The Anthropology of Medicine: From Culture to Method

By Lola Romanucci-Ross; Daniel E. Moerman et al. | Go to book overview
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During a lifetime, a human being will eat thousands of pounds of food. The body will use this food to grow, to repair damaged tissue, and to maintain organs such as the brain and heart. Some of these foods will be enjoyable to eat because they are perceived to look appetizing and taste delicious. Other foods may not be enjoyable to eat, but will be consumed anyway because they are "good for the body or the spirit." Biochemically, the body does not distinguish between foods that are liked or disliked, for the human body does not use food, rather the body requires the biological nutrients contained in food. Biology, however, is not the entire story of human nutrition. Cultural variables, such as the type of food eaten, its manner of preparation, and the social context in which it is consumed, often determine the efficacy of that food in meeting human needs for health and well-being. It is the purpose of the chapter to explore the evolution of some of the biological and cultural requirements of human nutrition. Although at times the biology and culture of nutrition will be treated separately, the major theme of this chapter is to view human nutrition holistically as a biocultural phenomenon.

The biocultural nature of people and food is shown by the following Maya story of creation.

The Conception of the People of Corn

It was night, and the gods sat thinking in the darkness. Among them were the Bearer, Begetter, the Makers, Modelers named Tepeu Gucumatz, the Sovereign Plumed Serpent. Twice before they had tried to create a human being to be servant to the gods. One time the humans were made of clay and the other time of wood; but on both occasions the creatures so formed were stupid, without any intellect and without


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The Anthropology of Medicine: From Culture to Method
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