Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Food and medicine, food as medicine

I had a chance this morning to spend a few minutes browsing through a new book on medieval food, borrowed through the Orbis Cascade Alliance consortium by a library colleague. The book, Food in medieval times by Melitta Weiss Adamson, includes a whole chapter on "Concepts of diet and nutrition," including medical concepts of foodstuffs and their role in the maintenance of good health.

Weiss notes that dietetics "was one of the main areas of study at medieval medical schools," and that humoral theory dominated the teaching and practice of the period. According to Weiss, the Greek concept of the four humors had first been applied
to food by the Arab physician Haly Abbas, whose ideas were later adopted and modified by European practitioners. High mortality rates experienced during the Black Death spurred publications on diet and health and provided an impetus for some scholarly works to be circulated among the lower classes.

The relationship between food and health has remained an area of interest in medicine ever since. Here in the historical collections, we have numerous 19th-century works which deal with diet. We also have several items relating to the history of dietetics here at OHSU in the PNW Archives collection. In the main library collections, we also have cookbooks by OHSU faculty Roy Swank (MS diet) and Bill and Sonja Connor.

Is it lunchtime yet?

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