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Liebig’s Dietetic Trinity

Justus Liebig (1803-1873)
Researches on the chemistry of food, and the motion of the juices in the animal body (Lowell [Mass.]: Daniel Bixby, 1848)
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543.1 L62

Justus Liebig portrait
Image credit: National Library of Medicine

Interested primarily in the link between chemistry and physiology, Liebig thought he could infer the biological processes of living organisms from knowledge of the chemical properties of elements. 

Liebig theorized that the chemical components of the body were all derived from vegetable protein, either consumed directly from plants or indirectly from meat. He thought the body converted this protein into all of the substances needed for regeneration and growth.  Additional substances were needed only to supply energy for digestion.  Accordingly, Liebig held that proteins, carbohydrates, and fats – the “dietetic trinity” – provided all of the nutrition needed by the human body.

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