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Nature of Nutrition: A Unifying Framework from Animal Adaptation to Human Obesity Hardcover – 3 July 2012
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Nutrition has long been considered more the domain of medicine and agriculture than of the biological sciences, yet it touches and shapes all aspects of the natural world. The need for nutrients determines whether wild animals thrive, how populations evolve and decline, and how ecological communities are structured. The Nature of Nutrition is the first book to address nutrition's enormously complex role in biology, both at the level of individual organisms and in their broader ecological interactions. Stephen Simpson and David Raubenheimer provide a comprehensive theoretical approach to the analysis of nutrition--the Geometric Framework. They show how it can help us to understand the links between nutrition and the biology of individual animals, including the physiological mechanisms that determine the nutritional interactions of the animal with its environment, and the consequences of these interactions in terms of health, immune responses, and lifespan. Simpson and Raubenheimer explain how these effects translate into the collective behavior of groups and societies, and in turn influence food webs and the structure of ecosystems. Then they demonstrate how the Geometric Framework can be used to tackle issues in applied nutrition, such as the problem of optimizing diets for livestock and endangered species, and how it can also help to address the epidemic of human obesity and metabolic disease Drawing on a wealth of examples from slime molds to humans, The Nature of Nutrition has important applications in ecology, evolution, and physiology, and offers promising solutions for human health, conservation, and agriculture.
From the Back Cover
"Debates continue to rage about what diet is best, in part because an underlying theoretical framework for choosing one over another has been lacking. Not so any longer. The Nature of Nutrition demystifies the complexity of nutrition and diet choice and shows why people and other creatures eat the way they do. Along the way, readers learn about the adaptive value of cannibalism, the impact of diet on sex lives, how dietary choices affect entire ecosystems, and so much more."--Daniel Rubenstein, Princeton University
"The Nature of Nutrition is a must-read for anyone interested in the role nutrition plays in the survival of the fittest. Starting with the Origin of Species, Simpson and Raubenheimer guide us through the nutritional strategies that maintained reproductive health and mating behaviors despite periods of food shortage and danger from predators. The protein leverage hypothesis provides a solid foundation to explain the growing global epidemic of human obesity."--Eric Ravussin, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University System
"A fascinating and authoritative treatment of nutrition in an ecological and evolutionary framework. Simpson and Raubenheimer's novel perspective crosses disciplines, from the organism to the population to the ecosystem, providing a long-needed unifying framework to what has previously largely been the domain of clinical science."--Simon A. Levin, Princeton University
"This outstanding book provides the first comprehensive theoretical framework for analyzing the roles of nutrition across a huge swath of fields, from ecology and evolution to conservation and human health. The Nature of Nutrition is creative and scholarly yet approachable. I know of no other book like it."--Bernard J. Crespi, Simon Fraser University
"The Nature of Nutrition covers a vast range of issues, from reproduction, immunology, and toxicology to insect migration, population ecology, predator-prey interactions, and ecosystem functioning, as well as applied issues such as conservation biology and human nutritional pathologies. I enjoyed each and every chapter of this excellent book."--Kenneth Wilson, Lancaster University
- Publisher : Princeton University Press; 1st edition (3 July 2012)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0691145652
- ISBN-13 : 978-0691145655
- Dimensions : 16.3 x 2.1 x 23.9 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 570,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Top review from Australia
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In this remarkably readable book, Simpson and Raubenheimer, Australian researchers at the University of Sydney, relate and translate their vast experience in an entertaining, witty, intelligent style. What do crickets have to do with the problems facing human beings in modern society? Quite a lot it turns out. You will need to read the book to find the connections. Once you've seen them, you won't forget that humans are, among other things, animals, trying to reach maximum health in the world that we experience. With this book, we may start to do that more effectively.
-Ignatius Brady, MD
Top reviews from other countries
Their synthesizing idea is the Geometrical Framework, basically plotting protein and carbohydrate and sometimes other nutrients to get a graph of the optimal diet for a particular animal (across whatever nutrients the authors are looking at). This is not totally new. It bears a certain resemblance to the linear optimization models and multidimensional scaling long used in some nutrition subdisciplines. Also, they charge optimal foraging theorists with looking only at bulk calories, but at least in anthropology we have been looking at protein and minerals for quite a few years now. But their use of the Geometrical Framework to deal with Darwinian and ecological questions involves some innovative thinking.
Most of what was new and fascinating to me, though, was their work on insects. I study people, and tend to think of insects more as things people eat (more in southeast Asia and Africa than in the US, perhaps) than things that are, themselves, eating. But insect nutrition turns out to be as diverse and amazing as everything else about insects.
Insects choose their optimal diets when given a choice, and as they age and go through metamorphoses they change their needs and thus their preferences. They sometimes have to trade off egg production against longevity. Natural selection has given them an amazing ability to sense what plants or animals are best for them--sometimes their own dead are best and they become cannibals.
Other life-forms, from mice to slime molds, are also good at choosing optimal diets (and of course we know that plants take up the right nutrients too). The details of choice make fascinating reading.
The application to humans is that the modern diet (whether industrial fast food or traditional peasant subsistence) runs heavily to starch, and in modern cities to fats and oils. We thus wind up with less protein than optimal (around 15%), and the authors argue that we want to optimize our diets and thus have a hidden hunger for protein. Hence a lot of overeating and a lot of modern obesity. They admit there are other issues, notably lack of exercise, which has perverse metabolic effects as well as the obvious calorie-expenditure problem. And many serious meat eaters are overweight (as any barbecue party will show). Still, I am convinced that they have a point, and we need more research in this direction.
Everyone interested in nutrition should definitely look through this book.
Most of the conclusions are deduced from a graphical approach. It was most frustrating that the graphs used did not reproduce clearly in Kindle.