Sometimes I wish Wilburn Olin Atwater hadn’t become a pioneer in the field of nutrition. I’d have been happier if he’d instead become a chimney sweep, corset maker, rag picker, or some other respectable late 19th-century profession.
Atwater was the guy who figured out the calorie counts of the macronutrients, in addition to cataloging the calorie counts of around 4,000 foods common at the time. He built this room about the size of an old-time telephone booth – called the “respiratory calorimeter” – in which he confined subjects for up to five days while measuring the input of food and oxygen and the output of carbon dioxide, urea, ammonia, and feces, all of which he’d use to calculate caloric intake.
It was so complicated that it took up to 16 people to read all the dials and do the math.
Since Atwater, or anybody else for that matter, didn’t know about vitamins or minerals back then, he incorrectly rated certain foods as superior to other foods. Read more…