In the 2nd century BC, Cato the Elder believed that cabbage or the urine of cabbage-eaters could cure digestive diseases, ulcers, warts, and intoxication. Living about the turn of the millennium, Aulus Celsus , an ancient Roman doctor, believed in "strong" and "weak" foods bread for example was strong, as were older animals and vegetables.
One mustn't overlook the doctrines of Galen : In use from his life in the 1st century AD until the 17th century, it was heresy to disagree with him for years. Four elements earth, air, fire and water combine into "complexion", which combines into states the four temperaments : sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, and melancholic. The states are made up of pairs of attributes hot and moist, cold and moist, hot and dry, and cold and dry , which are made of four humours : blood, phlegm, green or yellow bile, and black bile the bodily form of the elements.
Galen thought that for a person to have gout , kidney stones , or arthritis was scandalous, which Gratzer likens to Samuel Butler's Erehwon where sickness is a crime.
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In the s, Paracelsus was probably the first to criticize Galen publicly. Leonardo did not publish his works on this subject, but he was not afraid of thinking for himself and he definitely disagreed with Galen.
Jan Baptist van Helmont , who discovered several gases such as carbon dioxide , performed the first quantitative experiment. Robert Boyle advanced chemistry. Sanctorius measured body weight. Physician Herman Boerhaave modeled the digestive process. Physiologist Albrecht von Haller worked out the difference between nerves and muscles.
Sometimes forgotten during his life, James Lind , a physician in the British navy, performed the first scientific nutrition experiment in Lind discovered that lime juice saved sailors that had been at sea for years from scurvy , a deadly and painful bleeding disorder.
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Between and , an estimated two million sailors had died of scurvy. Around , Antoine Lavoisier discovered the details of metabolism, demonstrating that the oxidation of food is the source of body heat. Called the most fundamental chemical discovery of the 18th century,  Lavoisier discovered the principle of conservation of mass.
His ideas made the phlogiston theory of combustion obsolete. In , George Fordyce recognized calcium as necessary for the survival of fowl.
In the early 19th century, the elements carbon , nitrogen , hydrogen , and oxygen were recognized as the primary components of food, and methods to measure their proportions were developed. In the early s, Kanehiro Takaki observed that Japanese sailors whose diets consisted almost entirely of white rice developed beriberi or endemic neuritis, a disease causing heart problems and paralysis , but British sailors and Japanese naval officers did not.
Adding various types of vegetables and meats to the diets of Japanese sailors prevented the disease, not because of the increased protein as Takaki supposed but because it introduced a few parts per million of thiamine to the diet, later understood as a cure . In , Eugen Baumann observed iodine in thyroid glands. In , Christiaan Eijkman worked with natives of Java , who also suffered from beriberi. Eijkman observed that chickens fed the native diet of white rice developed the symptoms of beriberi but remained healthy when fed unprocessed brown rice with the outer bran intact.
His assistant, Gerrit Grijns correctly identified and described the anti-beriberi substance in rice. Eijkman cured the natives by feeding them brown rice, discovering that food can cure disease. Over two decades later, nutritionists learned that the outer rice bran contains vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. In the early 20th century, Carl von Voit and Max Rubner independently measured caloric energy expenditure in different species of animals, applying principles of physics in nutrition. In , Edith G. Willcock and Frederick Hopkins showed that the amino acid tryptophan aids the well-being of mice but it did not assure their growth.
Babcock and Edwin B. Hart started the cow feeding, single-grain experiment , which took nearly four years to complete. In , Casimir Funk coined the term vitamin , a vital factor in the diet, from the words "vital" and "amine," because these unknown substances preventing scurvy, beriberi, and pellagra , were thought then to be derived from ammonia. The vitamins were studied in the first half of the 20th century. In , Elmer McCollum and Marguerite Davis discovered the first vitamin, fat-soluble vitamin A , then water-soluble vitamin B in ; now known to be a complex of several water-soluble vitamins and named vitamin C as the then-unknown substance preventing scurvy.
