Philosophy of Nutrition


   Several generations of study of cell development and heredity have ignored almost completely the more important study of nutritional habits as these determine and predetermine cell developments and affect reproduction and survival. The role of nutrition in integration, reintegration, and disintegration has been shamefully neglected.

   For the most part, it has been taken for granted that it matters not what kind of food an organism consumes, so long as it consumes "enough" and more than "enough." Plenty of food and lack of food are chiefly considered as of importance. This places most importance upon quantity rather than quality and kind.

   Only recently have we begun to seriously investigate the physiological basis of life and the incidences of nutrition as they affect growth and reproduction, both in a physiological and pathological sense. It is true that hints of the role of nutrition in health and disease have come to thinking members of our race during the past several thousand years; but scientists have considered such things unworthy of their notice.

   Nutrition is the sum total of all the processes and functions by which growth and development, maintenance and repair of the body, and, by which reproduction are accomplished. It is the replenishment of tissues and not the accumulation of fat and not the "stimulation" (excitation) of the vital powers. Due to the great misunderstanding and confusion that exists about "stimulation," we are inclined to associate it with nutrition.

   "Pure and perfect nutrition," says Dr. Trall, "implies the assimilation of nutriment material to the structure of the body, without the least excitement, disturbance, or impression of any kind that can properly be called stimulating." "All stimulus, therefore, is directly opposed to healthful nutrition, and a source of useless expenditure or waste of vital power."

   Food, we define as any substance the elements of which are convertible into, and do form, the constituent matters of the tissues and fluids of the body and are employed by the organism in the performance of any of its functions. Life depends on food. All growth, repair and maintenance of tissues and all development of vital power are the results of nutrition. All parts and products of the body are elaborated from the blood, and all the functions of the body depend upon the blood for material supplies. The blood is elaborated from air, water, food and sunshine. These are essential and all that are essential, so far as materials are concerned, for the production of good blood and sound tissues and organs and functional results.

   During life two simultaneous processes are in continual progress--a building up and a breaking down process. The two processes taken together are called metabolism. The contructive process is known as anabolism; the breaking down process as katabolism. In the healthy organism, during childhood and youth and well into maturity, the constructive process exceeds the destructive process. During sickness and in old age the destructive process exceeds the building up process.

   During complete rest and sleep all the general life functions are carried on as during waking hours, only less actively. The heart continues to pulsate, the chest to rise and fall in breathing, the liver and digestive organs and other internal organs all go on working. All of the body cells work.

   The metabolism carried on at complete rest is called basic metabolism. The metabolic rate is determined by measuring the amount of oxygen used. This varies with age, sex, climate, race, habits, diet, mental state, etc. It is lower in women than in men, higher (nearly double) in infants than in adults, lowest in advanced age. It is lower in Orientals (Japansese and Chinese); higher in athletes than in sedentary men. Americans living in Brazil show a lower basal metabolism than in this country. It is greater after effort (but during sleep) due to muscular tension. It rises during the day, being higher in the afternoon than in the morning. It is lower in vegetarians than in meat eaters.

   Orthodox science cannot tell what is a standard metabolism and a standard of biological relation. As in everything else, the standards for "normal basic metabolism" are mere statistical averages made, for the most part, on over-stimulated, over-fed and particularly over-protein-stuffed subjects. The ideal or biological norm can be determined only from healthy individuals living a truly bionomic life.

   It is the Hygienic view that normal metabolism must be based on a normal mode of nutrition which involves not only the kind, quality and amount of food eaten, but also, and very importantly, the kind and amount of work--"sweat of the brow"--expended in earning this food. No mode of nutrition can be considered normal that does not involve work--counter-service--in procuring it. Predacity, parasitism, saprophytism, and similar modes of stealing supplies or of living without work involve, not only a disturbance of the normal work-food ratio, but also feeding upon inferior foods. Metabolic abnormalities growing out of such modes of nutrition result in losses and exaggerations of structure and in disease in general.

   7,000,000 of the 25,000,000,000,000 red blood cells in the body of an average man die every second, so that 7,000,000 new ones must be produced every second of our lives--a wonderful example of the creative operations always at work in our bodies. The materials out of which these new cells are built are supplied by food. This represents only a small part of the creative work that goes on. Similar destruction and reconstruction occur in other tissues of the body.

   The human body is made up of twenty-two chemical elements, as follow:


   The nutritional roles of about a dozen elements, such as aluminum, arsenic, boron, bromide, nickle, silicon, vanadium and tin, which appear in human and animal bodies in minute amounts, are still unknown. They are all supposed to be concerned with catalysis, or the instigation and speeding up of chemical reactions in the body. It is not certain that they belong in the body. They may be found there only as foreign elements. The evidence offered of the need for boron is very circumstantial and far from conclusive.

   These elements do not exist in the body in their "free" state, but in organic combinations with each other, and are variously distributed in the various tissues and fluids of the body. Roughly, they are grouped in our foods as proteins, carbohydrates, hydrocarbons, water, mineral salts, vitamins, and indigestible portions--bulk or roughage. Each element serves a definite and indispensible function which no other element can serve for it. All of them are essential to wholeness of life, to health, growth and to continued existence.

