Why We Eat (Too Much) Book Summary - Why We Eat (Too Much) Book explained in key points
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Why We Eat (Too Much) summary

Andrew Jenkinson

The New Science of Appetite

4.2 (176 ratings)
25 mins
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    Why We Eat (Too Much)
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    A chance meeting solved single-celled organisms’ energy problems.

    Our story starts around four billion years ago, when our planet was little more than a dark and stormy tropical sea under an oxygenless sky. 

    Simple, carbon-based chains of chemicals drifted aimlessly in this primordial soup. Then, by chance, they found a formula to replicate themselves.

    At first, these replicants simply integrated free-floating chemicals into their structures. Later, they split those structures into two chains – a primitive form of DNA – and began creating new carbon copies. 

    Over time, replicants became increasingly complex until, at last, Earth’s first life-form appeared on the evolutionary stage: the single-cell bacterium. 

    The key message here is: A chance meeting solved single-celled organisms’ energy problems. 

    Inside the protective wall of its cell is the bacterium’s DNA code – the formula that allows it to reproduce. Evolutionarily speaking, it has a single task: to grow and survive long enough to create a new generation of bacteria. To do that, though, it needs energy. 

    Early bacteria were highly efficient at converting food into a form of energy that could be used by the various components of their cells. Because they couldn’t process oxygen, however, there was a hard limit to how much energy they could generate. 

    That ultimately held back the advancement of more complex life-forms. Then, around three billion years ago, a new kind of bacterium that could process oxygen emerged. Existing bacteria were efficient; this bacterium, by contrast, was a powerhouse. It vacuumed up vast amounts of food and created energy on an industrial scale. 

    Older bacteria couldn’t compete. Luckily for them, they didn’t have to. Instead, they swallowed – but didn’t digest – these newcomers, who now lived inside them. Both parties benefitted. The first kind of bacterium offered the second kind protection from predators while profiting from its ability to generate lots of energy. In short, one cell moved into the other, and both thrived – an arrangement known as endosymbiosis.

    Fast forward to the present, and the ancestors of these energetic upstarts are still there, inside the cells of every plant, fish, fungus, and animal. All these organisms take their energy from these tiny power stations, which are called mitochondria. Without them, life on Earth as we know it wouldn’t be possible – on their own, our cells simply can’t produce enough energy to keep us alive. 

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    What is Why We Eat (Too Much) about?

    Why We Eat (Too Much) (2021) illuminates the new science of metabolism. An exploration of how our bodies process the calories we eat into the fuel that keeps our cells running, it demolishes old myths about the value of dieting. When we really understand appetite, it argues, we can finally begin eating healthfully rather than attempting to starve our bodies into submission. 

    Who should read Why We Eat (Too Much)?

    • Frustrated dieters 
    • Science lovers 
    • Sugar addicts

    About the Author

    Andrew Jenkinson is a consultant surgeon with a special interest in advanced laparoscopic or “keyhole” surgery. He is based in London, where he practices his trade as a gastrointestinal surgeon at University College Hospital in Bloomsbury. 

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