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History of human nutrition

History of human nutrition

The first recorded dietary advice, carved into a Babylonian stone tablet in about 2500 BC, cautioned those with pain inside to avoid eating onions for three days. Scurvy, later found to be a vitamin C deficiency, was first described in 1500 BC in the Ebers Papyrus.[12]

 

According to Walter Gratzer, the study of nutrition probably began during the 6th century BC. In China, the concept of qi developed, a spirit or "wind" similar to what Western Europeans later called pneuma.[13] Food was classified into "hot" (for example, meats, blood, ginger, and hot spices) and "cold" (green vegetables) in China, India, Malaya, and Persia.[14]

 

Humours developed perhaps first in China alongside qi.[13] Ho the Physician concluded that diseases are caused by deficiencies of elements (Wu Xing: fire, water, earth, wood, and metal), and he classified diseases as well as prescribed diets.[14] About the same time in Italy, Alcmaeon of Croton (a Greek) wrote of the importance of equilibrium between what goes in and what goes out, and warned that imbalance would result in disease marked by obesity or emaciation.[15]

 

The first recorded nutritional experiment with human subjects is found in the Bible's Book of Daniel. Daniel and his friends were captured by the king of Babylon during an invasion of Israel. Selected as court servants, they were to share in the king's fine foods and wine. But they objected, preferring vegetables (pulses) and water in accordance with their Jewish dietary restrictions. The king's chief steward reluctantly agreed to a trial. Daniel and his friends received their diet for ten days and were then compared to the king's men. Appearing healthier, they were allowed to continue with their diet.[16][17]

 

Around 475 BC, Anaxagoras stated that food is absorbed by the human body and, therefore, contains "homeomerics" (generative components), suggesting the existence of nutrients.[18] Around 400 BC, Hippocrates, who recognized and was concerned with obesity, which may have been common in southern Europe at the time,[15] said, "Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food."[19] The works that are still attributed to him, Corpus Hippocraticum, called for moderation and emphasized exercise.

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