Aliment. By this term is understood the nutritive quality of such substances as are dissolved and mixed in the stomach, and converted into chyle, by the digestive process. It may be considered rather as the consequence of food taken by a healthy individual, than as an article of food itself; for all kinds of animal and vegetable bodies do not furnish an alimentary supply, or at least, not in the same proportion.
Of those articles which afford it in the highest degree, animal food is the principal; being most easily digested, and furnishing a greater quantity of that milky fluid, called chyle. For this purpose, however, a due mixture of vegetables must be added, in order to correct its high luxuriance, and to render it more congenial to our nature.
Fresh air is one of those agents which are necessary to the digestion of food, and the consequent production of aliment: as, without a renewal of this salutary medium, the most wholesome diet will be pro-ive of but little benefit.
It is asserted that substances have discovered, which have ena-ble d men to exist without proper food, for a considerable length of ; and as a proof of this assertion, the following instance of an extraordinary powder, which has given to sis. pensioners of the Royal Hospital of Invalids at Paris, is re corded in the Gentleman's Magazine for January, 1/55. It is supposed to consist of Turkey corn, roasted, powdered, and mixed with a small quantity of sea-salt : six ounces of this composition, with less than a pint of water, afforded sufficient nutriment to one person for twenty-four hours. No other provision was taken for fifteen days, during which time, it is said, these invalids continued well and hearty, though one was seventy years of age, and the other five were young men, who had lost some of their limbs. None experienced any inconvenience, either from faintness or hunger; several of them being employed in such bodily exercises as were suited to their years; and they frequently did not eat the whole of their allowance. To pre-vent any deception, they were constantly guarded by a centinel.
Previous to its administration, the powder was prepared in the manner as follows : six ounces of it were shaken by degrees into boiling water, and briskly agitated with a spoon ; after having acquired the consistence of a thin panada, it was fit for use. The invention of it is ascribed to M. Bouc h, late surgeon-major of a regiment in France. It is recommended to an army on forced marches, a besieged garrison, and to the poor, at a time of scarcity, or when other provisions cannot be easily procured.
Among the articles of diet affording aliment in an uncommon proportion, we may enumerate the following, to which we refer the reader, under the heads of Arrow-Root, Rice, Sago, Salop-Powder, Tapioca, etc.—See also Food and Drink.