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

By: Stephen J Simpson (Author), David Raubenheimer (Author)

239 pages, 8 colour & 61 b/w illustrations

Princeton University Press

Hardback | Jul 2012 | #201291 | ISBN-13: 9780691145655
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £37.95 $46/€43 approx

About this book

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.

"The geometric framework (GF), introduced into scientific literature a decade ago, brings a new degree of clarity to the discipline of nutrition. Simpson and Raubenheimer highlight species-, habitat-, and tropic-level examples to truly demonstrate the universality of the concepts GF encompasses, providing coherent explanations of numerous interactions and variables – physical, biochemical, chemical, physiological, anatomical – that must be considered when discussing nutrition [...] The authors successfully demonstrate that nutrition serves as a foundation that integrates the biological sciences."

"[T]his strikingly well-written book, covering a wide range of issues in nutritional biology, is bound to inspire nutritional scientists, biologists, ecologists as well as medical doctors and nurse practitioners involved in the treatment of nutrition related disease. In addition, I believe that the clear language and enlightening examples allow for the educated layman interested in biology to be astonished by the enormous implications of the nature of nutrition."
– Hanno Pijl, American Journal of Human Biology

"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


Acknowledgments ix

CHAPTER ONE Nutrition and Darwin's Entangled Bank 1
1.1 Nutrition Touches and Links All Living Things 3
1.2 Nutrition Is Complex 5
1.3 Dealing with Nutritional Complexity: Enough but Not Too Much 7
1.4 Charting the Void between Nutritional Detail and Generality: The Geometric Framework 10

CHAPTER TWO The Geometry of Nutrition 11
2.1 The Geometric Framework: Basic Theory 11
2.2 The Geometric Framework in Practice 22
2.3 Conclusions 34

CHAPTER THREE Mechanisms of Nutritional Regulation 35
3.1 How to Defend an Intake Target 35
3.2 Postingestive Regulation 48
3.3 Conclusions 56

CHAPTER FOUR L ess Food, Less Sex, Live Longer? 57
4.1 How Does Macronutrient Balance Affect Life Span? 62
4.2 Less Sex, Live Longer? 66
4.3 Conclusions 70

CHAPTER FIVE Beyond Nutrients 71
5.1 The Distinction between Nutrients and Toxins 72
5.2 Self-medication and Ecological Immunology: The Distinction between Nutrients and Medicines 79
5.3 Toxins and Nutrients Interact 84
5.4 Conclusions 87

CHAPTER SIX Moving Targets 88
6.1 Moving Targets in the Short Term 88
6.2 Moving Targets in Developmental Time 91
6.3 From Parents to Offspring--Epigenetics 95
6.4 Evolving Targets 97
6.5 Evolving Rules of Compromise: Nutrient Specialists and Generalists 99
6.6 Evolving Postingestive Responses 105
6.7 Conclusions 106

CHAPTER SEVEN From Individuals to Populations and Societies 108
7.1 Cannibal Mormon Crickets 109
7.2 Locusts Are Cannibals Too 113
7.3 Communal Nutrition in Ants 114
7.4 The Blob 117
7.5 Conclusions 119

CHAPTER EIGHT How Does Nutrition Structure Ecosystems? 120
8.1 From Individual Fitness to Population Growth Rates 121
8.2 Interactions among Organisms and the Environment 122
8.3 Do Predators Regulate Nutrient Intake? 124
8.4 The Nutritional Geometry of Food Webs 130
8.5 The Nutritional Niche 138
8.6 Agent-Based Modeling of Nutritional Interactions: From Individuals to Ecosystems 144
8.7 Conclusions 145

CHAPTER NINE Applied Nutrition 147
9.1 Domestication 147
9.2 Wildlife Conservation 157
9.3 Conclusions 165

CHAPTER TEN The Geometry of Human Nutrition 167
10.1 The Modern Human Nutritional Dilemma 167
10.2 Do Humans Regulate to an Intake Target? 170
10.3 What Is the Human Rule of Compromise? 175
10.4 What Are the Implications of Protein Leverage? 182
10.5 How Do Humans Deal with Nutrient Excesses? 191
10.6 Conclusions 191

CHAPTER ELEVEN Perspectives 194
11.1 Expanding GF into Further Dimensions of Nutrition 194
11.2 GF and "Omics" 195
11.3 Nutritional Epigenetics and Early-Life Prevention of Metabolic Disease 196
11.4 Human Obesity 196
11.5 Nutritional Immunology 197
11.6 Modeling Nutritional Interactions: From Individuals to Ecosystems 198
11.7 Conclusions 199

References 201
Index 229

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Stephen J. Simpson is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences and academic director of the Charles Perkins Centre for the Study of Obesity, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease at the University of Sydney. David Raubenheimer is professor of nutritional ecology at Massey University in New Zealand.

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