Burning calories
Matthew Kim, Niklas Iwan
Burnaby South Secondary
Floor Location : J 114 E

Burning calories
Niklas I, Matthew K

The point of this experiment, burning calories, is to measure the amount of chemical energy, or calories, a food can provide using a calorimeter. Our hypothesis is if we change the type of food, then the amount of energy in the food will be different due to the properties of each type of food. Calories are a unit used to measure energy. The way calories are measured are by capturing the energy released by the foods when burned, by seeing how much it can heat up water. Now, an indirect estimation technique is used, in which calories are not determined directly by burning the foods. Instead, the total calories are calculated by adding up the calories provided by the energy-containing nutrients. In this experiment, we will use the older method of burning the food to measure its calories. The purpose is to find out the calories within food. This was achieved by lighting foods on fire and then putting them underneath a can with water, and seeing how much the temperature rose by. We followed the procedure of making a simple calorimeter, or a can above a fire. The foods with more nutrients had a longer lasting fire, and raised the water temperature the most. After, using the initial and final weight and temperature of the food and water, using a formula, we found calories per gram in the foods. According to our data nuts had the most energy while other sugary foods contained less energy. The sugary foods had a large fire, but died quickly, while the nuts had a longer, stronger fire. After doing many experiments and collecting data we noticed and learned a number of things. Some things we observed were when we burned unhealthy sugary food it burned very fast and only as long as about 1 minute. But on the other hand more healthy foods like peanuts or cashews produced a smaller flame and burned for up to 12 minutes. Knowing this we think if you want a quick burst of energy you should eat sugary foods but if you want a long sustained period of energy you should eat almonds, peanuts or cashews. When we calculated the data we noticed our amount of calories was only a fraction of the amount of calories on labels. At first we thought the calculations were wrong but later we realized not all of the energy from the food went into the water. Some possible sources of error are that heat goes into air, heat is transferred to the metal in the calorimeter, and that because the experiments weren’t done in a 100% controlled environment, the food could have released less energy, or all of it wasn't captured by the water. Also the thermometer and scale could be inaccurate, along with other small errors. Although homemade calorimeters are great for comparing the energy in foods but if you want to know the exact energy you should use a high tech commercial calorimeter.