I've seen articles on different sites which describe experiment on rats. One group of rats was fed corn flakes, another one - cardboard box of those flakes. The corn flakes group died first.

E.g. Something You've Never Been Told about Breakfast Cereals on/from 'Wellness Support Network'

"Another unpublished experiment was carried out in the 1960s. Researchers at Ann Arbor University were given 18 laboratory rats. They were divided into three groups: one group received corn flakes and water; a second group was given the cardboard box that the corn flakes came in and water; the control group received rat chow and water."

"The rats in the control group remained in good health throughout the experiment. The rats eating the box became lethargic and eventually died of malnutrition. But the rats receiving the corn flakes and water died before the rats that were eating the box! (The last corn flake rat died the day the first box rat died.)"

  • 4
    Everything dies eventually :-) And there's a difference between being nutritious, and containing everything needed for a healthy diet. See e.g. deficiency diseases like scurvy.
    – jamesqf
    Sep 25, 2017 at 17:18
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    Oh, those unpublished experiments!
    – GEdgar
    Sep 25, 2017 at 17:57
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    On Snopes. Btw The supplied link is hardly notable, but the internet indeed has plenty of reporting on this
    – user22865
    Sep 25, 2017 at 18:58
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    @jamesqf - I was also struck by the phony juxtaposition offered by that claim. If you fed me oranges, only, I would die soon from lack of nutrients not supplied by oranges. Does that make oranges "not healthy?" They are still very healthy. My "oranges" example was coincidence, not actually spurred by your scurvy reference (reference about scurvy, folks, not a characterization of the moral character of the reference). Sep 25, 2017 at 21:29
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    Were the rats actually eating the cardboard? Because otherwise it's more fair to call it starvation vs cornflakes only diet. And most creatures can last quite a while without food, whereas constantly eating only one thing is very likely to be bad for you.
    – Erik
    Sep 26, 2017 at 7:18

1 Answer 1



According to 2 March 1972 testimony before the US congress, for a hearing titled Nutritional content and advertising for dry breakfast cereals (alternative link to the testimony) Robert B. Choate Jr. testifying, :

Dr. Caster did in the fall of 1970...He asked his students to grind up the cardboard fronts of some cereal boxes, add sugar, milk and raisins, and feed the mixture to a group of rats.

More specifically, the diet for the "cardboard" group was (by weight):

1 part cardboard
1 part sugar
1 part dry skim milk
1 part raisins

Dr. [William] Caster is quoted in a 23 December 1973 Detroit Free Press article saying :

I pointed out that milk by itself was such an excellent food, that no matter what you put with it, even cereal box-tops, the rats would do well. We had an extra row of cages so we tried feeding a group of rats a mixture of 25 , percent box top, dry skim milk, sugar and raisins. To no one's surprise these rats did about as well as half or two-thirds of those fed breakfastfood cereals and water.

So the experiment was actually cereal + water versus cardboard + sugar + skim milk + raisins.

  • Is it about the same experiment that was mentioned in the question ?
    – R S
    Sep 26, 2017 at 18:35
  • @RS not if all the details in the OP about the experiment are true. The book "Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook..." (second edition, 2001) has the OP story archive.org/stream/NourishingTraditions/… but no reference but says the experiment was designed by "Loren Zanier"
    – DavePhD
    Sep 26, 2017 at 18:56

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