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Energy Value of Food

Chapter Objectives
• Describe the method for directly determining the energy content of the macronutrients • Discuss various factors that influence the difference between a food’s gross energy value and its net physiologic energy value • Define the following: (1) heat of combustion, (2) digestive efficiency, and (3) Atwater factors • Compute the energy content of a meal from its macronutrient composition



1 kcal 1. Heat of Combustion: Carbohydrate The heat of combustion for carbohydrate also varies. Gross Energy Value of Foods Laboratories use bomb calorimeters similar to the one illustrated in Figure 4.184 kJ. measuring the heat liberated as the food burns completely. To convert kilocalories to kilojoules. For example. from 14. 1 BTU 778 ft-lb 252 cal 1. a water jacket surrounding the bomb absorbs the heat (energy) liberated. Lima. One-half cup of peanut butter with a caloric value of 759 kcal contains the equivalent heat energy to increase the temperature of 759 L of water 1°C. would equal 759 kcal 4. Electrical ignition Thermometer Oxygen inlet Oxygen tank Air space Water bath mixer Water bath Food Ł sample Bomb Electric fuse Pressurized oxygen Insulating container FIGURE 4. it represents the food’s total energy value. Heat of Combustion: Lipid The heat of combustion for lipid varies with the structural composition of the triglyceride molecule’s fatty acids. This equals the energy required to raise 1. A corresponding unit of heat using Fahrenheit degrees is the British thermal unit. corn (maize). Heat of Combustion: Protein Two factors affect energy release during combustion of a food’s protein component: (1) the type of protein in the food and (2) the relative nitrogen content of the protein. or kilojoule (kJ).184 J or 4. and beans (jack.1 shows food within a sealed chamber charged with oxygen at high pressure. kilogram calorie or kilocalorie (kcal) more accurately defines calorie.0 kg (2. 9. Different foods contain different amounts of potential energy. The kilojoule value for one-half cup of peanut butter. or BTU.) The joule. The average caloric value for 1 g of lipid in meat. One BTU represents the quantity of heat necessary to raise the temperature of 1 lb (weight) of water 1°F from 63 to 64°F. Bomb calorimeters operate on the principle of direct calorimetry. Heat of combustion refers to the heat liberated by oxidizing a specific food. depending upon the arrangement of atoms in the particular carbohydrate molecule.4 kcal per gram. The heat of combustion for glucose equals 3. for example. fish. (The following conversions apply: 1 cal 4. Temperature reflects a quantitative measure of an object’s hotness or coldness.055 J.74 kcal per gram. Although the oxidation pathways of the intact organism and the bomb calorimeter differ. and eggs equals 9.50 kcal. whereas larger values result for glycogen (4.27 kcal. An electrical current moving through the fuse at the tip ignites the food–oxygen mixture. Thus. Heat describes energy transfer or exchange from one body or system to another. the calorific equivalent amounts to 9.000 kJ. its use avoids unmanageably large numbers.19 kcal) and starch (4. Figure 4. 1 g of either beef or pork fat yields 9. the quantity of energy liberated in the complete breakdown of a food remains the same.5 to 15.2 kcal generally represents the heat of combustion for a gram of carbohydrate. The average heat of combustion for lipid equals 9. A value of 4. (YDOXDWLRQ &RS\ . A clear distinction exists between temperature and heat.25 kcal per gram and in vegetables and fruits.184 J. multiply the kilocalorie value by 4.184 or 3. a teaspoon of margarine releases 100 kcal of heat energy when burned completely in a bomb calorimeter.000 cal 4. the increase in water temperature directly reflects the heat released during a food’s oxidation (burning). Common proteins in eggs. whereas oxidizing 1 g of butterfat liberates 9. For example.CHAPTER 4 • Energy Value of Food 109 MEASUREMENT OF FOOD ENERGY The Calorie As a Measurement Unit In terms of food energy. meat.184.50 kcal. Because the calorimeter remains fully insulated from the ambient environment. then releasing the potential energy trapped within this food’s chemical structure increases the temperature of 300 L of water 1°C. reflects the standard international unit for expressing food energy. one calorie expresses the quantity of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 kg (1 L) of water 1°C (specifically. The megajoule (MJ) equals 1.20 kcal). As the food burns.176 kJ. Appendix A presents a listing of metric system transpositions and conversion constants commonly used in exercise physiology.5°C). if a particular food contains 300 kcal. For example.30 kcal.2 lb) of ice water to the boiling point. In dairy products.1 • A bomb calorimeter directly measures the energy value of food.1 to measure the total or gross energy value of various food macronutrients.

