Quinn on Nutrition: Drinking in the patriotism of Samuel Adams

July 6, 2015

During a recent trip to Boston for the scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association, we had the opportunity to meet fellow patriot Samuel Adams, circa 1773. Dressed in his fine tailored waistcoat and breeches and staying totally in character, Adams asked us, "What brings you to our fine town?"

We explained that we here for a diabetes conference.

"Die-a-beet-eze?" he repeated back to us with the curiosity of someone who had never heard this term.

It’s a disease that will be rampant in this country in a few hundred years from your era, I said.

"Perhaps," he pondered, "this die-a-beet-eze could be treated with a bit of blood-letting?"

Probably not, I answered, except for the tiny bit of blood needed to let people with this condition know if they have a normal amount of glucose in their blood.

"I see," he said, as if trying to understand this strange practice they surely did not have in pre-revolutionary Boston.

We then asked Adams’ about his famous name. In 200 years or so, people will remember your name, I said.

He nodded graciously.

And many of your fellow patriots will associate your name with a certain brand of beer, I continued.

"Oh, that’s very unlikely!" he chuckled. "I did inherit my father’s brewery but…shall we say…I have not been very successful in running such a venture."

Later I learned that Samuel Adams was indeed a poor businessman. But he was an extremely gifted orator and one of the organizers of the Boston Tea Party in 1773. After that event, historians say that Adams and other "Sons of Liberty" of his day considered tea drinking to be unpatriotic. This led to a decrease in tea sales in the colonies and perhaps contributed to American’s current adoration of coffee.

Samuel Adams went on to become a founding father of our country and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He may not have had a clear understanding of nutritional science in his day, but he spoke brilliantly and passionately about our duties to stand up for what is right. I will think about that a bit more this Independence Day.




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