The word nutrition first appeared in 1551 and comes from the Latin word nutrire, meaning “to nourish.” Today, we define nutrition as the sum of all processes involved in how organisms obtain nutrients, metabolize them, and use them to support all of life’s processes. Nutritional science is the investigation of how an organism is nourished, and incorporates the study of how nourishment affects personal health, population health, and planetary health. Nutritional science covers a wide spectrum of disciplines. As a result, nutritional scientists can specialize in particular aspects of nutrition such as biology, physiology, immunology, biochemistry, education, psychology, sustainability, and sociology. Without adequate nutrition the human body does not function optimally, and severe nutritional inadequacy can lead to disease and even death. The typical American diet is lacking in many ways, from not containing the proper amounts of essential nutrients, to being too speedily consumed, to being only meagerly satisfying.
- 9.1: Nutrition and Health
- The foods we eat affect all dimensions of health and wellness. For example, a teen with Type 2 diabetes (a disease brought on by poor diet) is first diagnosed by physical signs and symptoms such as increased urination, thirstiness, and unexplained weight loss. But research has also found that teens with Type 2 diabetes have impaired thinking and do not interact well with others in school, thereby affecting psychological and social wellbeing.
- 9.2: Planning a Diet
- The definition of diet is anything that is consumed by a particular person or people on a regular basis. That means if someone routinely drinks coffee in the morning, that is part of his/her diet. If a person consistently eats a Big Mac from McDonald’s, that is part of his/her diet. However, it is clear that food choices influence short-term and long-term health. That is why it is so important to make wise choices in what one eats on a regular basis.
Thumbnail: Cornucopia of fruit and vegetables. Image used with permission (CC BY-SA 3.0; Jina Lee).