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A chocolate kiss to lift an SUV?

In a funny article, NPR reports that 26 calories can lift an SUV. In other words, 'eating one chocolate kiss could provide enough energy to lift an 8,600 pound SUV over six feet into the air.' How is this possible? It's because what we commonly name calories are really Calories (or 'kilocalories'). So do the math or read more...

In a funny but informative article, National Public Radio (NPR) reports that 26 calories can lift an SUV. In other words, 'eating one chocolate kiss could provide enough energy to lift an 8,600 pound SUV over six feet into the air.' How is this possible? It's because what we commonly name calories are really Calories (or 'kilocalories'). Converted into SI units of energy, these 26 Calories amount to 108,000 Joules. And as you need one joule to lift one kilogram up by 10 centimeters, do the math: this chocolate kiss contains enough energy to lift one metric tonne up by almost 11 meters. You also can look at these numbers in another way: your average diet is over 2 million calories per day. Frightening, isn't? But read more...

In her article for NPR, Melody Joy Kramer writes that she burnt calories just by thinking about the confusion between calories and Calories.

We're all used to thinking about "small c" calories -- the calories on American food labels. A calorie is the energy needed to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celcius. But there is another type of calorie -- with a "capital C" -- which equals 1,000 "small c" calories. An apple containing 50 Calories actually contains 50,000 calories. When you exercise and burn 200 Calories, you're burning 200,000 calories. But almost every nutrition reference in the United States refers to Calories but calls them calories.

Below is an image showing what you could do with calories -- sorry, Calories -- providing that energy food could be converted to 'real world' energy.' (Credit and copyright: Howstuffworks) You can find this image and tons of other details on the Howstuffworks site by reading "How Calories Work," written by Julia Layton.

What calories can do

For other references, you also should read the Wikipedia page about Calorie.

Almost coincidentally, James Hargrove, an associate professor of Foods and Nutrition at the University of Georgia (UGA), wrote yesterday that confusion about Calories is nothing new.

Hargrove notes that one common misunderstanding about the Calorie is why it is spelled with an uppercase "C" rather than a lowercase "c." Owing to the obscure origins of the measure, there was confusion about whether or not a calorie was defined as the amount of heat required to raise one kilogram of water one degree Celsius or one gram of water one degree Celsius. As the Calorie became popular in nutrition, it became more practical to measure the amount of kilograms. To denote this, a capital "C" refers to a kilogram calorie, while a lowercase "c" refers to a gram calorie.

Hargrove's "History of the Calorie in Nutrition" will be published in the December 2006 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.

And here is how he concludes his conversation with the UGA writer: "In food and daily energy, we use so much energy that if you measure in gram calories, you're talking about two million calories a day," he said. "And who wants to think about that?"

Frankly, I prefer to consume two thousand calories -- oops, Calories! -- daily than two million. And you, what's your take?

Sources: Melody Joy Kramer, National Public Radio (NPR), November 16, 2006; University of Georgia News, November 17, 2006; and various websites

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