Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics

Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics

Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics

Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

When our then-editor at University of California Press, Stan Holwitz, suggested that we write a book about calories, we said yes right away. Consumption of too few or too many calories is an important—arguably the most important—cause of public health nutrition problems in the world today. Problems with calories affect billions of people in rich as well as poor countries. Consuming too few calories leads to malnutrition (undernutrition), which makes people more susceptible to infectious disease. The result is stunted growth, misery, and premature death in children and adults. More than a billion people, most of them in poor countries, go hungry for lack of food.

At the same time, just as many people in the world are consuming more calories than they need and becoming overweight and obese. The numbers of obese people are rising rapidly, even in the poorest countries. Obesity is now so common that the populations of some poor countries contain nearly equal numbers of people who are undernourished and overnourished. Obesity raises risks for any number of chronic diseases, most notably type 2 diabetes.

The health consequences of too many or too few calories threaten to overwhelm the resources of individuals, families, and health care systems. Countries can ill afford the costs of health care for obesity-related chronic or infectious diseases or to have large segments of their populations unable to work or function adequately. Some analysts even suggest that the health burdens of obesity alone may shorten overall life expectancy within the next few years.

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