   It is to supply material with which to carry on the building up of tissue and replace that which is broken down; in other words, to supply material for growth and repair, that we eat. At least this is one of the purposes served by food.

   Other processes besides those of growth and repair are continually going on in the body. For example, there is the work of preparing food for use by the body. This work is known as digestion and is accomplished largely by the action of certain juices or secretions which act upon the food chemically. These juices have to be manufactured by the body for its own use. Food furnishes the materials necessary for the production of these and the many other secretions of the body.

   The broken down products of the cells are acid in character and are highly irritating and poisonous. If permitted to remain in the body unchanged they would soon destroy life. Therefore, they are not only eliminated, but are changed chemically by being combined with certain alkaline mineral elements, thus rendering them less irritating and harmful and also preparing them for elimination. The mineral elements with which this detoxifying change is made are supplied by our food.

   Foods are burned in the body to supply heat and energy. At least this is the present theory of scientists. There are those who deny this and who insist that both the heat and energy of the body are independent of its food supply, that food serves solely as replacement material in building up new and repairing old tissues and in forming the body's secretions. The claim has been made that heat is derived from the assimilation of food rather than from its oxidation. It is also claimed that the body's heat is due to friction.

   We eat carbon, take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. It is quite evident that the carbon is oxidized in the body. It would certainly give off heat in this process. The body may have other sources of heat, but this seems to be certainly one of them. The a mount of heat produced by the body seems to parallel the amount of carbon dioxide it gives off.

   The chemical energies of the body are directed by something which is not itself a chemical energy, but which is intimately associated with the organic synthesis which the chemical energy serves to maintain. At least, I cannot see how we can escape this position. I have no doubt that chemical as well as mechanical energies are utilized in the body, although, they are subordinate to a controlling and unifying non-chemical force. However, this is still a much mooted question and will be solved only in the future. I do not think that all the energies of the living body are derived from foods.

   The normal specific gravity and normal alkalinity of the blood are maintained by food. As will be shown later, these two functions are performed chiefly by the minerals of the diet.

   These uses of food may be summed up in a few words by saying: food is any substance which, when taken into the body, can be used by it for the replenishment of tissue (growth and repair) and for the performance of organic function. This definition can be made to include water and the oxygen of the air; however, water and oxygen are not usually classed as foods. Such substances, if they are to be classed as true foods, must be with deleterious effects. Many things that are eaten by man have deleterious effects, although, they do possess food value. Obviously, such foods should be abstained from so long as other foods are to be had.

   The human body is a wonderfully complex and ingenuous mechanism made up of thousands of different parts and containing hundreds of different chemical compositions. Yet all of these must be nourished by a single blood stream, a stream which itself is of remarkably uniform composition so far as any chemical analysis can determine.

   If the blood derived its substance from a single source of supply, as does the blood of a nursing baby, for example, life would seem marvelous enough. But, when one considers that the blood is often nourished by hundreds of different food substances, particularly in the case of modern civilized man, it seems almost inconceivably complex. We find it difficult to comprehend how life can exist at all.

   The body must secure all the necessary food elements from all the great mass of diverse foods, in order to avoid the deficiencies or "starvations" and, at the same time, it must avoid all excess of certain materials which we almost always consume in excess. Food substances which are not needed and cannot be used, injure and do not help the body.

   As the study of nutrition continues, the essentials of man's diet multiply. The older books gave man's nutritive requirements as proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Today we say he needs proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and cellulose, or roughage. The normal dietary should include all of these factors.

   Since food serves so many and such vital functions in the body, it is highly important that we supply our bodies with all of the needed food elements. It is essential that the diet adequately nourish the whole body and not merely some part or parts of it. The dietary ensemble must meet all of the needs of the ensemble of nutrition. The whole of the diet and not one article of food or one element of nutrition, determines the nutritive result. The adequacy of a given dietary to feed the whole body and not its theoretical adequacy to meet the needs of one organ, will determine its fitness in any given case.

   The human body has never been fully analyzed nor has there ever been made a full and complete analysis of all foodstuffs. This, however, is not a matter of great importance. Neither man nor foods can be analyzed without thoroughly destroying him or them. The products of the destructive processes are not the same as those that exist in the cells and tissues of the body or of the food. It is only possible to analyze a dead body and this throws but little light on the chemistry of a live one. An analysis of a dead body and an analysis of a handful of soil will show them to both be composed of the same elements, but no one can mistake the flesh of a man for a handful of soil. An apple, too, is made up of the same elements as the soil, but we easily recognize the vast difference between this product of vital synthesis and the soil in our garden. Fortunately it is not necessary to know the exact chemistry of the body nor the exact chemistry of foods in order to properly feed ourselves, our families and our patients. If we feed our bodies natural foods, so that we may be sure they contain all the nutritive essentials, we can trust the orderly and very ancient processes of life to take care of the rest of the matter for us.