Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics

Overview

Calories—too few or too many—are the source of health problems affecting billions of people in today’s globalized world. Although calories are essential to human health and survival, they cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. They are also hard to understand.
In Why Calories Count, Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim explain in clear and accessible language what calories are and how they work, both biologically and politically. As they take readers through the issues that are ...

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Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics

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Overview

Calories—too few or too many—are the source of health problems affecting billions of people in today’s globalized world. Although calories are essential to human health and survival, they cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. They are also hard to understand.
In Why Calories Count, Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim explain in clear and accessible language what calories are and how they work, both biologically and politically. As they take readers through the issues that are fundamental to our understanding of diet and food, weight gain, loss, and obesity, Nestle and Nesheim sort through a great deal of the misinformation put forth by food manufacturers and diet program promoters. They elucidate the political stakes and show how federal and corporate policies have come together to create an “eat more” environment. Finally, having armed readers with the necessary information to interpret food labels, evaluate diet claims, and understand evidence as presented in popular media, the authors offer some candid advice: Get organized. Eat less. Eat better. Move more. Get political.

2013 IACP Cookbook Award Winner in the Food Matters Category

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A feast for the mind."--Nature

"The most succinct diet book ever written."--The Scientist

"People should read this book. They should read it if they are obsessive weight-watchers or serial dieters, or just concerned about what their children eat. They should read it if they work in public health, the food industry, catering, or education."--Times Higher Education

"Takes the science of calories and breaks it down for the rest of us."--San Francisco Chronicle

"This book will help dispel many of the commonly held myths we have about eating. An informative and interesting read for those who want to know the science behind calories, food and weight."

--Huffington Post Books

Science
"Whether you're interested in the twin public health crises of obesity and malnutrition, curious about the process of digestion, or just looking for a scientifically supported path to a beach body, you should find Why Calories Count an enlightening read."
Nature
“A feast for the mind.”
The Scientist
“The most succinct diet book ever written.”
Times Higher Education
“People should read this book. They should read it if they are obsessive weight-watchers or serial dieters, or just concerned about what their children eat. They should read it if they work in public health, the food industry, catering, or education.”
The Wall Street Journal - Emily Kaiser Thelin
“Along with offering a fascinating history, they show how an understanding of calorie needs saved lives in the global fight against hunger.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Takes the science of calories and breaks it down for the rest of us.”
Huffington Post Books
“This book will help dispel many of the commonly held myths we have about eating. An informative and interesting read for those who want to know the science behind calories, food and weight.”
Civil Eats
“Does the seemingly impossible: it takes calories from the abstract to the concrete. Nestle and Nesheim explain the significance of the calorie not only in understandable scientific terms, but also in social terms with the explicit aim of helping their reader navigate the convoluted world of food labels and diet fads.”
Library Journal
Neither a diet nor a weight-loss book, this scholarly, seriously researched work assists readers in evaluating diet claims, formulating strategies to lose, gain, or maintain weight, and learning how to make healthy food choices. Nestle (Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, & Public Health, New York Univ.) and Nesheim (nutrition, emeritus, Cornell Univ.) focus on the history of the calorie and its relationship to body weight, the science behind metabolism, how to estimate calories in a given portion, and—what will probably be of most interest to the general reader—the role of big business in creating calorie-laden food and why it's less politically controversial to recommend exercising than cutting back on calories. VERDICT Readers who appreciate the book's scientifically grounded and historic approach to understanding calories will find value here, although it's not easy reading. Libraries that own Gary Taubes's Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It may want to supplement it with this title because of the books' differing viewpoints.—Martha Stone, Treadwell Lib., Boston
Kirkus Reviews
Nestle (Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health/New York Univ.; Pet Food Politics, 2008, etc.) and Nesheim (Nutritional Sciences, Emeritus/Cornell Univ.; co-author, with Nestle: Feed Your Pet Right, 2010, etc.) explore "calories in all their dimensions--personal, scientific, and political." Calories are abstract--"they cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted, and their biological functions are difficult for most people to grasp." In the early chapters, the authors discuss the discovery of calories and their measurement, but these sections feel like a slog through the basement of an old natural-history museum. The remaining chapters read better, especially when the authors step away from their data-rich analysis and voice their concerns. Nestle and Nesheim devote several chapters to the physiological and political implications of inadequate calories, then introduce obesity and factors that conspire to prevent us from losing or maintaining weight. The human body does a great job of ensuring that it gets enough calories "but it is much less effective at knowing when calories are in excess." The messages we receive about food often overpower our biophysical mechanisms to limit eating. In the final section, the authors examine the politics of calories. They argue that inadvertent responses to greater food production and competition in the food industry strongly promote the overconsumption of calories, including changes that "encourage eating in more places at more times of day in larger portions." They also argue that the cause of today's obesity trend is not less physical activity, as exercise rates have stayed the same since 1980. A strong, rigorous overview of the calorie, its regulation and the politics behind food labeling and marketing.
yum.fi
“Presents an interesting series of opinions and overviews that are deserving of a wider audience.”
Nature

“A feast for the mind.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520262881
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 4/18/2012
  • Series: California Studies in Food and Culture
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and Professor of Sociology at New York University. She is the author of What to Eat and, from UC Press, Food Politics: How the Food
Industry
Influences Nutrition and Health; Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety
; and Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine. Malden Nesheim is Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. He is coauthor with Marion Nestle of Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat and with Ann L. Yaktine of the Institute of Medicine report Seafood Choices: Balancing Benefits and Risks.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Part One. Understanding Calories: It All Starts with the Science
1. What Is a Calorie?
2. The History: From Ancient Greece to Modern Calorie Science
3. Food: How Scientists Count the Calories
4. Bodies: How Scientists Measure the Use of Calories

Part Two. Why We Need Calories: Survival, Warmth, and Work
5. Metabolism: How the Body Turns Food into Energy
6. The First Use of Calories: Basic Life Functions
7. The Second Use: Heat Losses while Metabolizing Food
8. The Third Use: Physical Activity

Part Three. Calorie
Intake and Its Regulation
9. How Many Calories Do You Need?
10. Calorie Confusion: The Struggle to Estimate
Intake
11. Secret Calories: Alcohol
12. Calorie Regulation: The Body’s Complex Weight-Management System

Part Four. Too Few Calories
13. Starvation and Its Effects on the Body
14.
Individuals, Communities, Nations: Calories and Global Hunger
15. Could Restricting Calories Prolong Human Life?

Part Five. Too Many Calories
16. An
Introduction to Obesity
17. Calories and Weight Gain: Another Complex Relationship
18. Do Excess Calories Make Some People Gain Weight Faster than Others?
19. Are All Calories Created Equal?
20. Do Some Kinds of Diets Work Better than Others?

Part Six. The Politics of Calories: A Closer Look
21. Today’s “Eat-More” Environment: The Role of the Food
Industry
22. More Calorie Confusion: Portion Distortion, Health Halos, and Wishful Thinking
23. Calorie Labeling: Science and Politics
24. Alcohol Labels:
Industry vs. Consumers
25. Will Calorie Labels Help Fight Obesity?

Conclusion: How to Cope with the Calorie Environment

Appendix One. Selected Events in the History of Calories, 1614–1919
Appendix Two. The Respiratory Quotient (RQ)
Appendix Three. Frequently Asked Questions

Notes
List of Tables
List of Figures
Acknowledgments

Index

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2012

    Good basic nutritional info

    well written, helps cut through much of the confusing information we are exposed to and brings the current state of the science of nutrition to the general public!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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