The Quackery of Paul Bragg
Who hasn't told a little white lie? Maybe to assuage someone's feelings or get out of a tricky social situation. Maybe you've even lied just a little about something more personal, like where you're from or your age? Just by a town or a few years.
What about by fourteen years and several states? Too much, maybe?
Thus begins the strange story of health nut and grifter Paul C. Bragg. He purported to be born in 1881 in Fairfax County, Virginia (first big red flag....why just the county, why not specify the town or city?). Genealogical research shows he was born on February 6, 1895 in Batesville, Indiana, where his father was the editor, publisher, and printer of the "Batesville Democratic Herald" newspaper.
Nothing like starting off your budding career as a grifter like lying about simple personal details.
But Bragg did grow up near Virginia - Washington, D.C. to be exact, with his parents Robert and Caroline, and two brothers, James and John (I swear this is important). His father worked in civil service, at the U.S. Printing Office. Pretty normal for a white, middle class family.
Except in 1972, Bragg started to claim, in print, that his father was "a splendid farmer" and he (Paul) was "the oldest of 16 children".
No idea why. Grifters gonna grift, I guess.
And so the lies continue.
Adding to lying about his upbringing, Paul also claimed participation in both the 1908 (in London) and the 1912 (Stockholm) Olympics as a member of the US wrestling team. No record of this has ever been seen. He was a high school football coach for a bit, but that's a far cry from the Olympics. Also note he claimed to be a "member of the team" but avoided saying he was a wrestler. Clearly he got better at lying. Too many specifics can kill a lie, you know.
So Paul, his wife, and their kids moved to California around 1920, and he took a job in the physical education department at San Luis Obispo high school. This is where his interest in health really takes off. In 1926, he becomes an entrepreneur in the health field, first by opening an establishment in Los Angeles called "Health Center of Los Angeles" and then, in 1928, "Bragg Health Center", also in L.A.
He wrote a weekly health column to in the Los Angeles Times to help advertise these businesses; sometimes he called these columns "health notes". And then in 1929 he began giving health lecture tours where he went to places like San Antonio, Dallas, Texas and Denver, would rent a facility, and then give a series of lectures over a course of consecutive nights. The lectures were free, but in order to pay for the facilities, he charged a post-lecture private consultation.
The charge was $20 in 1935 that's about $350 in 2015. Ah, the grift. That good, good grift money.
He also put in his first copyright for a book in 1929, for a book he wrote called Cure Yourself. Another purpose of his tours was to promote his book, of course.
So this all sounds like small time grift. But this is also where things change for Bragg.
In 1930, he was sued in federal court by St. Louis Estes, a LA based raw food health lecturer and manufacturer, claiming copyright infringement, stating, "A 1929 publication of Bragg is a rearrangement of material in an earlier book on raw food written by Estes". Unfortunately the outcome of this lawsuit is unknown but whoops.
Bragg also gave health lectures at churches! So now we add in religion to health fantasies. AND THEN...
In 1934, an 18 year old church musician testified in Superior Court that Bragg attacked her in April 1932. She sued Bragg for damages of $100,000. Outcome of that is also unknown but things are getting weird.
Bragg divorces and remarries between 1929 and 1930. The new wife, Gertrude Brownlee, was a manager in Bragg's businesses, specifically his lecture circuit racket. On their Florida marriage license, Bragg stated his age as 49. He would have been 35 or 36 at the time. The couple divorced two years later and Bragg never remarried.
Around this time he also created Live Food Products, Inc, his food manufacturing company, which was later renamed to Bragg Live Foods, Inc. Later in life he bounced between California, Hawaii, and Florida as places of residence.
So at this point Bragg is a liar, maybe a bit of a fraud, and clearly is making enough money to found a food company. Good for him. Classic American grift. So why is this special?
Because Bragg Live Foods is on shelves in most grocery stores and some of his "ideas" are still being touted as ways to reclaim your health back from BIG PHARMA and those swindling doctors. It certainly takes a swindler to know a swindler, right?
All of this started when I looked closely at the items in my fridge and realized the bottle of liquid aminos we used in cooking came with the name Bragg. Another close look revealed that little Christian fish symbol on the bottle and well...my interest was piqued. So here we are.
Let's go through some more of Bragg's claims and greatest hits....
He had advanced science degrees (claimed this in multiple newspaper and magazine interviews, including a 1975 article in People Magazine.)
The 1940 Federal Census shows him living in Burbank California (he claimed to be a resident of Hollywood), his age as 45 (but remember, when he remarried in 1930, he claimed his age as 49...okay Joe Black WTF). And, revealingly, the Census showed his highest level of education attained as "H1", which is only one year of high school.
In a 1977 publication, which he coauthored with his daughter in law Patricia (it's title? The Shocking Truth About Water), he has given himself the titles of N.D. (naturopath doctor) and PhD.
