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The secret to a long and healthy life? Eat less (bbc.com)
332 points by DiabloD3 on June 25, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 181 comments



Good overview of the benefits of calorie restriction, but doesn't touch on two of the most important schools of thought of the past couple years.

1. Calorie restriction is almost impossible for most humans to follow long term

2. Many of the same benefits of calorie restriction may be achievable through intermittent fasting, which is much easier for people to follow. I've been experimenting with a daily 16 hour fast (all calories consumed within an 8-hour window) and have seen small improvements in my energy and general well-being, although it's decades too early to say how this will impact my longevity.

Relevant articles: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep33739 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2622429/ https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-hunger-gains-...


> Many of the same benefits of calorie restriction may be achievable through intermittent fasting, which is much easier for people to follow. I've been experimenting with a daily 16 hour fast

Citation? I can't get the NIH study to load, but the other two are wildly different from 16/8 IF. IF proponents like to look at alternate day fasting or periodic weekly fasting and claim evidence for the effectiveness of 16/8 fasting, but going without food for >24 hours is definitely not the same as skipping breakfast, which is all 16/8 really is.

16/8 probably helps with weight loss for many people, because it shortens the eating window, which will make it easier to reduce caloric intake. But I have never seen a study that indicated 16/8 had effects similar to 24/24 or the other IF patterns typically studied.


How about skipping breakfast and lunch, as done by Muslims during Ramadan? In general, Islam recommends voluntary fasting for 2 days every week (traditionally Monday and Thursday).


Are there longitudinal studies of comparative Muslim-population health outcomes for people who follow this precept vs. people who don't?


That's a good question actually. I'll try to do some digging. If I find anything, I will update this comment.


I found nothing unfortunately. Studies in both languages seem to be focused on Ramadan rather than long term intermittent fasting.


It's probably better to skip breakfast and dinner, and eat only at mid-day. You're still generally active for hours after the mid-day meal, so you don't have the tendency to gorge and then curl up on the couch or go to bed.


In my experience the only intermittent fadting pattern that works is to eat your food later.

If you try to eat 2000 calorie lunches, you'll have major lethargy in the afternoon and insomnia from hunger in the evening.

Better to use hunger as a driver during the day, then gorge and go to sleep at night.


> Better to use hunger as a driver during the day, then gorge and go to sleep at night.

Is this just a guess you are making, or do you have research or citations to back up this advice?


OP wrote "in my experience".


The issue with Ramadan is that they eat at night. It is indeed intermittent fasting, but it is not as good as intermittent fasting where you eat during the day, because eating is related to peripheral oscillators of our circadian rhythm.

I heard about that a few weeks ago while listening to this podcast by Dr. Rhonda Patrick: http://tim.blog/2017/05/04/smart-drugs-fasting-and-fat-loss/

This article might also be of interest: http://minimalwellness.com/mealtiming/

As well as this video interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-R-eqJDQ2nU


What about it?


Ramadan is popularly associated with gaining weight, because people tend to binge before dawn and after sunset and are more sedentary than usual.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/07/cairo-the-...


Middle Eastern cuisine doesn't help either. Most of our food is high in carbs and fats, and we eat a ton of bread!


There are some assertions that the wheat-based carbs we eat today are deficient in something (allegations vary depending upon who you speak with) that is missing from modern wheat grains and especially flours. It would be interesting to find a micro-culture or community that sources and exclusively uses freshly-stone-ground (not roller milled), whole, heirloom grain varieties for its flour, and compare the incidence of metabolic diseases with the general population.

That means a population that only uses a flour that is ground locally, then immediately used within 12-48 hours after grinding. The mill grinds the entire wheat grain, under cold temperatures, sourced from older strains of grain (e.g., einkorn or emmer), without separating and then adding back in bran, etc. Before milling, the grains are held in cold or even freezing, dry, dark storage.

If such a population can be found and studied, it could support or refute these assertions that modern hybrid grain strains and modern processes for even "whole wheat" flours is causing deficiencies in our diet that are contributing to various metabolic disorders.

