country. Indeed it may be stated, as a general rule, that the quantity of food eaten in any country in all ages, has depended more upon their economic environment than upon their nutritional needs. Wealth and plenty have brought increased food consumption. In Ancient Rome these factors resulted in the eating of many meals a day, the eater taking an emetic immediately after finishing his gustatory enjoyment and then repairing to the vomitorium, after which he had another meal.

Plutarch must have had such practice in mind when he wrote: "Medicinal vomits and purges, which are the bitter reliefs of gluttony are not to be attempted without great necessity. The manner of many is to fill themselves because they are empty, and again, because they are full, to empty themselves contrary to nature, being no less tormented with being full than being empty; or rather they are troubled at their fullness, as being a hindrance of their appetite and are always emptying themselves, that they may make room for new enjoyment."

A former patient of mine, who spent two years among a tribe of Indians in South America, informed me that these people ate their first meal of the day, after the hunters returned from the hunt. They would leave for the hunt about nine o'clock in the morning and return when they had secured enough game for the tribe. If the hunt failed, as it sometimes did, they had no meal in the morning. Dr. Oswald quotes a Rev. Moffat as saying that the Gonaque Hottentots are nowadays incommoded by a five day's fast, and get along or an average of four meals a week.

Major Austin says: "Experience has shown that in the past, two meals a day met the demands of appetite in all fully grown individuals--men and women, including expectant mothers."