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21 Vintage Health Ads That Give Absolutely Terrible Advice
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The British author L.P. Hartley once said, "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." If this old adage is true, then when it comes to medicine and health, the past is one underdeveloped nation.

The scientific practices of modern medicine only really began at the end of the 18th century. And as medical science has, in the centuries since, continued to progress at faster and faster rates, our medical knowledge has become outdated faster and faster as well. Thus countless medical beliefs of the past now look positively absurd today.

Add to this the incentive for profit that fuels so many medical and health trends, and you get a bevy of unsubstantiated claims from people selling food, supplements, medicine, and the like — all of which will supposedly improve your quality of life. These health claims include those from the makers of things we now know to be nakedly unhealthy such as donuts, pesticides, radiation, opioids, and amphetamines.

The vintage health ads for such things not only reveal the lack of general knowledge about nutrition and health at the time of their creation, but also the lax laws constraining what advertisements could and could not claim. In these ads, companies brazenly assert that their products provide a wide range of health benefits, with little or no evidence substantiating their claims.

Through the lens of these health ads, we can see not only what our ancestors believed about health and medicine, but also how far we have come in understanding the health risks of exposure to certain dangers in the years since. These ads also show shifting social attitudes towards greater protection towards children and less blatant sexism.

You won't believe how much has changed in the years since the ads above were made.


Next, check out these eye-opening vintage public health posters from the 1940s.

Gabe Paoletti
Gabe is a New York City-based writer and an Editorial Intern at All That Is Interesting.
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