Whole wheat is a poorly-regulated term [1]. Baking with whole, heirloom wheat might benefit from deep learning algos, automation, and appropriate sensor tech, considering how finicky the variables are [2]. If we can solve that, then we might be able to deliver industrial-scale baked goods with all the asserted benefits, without the high prices of artisan production. There are a lot of claims surrounding the adverse effects of industrialized grain and its affiliated production [3] [4], but I don't know of anyone coming at the other end, showing populations that eat heirloom grains that are freshly-processed differ from the general population in significant ways. I'm curious if an analogous condition exists for rice.

[1] https://ww2.kqed.org/bayareabites/2013/08/16/the-whole-grain...

[2] http://www.thekitchn.com/chad-robertsons-5-essentials-for-wo...

[3] https://paleoleap.com/what-is-wrong-with-grains/

[4] https://authoritynutrition.com/modern-wheat-health-nightmare...


But that's all the time, not just ramadan.


But during Ramadan, it's basically all at once. Am I wrong to conclude that more unhealthy food in a shorter time period = more weight problems?


That's the current wisdom, yes.

To lose weight, it's recommended to eat many times a day (like 5-6), but limit yourself to small portions.


This hasn't been popular, or accepted, wisdom for a very long time.

Intermediate fasting (discussed elsewhere in this thread) is much closer to being a modern understanding.


No, they haven't found this to help people lose weight.


But so good. :(


So damn true haha! Have you tried Tunisian cuisine? The food we are mostly known for is couscous. It's actually popular among North African countries, but I prefer the southern Tunisian variant to the rest.

Spoiler: I'm a Tunisian.


Is there a great restaurant that you could recommend that serves Tunisian food?


Has it been also tested by proponents of IF? That is, skipping breakfast and lunch some days of the week.


I have no idea. That would be a good thing to test, though.


16/8 is not just skipping breakfast: it's also not eating anything (or drinking anything calorie rich) in the evening after dinner, which is a common practice for many people. It's also not eating anything between the skipped breakfast and lunch. In other words: it cuts down on snacking and alcohol.

That intermittent fasting has many of the same benefits of calorie restriction is obvious if you realize that people practicing intermittent fasting usually do not compensate the lost calories in other meals. So they effectively calorie restrict. Often that is even the main goal.

  I have never seen a study that indicated 16/8 had effects 
  similar to 24/24
It's well known when the body goes into the fasted state: after at most 12 hours. So 16/8 gives you at least 4 hours in that state, vs. 12 hours for 24/24. In addition to that there is the calorie restriction. It would be surprising if 16/8 did not confer much of the same benefits as other forms of intermittent fasting.


> have seen small improvements in my energy and general well-being

FWIW I have moved to eating small meals every 3 hours a few years ago and have seen huge improvements in my energy and general well-being. The most key of those meals is the midnight meal that ensures I wake up full of energy and ready to go.

Nutrition is tricky.


> small meals every 3 hours

I can't imagine what food combinations would constitute a small meal that would be eaten 5/6 times a day. Sample menu for a full day?


Here is a relatively typical day https://imgur.com/a/WQeAr

I tend to increase my intake right before and after gym sessions. That's why 2nd lunch and Dinner are bigger than the others.

And on this particular day I felt like having candy after dinner because I was low on carbs, so midnight meal was slightly smaller than usual.


No green vegetables? Spinach, broccoli, peas...?


Don't track em because they don't add much calories. But yes plenty of those


How are your teeth/gums? From what I understand, one of the major factors in tooth decay is frequency of eating, since teeth remineralize between meals, and frequent eating gives them less chance to do so.


This is the direct opposite of IF, fwiw. It may feel better than large meals, but there's no reason to expect similar long term effects.


I know. It has great short term effects tho and as a human, I naturally prefer to optimize for those.

And my pet theory is that most of the effect in energy levels and well being that people get from IF is actually just from being mindful of what they eat for the first time.

Funfact: everyone feels better when they start eating well. Exactly which trick they use to make themselves eat well isn't too important.

All that to say that so far whenever I talked to anyone who's discovered intermittent fasting and said how much more energy they have now than they did before, when asked about their habits before, it's usually something like "Oh I just ate whatever I could find at random times in the day with pretty much no thought given to what I'm doing"


Have thought about the fasting as well, but isn't it basically the same as skipping breakfast?


Yes, most people "doing IF" are just skipping breakfast. There are other styles but of course adherence is lower because skipping breakfast is easy and actually fasting for extended periods of time is hard.


Fasting is by definition skipping break fast.


technically correct and also not very helpful :)


There are many schemes people use. I find skipping both breakfast and lunch works well for me.