In , Sir Edward Mellanby incorrectly identified rickets as a vitamin A deficiency because he could cure it in dogs with cod liver oil. Evans and L. Bishop discover vitamin E as essential for rat pregnancy, originally calling it "food factor X" until In , Hart discovered that trace amounts of copper are necessary for iron absorption. In , he synthesized it, and in , he won a Nobel Prize for his efforts. In the s, William Cumming Rose identified essential amino acids , necessary protein components that the body cannot synthesize. In , Underwood and Marston independently discovered the necessity of cobalt.
In , Eugene Floyd DuBois showed that work and school performance are related to caloric intake.
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In , Erhard Fernholz discovered the chemical structure of vitamin E and then he tragically disappeared. In , rationing in the United Kingdom during and after World War II took place according to nutritional principles drawn up by Elsie Widdowson and others. In , The U. Department of Agriculture introduced the Food Guide Pyramid. The list of nutrients that people are known to require is, in the words of Marion Nestle , "almost certainly incomplete".
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Some nutrients can be stored - the fat-soluble vitamins - while others are required more or less continuously. Poor health can be caused by a lack of required nutrients, or for some vitamins and minerals, too much of a required nutrient. The macronutrients are carbohydrates , fiber , fats , protein , and water. Some of the structural material can be used to generate energy internally, and in either case it is measured in Joules or kilocalories often called "Calories" and written with a capital C to distinguish them from little 'c' calories.
Vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water do not provide energy, but are required for other reasons. Molecules of carbohydrates and fats consist of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Carbohydrates range from simple monosaccharides glucose, fructose and galactose to complex polysaccharides starch.
Fats are triglycerides , made of assorted fatty acid monomers bound to a glycerol backbone. Some fatty acids, but not all, are essential in the diet: they cannot be synthesized in the body. Protein molecules contain nitrogen atoms in addition to carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen.
The fundamental components of protein are nitrogen-containing amino acids , some of which are essential in the sense that humans cannot make them internally. Some of the amino acids are convertible with the expenditure of energy to glucose and can be used for energy production, just as ordinary glucose, in a process known as gluconeogenesis.
By breaking down existing protein, the carbon skeleton of the various amino acids can be metabolized to intermediates in cellular respiration; the remaining ammonia is discarded primarily as urea in urine. Carbohydrates may be classified as monosaccharides , disaccharides , or polysaccharides depending on the number of monomer sugar units they contain. They constitute a large part of foods such as rice , noodles , bread , and other grain -based products, also potatoes , yams, beans, fruits, fruit juices and vegetables.
Monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides contain one, two, and three or more sugar units, respectively. Polysaccharides are often referred to as complex carbohydrates because they are typically long, multiple branched chains of sugar units. Traditionally, simple carbohydrates are believed to be absorbed quickly, and therefore to raise blood-glucose levels more rapidly than complex carbohydrates. This, however, is not accurate. Dietary fiber is a carbohydrate that is incompletely absorbed in humans and in some animals. Like all carbohydrates, when it is metabolized it can produce four Calories kilocalories of energy per gram.
However, in most circumstances it accounts for less than that because of its limited absorption and digestibility.
Dietary fiber consists mainly of cellulose, a large carbohydrate polymer which is indigestible as humans do not have the required enzymes to disassemble it. There are two subcategories: soluble and insoluble fiber.
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Whole grains, fruits especially plums , prunes , and figs , and vegetables are good sources of dietary fiber. There are many health benefits of a high-fiber diet. Dietary fiber helps reduce the chance of gastrointestinal problems such as constipation and diarrhea by increasing the weight and size of stool and softening it. Insoluble fiber, found in whole wheat flour , nuts and vegetables, especially stimulates peristalsis — the rhythmic muscular contractions of the intestines, which move digest along the digestive tract.
Soluble fiber, found in oats, peas, beans, and many fruits, dissolves in water in the intestinal tract to produce a gel that slows the movement of food through the intestines.