Let not thy food be confused with thy medicine: the hippocratic misquotation




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e-SPEN Journal, 2212-8263, Vol 8, Nro. 6, 2013, p. e260-e262

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Background and aim The link between food and health has been documented since Antiquity. The aim of the article is to show that the alleged Hippocratic phrase “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” is a widespread misquotation, lying at the root of an entire misconception about the ancient concepts of food and medicine. Methods Examples of publications gathered from the MEDLINE® and Google Scholar databases which cite the phrase verbatim and attribute it to Hippocrates were selected. Then, an extensive review of the works related to food and diet in the Corpus Hippocraticum was made in order to search for the phrase. Results At least for the last 30 years this phrase has mistakenly helped scientists confirm the importance of food to health and highlight new ethical challenges in medicine and dietetics. We showed that at least one biomedical journal per year has cited the phrase. Conclusion This literary creation has led to an essential misconception. For Hippocrates, even if food was closely linked to health and disease, the concept of food was not confused with that of medication.

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History of medicine, Ethics, Nutrition, Dietetics, Food