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April 2, 1973

Doctors at Table

JAMA. 1973;224(1):28-34. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03220140014003

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Doctors have approached food and drink from many different angles. Earliest, perhaps, are the treatises on health, of which the most famous is the Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum. In the delightful English translation by Sir John Harington, Queen Elizabeth's godson and reputed inventor of the water closet, the poem opens,

The Salerne Schoole doth by these lines impart

All health to Englands King, and doth advise

From care his head to keepe, from wrath his heart,

Drinke not much wine, sup light and soone arise,

When meate is gone, long sitting breedeth smart...

Use three Physicions still; first Doctor Quiet,

Next Dr. Merry-man, and Doctor Dyet. The influence of the Regimen's tenets has been immense.

Books on dietetics customarily recount the merits or demerits of various foodstuffs and beverages and advocate special diets. In 1515 Dr. Giovanni Savonarola, grandfather of the Florentine demagogue, discussed in his Libreto, all kinds of foodstuffs.