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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

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(like the verb "to feed," from a Teutonic root, whence O. Eng. foda; cf. "fodder"; connected with Gr. irar€7a®at, to feed), the general term for what is eaten by man and other creatures for the sustenance of life. The scientific aspect of human food iS dealt with under Nutrition and Dietetics.


The influence of a normal diet upon the health of man (we exclude here the question of diet in illness, which must depend on the abnormal conditions existing) begins at the earliest stage of his life. No food has as yet been found so suitable for the young of all animals as their mother's milk. This, however, has not been from want of seeking. Dr Brouzet (Sur l'education medicinale des enfants, i. p. 165) had such a bad opinion of human mothers, that he expressed a wish for the state to interfere and prevent them from suckling their children, lest they should communicate immorality and disease! A still more determined pessimist was the famous chemist Van Helmont, who thought life had been reduced to its present shortness by our inborn propensities, and proposed to substitute bread boiled in beer and honey for milk, which latter he calls "brute's food." Baron Justus von Liebig, as the result of his chemical researches, introduced a "food for infants," which in more modern days has been followed by a multiplication of patent foods. A close imitation of human milk may also be made by the addition to fresh cow's milk of half its bulk of soft water, in each pint of which has been mixed a heaped-up teaspoonful of powdered "sugar' of milk" and a pinch of phosphate of lime. These artificial substitutes for the natural nutriment have their value where for any reason it is not available. The wholesomest food, however, for the first six months is certainly mother's milk alone. A vigorous baby can indeed bear with impunity much rough usage, and often appears none the worse for a certain quantity of farinaceous food; but the majority do not get habituated to it without an exhibition of dislike which indicates rebellion of the bowels. It is only when the teeth are on their way to the front, as shown by dribbling, that the parotid glands secrete an active saliva capable of digesting bread stuffs. Till then anything but milk must be given tentatively, and considered in the light of a means of education for its future mode of nutrition.

The time for weaning should be fixed partly by the child's age, partly by the growth of the teeth. The first group of teeth nine times out of ten consists of the lower central front teeth, which may appear any time during the sixth and seventh month. The mother may then begin to diminish the number of suckling times; and by a month she can have reduced them to twice a day, so as to be ready when the second group makes its way through the upper front gums to cut off the supply altogether. The third group, the lateral incisors and first grinders, usually after the first anniversary of birth, give notice that solid food can be chewed. But it is prudent to let dairy milk form a considerable portion of the fare till the eye-teeth are cut, which seldom happens till the eighteenth or twentieth month.

Childhood and Youth

At this stage of life the diet must obviously be the best which is a transition from that of infancy to that of adult age. Growth is not completed, but yet entire surrender of every consideration to the claim of growth is not possible, nor indeed desirable. Moreover, that abundance of adipose tissue, or reserve new growth, which a baby can bear is an impediment to the due education of the muscles of the boy or girl. The supply of nutriment need not be so continuous as before, but at the same time should be more frequent than for the adult. Up to at least fourteen or fifteen years of age the rule should be four meals a day, varied indeed, but nearly equal in nutritive power and in quantity, that is to say, all moderate, all sufficient. The maturity the body then reaches involves a hardening and enlargement of the bones and cartilages, and a strengthening of the digestive organs, which in healthy young persons enables us to dispense with some of the watchful care bestowed upon their diet. Three full meals a day are generally sufficient, and the requirements of mental training may be allowed to a certain extent to modify the attention to nutrition which has hitherto been paramount.


It is only necessary here to refer to the article on Dietetics (see also Vegetarianism) for a discussion of the food of normal adults; and to such headings as Dietary (for fixed allowances) or Cookery. Different staple articles of food are dealt with under their own headings. For animals other than man see the respective articles on them.

Among numerous books on the subject, in addition to those enumerated under Dietetics, see Sir Henry Thompson's Foods and Feeding (1894); Hart's Diet in Sickness and Health (1896); Knight, Food and its Functions (1895).

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Food'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​bri/​f/food.html. 1910.
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