Random Facts
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42 Random Facts About . . .


  1. “Nutrition” is derived from “nourish,” which is from the Latin nutrire, meaning to feed, nurse, support, and preserve--literally, “she who gives suck.” Essentially, nutrition refers to the variety of ways the body makes use of food.i
  2. Anthropophagites, or cannibals, are humans who eat human meat. While human flesh itself contains high-quality protein, cannibalism in most cultures likely served a more symbolic than nutritional purpose.h
  3. The Greeks and Romans regulated nutrition on the theory of the four humors circulating throughout the body (warm, cold, moist, dry). Classical physicians tried to correct an excess of cold and moist “humors” by providing hot, dry foods and vice versa. For example, a woman’s body was seen as wetter and colder than a man’s and, therefore, she was to avoid food that would make her even colder and wetter, such as fish, eels, and meat from newborn animals.e
  4. Many parents during the Roman empire who were influenced by doctors such as Soranus and Galen often denied their babies colostrum (protein-rich breast milk) believing it was too thick and not good for the child’s digestion. They regularly gave their babies to a wet-nurse (though the mother’s milk was usually the best) and were likely to wean their babies onto foods that lacked adequate nutrition, such as diluted cereals and mixtures of honey or wine with softened bread.e
  5. Most likely due to poor nutrition as children, many Greeks and Romans were shorter than people today. Men from Pompeii, for example, averaged 5 ft. 5-½ in. and women averaged 5 ft. 2 in.e
  6. The Ebers papyrus (1350 B.C.) suggests placing drops of crushed and roasted ox liver in the eyes of people suffering from night blindness. While Egyptians most likely were not aware of vitamin A, liver does have high levels of the vitamin which help maintains normal vision in dim light.e
  7. Common diseases that are caused by nutritional deficiencies include beriberi (Vitamin B1-thiamine), pellagra (B3-niacin), anemia (B12-cobalamin), and scurvy (C-ascorbic acid).d
  8. The English are sometimes called “limeys” because British sailors would eat limes to stave off scurvy. Limes were later replaced by lemons due to the lack of adequate vitamin C in lime juice.f
  9. Sunlight
    Sunlight is a major source of Vitamin D
  10. Vitamin D is unusual because it is the only vitamin that can be synthesized in the body. Sunlight is the main source of Vitamin D, though sunscreen lotions with high SPF can prevent vitamin D formation. Vitamin D is also the only vitamin that is a hormone.d
  11. There are approximately 60 nutrients which are placed in six major categories: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.i
  12. Nutrients are divided into two major groups: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients include protein, carbohydrates, water, and fats. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals.i
  13. The digestive tract (alimentary canal) in humans includes the mouth, esophagus, small intestine (duodenum, jejunum, illeum), and large intestine (caecum, colon, rectum, anus). The liver and pancreas are not part of the digestive tract but provide vital digestive secretions, such as bile and pancreatic juices.i
  14. Water accounts for 55-70% of our body weight, and typically a minimum of six to eight glasses of water is needed to keep the body performing at optimal levels (the amount of water needed differs according to an individual’s health, physical activity, environment, etc). A 20% loss of fluid from the body is usually fatal. Conversely, drinking too much water can also be fatal.i
  15. The term “vitamin” was coined by Polish-American chemist Casimir Funk and is derived from vital (necessary for life) and amine (a compound containing nitrogen and hydrogen). It was later discovered that not all vitamins are amines. Vitamins were discovered one at a time from 1900-1950. Many vitamins cannot be synthesized by the body in adequate amounts and must be obtained from the diet.i
  16. Vitamins are grouped according to their solubility in either fat or water. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble, meaning they need fat to be absorbed into the body and can be stored in the body. Vitamin B complexes and Vitamin C are water soluble and, because they cannot be stored in the body, they must be replaced every day.i
  17. Alaska Natives have the highest rates of botulism in the world due to the way they butcher and store indigenous food (such as seals) under the ground in plastic bags.f
  18. Salt is the most common seasoning mentioned in the Bible. Salt was a vital mineral that was not only essential to life, but also preserved other foods critical for survival. Salt was so important that it was also often used as a form of currency or as a unit of exchange.a
  19. Temperature can affect appetite. A cold person is more likely to eat more food.d
  20. The word health
    Health is related to the word "wholeness"
  21. The word “health” comes from the Anglo-Saxon term hal meaning “wholeness.”i
  22. It takes 3500 calories to make a pound.i
  23. The human digestive system is home to between 10 and 100 trillion bacteria, at least 10 times the amount of cells in the body. Some scholars speculate that intestinal bacteria differ in lean and obese people.i
  24. Minerals constitute 4% of our body weight. Unlike carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, they do not furnish energy. Minerals include calcium, iron, and sodium.i
