Nutritional science (also nutrition science, sometimes short nutrition, dated trophology) is the science that studies the physiological process of nutrition (primarily human nutrition), interpreting the nutrients and other substances in food in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, health and disease of an organism.
Before nutritional science emerged as an independent study disciplines, mainly chemists worked in this area. The chemical composition of food was examined. Macronutrients, especially protein, fat and carbohydrates, have been the focus components of the study of (human) nutrition since the 19th century. Until the discovery of vitamins and vital substances, the quality of nutrition was measured exclusively by the intake of nutritional energy.
The early years of the 20th century were summarized by Kenneth John Carpenter in his Short History of Nutritional Science as "the vitamin era". The first vitamin was isolated and chemically defined in 1926 (thiamine). The isolation of vitamin C followed in 1932 and its effects on health, the protection against scurvy, was scientifically documented for the first time.
Nutritional science as a separate discipline was institutionalized in Germany in November 1956 when Hans-Diedrich Cremer was appointed to the chair for human nutrition in Giessen. The Institute for Nutritional Science was initially located at the Academy for Medical Research and Further Education, which was transferred to the Faculty of Human Medicine when the Justus Liebig University was reopened. Over time, seven other universities with similar institutions followed in Germany.
Nutritional science is often combined with food science (nutrition and food science).
Trophology is a term used globally for nutritional science in other languages, in English the term is dated. Today, it is partly still used for the approach of food combining that advocates specific combinations (or advises against certain combinations) of food. Ecotrophology is a branch of nutritional science concerned with everyday practice and elements from household management that is primarily studied in Germany.
Academic studies and education
Nutritional science as a subject is taught at universities around the world. At the beginning of the programs, the basic subjects of biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics are part of the curriculum. Later, a focus is on inorganic chemistry, functional biology, biochemistry and genetics. At most universities, students can specialize in certain areas, this involves subjects such as special food chemistry, nutritional physiology, food law and nutritional medicine. Students who are more interested in the economic aspect usually specialize in the field of food economics. Laboratory exercises are also on the curriculum at most universities.
Notable nutritional scientists
- John Yudkin (1910–1995), who established the first degree in nutritional science in any European university
- Hans Adalbert Schweigart (1900–1972), the creator of the term vital substances
- Hans Konrad Biesalski (* 1949)
- Hanni Rützler (* 1962)
- Journal of Nutritional Science, published on behalf of The Nutrition Society
- Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, edited by The Vitamin Society of Japan and Japan Society of Nutrition and Food Science, published by the Center for Academic Publications Japan
- Food & Nutrition Research, published by the Swedish Nutrition Foundation
- European Journal of Nutrition, published by Springer Science+Business Media in Germany
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- trophology. (n.d.) Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014. Online:  (retrieved 8 March 2021)
- "Joint Collection Development Policy: Human Nutrition and Food". US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. 14 October 2014. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
- Kenneth J. Carpenter (1 October 2003): A Short History of Nutritional Science: Part 3 (1912–1944). In: The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 133, Issue 10, October 2003, Pages 3023–3032, doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/133.10.3023
- Dariush Mozaffarian, Irwin Rosenberg Ricardo Uauy (13 June 2018): History of modern nutrition science—implications for current research, dietary guidelines, and food policy. In: BMJ 2018; 361 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k2392
- Davies, Louise (24 July 1995). "Obituary: John Yudkin", The Independent.
- Gertrud Rehner (1 June 2007): 50 Jahre Institut für Ernährungswissenschaft in Gießen – Ein Rückblick. In: Der Präsident der Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen (Hrsg.): Spiegel der Forschung, pp. 26–30 (German only)