The Nature of Nutrition

20 August 2012

"Nutrition touches, links, and shapes all aspects of the biological world. It determines whether or not wild animals thrive, how their populations grow, decline, and evolve, and how ecosystems are structured. In short, nutrients are the interconnecting threads in the web of life."- The Nature of Nutrition: A Unifying Framework from Animal Adaption to Human Obesity

A new book by Stephen Simpson and David Raubenheimer which puts nutrition at the centre of biology.
A new book by Stephen Simpson and David Raubenheimer which puts nutrition at the centre of biology.

The Nature of Nutrition, an exciting new book by Stephen Simpson(School of Biological Sciences) and David Raubenheimer (Massey University, NZ), establishes a framework for disentangling these interconnecting nutritional threads.

"The aim of the book is to place nutrition in its rightful place at the centre of biology, rather than being seen mainly as the remit of the medical and applied science," said Professor Simpson. "Sex, death and nutrition are the three big themes in biology. Of these, nutrition has been the poor cousin, yet nutrition touches and shapes all aspects of the biological world, as well as human health and global geopolitics."

The book sets out a 'Geometric Framework' whereby the detailed applied studies of humans and domestic animals and the broad general approaches used by ecologists can, where appropriate, meet in the middle.

"In our book we provide a unifying framework, in the form of simple but powerful graphical representations - the Geometric Framework - which simplifies nutrition into a tractable number of dimensions that provide explanatory and predictive power," explains Professor Simpson.

"Previously, nutrition has been caught between the eye-watering details of applied nutrition and the overly simplistic models typically employed in ecology, in which energy is used as a surrogate for nutrition. We show that by expanding from one dimension (energy) into two or three nutrient dimensions (for example protein, carbohydrate and fat) we can gain new important insights into big issues in biology and health, including the causes of ageing, obesity, mass migration, cannibalism, and the structuring of food webs and ecosystems."

The Nature of Nutrition, published by Princeton University Press, draws on a wealth of examples spanning slime moulds, insects, fish, endangered parrots, companion animals, wild primates and humans and showcases the power of the Geometric Framework as the first unifying framework for nutrition.