No, it usually isn't. See my upthread response to dpark.


I'm settling into IF as well, seems to be working okay. It is surprisingly alright to not eat for a considerable number of hours, and extending that period seems to make me less hungry instead of more.


I am on time restricted feeding as well and set a 9h timer after the first thing I consume that's not water. I plan to reduce it to 8h as well but with my current routine this means I have to take my last meal before 5pm which is in the middle of my working schedule.

I didn't notice anything different yet besides that I can more or less eat what I want and not gain any weight.


A few thoughts.

It seems that "calorie restriction" is a misleading term. If these funds are correct, CR should be considered the norm/ideal. That means the majority, currently, over-consume.

That aside. I wonder if it's also related to modern food, and the production there of. If inflammation is the root of most disease, and CR, I presume, reduces inflammation, then what is it about our foods that trigger so much inflammation?

Finally, when all said and done, I predict this will be found to connect with gut bacteria in some way. That is, CR effects the gut, and that effect is ultimately a positive for the whole body.


> If these funds are correct, CR should be considered the norm/ideal. That means the majority, currently, over-consume.

If we found that consuming a quart of squid ink daily extended life by 20%, we wouldn't call that "the norm". The norm is what people actually do. "Ideal" is extremely subjective, as "never satiated" is a tough steady state for most people.

> If inflammation is the root of most disease

That's a pretty wild starting point. Most disease in modern nations seems pretty tightly correlated with sedentary lifestyle and obesity.


Ok. Fair enough. Allow me to clarify.

I was speaking of norm for the body, not norm of what most people do. In any case, my point was "restriction" isn't a restriction if you're over-consuming to begin with. It's a language/communication issue. Telling people to reduce (when they think they're normal") is, imho, the wrong message. We've normalized obesity by, to some extent, allowing people to believe obesity is perfectly normal.

As for sedentary lifestyle and obesity...those are symptoms. What happens in the body is, often, inflammation. Inflammation in turn gets manifested as various diseases. Obesity is not what kills you per se. But it does trigger various things (often rooted in inflammation) that will.

Regardless, in the context of the original article, I was simply taking a stand at why CR increases lifespan.

I hear ya. We're on the same page, mostly. I just wanted to clarify my particular thoughts.

Thanks


> I was speaking of norm for the body, not norm of what most people do. In any case, my point was "restriction" isn't a restriction if you're over-consuming to begin with. It's a language/communication issue. Telling people to reduce (when they think they're normal") is, imho, the wrong message. We've normalized obesity by, to some extent, allowing people to believe obesity is perfectly normal.

Almost no one actually thinks obesity is normal. a very small set of people argue it's healthy, but that is a tiny minority.

As for "norm", caloric restriction is not about being normal weight. Caloric restriction is about cutting calories significantly below the level needed to maintain a normal weight. I don't see any way to argue that this is "normal".

> As for sedentary lifestyle and obesity...those are symptoms. What happens in the body is, often, inflammation. Inflammation in turn gets manifested as various diseases. Obesity is not what kills you per se. But it does trigger various things (often rooted in inflammation) that will.

All indications are that sedentary lifestyle is a root cause, not a symptom. Obesity is perhaps a symptom, but sedentary lifestyle is a step before that.

I don't believe there's actually any evidence for the claim that inflammation is the root issue for most disease. I get the distinct impression that this is a pseudoscience claim made by people who are selling quick fixes (as opposed to the diet and exercise people already know they need). "Inflammation" is almost a magical claim. It sounds scientific but there doesn't generally seem to be any actual science behind claims of inflammation causing arbitrary health issues.


Causations are not necessarily one way. Inflammation causes disease, disease causes obesity (unhealthy people tend to move less), obesity causes more inflammation. Start anywhere in the circle.

  I don't believe there's actually any evidence for the 
  claim that inflammation is the root issue for most disease
I quote from a seven year old issue of Nature insight (http://www.nature.com/nature/supplements/insights/inflammati...):

  Inflammation forms the basis of many physiological and 
  pathological processes. Much is known about how 
  inflammation is initiated, develops and resolves over the 
  short term. But less is known about the causes and 
  consequences of chronic inflammation, which underlies many 
  human diseases. Recent studies have extended our 
  understanding of chronic inflammation and the cross-talk 
  that occurs between inflammatory responses and other 
  physiological and pathological 
 
This is common knowledge and has been for a long time.


