Energy Regimes, Foodways, and the Efficiency of the Human Engine


This essay explores connections between energy regime changes and nutrition, as well as the impact of such changes on nutritional knowledge and food policies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. At the core of this second part is the thermodynamic revolution, which led to a new conception of the human body and thus a new paradigm of nutritional physiology. Yet while these concepts shaped food policies, they did not necessarily change production policies; practice did not align with theory. Instead, since the mid-nineteenth century, the hierarchy of nutrients concept (with protein at the top) has been enthroned while the development of industrialized livestock production has decisively reoriented Western foodways towards a diet centered on animal calories.