Lab Cat

28 May 2006

The missing nutrient?

Filed under: Food, Science, water — Cat @ 12:00 pm

I was trying decide what would excite me scientifically to write about next. I still find the interaction of food, tongue and brain very interesting but need to do some background reading to understand what is going on.

So back to Food Chemistry. What, I wondered, is the most important part of food chemistry that everyone should understand? While the chemical nature of food and how it changes during processing and storage are very important and topics I hope to cover later, this wasn’t what I wanted to write about now.

I decided to get right back to basics. This is one of the first topics in my freshman class. It is so important that we generally take it for granted. It was missing from the food pyramid, but is essential to life. It could be argued as to whether this compound is even a food. What am I talking about?


River at Compton Verney

Oh yeah, water.

So why might WATER not be a food? To be able to decide that, we need to define a food. to help with this I provide a definition of food from OED:

a. What is taken into the system to maintain life and growth, and to supply the waste of tissue; aliment, nourishment, provisions, victuals.

b. What is edible, as opposed to ‘drink.’

Food as defined by the FDA in CFR21: SEC. 201 f as

(1) articles used for food or drink for man or other animals,

(2) chewing gum, and

(3) articles used for components of any such article.

The UK Food Safety Act (1990):

1.—(1) In this Act “food” includes—

(a) drink;

(b) articles and substances of no nutritional value which are used for human consumption;

(c) chewing gum and other products of a like nature and use; and

(d) articles and substances used as ingredients in the preparation of food or anything falling within this subsection.

It might help if I gave you the definition for nutrient (OED):

a) Conveying or supplying nourishment*; esp. (chiefly Anat. and Zool.) concerned with the supply or distribution within the organism of substances which provide nourishment.

b) Serving as nourishment; possessing nutritious qualities.

*to nourish: To sustain the life or health of (a person, animal, or part of the body) with food or proper nutriment.

So is it a food? Does it provide nourishment? While water doesn’t provide nutrients, it is essential for life. We can actually survive longer without food than we can without water.

So why isn’t it on the pyramid? It was put on the base of the food pyramid for the over seventies:

Old pyramid for over 70s

Water safety is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency rather than by FDA or USDA. Together with the water authorities, the EPA is responsible for ensuring that drinking water is safe. There is booklet available explaining how our water supply is kept safe for drinking.

Water consumption is important. Next I will post about why and how much water we need to consume each day.






  1. […] Last time I discussed whether or not water should count as a nutrient. While it does not supply nutrients, water is essential for life. We die a lot quicker from dehydration than from starvation. So why do we need water? Water is a vital part of many metabolic processes within the body, and significant quantities of water are used during the digestion of food (link). […]

    Pingback by Lab Cat » Blog Archive » Water - How much is enough? — 5 Jun 2006 @ 10:43 pm

  2. Your food pyramid is really awesome. I was delightfull with the information I found in this post. Thanks for your useful and statistical information

    Comment by Elizabeth — 26 Dec 2006 @ 6:21 am

  3. I must admit I find it insightful to read your blogging. Keep up the good work.

    Comment by petslover — 18 Feb 2010 @ 11:37 am

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