Nutrition is the biochemical and physiological process by which an organism uses food to support its life. It includes ingestion, absorption, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism and excretion.[1]

The science that studies the physiological process of nutrition is called nutritional science (also nutrition science).

Nutritional groupsEdit

Organisms primarily provide themselves with carbon in one of two ways: autotrophy (the self-production of organic food) and heterotrophy (the consumption of existing organic carbon). Combined with the source of energy, either light (phototrophy) or chemical (chemotrophy), there are four primary nutritional groups for organisms.[2]


Nutrients are substances used by an organism to survive, grow, and reproduce. The seven major classes of relevant nutrients for animals (including humans) are carbohydrates, dietary fiber, fats, proteins, minerals, vitamins, and water. Nutrients can be grouped as either macronutrients (carbohydrates, dietary fiber, fats, proteins, and water needed in gram quantities) or micronutrients (vitamins and minerals needed in milligram or microgram quantities).


In nutrition, the diet of an organism is the sum of foods it eats, which is largely determined by the availability and palatability of foods.

Human nutritionEdit

Human nutrition deals with the provision of essential nutrients from food that are necessary to support human life and good health.[3] In humans, poor nutrition can cause deficiency-related diseases such as blindness, anemia, scurvy, preterm birth, stillbirth and cretinism,[4] or nutrient excess health-threatening conditions such as obesity[5][6] and metabolic syndrome;[7] and such common chronic systemic diseases as cardiovascular disease,[8] diabetes,[9][10] and osteoporosis.[11][12][13] Undernutrition can lead to wasting in acute cases, and stunting of marasmus in chronic cases of malnutrition.[4]

Animal nutritionEdit

Animal nutrition focuses on the dietary nutrients needs of animals, often in comparison (or contrast) to other organisms like plants. Carnivore and herbivore diets are contrasting, with basic nitrogen and carbon proportions vary for their particular foods. Many herbivores rely on bacterial fermentation to create digestible nutrients from indigestible plant cellulose, while obligate carnivores must eat animal meats to obtain certain vitamins or nutrients their bodies cannot otherwise synthesize. Animals generally have a higher requirement of energy in comparison to plants.[14]

Plant nutritionEdit

Plant nutrition is the study of the chemical elements that are necessary for plant growth.[15] There are several principles that apply to plant nutrition. Some elements are directly involved in plant metabolism. However, this principle does not account for the so-called beneficial elements, whose presence, while not required, has clear positive effects on plant growth.

A nutrient that can limit plant growth according to Liebig's law of the minimum is considered an essential plant nutrient if the plant cannot complete its full life cycle without it. There are 16 essential plant soil nutrients, besides the three major elemental nutrients carbon and oxygen that are obtained by photosynthetic plants from carbon dioxide in the air, and hydrogen, which is obtained from water.

Plants uptake essential elements from the soil through their roots and from the air (consisting of mainly nitrogen and oxygen) through their leaves. Green plants obtain their carbohydrate supply from the carbon dioxide in the air by the process of photosynthesis. Carbon and oxygen are absorbed from the air, while other nutrients are absorbed from the soil. Nutrient uptake in the soil is achieved by cation exchange, wherein root hairs pump hydrogen ions (H+) into the soil through proton pumps. These hydrogen ions displace cations attached to negatively charged soil particles so that the cations are available for uptake by the root. In the leaves, stomata open to take in carbon dioxide and expel oxygen. The carbon dioxide molecules are used as the carbon source in photosynthesis.

Although nitrogen is plentiful in the Earth's atmosphere, very few plants can use this directly. Most plants, therefore, require nitrogen compounds to be present in the soil in which they grow. This is made possible by the fact that largely inert atmospheric nitrogen is changed in a nitrogen fixation process to biologically usable forms in the soil by bacteria.[16]

Plant nutrition is a difficult subject to understand completely, partially because of the variation between different plants and even between different species or individuals of a given clone. Elements present at low levels may cause deficiency symptoms, and toxicity is possible at levels that are too high. Furthermore, deficiency of one element may present as symptoms of toxicity from another element and vice versa.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "nutrition | Definition, Importance, & Food". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  2. ^ Lwoff, A.; C.B. van Niel; P.J. Ryan; E.L. Tatum (1946). Nomenclature of nutritional types of microorganisms (PDF). Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology. XI (5th ed.). Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.: The Biological Laboratory. pp. 302–303.
  3. ^ "human nutrition | Importance, Essential Nutrients, Food Groups, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  4. ^ a b Whitney, Ellie; Rolfes, Sharon Rady (2013). Understanding Nutrition (13 ed.). Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. pp. 667, 670. ISBN 978-1-133-58752-1.
  5. ^ Wright, Margaret E.; Chang, Shih-Chen; Schatzkin, Arthur; Albanes, Demetrius; Kipnis, Victor; Mouw, Traci; Hurwitz, Paul; Hollenbeck, Albert; Leitzmann, Michael F. (15 February 2007). "Prospective study of adiposity and weight change in relation to prostate cancer incidence and mortality". Cancer. 109 (4): 675–684. doi:10.1002/cncr.22443. PMID 17211863. S2CID 42010929.
  6. ^ "Defining Adult Overweight and Obesity". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 7 June 2021.
  7. ^ Metabolic syndrome – PubMed Health.[dead link] Retrieved on 2011-10-17.
  8. ^ Omega-3 fatty acids. (5 October 2011). Retrieved on 2011-10-17.
  9. ^ What I need to know about eating and diabetes (PDF). U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. 2007. OCLC 656826809.
  10. ^ Diabetes Diet and Food Tips: Eating to Prevent and Control Diabetes Archived 20 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2011-10-17.
  11. ^ Osteoporosis & Vitamin D: Deficiency, How Much, Benefits, and More. (7 July 2005). Retrieved on 2011-10-17.
  12. ^ Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. Retrieved on 2011-10-17.
  13. ^ Brody, Jane E. (19 March 1998). "Osteoporosis Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency". The New York Times.
  14. ^ National Geographic Society (21 January 2011). "Herbivore". National Geographic Society. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  15. ^ Allen V. Barker; David J. Pilbeam. Handbook of Plant Nutrition. CRC Press, 2010. p. Preface.
  16. ^ Lindemann, W.C. and Glover C.R. (2003) Nitrogen Fixation by Legumes. New Mexico State University/


  • Carpenter, Kenneth J. (1994). Protein and Energy: A Study of Changing Ideas in Nutrition. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-45209-0.
  • Curley, S., and Mark (1990). The Natural Guide to Good Health, Lafayette, Louisiana, Supreme Publishing
  • Galdston, I. (1960). Human Nutrition Historic and Scientific. New York: International Universities Press.
  • Gratzer, Walter (2006) [2005]. Terrors of the Table: The Curious History of Nutrition. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-920563-9.
  • Mahan, L.K.; Escott-Stump, S., eds. (2000). Krause's Food, Nutrition, and Diet Therapy (10th ed.). Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Harcourt Brace. ISBN 978-0-7216-7904-4.
  • Thiollet, J.-P. (2001). Vitamines & minéraux. Paris: Anagramme.
  • Walter C. Willett; Meir J. Stampfer (January 2003). "Rebuilding the Food Pyramid". Scientific American. 288 (1): 64–71. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0103-64. PMID 12506426.

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