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Encyclopedia of Food and Health

By: , Posted on: September 4, 2015

We are excited to announce the Encyclopedia of Food and Health will be publishing September 2015! This exciting new Major Reference Work looks at the availability, digestion, absorption, and metabolism of key food constituents and explores how they can prevent disease and improve global health. Below is an exclusive preview of the introduction by the editors, Benjamin Caballero, Paul Finglas and Fidel Toldra.

encyclopedia of food and health

Until a few decades ago, virtually all known health effects of foods were related to their content of essential nutrients. The clinical description of most diet-related illnesses mirrored the signs of essential nutrient deficiencies, such as pellagra, beriberi, and others. Consequently, the key public health concern regarding diet was ensuring that everyone consumed enough food. It was only in the past 50 years that large-scale epidemiological observations began to associate chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease with nonessential diet constituents such as saturated fat, fiber, and cholesterol. Taking advantage of the emergence of digital informatics, these studies were able to manipulate increasingly large sets of data and provide, for the first time, a picture of the secular changes in the health of large populations and its association with what they ate regularly. These findings progressively shifted the concern from eating enough to avoiding excessive consumption of certain foods. Eating enough was replaced by eating well.

But it turned out that defining how to eat well is far more complex than defining minimum needs of essential nutrients. First, there is no single paradigm to study those relationships, given the wide variety of biological mechanisms and the long exposures involved. Second, many of the experimental models used to define essential nutrient needs are not applicable to the study of long-term effects of diets in free-living populations. And it is now clear that experiments with isolated dietary compounds do not reflect the actual effects of the complex food matrix we consume daily. Finally, while the discovery of essential nutrients and their role in health was the domain of a few specialties speaking a common language (primarily biochemists and physiologists), the study of the long-term effects of whole diets in humans must of necessity involve epidemiologists, social and behavioral scientists, food scientists, clinicians, policy experts, etc., making far more difficult the development of consensus and foundational concepts.

It is thus not surprising that today we have still not achieved a stable consensus on how to eat ‘well.’

Furthermore, while few nonscientists would care about the minimum requirement of a vitamin to sustain life, there are plenty of opinions among nonscientists on how to eat ‘well.’

Our goal in preparing this encyclopedia has been to contribute to the understanding of that complex diet–health relationship by providing a multidisciplinary, integrative and accurate source of information. We aim to serve the needs not only of established and in-training scientists, but also of the increasingly important group of professionals who are key to disseminate and sustain the practice of science: journalists, science writers, science administrators, fund raisers, donors, and policymakers. In preparing this work, we had the enormous advantage of working with one of the publishers with the most extensive expertise in major reference works, Elsevier. This first edition builds on the impressive breadth of knowledge of over 920 authors and on the tireless work of our editorial advisory board. We are very grateful to all of them.

Benjamin Caballero
Paul Finglas
Fidel Toldra

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Food Science & Nutrition

The field of food science is highly interdisciplinary, spanning areas of chemistry, engineering, biology, and many more. Researchers in these areas achieve fundamental advances in our understanding of agriculture, nutrition, and food-borne illness, and develop new technologies, like food processing methods and packaging material. Against a backdrop of global issues of food supply and regulation, this important work is supported by Elsevier’s catalog of books, eBooks, and journals in food science, considered essential resources for students, instructors, and health professionals worldwide. Learn more about our Food Science and Nutrition books here.

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