In contrast.4 versus 5. and 92% for protein. Dietary fiber reduces the coefficient of digestibility. INTEGRATIVE QUESTION Respond to a student who asks: “How can the oxygen required to burn food indicate the number of calories in the meal I’m going to eat tonight?” One can conclude from the above discussion that lipidrich foods have a higher energy content than relatively fatfree foods. for example. For alcohol.6 kcal per gram instead of 5.3 versus 33 mg. all other things remaining constant. Recall from Chapter 1 that lipid molecules contains more hydrogen atoms than either carbohydrate or protein molecules. 7 kcal (29. 910%).2 kcal g–1. the total calories ingested each year would decrease by the equivalent of the calories in 25 pounds of body fat. However. Fiber also may cause mechanical erosion of the intestinal mucosa. which is then resynthesized through energyrequiring processes. rye. This pertains particularly to protein because the body cannot oxidize the nitrogen component of this nutrient. the 19th-century chemist who pioneered human nutrition and energy balance studies at Wesleyan College. soy) contain approximately 16% nitrogen and have corresponding heats of combustion that average 5.9%] and wholekernel wheat. and barley [17. Comparing the Energy Value of Nutrients The average heats of combustion for the three macronutrients (carbohydrate.65 kcal per gram released during oxidation in the bomb calorimeter. diverse protein food sources to obtain all the essential amino acids.65 kcal g–1) demonstrate that the complete oxidation of lipid in the bomb calorimeter liberates about 65% more energy per gram than protein oxidation and 120% more energy than the oxidation of carbohydrate. If precise energy values for experimental or therapeutic diets are not required. The heat of combustion for protein averages 5.8%). for example. These values. Drinking skim rather than whole milk also significantly reduces saturated fatty acid intake (0.2%]).g. 4. Little difference exists in digestive efficiency between obese and lean individuals. One cup of whole milk. most nuts and seeds [18.110 SECTION 2 • Energy for Physical Activity navy. Simply stated. lipid molecules have more hydrogen atoms available for cleavage and subsequent oxidation for energy than carbohydrates and proteins. The common fatty acid palmitic acid. The relative percentage of the macronutrients digested and absorbed averages 97% for carbohydrate. whereas the same quantity of skim milk contains only 90 kcal. millets. indicate the net metabolizable energy available to the body from ingested foods. urine. for example. one can round the average net energy values to whole numbers referred to as Atwater general factors. Other foods contain a slightly lower nitrogen percentage.1 shows different digestibility coefficients. Those who choose vegetarian-type diets should consume adequate. Table 4. From the data in Table 4. the Atwater general factors provide a good estimate of the energy content of the daily diet (see “In a Practical Sense”).. This variance occurs because fiber moves food through the intestine more rapidly. nitrogen atoms combine with hydrogen to form urea (NH2CONH2). In 3 years. 863%) and cholesterol (0.1 g. This hydrogen loss reduces protein’s heat of combustion to approximately 4. 9. If a person who normally consumes one quart of whole milk each day switches to skim milk. The efficiency of the digestive process influences the ultimate energy yield from the food macronutrients. 95% for lipid. Some advocates promote the use of vegetables in weight-loss diets because of plant protein’s relatively low coefficient of digestibility.7%) and bran (15.1. which the kidneys excrete in the ATWATER GENERAL FACTORS • 4 kcal per gram for dietary carbohydrate • 9 kcal per gram for dietary lipid • 4 kcal per gram for dietary protein (YDOXDWLRQ &RS\ . named for Wilbur Olin Atwater (1844–1907). Numerically defined as the coefficient of digestibility. In the body. and net energy values for nutrients in the various food groups.65 kcal per gram. lipid. The ratio of hydrogen atoms to oxygen atoms in fatty acids always greatly exceeds the 2:1 ratio in carbohydrates.4 kJ) represents each g (mL) of Net Energy Value of Foods Differences exist in the energy value of foods when the heat of combustion (gross energy value) determined by direct calorimetry is compared with the net energy actually available to the body. a high-fiber meal has less total energy absorbed than does a fiber-free meal of equivalent caloric content. Elimination of hydrogen in this manner represents a loss of approximately 19% of the protein molecule’s potential energy. Proteins in particular have digestive efficiencies ranging from a low of about 78% for protein in legumes to a high of 97% for protein from animal sources. whole milk (15.75 kcal per gram. the loss of body fat would approximate 75 pounds! Such a theoretical comparison merits serious consideration because of the almost identical nutrient composition between whole milk and skim milk except for lipid content. 5. considerable variability exists in efficiency percentages for any food within a particular category. reducing time for absorption. contains 160 kcal. The food remaining unabsorbed in the intestinal tract is voided in the feces. digestive efficiency indicates the percentage of ingested food actually digested and absorbed to meet the body’s metabolic needs.4 kcal g–1. protein. COEFFICIENT OF DIGESTIBILITY. Proteins in other foods have a somewhat higher nitrogen content (e. has the structural formula C16H32O2. the physiologic fuel values of carbohydrates and lipids (which contain no nitrogen) are identical to their heats of combustion in the bomb calorimeter. heats of combustion.

