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The Drive to Eat in Nutritional Physiology

The Drive to Eat in Nutritional Physiology

(p.133) Seven The Drive to Eat in Nutritional Physiology
Appetite and Its Discontents
Elizabeth A. Williams
University of Chicago Press

Chapter 7 examines efforts to explain the drive to eat in nutritional physiology from 1850-1900, decades when leading physiologists sought a materialist understanding of ingestion and digestion. Such researchers insisted on the indispensability of laboratory methods and discounted psychic factors observed by physicians in human patients. Key figures in this chapter include Jacob Moleschott, who applied the new concept of metabolism to appetite yet accepted the traditional view that appetite supplied the surest guide to eating; Carl Ludwig, who insisted on the need for objective, quantitative analysis of nutritional processes and trained a generation of students in the requisite methods; Claude Bernard, who established a lastingly influential framework for the investigation of appetite with his doctrine of self-regulation of the “internal milieu”; and Moritz Schiff, who argued against localist theories of the urge to eat focused on the stomach and acknowledged the role of psychic factors. Despite the promise of a materialist approach, the persistence of basic questions about the urge to eat encouraged the emergence of competing camps of peripheralists and cerebralists and, eventually, of a new physiological psychology that claimed authority over eating desires and behavior.

Keywords:   materialism, psychic factors, Jacob Moleschott, Carl Ludwig, quantification, Claude Bernard, internal milieu, Moritz Schiff, peripheralists, cerebralists

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