Metabolic fuels

The dietary sources of metabolic energy (the metabolic fuels) are carbohydrates, fats, protein and alcohol. The metabolism of these fuels results in the production of carbon dioxide and water (and also urea in the case of proteins; section 9.3.1.4). They can be converted to the same end-products chemically, by burning in air. Although the process of metabolism in the body is more complex, it is a fundamental law of chemistry that, if the starting material and end-products are the same, the energy yield is the same, regardless of the route taken. Therefore, the energy yield of foodstuffs can be determined by measuring the heat produced when they are burnt in air, making allowance for the extent to which they are digested and absorbed from foods. The energy yields of the metabolic fuels in the body, allowing for digestion and absorption, are shown in Table 1.1.

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