I am still trying to find the earliest reference to the 3,500 formula and then to trace it through to when it became ‘folklore’. To date, I have found a book called Diet and Health by Lulu Hunt Peters (1918). Hunt Peters states “Five hundred Calories equal approximately 2 ounces of fat. Two ounces per day would be about 4 pounds per month, or 48 pounds per year. Cutting out 1000 Calories per day would equal a reduction of approximately 8 pounds per month, or 96 pounds per year.”
An article from the Chicago Daily Tribune (Sept 15, 1959) asserts “a pound of fat is lost whenever the body burns up 3,500 calories by diet or exercise”. The way that this is asserted, suggests that it is already a well known ‘fact’ by this date, but did Hunt Peters start it or perpetuate it?
A couple of extracts in Diet and Health make me think that it is entirely plausible that Hunt Peters did effectively originate “The Calorie Formula”:
1) On the opening page, Hunt Peters says: “I am sorry I cannot devise a key by which to read this book, as well as a Key to the Calories, for sometimes you are to read the title headings and side explanations before the text. Other times you are supposed to read the text and then the headings. It really does not matter much as long as you read them both. Be sure to do that. They are clever. I wrote them myself.” (Hunt Peters own emphasis in italics).
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