Mother Jones


For decades, counting calories was seen as the key to staying fit. There are a few—actually a trillion—little problems with that.

MORE THAN 120 years ago, a scientist named Wilbur Atwater launched what would become an enduring dieting trend: He started meticulously counting calories. In a series of experiments, Atwater set fire to hundreds of foods and measured the released energy. In another experiment, he and his team planted a grad student in an airtight “room calorimeter” and passed him portions of bread and beans and determined how much heat, carbon dioxide, and waste he

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