105 carrots. including specialty and fast-food items. A brief review of Appendix B indicates that large differences exist between the energy values of various foods.80 5. alcohol’s efficiency of use equals that of other carbohydrates.93 8. celery.37 8. 74.70 5.82 4. For example.20 4. Consuming an equal number of calories from different foods often requires a tremendous intake of a particular food or relatively little of another.15 4.95 4.20 5.36 4. S. HEATS OF COMBUSTION. Agricultural Handbook no. 1973.75 5. These examples illustrate dramatically that foods high in lipid content contain considerably more calories than food low in lipid and correspondingly high in water content. 1 1/4 eggs. 26 eggs.50 9.00 3. a typical sedentary adult female who expends 2100 kcal each day must consume about 420 celery stalks. 1 large grapefruit. Various governmental agencies in the United States and elsewhere have evaluated and compiled nutritive values for thousands of foods.00 5.65 5.79 8. grapefruit.5 green peppers.37 4. and a computerized data bank maintained by the Bureau of Nutritional Sciences of Health and Welfare Canada. 136 green peppers. AND CARBOHYDRATE DIGESTIBILITY (%) HEAT OF COMBUSTION (KCAL G 1 ) NET ENERGY (KCAL G 1 ) Protein Animal food Meats. From Merrill AL.03 4.1 FOOD GROUP ➤ FACTORS FOR DIGESTIBILITY. maintained by the U.27 4. pure (200-proof) alcohol ingested. LIPID. fish Eggs Dairy products Vegetable food Cereals Legumes Vegetables Fruits Average Protein Lipid Meat and eggs Dairy products Animal food Vegetable food Average Lipid Carbohydrate Animal food Cereals Legumes Vegetables Fruits Sugars Vegetable food Average Carbohydrate 97 97 97 97 85 85 78 83 85 92 5.CHAPTER 4 • Energy Value of Food 111 TABLE 4.47 3. DC: USDA.20 4. (YDOXDWLRQ &RS\ .03 a Net physiologic energy values are computed as the coefficient of digestibility heat of combustion adjusted for energy loss in urine. Consequently.99 3.05 95 95 95 90 95 9.25 9. In terms of potential energy available to the body. green peppers.27 3.74 3.90 4.15 3. The most comprehensive data bank resources include the United States Nutrient Data Bank (USNDB).65 5.87 4. yet only 1 1/2 cup of mayonnaise or 8 ounces of salad oil to meet daily energy needs. to consume 100 kcal from each of six common foods—carrots. Use of Tabled Values Computing the kilocalorie content of foods requires considerable time and labor.40 9.87 3.11 4. Watt BK. Appendix B presents the energy and nutritive values for common foods.65 4.20 4. Energy values of foods: basis and derivation.65 5.30 9.27 4. Department of Agriculture’s Consumer Nutrition Center. Washington.11 3. 20 stalks of celery.60 3. AND NET PHYSIOLOGIC ENERGY VALUESa OF PROTEIN. medium-sized eggs. but only 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise.03 8. 6. and mayonnaise— one must eat 5 carrots.93 98 98 97 95 90 98 97 97 3.07 3.40 9.65 5.