I criticized referring to inflammation as the root of most diseases. I did not say inflammation does not play a factor in many diseases.


Re: inflammation

Perhaps. But do you have a better term for "completely fucking over your normal body processes"?

I was using inflammation as a generic term for "disrupting the baseline." Sorry. You're correct. I'll try to be more particular next time.

Thanks.


> I was using inflammation as a generic term for "disrupting the baseline."

You've lumped literally all illnesses together (anything that disrupts the baseline) and referred to them as "inflammation". This is exactly what I'm criticizing. Inflammation in this context is a meaningless term used to give an appearance of medicine to pseudoscience.


Inflammation go hand in hand with 'a disrupted baseline'. It is usually the cause of part of the disruption and the symptom of another part of the disruption. So it really isn't that unwarranted to use it as a synonym.


It is unwarranted. To use "inflammation" as a synonym for "disease" is to willfully imply that inflammation is the root of every disease. This is inaccurate and it misguides people. If you have type 2 diabetes, you probably have some inflammation. But that's unlikely the root cause or the thing to worry about. Obesity and sedentary lifestyle are better causes to attack.


> I don't believe there's actually any evidence for the claim that inflammation is the root issue for most disease.

There is growing evidence that it is in the chain of causality for lots of diseases where it has previously not been thought of, and that lots of inflammatory conditions seem to be linked manifestations of common systemic causes rather than localised inflammation with unrelated causes.

This does get overplayed sometimes into “everything starts with inflammation”.


"Almost no one actually thinks obesity is normal. a very small set of people argue it's healthy, but that is a tiny minority."

Tiny? Lol

Jokes aside, I see it differently. Much.

First, look around. Obesity is normalized. Those less so, look around and think "I'm okay...Look at that guy/gal..." We (speaking for the USA) got here because humans do what they do. In this case, they define norm by what they see.

I'm not concerned about those who argue it's healty. My concern is those who do not. Think of the current politics and healthcare. NO ONE brings up the fact that if we prevented what we could prevent, there'd be money for real illness.

As it is, we have fat people eating donuts, drinking milk by the gallon, and complaining about their premiums. That would be funny, if it wasn't so absurd.


CR reduces inflammation through the mTor pathway. And a lot(if not all) of the benefits of CR are seen with protein restriction or intermittent fasting(which both don't modify total caloric intake) because they both act on the same receptor.

So CR isn't about eating too much food (though many of us are) it's about certain biological pathways that get activated during famine that prioritize longevity over other things like procreation.


Yes. But isn't it odd that our diets cause information in the first place. In an evolutionary way, that feels odd. So, then I have to wonder, is this further incrimination of the modern diet? And lifestyle?

That is, is CR simple a proxy / correlation for putting less (modern) shit in your body?


So, for your first question, no, we didn't evolve for the food we need to survive to cause inflammation. In the past, ancient humans had no diabetes or cancer, and ate mostly protein, fats (saturated and monounsaturated), high fiber vegetables, and roughly a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. So it seems more likely that our relatively recent addition of sugar, vegetable oils and highly refined carbohydrates (lacking any fiber content) has something to do with that.

I think your second question is on the money. CR seems like a red herring in this case, because it's likely that those who eat less will also eat less processed foods, less sugars, and more fibrous vegetables or filling fats that would help them actually keep their calorie intake low while still feeling satiated. In the study with the Rhesus monkeys, it said that the ones that weren't on calorie restriction were diabetic or pre-diabetic. Monkeys in the wild don't really get diabetes, in the same way that our human ancestors never got diabetes, so what were they feeding these monkeys? I looked at some of the source studies backing this bbc article. The report from the Nature magazine(https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14063) actually says that the University of Wisconsin study 'contained a significantly higher amount of sucrose compared to the NIA diet' (https://www.nia.nih.gov/newsroom/announcements/2017/01/calor...) and that the other study, the one with a diet of varied protein sources, actually did not see any health benefits in the CR monkeys. I wonder, if you fed the UW monkeys a diet low in sucrose and other easily digestible carbohydrates in order to keep their blood glucose and inflammation extremely low, would there be a big difference in the health of the CR monkeys and the others? If the NIA study is any indication, probably not.


