Published October 1973 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Good Nutrition Low on Totem Pole The high price of food, the shortages, the fact that millions of our citizens are overweight and millions more may be undernourished, the widespread obsession with food fads-all of these and other contemporary phenomena have served to focus a great amount of attention upon the subject of nutrition in the United States. On every hand, one sees and hears claims for wonder-working diets. "Natural foods" are in. Vitamin sales soar. Pills to make one lose-or to make one gain-are widely hawked. Americans seem to be food conscious as they may never have been before. The trend is probably a healthy one, insofar as it serves to turn the spotlight upon the importance of nutrition. The unfortunate fact, however, is that a considerable amount of the advice one may get about nutrition and diet may not be good. Too many fadists, hucksters, and even outright quacks and fakers, have gotten into the picture. They take advantage of a poorly-informed and often gullible public. Despite their affluence and food-consciousness, many Americans, Congressional testimony indicates, are still woefully lacking in knowledge of what constitutes good nutrition. It is said that only about half of American housewives know how to prepare a balanced meal. Many of the highly-advertised processed foods they serve have little nutritional value because of the vitamins and minerals lost in manufacture. Too many children are allowed to subsist on Cokes and candy bars. The well-to-do as well as the poor can be ill-nourished. In the field of medical science, nutrition is low on the totem pole of interest and study. Nutrition has no recognized place among medical specialties. Only 10 or 12 of approximately 120 U.S. medical schools have full departments of nutrition and federal funds for research in this area have been reduced. Doctors understandably are attracted to more glamorous fields. But the human being is mainly what he eats. Theoretically, if one's body could be perfectly nourished it should be able to avoid many of the myriad ills that flesh is heir to. An increased emphasis by all concerned on the vital importance of good nutrition could pay off handsomely for the health of our nation.