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Counting calories a tactic in endless war

Food is fuel. Literally. Energy is locked in the proteins, fats and carbohydrates that we eat, and our body, acting like an engine, burns them, combining them with oxygen to create heat and work.

Quite powerful fuel, actually. A single slice of bread contains enough energy to bring a quart of cold water to a boil.

The potential energy in food is represented with a concept we call “calories,” a word certain to make most dieters flinch, evoking as it does the endless struggle and frequent failure that is dieting.

Last week the Food and Drug Administration announced sweeping changes in its rules, requiring chain restaurants, movie theaters and pizzerias to post the calories in their fare. Whereas once we dwelt in blissful ignorance about what we eat when going out — a third of Americans’ calories are consumed outside of the home — now we’d know.

Nutritionists hailed this as an important step toward reversing our society’s steady slide toward universal obesity.

Conservatives, of course, damned this as tyranny. “A shocking power grab” is how the Heritage Foundation described it.