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Do not give up on old animal nutrition books yet

Until we realize we still need to transfer true knowledge to the next generations, please do not give up your old books, yet.

Stack Of Old Books
Photomania | Bigstock.com

A recent experience made me think about the true value of old animal nutrition books.

It is true: New books about animal nutrition are no longer published with the same frequency and intensity as they used to be, partly because of the internet and perhaps because the incentives to write books changed. Academic authors are no longer rewarded scholarly by writing books, whereas non-academic authors usually have other agendas. And, nobody makes any money on books, by the way. So, most nutrition professionals today rely on the internet to find information on new challenges and problems. And this itself is a problem.

Today, anyone can publish anything on the internet and, therefore, not everything is correct. Whether this is intentional or unintentional is another discussion. The problem is that we are faced with such a plethora – no, a tsunami – of information that it is difficult to distinguish science from marketing, truth from lies, and even make an informed decision when valid data and opinions tend to differ. And, let’s face it, not everyone has a Ph.D. in nutrition, and even those of us who do often have the same problem.

I was looking at an ingredient recently for a project and something was missing. Even the valid data seemed inconsistent. So, I went back to my old books (the oldest dates from two centuries ago) and, after some research, I realized the missing part was that, in the passage of time, a vitamin antimetabolite was gradually omitted by subsequent references to that ingredient. So, newer experiments that did not take that into account seemed to fail, whereas those that were inadvertently over-fortified with the specific vitamin seemed to succeed. At least this made some sense to me.

So, despite the personal affection I have for old books, I often find true value in them, especially when modern information fails to convince me. It is something about the true spirit of knowledge transfer that I am struggling to locate in modern books and other means of data dissemination. I believe it is not only the means that changed, but also the people who write, in that the reasons we write anymore are no longer the same. So, until we realize we still need to transfer true knowledge to the next generations, please do not give up your old books, yet.

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