D emystifies the complexity of nutrition and diet choice

Daniel Rubenstein

Professor of Zoology, Princeton University

Nutrition has long been considered more the domain of medicine and agriculture than of the biological sciences, yet it touches and shapes all aspects of the natural world. The need for nutrients determines whether wild animals thrive, how populations evolve and decline, and how ecological communities are structured. The Nature of Nutrition is the first book to address nutrition's enormously complex role in biology, both at the level of individual organisms and in their broader ecological interactions.


Stephen Simpson and David Raubenheimer provide a comprehensive theoretical approach to the analysis of nutrition — the Geometric Framework. They show how it can help us to understand the links between nutrition and the biology of individual animals, including the physiological mechanisms that determine the nutritional interactions of the animal with its environment, and the consequences of these interactions in terms of health, immune responses, and lifespan. Simpson and Raubenheimer explain how these effects translate into the collective behavior of groups and societies, and in turn influence food webs and the structure of ecosystems. Then they demonstrate how the Geometric Framework can be used to tackle issues in applied nutrition, such as the problem of optimizing diets for livestock and endangered species, and how it can also help to address the epidemic of human obesity and metabolic disease.


Drawing on a wealth of examples from slime molds to humans, The Nature of Nutrition has important applications in ecology, evolution, and physiology, and offers promising solutions for human health, conservation, and agriculture.


Debates continue to rage about what diet is best, in part because an underlying theoretical framework for choosing one over another has been lacking. Not so any longer. The Nature of Nutrition demystifies the complexity of nutrition and diet choice and shows why people and other creatures eat the way they do. Along the way, readers learn about the adaptive value of cannibalism, the impact of diet on sex lives, how dietary choices affect entire ecosystems, and so much more.”

Professor of Zoology
Director, Program in Environmental Studies
Princeton University

The Nature of Nutrition is a must-read for anyone interested in the role nutrition plays in the survival of the fittest. Starting with the Origin of Species, Simpson and Raubenheimer guide us through the nutritional strategies that maintained reproductive health and mating behaviors despite periods of food shortage and danger from predators. The protein leverage hypothesis provides a solid foundation to explain the growing global epidemic of human obesity.”

Douglas L. Gordon Chair in Diabetes and Metabolism
Associate Executive Director for Clinical Science

Director, Nutrition Obesity Research Center

Louisiana State University

A fascinating and authoritative treatment of nutrition in an ecological and evolutionary framework. Simpson and Raubenheimer's novel perspective crosses disciplines, from the organism to the population to the ecosystem, providing a long-needed unifying framework to what has previously largely been the domain of clinical science.”

James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in EEB
Director, Center for BioComplexity
Princeton University

 This outstanding book provides the first comprehensive theoretical framework for analyzing the roles of nutrition across a huge swath of fields, from ecology and evolution to conservation and human health. The Nature of Nutrition is creative and scholarly yet approachable. I know of no other book like it.”

Professor of Evolutionary Biology

Behavioural Ecology Research Group

Simon Fraser University

The Nature of Nutrition covers a vast range of issues, from reproduction, immunology, and toxicology to insect migration, population ecology, predator-prey interactions, and ecosystem functioning, as well as applied issues such as conservation biology and human nutritional pathologies. I enjoyed each and every chapter of this excellent book.”

Professor of Evolutionary Ecology, Lancaster University
Executive Editor of the British Ecological Society’s
Journal of Animal Ecology

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