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I am learning about specific heat in science and I learned about how the specific heat for water is called a calorie, but that is different to what is on the food label.
On the food label, that calorie is actually a kilo-calorie. My teacher went on to explain that if somebody handed you a bowl of ice-cream that contained 500 Calories (i.e. Kilo-Calories) then, that was enough to raise 500kg of water 1°C.
If a kilo-calorie is just raising your body temperature, why do we cut back on calories?? What effect does a kilo-calorie have on your body other than raising your temperature?



P.S. How can we burn calories?? This seems, at least to me, like an abstract thing... burning heat....

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    $\begingroup$ Yeah. Burning calories is a misleading term. Actually pretty unscientific. What it basically means is that you are converting X calories of your reserve chemical energy (in the form of fat) to some other form such as mechanical energy, thereby getting rid of it. We don't really burn the fat and heat that is produced is much less than what you would get by combustion (even though both are oxidation). The combustion engines in automobiles actually convert chemical energy to heat (by burning the fuel) and subsequently heat to mechanical energy. Our body works differently. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG May 13 '16 at 5:31
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The calorie is a unit of energy. Our body uses the energy found in food to create ATP (a molecule that is handy to deal with energy) with the help of oxygen (that we breath in). ATP can then be used for plenty of tasks such as importing ions through a cellular membrane or more ultimately walking, talking, warming up your body, etc...

Saying that some food contain 100 calories (not kilo-calories) does not mean that it will heat up 100 grammes of our body water by one degree (Celsius). It only means that we are ingested the same amount of energy than the one that is needed for warming up 100 grammes of water by 1 degree (Celsius).

You might to have a look at CrashCourse video on ATP and respiration.

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