The Science of Nutrition--
The Mysticism of Food

Weeks 1 and 2


Reading:UCSD Nutrition:Chapters 1-3
New Nutrition:Unit 4

1. Premise: Food is mystical and metaphysical

A. Food is far more than the source of our nutrient needs. Eating is one of the great sensual and esthetic pleasures of life.

B. Food can be a metaphor for human emotions as portrayed in such great films as "Tom Jones", "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman", "Animal House" and "Like Water from Chocolate".

C. Food is an icon reflecting many mystical aspects of our lives. Consider personal examples from your own life including: Religion, Economics, Culture, Ethnicity, Anthropology, Sociology, the celebration of life (a birthday cake), and the grief of death (a funeral wake).

D. The gathering and consumption of food evolves from survival to gastronomy to gluttony.

2. Premise: Human nutrition is an exact science

A. Medical scientists have developed and routinely use a liquid that can be intravenously infused in humans which provides all of the essential nutrients for growth and development from birth to full maturity.

B. The liquid suspension is called Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN). There are 44 chemical nutrients in the TPN. The structure and function of each is well characterized. It does not matter if the nutrients are "natural" or "synthetic".

C. There are six broad categories of these nutrients. Examples are given and the number of chemicals in each is shown in brackets < >.

D. Every food we consume has one or more of the 44 chemical nutrients. Thus there are no good foods/bad food or health foods/junk foods. There are healthy diets/unhealthy diets from which we must select and consume judiciously.

E. A diet is defined as the integrated amount and variety of foods we consume over a continual series of 4 to 7 day periods to provide calories and nutrients. It is not defined by a single food, a single meal, or a single day's consumption. We should be constantly "tuning" and "turning over" our diet to provide optimal nutrition and personal pleasure.

F. Each individual lives in a unique and personal 3 dimensional dietary "space" defined by the 3 interrelated parameters:

  • number of calories
  • adequate amounts of all 44 nutrients
  • age, sex, height, life style, genetics

G. The 3 primary sources of calories are carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Calories must be consumed in amounts to maintain ideal body weight.

H. The nutrients can be obtained by judicious dietary choices of foods, but may require fortification or supplementation to meet requirements.

I. We "bring to the table" our personal genetic inheritance including "fat genes" and "thin genes", "tall genes" and "short genes", and genes which increase our vulnerability to various diseases linked to our nutrition and diet.

J. At each stage of human growth and development from embryo through infancy and adolescence to maturity our dietary needs are continual modified.

K. Our life style as manifested by physical activity and exercise particularly affect our caloric requirements and need for particular nutrients.

L. Each of us must take personal responsibility for our health. Responsibility requires:

  • knowledge to select healthful and pleasureful diets
  • commitment to a program of physical activity to maintain optimal physiological neuromuscular, vascular and respiratory performance.
  • avoidance of self abuse (i.e., obesity or anorexia, smoking, alcoholism, drugs, promiscuity, etc.


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