Orientation to human nutrition
The major purpose of this series of four textbooks on nutrition is to guide the nutrition student through the exciting journey of discovery of nutrition as a science. As apprentices in nutrition science and practice stu-dents will learn how to collect, systemize, and classify knowledge by reading, experimentation, observation, and reasoning. The road for this journey was mapped out millennia ago. The knowledge that nutrition – what we choose to eat and drink – influences our health, well-being, and quality of life is as old as human history. For millions of years the quest for food has helped to shape human development, the organization of society and history itself. It has influ-enced wars, population growth, urban expansion, economic and political theory, religion, science, med-icine, and technological development.
It was only in the second half of the eighteenth century that nutrition started to experience its first renaissance with the observation by scientists that intakes of certain foods, later called nutrients, and eventually other substances not yet classified as nutri-ents, influence the function of the body, protect against disease, restore health, and determine people’s response to changes in the environment. During this period, nutrition was studied from a medical model or paradigm by defining the chemical struc-tures and characteristics of nutrients found in foods, their physiological functions, biochemical reactions and human requirements to prevent, first, deficiency diseases and, later, also chronic noncommunicable diseases.
Since the late 1980s nutrition has experienced a second renaissance with the growing perception that the knowledge gained did not equip mankind to solve the global problems of food insecurity and malnutri-tion. The emphasis shifted from the medical or path-ological paradigm to a more psychosocial, behavioral one in which nutrition is defined as a basic human right, not only essential for human development but also as an outcome of development.
In this first, introductory text, the focus is on prin-ciples and essentials of human nutrition, with the main purpose of helping the nutrition student to develop a holistic and integrated understanding of this complex, multifaceted scientific domain.