That you could prolong your life span by: deep breathing, fasting, eating only organic foods, drinking distilled water, juicing, and exercising. He's not wrong on some of that, we all know the benefits of a good diet and exercise but uh...deep breathing? Distilled water? Sure.
Tonsillitis is the result of people eating mucus forming foods
Cancer is caused by gooey, slimy foods
Colds are caused by the consumption of white bread or ice cream. (And of course, Bragg opposed the use of white bread and white flour and sold a substitute for each. Of course he did.)
He advertised a patent medicine called "Glantex" that he said could make people feel twenty years younger. This got him in trouble with a fraud order against him and his health center that included a hearing with the Postmaster General. In order to get around this, he began advertising himself as "Paul Chappius"
Bragg's O.K.-Lax: Oh boy. Here's a cure-all for you! He advertised this as a "miracle substance" that was supposed to cleanse the intestines and cure asthma, catarrh, and diabetes.
I honestly can't tell you why Bragg was obsessed with mucus and phlegm but this is gross. So the US Dept of Agriculture did a bunch of tests on this "miracle cure" and revealed that it was made out of ground leaves, bark, roots, fruit, and a laxative drug. And in 1933, the packages seized by them were ordered destroyed. But he was never punished for his fraud.
In 1935, DC official arrested and charged Bragg with practicing healing art without a license and was fined $100.
His products continued to be investigated by the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission
His "Bragg's Grass Tablets" were promoted as rich in Vitamin A and promoting health and preventing sickness. In October 1941, he agreed to not publish any further health claims about the product.
In 1967, the FDA said that his papaya tablets and other dietary supplements "contained false and misleading therapeutic claims and lacked adequate directions for use for the purposes attended".
And of course, Bragg was an anti-vaxxer and argued vaccines were deadly and recommended no one take them. Ever. For anything. Ever.
So how did this swindler and quack get famous? Blame a little book called Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar System ( published in 1972) and later Apple Cider Vinegar Miracle Health System. Yep, apple cider vinegar is his biggest claim to fame. He is, by and large, at fault for the massive obsession with fucking vinegar. The other person at fault is his daughter in law (or former, she was married to Paul's son and then divorced him, and claimed Paul Bragg adopted her legally), Patricia Bragg.
On April 19, 1952, Patricia Pendleton and Robert E. Bragg (1922-1993) married at the First Presbyterian Church in Phoenix, Arizona. The marriage did not last long and they divorced in 1957, in Los Angeles County, California.
Patricia is her own character:
She once ate a Hershey bar, "but I got a terrible sore throat. I knew it was a sin," she says. Same with alcohol. "When I was 23, I drank a glass of champagne at a wedding, and I threw up," she says. "My dad said, 'You're allergic to alcohol. It dulls your brain.'"
She's never shaved her legs, painted her fingernails or worn makeup (except for lipstick-"After I turned 60, I just needed a little help," she says). Her father advised her to never wear a bra because it impedes circulation. But "everything still stands up by itself," she says proudly, demonstrating the pectoral exercises she does three times a day in two-minute sessions. She's never pierced her ears ("It exposes nerve endings") and doesn't wear a wristwatch because she believes it cuts off circulation. She never had the desire to rebel against her father's teachings and sneak a cigarette or even an aspirin.
"I always knew the consequence of living an unhealthy lifestyle is sickness. You pay for your sins," she says.
`Patricia relies heavily on celebrity stories to get her point across, tantalizing listeners with tidbits such as:
"Steve Jobs called me five times, saying: 'Patricia, I've got to see you. I've been reading the Bragg books since high school,' or J.C. Penney-a wonderful man, a brilliant man, so humble-told me we all have human angels. 'You're a human angel and so's your dad,' he said."
She talks about lunches she's had with Jane Russell and how she taught Clint Eastwood to stand up straight. She rhapsodizes about how both the Dalai Lama and Tony Robbins love Bragg Liquid Aminos. She talks so much about celebrities, she leaves little time for questions about herself.
On the testimonials page on patriciabraggbooks.com, you can find some pretty intense "success stories" from well known names and just...people.
Thank you Paul and Patricia Bragg for my simple, easy to follow Healthy Lifestyle. You make my days healthy! Clint Eastwood, Academy Award Winning Film Producer, Director, Actor and Bragg follower for over 60 years
Len, Hawaii: How did I beat cancer, obesity, diabetes, strep, three herniated disks and excruciating pain? The answer was changing to the Bragg's Healthy Lifestyle and having the amazing Bragg Vinegar Drink daily. It changed my life and I also lost 70 lbs! I received a new life and that is just the beginning because my manhood returned that was lost to diabetes - now that's exciting! On my trip to Honolulu I visited the famous free Bragg Exercise Class at Waikiki Beach. I became so regenerated with a wonderful new viewpoint towards living the Bragg Healthy Lifestyle that I now live in Hawaii. I'm invigorated with new energy for life and living! My new purpose for living is to help others reclaim their health rights! I want the world to join The Bragg Health Crusade. I am so thankful to Paul and Patricia for being my inspiration.
