Paul C. Bragg

By: Barbara Bogaev
February 6, 2012

Even in the hyperbolic annals of the natural foods movement, PAUL C. BRAGG (1881/1895-1976) stands out as one of the most brazen, prevaricating rapscallions of them all. Best known for the health-food store staples Bragg’s Amino Acids and Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, the man behind many elixirs, life-extension pamphlets, cookbooks, and fasting and exercise programs showed a genius for shaping his own life story. Starting with his birthdate, which he pushed back to 1881 in order to give the impression he looked much younger than his years, Bragg lied his way to prominence as a lecturer and nutrition adviser to the gullible stars of early Hollywood; much of what he claimed about his own past (military service, tubercular lungs, Olympic wrestling career, his restoration of his ailing sister’s health, a Ph.D. and medical degree) was also invented. In the romance department, however, Bragg didn’t cut corners: when two women barely out of adolescence sued him for “asserted betrayal,” he attempted to dodge paying them palimony and was jailed for his trouble; later, his own son accused Bragg of running off with his 26-year-old wife, Patricia. She continued to live with her former father-in-law (though at some point she began claiming that she was his daughter), and after Bragg died — either in a surfing accident at 95 years old, or due to complications from nearly drowning at 81, depending on which account you believe — she inherited Bragg Live Foods, which she continues to run. Whether an ingenious entrepreneur, an amoral psychopath, or something else, Bragg lived up to his name.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Mary Leakey.

READ MORE about members of the Hardboiled generation (1894-1903).

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What do you think?

  1. Brag May have been a fake and most likely was. however his diet tips were very sound. I have followed his diet tips for 35 years I do not eat red meat or pork I do not use salt or eat anything with sugar in it I eat organic fruit and vegetables and at 64 I feel better and more alive then I did at 25 and I can run a mile in a little over seven minutes

  2. I agree with you, Ed Rounds, and I’m impressed by your discipline! Much of Bragg’s dietary advice does make sense. That’s what interests me about him, in fact. He was an athlete and a true innovator in healthy living, as well as something shadier. He lived large. Multi-dimensional personalities are never black and white. I think it’s fascinating.

  3. Frankly, I don’t get the idea where people somehow believe that Bragg’s diet ideas were that radical nor even that healthy if you believe meat is bad. If you go back to Bragg’s Four Generation Health Food Cook Book, Third Edition, “(Copyright 1941)”, it’s full of recipes for meats, including sweetbreads, such as “stuffed calf heart”, “scrambled brains”, “kidney stew”, not to mention salisbury steak, chicken” etc., etc (Chapter XI, pages 103-114. Next chapter covers cooking fish & other seafoods.

    And the “Healthful Dessert” chapter is interesting too. For instance, Bragg’
    s recipe for “Devil’s Food Cake” (page 149) calls for 1/2 cup butter & 3 eggs. I won’t even mention the recipes that called for “two cups cream”, but try Maple Ice Cream or Date Ice Cream (page 146). Bragg states that “Only pure lard or sweet butter should be used for shortening in pies or cakes.” (page 143). That’s what the guy said. He did, however, substitute whole wheat flour & raw sugar for “white” in most recipes.

    BTW, if you manage to get a copy of this book, there’s pictures of his three “real” children, his father & his first grandchild in the front part of the book.

  4. I should add that Paul Bragg did not have a momentary lapse about healthful eating over 70 years ago, as just 6 years prior to his death, he came out with yet a “Seventh Edition 1970” of the above “Health Food Cook Book”, greatly expanded but including, but not limited to, all the meat, seafood & dairy recipes in the 1941 Third Edition. Clearly, since his death, there’s been a concerted effort to paint his food lifestyle as vegan, or at the very least vegetarian, when that was not the case.

  5. Paul Bragg Died of choking to death on a fishbone in Florida. All of the natural hygeinists of the time knew that well. then the records were deleted.

  6. Fascinating, Barb! My father, who was something of a health nut himself, had one of Bragg’s books, and it was an object of mysterious attraction to me as a child. I remember an obviously doctored photo of a 70-something Bragg on water skis, his oiled pecs glistening in the Florida sun.

  7. Mimi- I’d love to see that photo. I can’t seem to shake my Bragg obsession. Someday I’d like to track down Patricia and innocently ask her about her childhood.

  8. I doubt you’d get Patricia’s “true story” from her as she seems to have the same fantasy tendencies as Paul did. Feel free to contact me if I can help. The Patricia Bragg Wikipedia site also could assist.

  9. Paul Bragg’s ACV was not his own idea, I had a book years and years ago called “Folk Medicine”in which the ACV was well talked about.

  10. Paul Bragg did not almost drown. he did not have a surfing accident. he had a heart attack while swimming to the raft at Fort Derussy. I know, I am the lifeguard who pulled him out of the water and gave him CPR.
    When the ambulance took him away that day, he was alive.

  11. Ok Mark, if as you claim you were the lifeguard who gave P. Bragg CPR at Ft. DeRussey, please tell us the exact day that this occurred. There should be some record of it. However, according the news story on Paul Bragg’s eath in the Honolulu Advertiser, one of the two daily newspapers there, it says that “In July, Mr. Bragg was pulled inconcious from the water off Ft. DeRussey and survived after being given cardio-pulmonary massage by a nurse on the scene.” Nothing about a lifeguard being involved.

    My personal take on this near-drowning story was it was concocted after Paul Bragg died in Florida while he was to be a speaker at a big health & wellness convention. How embarrassing would that be for a health guru to die of a heart attack there of all places?

    Anyway, give us the date your “rescue” happened since the close family relative of Paul Bragg I talked to never heard a word about it, nor him being taken to any hospital.

  12. Sorry about my two typos: “eath”, of course, should be “death”, and “inconcious”, well, “unconscious”.

    Also, the State Library in Honolulu keeps a file on Hawaii newspaper articles on Paul Bragg, and they could find no report of this alleged Fort DeRussy accident involving Paul Bragg, although a search of Honolulu newspapers in the summer of 1976 report in detail five such ocean accidents in Honolulu involving people known only to family & friends, while a local celebrity happening such as a Paul Bragg’s “accident” doesn’t make the newspapers? Now that would be odd…

  13. His medical credentials, PhD and such are fake as well. Patricia “Bragg” went to college for 2 years and did not graduate, but later claimed a BA in biochemistry. Funny because after Paul’s son divorced her, ‘ for sleeping with his father’, Paul also claimed a degree in biochemistry. Two liars found each other and helped one another build more fantasy.

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