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It appears to me that, in disordered nutritive states, all, or nearly all, may occur and constantly do occur under the same circumstances.

If such is the case, the prevailing views in this very important department of pathology may possibly admit of simplification, and be thereby rendered more practical. It is with no slight hesitation that I have made an attempt in this direction; but I have gathered courage from the reflection that the generalizations of a practical physician, who is constantly seeing and treating chronic as well as acute disease, may not be without some value, even in a field occupied by much more learned labourers.

I trust that I shall not be considered presumptuous, if I express the hope that this little work may contribute to convince my medical brethren of the imperative necessity of studying dietetics in connexion with chemistry and physiology. Apart from such a basis, all dietetic views and regulations must be fallacious. No medical practitioner is, in reality, capable of regulating the diet of his patients in a sound and satisfactory manner, unless he know and bear in mind the chemical nature of

the food that he recommends, what it is destined to effect, and what eventually becomes of it,—whether perfectly or imperfectly digested.

In conclusion, I would remark, that the tendency which is rapidly gaining ground to look upon the diseases of the present day as presenting an asthenic character, and as requiring high feeding and stimulants more than depletion and a low diet, renders this knowledge all the more necessary. It should ever be remembered, that to give a large quantity of food to a patient, however weak and emaciated, which he cannot and does not properly digest, is partially to poison him. On the one hand, imperfectly digested food does not nourish; on the other, it has to be eliminated from the economy as noxious matter;—yet this is an error which is constantly committed.


September 1st, 1858.



UNDER the general term of Nutrition may be comprised the various functions and operations through the agency of which the animal economy is developed, its waste is repaired, and its heat is maintained.

Life begins in man, as in all animated nature, by a cell or a series of cells. During foetal life the materials of nutrition are elaborated and supplied by the mother. But from the moment that parturition has taken place, that the link which united mother and child has been severed, and that the latter begins to live an independent existence, its nutrition must be the result of the action of its organization upon "the materials of nutrition” supplied from the outer world.

The materials of nutrition are obtained from the atmospheric air breathed and from the food


consumed. Out of these materials the organization of the new-born child, perfect in itself, but rudimentary in its development, has to be increased, completed, and repaired.

The human frame is composed, chemically speaking, of gases, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen, of carbon, and of various inorganic salts, phosphate, and carbonate of lime, sulphur, chloride of calcium, &c. These are the chemical elements which are eliminated from the air and from food. The nutritive elements supplied by the atmosphere which surrounds the earth, through the function of respiration, are always the same, and if the atmosphere is pure, are supplied in the same proportions. They are beyond our control, inasmuch as respiration is carried on from birth to death independently of the will. Food contains the required chemical elements of nutrition in variable proportions, and instinct guides man, and all animated beings, in the choice of the kind of food required by his and their organizations. This instinct, however, may be, and often is, marred or perverted in man. Having reason to guide and direct him, the food-instinct is not so strong with him as it is with the brute creation, the members of which generally limit themselves to the kind of food upon which nature has intended them to live

and thrive. It behoves man, therefore, to make use of his reason, to study himself, and thus to enable his intellect to direct his appetites and fooddesires.

The body is principally formed of the three gases above enumerated, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen, and of carbon, transformed and solidified by nature's chemistry. The inorganic salts occupy a subordinate but indispensable position. These salts are mainly employed in forming and giving solidity to the tissues, bones, cartilages, muscles, &c. They are contained in greater or less, but in sufficient quantity, in the various articles of food consumed by animated beings, so that they enter the economy with the food, imperceptibly, mysteriously, as it were, perform their duty, and are eliminated, without the individual having to look for them, or being conscious, indeed, of their presence, or of the inorganic requirements of his own organization.

In the vegetable world, carbon is the all-important and predominating elementary substance. Hydrogen and oxygen also exist in abundance, either united as water, or in other forms of combination. Nitrogen is scarcely found in some vegetable productions, and seldom constitutes more than from one to four per cent. of the whole, even in the

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