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The Nature of Nutrition

The Nature of Nutrition: A Unifying Framework from Animal Adaptation to Human Obesity

Stephen J. Simpson
David Raubenheimer
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Nature of Nutrition
    Book Description:

    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 Nutritionis 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 Nutritionhas important applications in ecology, evolution, and physiology, and offers promising solutions for human health, conservation, and agriculture.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4280-3
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iv-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ONE Nutrition and Darwin’s Entangled Bank
    (pp. 1-10)

    Charles Darwin (1859) famously ended his revolutionary bookThe Origin of Specieswith a paragraph that opened:

    It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.

    Darwin demonstrated in his book that a few biological facts—what he refers to as “laws”—combine...

  5. TWO The Geometry of Nutrition
    (pp. 11-34)

    We have seen in chapter 1 that animals face complex challenges in satisfying their multiple nutrient needs. These involve choosing the right foods, deciding how much of each to eat, regulating the efficiency with which nutrients are retained in the body, and regulating the amounts of retained nutrients that are allocated to different functions such as energy metabolism, energy and nutrient storage, tissue growth, secretions, and so on. How can we go about understanding this complex set of interrelations between an animal’s nutrient needs, its nutritional environment, and its responses to the nutritional environment?

    A common approach in nutritional studies...

  6. THREE Mechanisms of Nutritional Regulation
    (pp. 35-56)

    From what we have seen in the previous chapter, it is clear that animals possess not one appetite system but several, and are able to regulate independently their intakes and utilization of different nutrients to maintain a target diet composition. If environmental circumstances prevent animals from achieving this target, they make compromises between eating too much of some nutrients and too little of others. Nutrient intake represents one part of the budget equation, by convention usually placed on the left-hand side. The right-hand side of the equation is broadly termed “postingestive processing,” and here too there is evidence for regulation...

  7. FOUR Less Food, Less Sex, Live Longer?
    (pp. 57-70)

    The previous chapters have shown that animals have an intricately coordinated suite of regulatory mechanisms for gaining the required amounts and balance of nutrients. However, we have also shown that no matter how adept the regulatory mechanisms, the intake target can only be reached in environments containing nutritionally balanced and/or nutritionally complementary foods. When the intake target cannot be reached, the job of the regulatory mechanisms controlling feeding behavior is to achieve the best balance between overeating some nutrients and undereating others—the rule of compromise. Thereafter, postingestive mechanisms help to rebalance an unbalanced supply of nutrients to the tissues....

  8. FIVE Beyond Nutrients
    (pp. 71-87)

    To this point in the book we have focused our geometric analyses on the macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fat. This is for a reason: as the data show, macronutrients can explain a good deal of the variation in the behavioral, physiological, and performance responses of animals. Macronutrients are, however, not the only important nutritional components of foods: the constituent molecules in macronutrients (amino acids and fatty acids, for example) and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals also play a critical role in an animal’s nutritional strategies and physiology, as do other components of foods that would not normally be considered...

  9. SIX Moving Targets
    (pp. 88-107)

    In earlier chapters we have shown that intake targets, rules of compromise, and postingestive responses are fundamental, interrelated traits, against which the adequacy of diets and nutritional environments can be calibrated and the consequences of nutritional imbalance assessed. For clarity, we have treated intake and growth targets as static points integrated across a particular period in the life of an animal. In reality they are, of course, not static but rather trajectories that move in time. In the short term, the requirements of the animal change as environmental circumstances impose differing demands for nutrients and energy. At a somewhat longer...

  10. SEVEN From Individuals to Populations and Societies
    (pp. 108-119)

    So far, we have viewed the world of nutrition from the perspective of individual animals. But individuals interact with one another—in family groups, aggregations, swarms, and societies—and many of these interactions involve nutrition. Can an individual’s nutritional state influence how a group behaves? We are beginning to appreciate that the answer to this question isyes. And as we shall see, sometimes the consequences are gruesome.

    Animal groups often appear to act as if they possess a single mind: observe, for example, how exquisitely flocks of birds and schools of fish avoid the attacks of predators, how vast...

  11. EIGHT How Does Nutrition Structure Ecosystems?
    (pp. 120-146)

    Ecology is the study of the factors that determine the distribution and abundances of organisms. We have had a taste in the previous chapter of how the requirements for a nutritionally balanced diet can influence the first of these issues, by driving large-scale shifts in the distribution of locusts, Mormon crickets, and (on their own modest scale) slime molds. In this chapter we will expand our focus to consider also population sizes and interactions between species.

    The question of how the properties of ecosystems are influenced by the nutritional biology of the component organisms—their foraging, food choices, and functional...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  13. NINE Applied Nutrition
    (pp. 147-166)

    In chapter 1 we commented on the pervasiveness—or wide-ranging significance—of nutritional biology, and in subsequent chapters have provided examples where nutritional geometry has been used to unravel a range of questions involving diverse organisms. Varied as they are, a factor that is common to these examples is that they all concern fundamental or basic questions, with no intended applied significance. They might, of course, ultimately contribute to some useful application, but the key point about these studies is that they were designed to help us to understand issues in biology, rather than specifically to solve practical problems.


  14. TEN The Geometry of Human Nutrition
    (pp. 167-193)

    In previous chapters we have shown how the Geometric Framework can be applied to a range of issues spanning the functional biology of animals, as well as higher-level phenomena such as the collective behavior of groups and community ecology. In this chapter we apply the geometric approach to an analysis of a key aspect of human nutrition, the topical subject of human obesity. Because of its importance, the link between nutrition and obesity is an area that has attracted a tremendous amount of research, which has exposed a complex network of contributing factors. Our aim is not to provide a...

  15. ELEVEN Perspectives
    (pp. 194-200)

    We began this book with the assertions that nutritients are the connecting threads in the web of life, and that new approaches are needed for understanding the nutritional networks that comprise and link organisms. We then set out to demonstrate how geometric analysis (the Geometric Framework) can contribute by selectively reducing the pall of nutritional complexity to those interactions that help to illuminate the problem at hand. In so doing, GF can help to integrate nutrition research within a framework that encompasses the different levels of biological organization from genes to ecosystems, spans taxa from slime molds to humans, and...

  16. References
    (pp. 201-228)
  17. Index
    (pp. 229-239)