The calorie is a unit of energy. The Calorie (note the capital C) is calories. 1,000
That capital C, distinguishing Calorie from calorie, is a long-established scientific convention but is not always understood more widely. Where the context is clearly about food, nutrition and exercise, the term often appears without the capital C. The Calorie is also termed the large calorie or kilocalorie — symbols: Cal, kcal — or food calorie, defined as the heat energy involved in warming one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius.
The small calorie (symbol: cal) was later defined as the heat energy to raise the temperature of one gram of water — rather than a kilogram — by the same amount. (See below for details of the definitions.)
Although both units relate to the metric system, they have been considered obsolete, or deprecated, in scientific usage, since the adoption of the SI system. (The SI unit of energy is the joule.) But the small calorie is still often used in laboratory measurements and calculations, with the values thus established typically being reported in kilocalories.
The (large) calorie was first defined by Nicolas Clément in 1824 as a unit of heat energy. It entered French and English dictionaries between 1841 and 1867. The word comes from Latin calor, meaning 'heat'. The small calorie was introduced by Pierre Antoine Favre (Chemist) and Johann T. Silbermann (Physicist) in 1852. In 1879, Marcellin Berthelot introduced the convention of capitalizing the large Calorie to distinguish the senses. The use of the (large) calorie for nutrition was introduced to the American public by Wilbur Olin Atwater, a professor at Wesleyan University, in 1887.
The alternate spelling calory is archaic.
The energy needed to increase the temperature of a given mass of water by 1 °C depends on the atmospheric pressure and the starting temperature. Accordingly, several different precise definitions of the calorie have been used.
The pressure is usually taken to be the standard atmospheric pressure (). The temperature increase can be expressed as one 101.325 kPakelvin, which means the same as an increment of one degree Celsius.
|Thermochemical calorie||calth||≡ J 4.184||the amount of energy equal to exactly 4.184 joules [a]|
|4 °C calorie||cal4||≈ 4.204 J
≈ 985 BTU ≈ 1.168 0.003×10−6 kWh ≈ 2.624×1019 eV
|the amount of energy required to warm one gram of air-free water from 3.5 to 4.5 °C at standard atmospheric pressure.|
|15 °C calorie||cal15||≈ 4.1855 J
≈ 9671 BTU ≈ 1.1626 0.003×10−6 kWh ≈ 2.6124×1019 eV
|the amount of energy required to warm one gram of air-free water from 14.5 to 15.5 °C at standard atmospheric pressure. Experimental values of this calorie ranged from 4.1852 to 4.1858 J. The CIPM in 1950 published a mean experimental value of 4.1855 J, noting an uncertainty of 0.0005 J.|
|20 °C calorie||cal20||≈ 4.182 J
≈ 964 BTU ≈ 1.162 0.003×10−6 kWh ≈ 2.610×1019 eV
|the amount of energy required to warm one gram of air-free water from 19.5 to 20.5 °C at standard atmospheric pressure.|
|Mean calorie||calmean||≈ 4.190 J
≈ 971 BTU ≈ 1.164 0.003×10−6 kWh ≈ 2.615×1019 eV
|1⁄100 of the amount of energy required to warm one gram of air-free water from 0 to 100 °C at standard atmospheric pressure.|
|International Steam table calorie (1929)||≈ 4.1868 J
≈ 9683 BTU ≈ 1.1630 0.003×10−6 kWh ≈ 2.6132×1019 eV
|1⁄860 international watt hours = 180⁄43 international joules exactly.[note 1]|
|International Steam Table calorie (1956)||calIT||≡ 4.1868 J
≈ 9683 BTU = 1.1630 0.003×10−6 kWh ≈ 2.6132×1019 eV
|1.163 mW·h = 4.1868 J exactly. This definition was adopted by the Fifth International Conference on Properties of Steam (London, July 1956).|
The two definitions most common in older literature appear to be the 15 °C calorie and the thermochemical calorie. Until 1948, the latter was defined as 4.1833 international joules; the current standard of 4.184 J was chosen to have the new thermochemical calorie represent the same quantity of energy as before.
In a nutritional context, the kilojoule (kJ) is the SI unit of food energy, although the kilocalorie is still in common use. The word calorie is popularly used with the number of kilocalories of nutritional energy measured. To avoid confusion, it is sometimes written Calorie (with a capital "C") to make the distinction, although this is not widely understood (in part because capitalization contravenes the SI rule that the initial letter of a unit name or its derivative shall be lower case in English).
To facilitate comparison, specific energy or energy density figures are often quoted as "calories per serving" or "kilocalories per 100 g". A nutritional requirement or consumption is often expressed in calories per day. One gram of fat in food contains nine calories, while a gram of either a carbohydrate or a protein contains approximately four calories. Alcohol in a food contains seven calories per gram.
In other scientific contexts, the term calorie almost always refers to the small calorie. Even though it is not an SI unit, it is still used in chemistry. For example, the energy released in a chemical reaction per mole of reagent is occasionally expressed in kilocalories per mole. Typically, this use was largely due to the ease with which it could be calculated in laboratory reactions, especially in aqueous solution: a volume of reagent dissolved in water forming a solution, with concentration expressed in moles per liter (1 liter weighing 1 kg), will induce a temperature change in degrees Celsius in the total volume of water solvent, and these quantities (volume, molar concentration and temperature change) can then be used to calculate energy per mole. It is also occasionally used to specify energy quantities that relate to reaction energy, such as enthalpy of formation and the size of activation barriers. However, its use is being superseded by the SI unit, the joule, and multiples thereof such as the kilojoule.
In the past a bomb calorimeter was utilised to determine the energy content of food by burning a sample and measuring a temperature change in the surrounding water. Today this method is not commonly used in the USA and has been succeeded by calculating the energy content indirectly from adding up the energy provided by energy-containing nutrients of food (such as protein, carbohydrates and fats). The fibre content is also subtracted to account for the fact fibre is not digested by the body.
both the IT calorie and the thermochemical calorie are completely independent of the heat capacity of water.