"In the past, ancient humans had no diabetes or cancer"

Do you have a source for this?


But CR doesn't work because our diets cause inflammation. The CR was discovered in worms, and they're eating the same diet they always did.

That is, is CR simple a proxy / correlation for putting less (modern) shit in your body? No, you can take a drug rapamycin that has the exact same effects as CR, even if you are putting the exact same amount of food in your body. The benefits of CR are not caused because food is damaging, and less food is less damaging. CR is your body noticing it's running low on food and telling your body to do some maintenance. Rapamycin does the exact same thing, causes your body to enter maintenance mode.


I suspect CR speaks to your gut more than you body. A couple months back there was an article (somewhere) on the benefits of a 3 day fast. CR feels like a slightly different version of that.

And, best I can tell, if it goes in your mouth than it's about your gut (bacteria). Any downstream reactions are communicated via those bacteria.


>then what is it about our foods that trigger so much inflammation?

Huge quantities of sodium and sugar, all kinds of BS half-tested preservatives and additives, growth hormones and the like.


Yup. It was kinda a passive aggressiveness rhetoric question ;)


> If inflammation is the root of most disease

Reminds me of a quote in one of Heinlein's books, that all forms of death could ultimately be described as heart failure.


Funny.

But do note I did say "If..."


A CRON or calorie restriction optimal nutrition diet is a thing, not only eating fewer calories but what you do eat has to be absolutely perfect in nutrition.

Micheal Mosley on BBC interviewed a CRON advocate he are an apple peel but threw away the inner part.

I've read that a rumbling stomach is necessary for gut health without it your microbiome suffers, CR may incidentally do that.


Yes. The arc of my point, kinda, was that we eat for what we perceive as nutritional. When we should really focus (more) on eating for our gut.


>he ate an apple peel but threw away the inner part

I can do reduced calories, but that right there just sounds miserable.


I saw the program, the guy actually had a giant bowl of fruit, mostly frozen berries(!), and yes, apple peel. He seemed pretty cheerful, and it didn't look like privation.

I do remember reading the blog of some guy way back around 2007 or so who was on a 1000 calorie per day diet. One of the most miserable things I ever read. The highlight of his week was 1 square of 100% cacao chocolate.


About five years ago I switched to one large meal per day (dinner) with a snack or two. Prior to this I lost nearly 40lbs by shifting my diet toward dominant protein and smaller portions. I also added in a good 30+ minutes of walking per day. Nothing fancy.

I also dropped almost all of my sugar intake. I drink about 3L of water per day and have one cup of coffee in the morning.

I've been able to maintain a healthy weight (6'4" tall, ~185lbs) and I rarely feel truly hungry. On the days where I have more than one large meal, I tend to feel tired and foggy.

Its completely anecdotal, but this pattern has worked out well for me.

The main issue with articles like this is that they propose lame diets that strip out enjoyment. If you want to eat eggs basted in butter, do it -- but balance that out with exercise or somewhere else in your diet. No use suffering so you can live a few extra years at the tail end of your life.


If you think about it, a ketogenic diet may be a form of continuous fasting since one tends to go into ketosis when one fasts. I had already given up gluten and alcohol, in an attempt to lose weight. Things really accelerated three weeks ago when I went full keto. Off one stone already. So called keto-flu was minor and easily addressed with a quarter teaspoon of salt. I am an inch shorter than you and shooting for 182 lbs.


I find ketosis to be so interesting. Its never something I considered, but it does seem like I unknowingly tuned my diet in that direction.

Congrats on dropping that much weight already! That's awesome. 182lbs will be an excellent weight.


I've settled into a similar pattern and have found it the most sustainable out of all the diets I've tried. I also recommend a few multi day water fasts a year as a sort of 'soft-reset' of your appetite/digestive system. You learn the difference between cravings and hunger and how marvelously tuned your body is for dealing with caloric deficiencies. People get so anxious and scared of hunger when it's no big deal. You're basically asking it to 'garbage collect' to conserve the energy you're burning which it doesn't seem to do normally when food is coming in every few hours.


Also, most hunger is really thirst, but your body will output the same sensation.


Back in 2013 when I finally made the full switch away from cigarettes and into vaping, one of the main benefits was my increase on water consumption. Vaping is naturally dehydrating (the propylene glycol in the liquid). Drinking about 2.5L or so per day really cut down on what I felt was a need to eat several times per day, like @pitaj said.