lipid.9 37. Calculations The table shows the macronutrient composition for one large serving of McDonald’s French fries (weight. Thus. and 92% for proteins. equals 4 kcal for carbohydrate.9 21. the term fattening often describes these foods.112 SECTION 2 • Energy for Physical Activity IN A PRACTICAL SENSE ➤➤ DETERMINING A FOOD’S MACRONUTRIENT COMPOSITION AND ENERGY CONTRIBUTION age weights for each macronutrient. 122. Divide kcal value of each macronutrient (column 4) by food’s total kcal value. A calorie or kilocalorie (kcal) represents a measure of heat used to express the energy value of food. Similar computations can estimate the caloric value of any food serving. but computing their absolute and percentage energy contributions completes the more important picture.7 2. Knowing the energy value per gram for carbohydrate. Calculate kcal value of each macronutrient (column 4). 2. 9 kcal per gram of lipid. LARGE (TOTAL WEIGHT. Calculate percentage kcal for each macronutrient (column 6). 3. and 4 kcal per gram of protein. Coefficients of digestibility average approximately 97% for carbohydrates.6 3.6 122.4 kcal per gram for lipid. provide an accu- (YDOXDWLRQ &RS\ . 95% for lipids.3 oz]). MACRONUTRIENT ENERGY CONTENT AND PERCENTAGE COMPOSITION OF MCDONALD’S FRENCH FRIES. 100 calories from mayonnaise equals the same 100 calories in 20 celery stalks. increasing or decreasing portion sizes or adding lipid-rich sauces or creams. Celery would become a fattening food if consumed in excess! Chapter 3 considered variations in daily energy intake among diverse groups of male and female athletes. However. and 4 kcal for protein.5 17.3 100 (6) % OF KCAL 6. from an energy standpoint. Manufacturers must state the absolute and percent- INTEGRATIVE QUESTION What factors could account for a discrepancy between computations of the energy value of daily food intake using the Atwater general factors and those from direct measurement via the bomb calorimeter? Also note that a calorie reflects the food energy regardless of the food source. and protein in a food allows one to readily compute the percentage kcal derived from each macronutrient. These values. (4) KCAL (5) % OF WEIGHT 4. and 5.6 37.3 OZ]) (1) NUTRIENT Protein Carbohydrate Lipid Ash Water Total (2) WEIGHT 6 45.2 45.7 48.3 G [4.4 0 0 402 Learn to Read Food Labels Computing the percentage weight and kcal of each macronutrient in a food fosters wise decisions in choosing foods.3 (3) ATWATER (g) FACTOR 4 kcal g 4 kcal g 9 kcal g 1 1 1 Food labels must indicate a food’s macronutrient content (g) and total calories (kcal). 122. The more a person eats of any food. The coefficient of digestibility represents the proportion of food consumed that is actually digested and absorbed.65 kcal per gram for protein.] 1. Calculate percentage weight of each nutrient (column 5). The net energy value. known as Atwater general factors.3 0 0 100 24 183. Summary 1. Divide weight of each macronutrient (column 2) by the food’s total weight. Burning food in the bomb calorimeter permits direct quantification of the food’s energy content. thus. the percentage of total calories from lipid jumps to 48. 4. An individual’s caloric intake equals the sum of all energy consumed from either small or large quantities of foods. 9 kcal for lipid.3 g [4. 3. a small amount of fatty food represents a considerable number of calories. However. This information becomes crucial for those interested in maintaining a low-fat diet. In the example for French fries.2 kcal per gram for carbohydrate. 9. Thus. 5.0 45. [Note: McDonald’s publishes the weight of each of the macronutrients for one serving along with the total kcal value. or about 195 kcal of this food’s 402 kcal energy content. affects the caloric content accordingly. or using fruits or calorie-free substitutes. the more calories that person consumes. The heat of combustion quantifies the amount of heat liberated in the complete oxidation of a food. referred to as Atwater general factors.6 194. 2. Of course. the net energy values equal 4 kcal per gram of carbohydrate. lipid represents only 17% of the food’s total weight. Average gross energy values equal 4.3%. Multiply the weight of each nutrient (column 2) by the appropriate Atwater factor (column 3).