Duke Jones, Oregonia Oh, retired police officer: In 1998 I severely broke my left leg and doctors mended it with plates, screws and bolts. I developed staph and pus infections and sores on bottom of my foot. I had constant pain in my foot, ankle and knee. Since then I have had problems walking up and down stairs and kneeling was impossible. Then I started taking Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar (2 Tbsps 3x a day). Two days after I started, the soreness in my knee disappeared and climbing the stairs is now pain free and all the other problems are gone!!! I never expected all these results, I give full credit to Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar. Thank you.
A little note about this guy in particular - he's a gross racist. A quick Facebook search revealed some pretty standard but still gross racism, Trumpism, anti-vax bullshit. So uh....yeah, I don't know that I believe this guy.
And maybe my favorite....Dan Millman
All those in the field of nutrition, fitness, and natural health stand on the shoulders of those who came before. Few shoulders are as broad as those of health pioneer Paul Bragg. When I was a young gymnastics coach at Stanford University, his words and example inspired me to live a healthy lifestyle. I was twenty-three then; now I'm nearly sixty, and my own health and fitness serves as a living testimonial to Bragg's wisdom, carried on by Patricia, his health-crusading daughter.
Dan Millman is the author of several books but the most famous is Way of the Peaceful Warrior. Millman was a university and gymnastics coach. Okay fine. But the book is part biographical, part fiction, about how Millman's life changes when he meets a gas station attendant who "reminds him of Socrates" and ...that's it. It was made into a movie in 2006 and starred Nick Nolte.
Millman also believes in things like numerology and promotes thing like his "Life Purpose Calculator" that claims to be able to tell you that exact thing from just your birthday!
Sure, Dan. Sure.
If these are the kinds of testimonials the whole Paul Bragg apple cider vinegar grift gets, count me out.
Remember, the person running this whole show now is Bragg's FORMER daughter in law who claims she was adopted by him, but now most of the Bragg websites say "his daughter". I'm not claiming adopted kids are full kids but damn.
A lot of apple cider vinegar claims are based on folk healing and medicine. A lot of these claims focus on the fact that it's acidic (low pH); but the kicker is a lot of these claims also state that once you consume ACV, it turns alkaline (high pH; and how many "alkaline waters" are sold in grocery stores??). Some claim that other substances like honey are acidic. But ACV can be dangerous; even diluted, it can hurt your soft tissues like your esophagus and damage tooth enamel. And even popular health websites like WebMD state there is insufficient evidence for any claims on ACV being effective.
Bragg's claim to fame is ACV - Bragg (the company) claims their ACV is organic, gluten free, un-pasteurized, and non GMO. It's like every health food quack threw up on this whole thing and made a shit ton of money off it. They also claim their ACV has a "Mother", which NO.... kombucha has a Mother bacteria culture but that doesn't do anything, either, than look and smell disgusting. (I've brewed kombucha.)
Best case scenario, ACV won't do anything for you - it won't help, won't hurt, and just...exists to make money for grifters who claim it can basically cure everything.
All because Paul C. Bragg was a massive, lying asshole. And so his his daughter.
Patricia is a 100% dedicated health crusader with a passion like her father, Paul C. Bragg, world renowned health authority. Patricia has won international fame on her own in this field spreading the word of health through lectures, radio shows and magazine interviews throughout her career. Patricia and her father co-authored The Bragg 10 book Health Library of Instructive, Inspiring Books that promote a healthier lifestyle, for a long, vital, happy life. Patricia herself is the symbol of health, perpetual youth and radiant, feminine energy. At 92 years young, she is a living and sparkling example of her and her father's healthy lifestyle.
Patricia's message is of world-wide appeal to people of all ages, nationalities and walks-of-life. Those who follow The Bragg Healthy Lifestyle are living testimony to how it works, like ageless, super athlete, Jack LaLanne, who at age 15 went from sickness to Total Health after meeting Paul Bragg at a lecture! He made a lifelong career out of teaching others how to become healthy. Many famous Hollywood people credit their youthfulness and good health to following the lifestyle taught by Paul and Patricia Bragg.
Man's body is his vehicle through life, his earthly temple . . . and the Creator wants us filled with joy & health for a long fruitful life. The Bragg Crusades of Health and Fitness (3 John 2) have carried her around the world - spreading physical, spiritual, emotional and mental health and joy.
And I'll leave you with my favorite lie of hers about her dad:
Bragg insiders, including Janie Guevara, who has worked in the Bragg company mailroom for 17 years, say Paul Bragg drowned in a 1976 surfing accident at age 96. Patricia Bragg says her dad was born in 1881, but doesn't acknowledge his death. "As far as I'm concerned, he's not dead; he's alive," she says.
Paul was 81 when he died, and died of a heart attack in the emergency room of South Shore Hospital in Miami, Florida on December 7, 1976. Pretty standard way for someone to go out, health guru or not.