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PERSPECTIVES IN BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE Volume 17 · Number 1 · Autumn 1973 A RENAISSANCE OF NUTRITIONAL SCIENCE IS IMMINENT ROGER J. WILLIAMS, JAMES D. HEFFLEY, MAN-LI YEW, and CHARLES W. BODE* Introduction There is a wide spectrum of uninformed inexpert opinion regarding the practical importance of quality nutrition in our daily lives. At one extreme are the food enthusiasts, including faddists; at the other is the majority of practicing physicians who through the fault of their medical school training tend to ignore all but the most elementary aspects of nutrition, and to avoid becoming involved in a field so characterized by intricacies, uncertainties, and ignorance. Those who have medical training are in a unique position; they alone have the background necessary to grasp fully the deep-seated significance of nutrition in relation to health and disease. Unfortunately, however, medical science has not developed and nurtured nutritional science [1], and the public has all too often discovered that those who should know the most about nutrition know very little. There have been, of course, far-sighted physicians who have been interested in nutrition and have contributed a substantial part of what is presently known. They have often chided their colleagues—generally, but not always, with soft voices—largely to no avail. These physicians who are really interested in nutrition often lack prestige and tend to operate outside the mainstream of medicine. In addition, an increasing number of those who are medically trained carry out investigations which impinge strangely on nutrition, yet because of their training they are not nutritionally oriented. As a result of decades of neglect of nutritional science by medical science, what we would regard as sophisticated well-rounded nutritional * Department of Chemistry, Clayton Foundation Biochemical Institute, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Autumn 197} | 1 science does not exist. Senator Schweiker, a layman, has recognized this severe deficiency and has introduced a bill authorizing the appropriation of $5 million annually to provide nutritional education in medical schools. Expert sophisticated nutritional science necessarily involves a basic understanding of biochemistry, physiology, and pathology and an ability to deal in depth with the functioning and interrelationships of all the nutrients—minerals, trace minerals, amino acids, vitamins, etc. Not only this, but it must also encompass the biological nature of the human beings who are to be nourished, including the inheritance factors which affect their nutrition. As with other branches of science, its development must depend on interdisciplinary interest and intercommunicating specialized experts. Many tools, including those of mathematics, are now available with which to study human beings and their biological uniqueness . What is needed is the incentive, interest, and support of such investigations. Sophisticated nutritional science, when developed, will recognize four basic facts which have not entered the mainstream of medical thinking. These four facts will be presented briefly, not with the claim that they are completely new or previously unheard of, but rather that they are crucial to the development of nutritional science and are commonly neglected. I.FOOD IS A PART OF OUR ENVIRONMENT Once stated, the above proposition becomes so obvious as not to require defense. We get oxygen from the air we breathe, water from the fluid we drink, and an assortment of about 40 or more essential nutrients from the food we consume. These all become a part of our internal environment , the milieu intérieur that Claude Bernard talked about in the last century. The mere recognition of this fact raises serious questions. What happens to cells and tissues if this nutritional environment is not well adjusted? May not the quality of the nutritional environment have a profound effect on health [2]? Can we afford to monitor carefully and scientifically other aspects of our environment like air and water, at the same time giving inexpert stepmotherly attention to the most complex part? From a practical standpoint, in what ways is this complex nutritional enviromnent most subject to damaging deterioration? II.SUBOPTIMAL NUTRITION PREVAILS IN NATURE Because nutritional science has been neglected, another crucial consideration has not been grasped. It is the fact that it is very common indeed for organisms in nature to live continuously under suboptimal nutritional conditions. This...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 1-15
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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