➤ Considerable research has linked obesity and impaired thermogenesis—a diminished capacity to increase metabolism in response to different stimuli. while for the obese group. The large differences in response to the combination of food and subsequent exercise emerged despite similar thermogenic responses of the lean and obese women to food alone and exercise alone. The postprandial • exercise VO2 for the lean group also remained elevated above the corresponding fasting value at the end of the 4 hours.2 kg) women. (YDOXDWLRQ &RS\ . yellow circles represent postabsorptive (after fasting) data. These studies note a lower rise in metabolism for obese individuals than for lean individuals after ingestion of a meal. rest. 53. (c) VO2 during exercise at a constant submaximal intensity of 300 kg-m · min–1 (cycling for 5 min every 0. exercise at 300 kg-m · min–1. The red circles represent postprandial (after the meal) data. Exercise at lactate threshold. showed similar thermic effects of food for exercise and rest conditions. a greater difference emerged between the fed and fasting conditions for the lean group at both exercise intensities. Therefore.CHAPTER 4 • Energy Value of Food 113 Focus on Research Obesity-Related Thermogenic Response The figure indicates that consumption of the 910-kcal • meal increased exercise VO2 more for the lean than for the obese women. Lean Obese 25 VO2 (mL kg LBM–1 min–1) A 23 A 21 B B 6 C 0 30 240 30 240 C Time (min) Time (min) Effects of exercise and a 910-kcal meal on metabolic rates of lean and obese men and women. (e) and (f) same as protocols c and d. Thermic effects of food and exercise in lean and obese women.5 h for • 4 h). body mass. 37.32:581.8. contributing to the onset and persistence of human obesity. Subjects included 10 obese (% fat. Thus. 40% • lipid). or the combination of eating and exercising. 46% carbohydrate. and C. A diminished thermogenic response probably plays an accessory role in total energy conservation. measured under six different conditions: (a) resting metabolism • • (VO2) for 4 hours. A. the postprandial value at 4 hours equaled their fasting exercise metabolism. infusion of noradrenaline. Obese subjects. except the subjects consumed the test meal before exercising. Gutin B. The researchers concluded that exercise significantly potentiated the thermic effect of food for lean but not for obese women. Stated somewhat differently. exposure to cold.9 kg) and 10 lean (% fat. with no added thermogenic bonus from exercise after eating. (b) VO2 for 4 hours following consumption of a 910-kcal meal (14% protein. These subjects exhibited a larger thermic effect of food during exercise than during rest. two levels of exercise. B. the cumulative effect of a lower metabolic rate of the obese (compared with lean subjects) during exercise that follows eating favors energy conservation rather than energy dissipation. Metabolism 1983. on the other hand. 18. Segal KR. 77.5 h for 4 h). The shaded areas indicate the thermic effect of food under each condition. and the possible potentiation of the thermic effect of food with physical activity. The research of Segal and Gutin evaluated thermogenic difference between obese and lean women in response to food intake. body mass. (d) VO2 during exercise at an intensity equal to the subject’s lactate threshold (cycling for 5 min every 0. using a 4-hour measurement underestimated the total amount that eating augmented energy expenditure during exercise for the lean women.

S. 7. Suggested Reading Atwater WO. onions. Nutrition now. Krause’s food. 1989. Ottawa. Am J Clin Nutr 1996. lipid. 1999. Food composition data: a user’s perspective. processed. government raises serious questions about reliability of U. 1998. From an energy standpoint. Belmont. No. Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. Guyton AC.5:62. Washington. Calories represent heat energy regardless of the food source. 1988. and sour cream.S. 1991. Church HN. 1990. et al. Int J Sports Nutr 1995. CA: Wadsworth Publishing. 6. 2001. Principles of nutritional assessment. 1987. 5th ed. Rand WM. Shils ME. Mahan IK. et al. The Atwater calorific values allow one to compute the caloric content of any meal from the carbohydrate.118:1075.114 SECTION 2 • Energy for Physical Activity Groff JL. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 1896. Composition of foods—raw. Exercise physiology: human bioenergetics and its applications. Canada: Health Services and Promotion Branch. et al. eds. Pennington JAT. New York: Academic Press. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 10th ed. Widdowson EM. London: Royal Society of Chemistry. CA: Mayfield. et al. 3rd ed. or 500 kcal of an egg bagel with salmon. Katch FI. 500 kcal of cheese and pepperoni pizza. Bowes and Church’s food values of portions commonly used. 9th ed.64:108. Rumpler WV. Personal Nutrition. 1999. Gropper SS. Woods CD. Effect of dietary fiber on the metabolizable energy of human diets. J Nutr 1988. McCance RA. 2000. DC: US Department of Agriculture. 28. Tokyo: United Nations University. Belmont. Philadelphia: WB Saunders. Energy value of moderate alcohol consumption by humans. Washington. Escott-Stump S. USDA Bulletin no. 1963–1987. et al. Miles CW. 2000. US Department of Agriculture. Department of Agriculture’s food composition tables. Brown J. Gibson RS. 500 kcal of peppermint ice cream topped with whipped cream and Brazil nuts is no more fattening than 500 kcal of watermelon. Nutritional biochemistry. Brooks GA. 8. (YDOXDWLRQ &RS\ . and protein compositions of the food. Textbook of medical physiology. Modern nutrition in health and disease. nutrition. U. Ministry of Agriculture. & diet therapy. and prepared. DC: USDA. The composition of foods. The chemical composition of American food materials. Fisheries and Food. Nutrient value of some common foods. 2000. 17th ed. rate estimate of the net energy value of typical foods a person consumes. Health and Welfare Canada. New York: Oxford University Press. Belmont. Health and Welfare. Mountain View. CA: Wadsworth Publishing. 4th ed. Boyle M. Philadelphia: WB Saunders.. CA: Wadsworth Publishing. 1999. Brody T.