The food we eat has a major effect on our physical health and psychological wellbeing. An understanding of the way in which nutrients are metabolized, and hence of the principles of biochemistry, is essential for an understanding of the scientific basis of what we would call a prudent or healthy diet.

My aim in the following pages is to explain both the conclusions of the many expert committees that have deliberated on the problems of nutritional requirements, diet and health over the years and also the scientific basis on which these experts have reached their conclusions. Much what is now presented as 'facts' will be proven to be incorrect in years to come. This book is intended to provide a foundation of scientific knowledge and understanding from which to interpret and evaluate future advances in nutrition and health sciences.

Nutrition is one of the basic sciences that underlie a proper understanding of health and human sciences and the ways in which human beings and their environment interact. In its turn, the science of nutrition is based on both biochemistry and physiology, on the one hand, and the social and behavioural sciences on the other. This book contains such biochemistry as is essential to an understanding of the science of nutrition.

In a book of this kind, which is an introduction to nutrition and metabolism, it is not appropriate to cite the original scientific literature which provides the (sometimes conflicting) evidence for the statements made; in the clinical problems and some of the tables of data I have acknowledged my sources of data as a simple courtesy to my follow scientists, and also to guide readers to the original sources of information. Otherwise, the suggestions for further reading and Internet sites listed under additional resources are intended to provide an entry to the scientific literature.

Two of my colleagues have provided especially helpful comments: Dr Derek Evered, Emeritus Reader in Biochemistry at Chelsea College, University of London, and Professor Keith Frayn (University of Oxford). I would like to thank them for their kind and constructive criticisms of the second edition of this book. I am grateful to those of my students whose perceptive questions have helped me to formulate and clarify my thoughts, and especially those who responded to my enquiry as to what they would like to see (for the benefit of future generations of students) in this new edition.

This book is dedicated to those who will use it as a part of their studies, in the hope that they will be able, in their turn, to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and help their clients, patients and students to understand the basis of the advice they offer.

David A Bender December 2001

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