Much has been said in regard to food for older students, and a number of studies of student diet have been made. A few points only can be considered. In the first place, the student is leading a sedentary life, and does not need the hearty food required by the laborer or the one who is doing much outdoor or manual work. The proportion of proteid should be somewhat high in comparison with that of the carbohydrates, and the food should be simple and digestible, in order that but little energy be used in carrying on the processes of digestion.
A good variety is needed, however, and especial care must be exercised to make the food attractive that the appetite may be stimulated. The comparatively small amount of exercise taken generally by the student makes this especially necessary, though no amount of attention paid to the food can or should be a substitute for the healthy appetite.
As in the case of the child, it is frequently wise for the student to eat oftener than at the regular meal time. A glass of milk, a cup of cocoa, or of broth with a cracker in the middle of the morning will often prevent a headache from exhaustion.
Old age needs especial consideration in regard to diet as well as youth. After middle life the total amount of food needed lessens somewhat, and the proportion of building material, both of proteids and of mineral salts is less. Again, as in childhood, care must be exercised in regard to digestibility and simplicity of food. Often special conditions of the system must be considered and certain kinds of food avoided, but this is a matter for intelligent following of a physician's directions.
One of the question that frequently arises in regard to diet is that of reducing or increasing flesh by this means. Increase in weight implies that more food is taken into the body than is utilized in the repair of waste and in work. To prevent the storage of fat more work must be performed or less food taken. The well known systems for curing obesity depend chiefly on the reduction of the total amount of food, - sometimes to two-fifths of the standard dietary, and on the lessening of the proportion of fats and carbonvdrates, especially of the latter. So radical a treatment as this should only be undertaken under the direction of a physician as there is a possibility of serious injury to health. A diminution of the sugar and starch in the diet and a slight lessening of the total amount eaten with increased light exercise may be undertaken by almost anyone with the result of decreasing the fat of the body.
The converse of course holds true. Rest, a full diet, and one rich in carbohydrate and fat tend to increase the storing of .fat in the body, although there is occasionally a person who fails to respond to such treatment. In increasing the diet due regard must be paid to the digestive powers of the individual that they may not be over-taxed.
It is said that some oriental countries, wiser than we, have a custom of paying the physician for keeping the family well, not for restoring the sick member to health. In the absence of such a custom and with physicians not trained for this purpose, the housemother herself must perform this office.
Special diet in disease must be directed by the physician, for the housekeeper, even though she informs herself upon the general principles of such diet, cannot recognize special symptoms that often require individual modification of general rules. She must content herself, then, with the role of preserver of health, and though she can by no means ward off all sickness by the best planned dietary, she can do much toward strengthening the constitution of the members of her family, and making their bodies more resistant to disease.