  25. A deficiency of calcium/vitamin D during infancy or childhood results in rickets (deformed bones). The bones can become so weak that they can’t withstand the body’s weight, causing bow legs or knock knees. Once malformed, bones cannot be straightened.i
  26. A person will usually swallow around 250 times during dinner.i
  27. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease cannot be killed in meat by cooking. The interval between the virus getting into the body and the final illness is about one to two years in small animals to an estimated five to 30 years in humans.g
  28. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia, neural disorders, and psychotic behavior. Women who are planning to get pregnant are encouraged to have healthy levels of Vitamin B12 to prevent potential birth defects.i
  29. Americans collectively consume approximately 900 billion calories each day.f
  30. Insects such as termites and ants provide 10% of the protein consumed worldwide. Where insects are an integral part of a diet, they contribute as much as 40% of protein.b
  31. In the United States, it is estimated that every adult unconsciously consumes one pound of insects each year due to garden produce, poor restaurant and home hygiene, and commercial foods for which the USDA allows a certain amount of insect fragments. Peanut butter, for example, is allowed to have 30 insect fragments per 100 grams.b
  32. Some children and pregnant women crave non-nutritive substances, such as paint, plaster, rocks, and dirt. These cravings may suggest the person lacks certain minerals, such as iron.f
  33. Smoking marijuana cigarettes increases a person’s appetite by a whopping 40%.f
  34. A Chili’s Smokehouse Bacon Triple-The-Cheese Big Mouth Burger with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing has 2,040 calories, 150 g of fat, and 4,900 mg sodium. Americans eat nearly 40 billion hamburgers a year.k
  35. An adult can starve to death within 8-12 weeks. In the final stages of starvation, adults can experience hallucinations, convulsions, severe muscle pain, and irregular heart rhythms. Organs weakened by starvation may actually burst if food is given too quickly.i
  36. Anorexia nervosa (an = without, orexia = appetite), bulimia (bous = ox , limous = hunger) and binge eating disorders have been described in ancient texts, but the number of cases skyrocketed in industrialized, economically developed nations during the 1960s.f
  37. The best way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories and increase exercise. Experts suggest aiming for a weight loss goal of one pound per week.i
  38. Improved nutrition (as well as vaccinations and antibiotics) has extended the average U.S. lifespan from 30 to 40 years old in the early twentieth century to 70 to 80 years old today.f
  39. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight. Weight gained after one’s early twenties is linked to higher chances of suffering from heart disease, cancer, infertility, gallstones, asthma, and even snoring.f
  40. A 1552 B.C. Egyptian papyrus provides an early description of what seems to be diabetes and specifically mentions polyuria (frequent urination). Up until the eleventh century A.D., diabetes was typically diagnosed by “water tasters” who drank the urine of those thought to have diabetes. Those who had sweet-tasting urine were thought to have diabetes mellitus (Latin for “honey”), or Type 1 diabetes.a
  41. Eggs
    Eggs are a good source of protein
  42. Eggs contain the highest quality food protein known. All parts of an egg are edible, including the shell which has a high calcium content.c
  43. Ancient Mesoamerican cultures such as the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec used chocolate as medicine and as a medium in which other medicines were taken.b
  44. Okinawans are thought to live longer than any other ethnic group and they have healthier hearts and bones. This is largely due to their cultural practice called Hara Hachi Bu, which means they eat just until they are 80% full. Their diet is rich in complex carbohydrates and plant-based foods and is low in fat. They are also physically active.j
  45. A person will eat an average of 35 tons of food in his or her lifetime, or 1,500 pounds of food a year.d

-- Posted December 2, 2008


a Dalby, Andrew. 2003. Food in the Ancient World: From A to Z. New York, NY: Routledge.

b Etkin, Nina L. 2006. Edible Medicines: An Ethnopharmacology of Food. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press.

c Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe. 2002. Near A Thousand Tables: A History of Food. New York, NY: The Free Press.

d Fieldhouse, Paul. 1995. Food and Nutrition: Customs and Culture. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Chapman & Hall.

e Garnsy, Peter. 1999. Food and Society in Classical Antiquity. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

f Kittler, Pamela Goyan and Kathryn P. Sucher. 1998. Food and Culture in America: A Nutrition Handbook.  2nd Ed. Albany, NY: West Publishing Company.

g Lacey, Richard W. 1994. Hard to Swallow: A Brief History of Food. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

h "Man As Protein." Time.com. March 9, 1970. Accessed: November 26, 2008.

i Roday, Sunetra. 2007. Food Science and Nutrition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

j UCBerkelyWellnessLetter. “Eat Like an Okinawa.” September 2001. Accessed: December 3, 2008.

k Zinczenco, David and Matt Goulding. "America's Best and Worst Burgers." Men’sHealth. November 18, 2008. Accessed: December 2, 2008.