The Hypocritic Oath

A Short History of Nutritional Science

Posted in Uncategorized by trinkwasser on February 25, 2010

An excellent series of papers by Kenneth J Carpenter

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

He takes the story from the 18th Century up to 1985. On the one hand it’s a pity he stopped there, on the other if he’d continued he would have needed another ten parts and still only have covered half the subject.

One major point that stands out is how often in previous history “science” has rushed blindly off down a blind alley and had to backtrack. The post-Keys low fat mania is not a new phenomenon.

They don’t necessarily guillotine “savants” any more but they can still make them lose their jobs (or try to, see an earlier post on Dr. Anna Dhalqvist.)

The leading German organic chemist of the time, Justus Liebig, now comes into the picture. He too had become interested in the subject of “animal chemistry,” and wrote that Dumas must be wrong because it was well known that pigs would fatten when fed on potatoes that were rich in starch, but contained only a negligible level of fat. This meant that animals must be able to convert carbohydrates to fat even though the conversion required “reduction” rather than oxidation.

That was around 1840. That knowledge appears to have gone (temporarily) missing 120 or so years later.

Here’s one I didn’t know, from 1910

Babcock challenged him to feed breeding heifers ingredients all from a single cereal grain, and to compare the result with a diet made up from mixed cereals.

Hart agreed and, with a group of colleagues, used sixteen 6-mo-old heifers and constructed three rations each based entirely on either corn, oat or wheat products, and balancing the proportions of ground grain, gluten and straw to obtain the same energy value and proximate analysis. A fourth ration was a mix of the other three. The trial was begun in 1906 and continued for two full reproductive periods; the results are summarized in Table 3 . The heifers receiving the all-wheat ration quickly lost condition and performed extremely badly, with none of their calves surviving and two of the cows also dying before the end of the trial. In contrast, the corn-fed heifers maintained their condition and had healthy, strong calves, with the results from the other treatments being intermediate

Results are here

There are obvious parallels with wheat-fed people.

It is interesting in view of the importance of their discoveries that McCollum’s young colleagues at Yale told him that he was foolish to accept a position in which he would be working in nutrition since, “the subject was already worked out, with nothing remaining to be discovered!”

This was in 1910, and in 1945 Oxford University likewise decided to disband its Nutrition group. Sadly typical of the attitudes of some still working in the field. “Now we know everything we can go home” – yet current dietary recommendations appear to be achieving seriously minor improvements in some individuals while being central in the “epidemics” of metabolic diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular disease, including Type 2, in the rest of us.


6 Responses

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  1. Nicky said, on February 27, 2010 at 8:13 am

    So corn works despite its links to fructose – interesting!

    • trinkwasser said, on February 27, 2010 at 2:52 pm

      For cows perhaps – I wish they’d had the internet back when the original study was published so I could look it up. I don’t know how much fructose there is in corn before it’s processed into HFCS.

      Some “primitive” societies do quite well with corn as a carb, as opposed to other grains – but it needs to be properly processed to eliminate the toxins like lectins and phytates (see Whole Health Source)

      Personally it’s on my “avoid” list as it whacks up my BG, but I eat the beef which is partly corn-fed – here they chop the whole plant for silage/winter fodder rather than feed the grains alone: the rest of the year they eat grass

  2. Kenneth Carpenter said, on March 12, 2010 at 2:46 am

    Thank you for your kind comments about my articles

    • trinkwasser said, on March 12, 2010 at 6:43 pm

      So when are you going to bring the story up to date? (grins)

  3. Jae said, on November 2, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I’ve been a fan of Stephan’s blog for a while, but haven’t read all of the comments. I was doing some research and came across a comment from you that linked to these papers. Thanks for posting this! I can’t wait to read these!

  4. trinkwasser said, on November 2, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Excellent stuff! Yes Stephan has one of the bestest blogs, though I’ve been too busy to read it or keep mine updated for a while now.

    I can’t remember now whose blog I found these papers on. I’m still looking for the Holy Grail of a similar paper/s which brings the story up to date.

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