Fasting is also fantastic. Its one of the few positive habits I have left over from my days in religion. The garbage collection analogy is an excellent way to describe it.


I checked out the recipes on the iDiet website recommended in the article, and I'm feeling sad and deprived just reading them. I'm willing to suffer for better health, but I'd hate to suffer through a life of egg whites and margarine and then discover in the end that the science was wrong.


Even if it means dying a year earlier I'm going to eat salted butter and drink red wine and enjoy it. Better to enjoy less than to have more you don't enjoy?


I think the dynamics are more complicated than that. Some diseases seriously mess with your quality of life, whether it be chemo for cancer or blood pressure medicine with nasty side effects for heart disease. Or my least favorite, a decade of Alzheimer's.

I heard the ideal death described as pretty solid health up to a very rapid decline, healthy food probably helps that.


Yep, totally agree. If you got acid reflux, you cant enjoy coffee or spicy foods at all.

If only if it was as simple as enjoy junk food and your life and die a few years younger.


Exactly. The first 70 years of a 75-year life is probably more enjoyable than a 70-year old life.


That is not how it works. Living an additional 5 years does not make a difference; however, you "could" be living a much more productive work life, have better sex, be more friendly, be more active with your children etc...

It's like when someone says I rather smoke and die at 75 vs 80. Sure, but then you spend more time at the doctor's, you get exhaust faster, you are not always fun to be around with because your clothes may smell like cigarette and more.


It probably doesn't mean that anyway.


I admit I've only skimmed the article, but does it say anything about those specific foods being healthy (with science to back that up), or is it just a single person's recommendation on how to choose low-calorie foods?

I'm currently on a calorie-counting streak coming up on a year, and I have managed to do it without switching to foods I don't enjoy. The guiding principle is to look at nutrition labels for calorie information, then choose foods that are low-calorie, enjoyable, and that make me feel full. (That means, generally, more high-protein items like meat and more high-fiber items like vegetables.)

I've made some effort to switch to healthier foods, but mostly I just started with the foods I like and filtered that set down to eliminate the worst ones. I still eat frozen pizzas and ice cream, but I do carefully measure the portions on those.

Anyway, if calorie restriction is the thing that actually gives you health benefits, then I feel like I'm doing that without dooming myself to a life of foods that I don't enjoy.


I highly suggest looking into a low carb high fat diet (paleo or keto), perhaps coupled with Intermittent Fasting (or even extended fasts every once in a while) if you want to reap the benefits described in this article without subjecting yourself to a life of miserable calorie counting. After a small period of adaptation, you won't have cravings, you'll have more energy and be more focused, and you won't have to count calories (although you will probably want to track your carb intake at first just to make sure you're on the right track). Eat like our disease free paleolithic ancestors did. Jason Fung is doing incredible work about this at IDM: https://intensivedietarymanagement.com/

As someone has pointed out above, it seems like the calorie restriction is not really the reason for improved health. The real reason seems to be that reducing calories happens to also reduce all the stuff that makes us sick in the first place, like pro-inflammatory vegetable oils, sugar, and refined carbohydrates. If you look at the actual studies mentioned in the article, you'll see that the NIA study didn't find any difference between the two groups of monkeys, while the UW study did. The primary difference between the two is that the NIA fed the monkeys varied protein sources, while the UW study fed them significantly higher levels of sucrose. We already know that sugar is bad for you, so it makes sense that reducing its intake would improve health. The CR is a red herring.

I also checked some of the iDiet recipes, and I'm pretty sure they will do you more harm than good. Margarine, like pretty much any vegetable oil other than olive/avocado/coconut, is really bad for you. Egg yolks are not bad for you at all and I wouldn't worry about cholesterol in food (this is a whole topic in and of itself that I won't really go into here). One of the recipes on there is oatmeal with maple syrup; that is just sugar and grains, which honestly just feels like a slightly healthier frosted flakes.


You write "Margarine, like pretty much any vegetable oil other than olive/avocado/coconut, is really bad for you."

Do you have sources for that? Which vegetables oils are healthy and which are unhealthy and why?

The only relevant knowledge I have is that saturated and trans fats are bad and that unsaturated are good. One source for that is for example https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you... .

If this is what you are refering to then margarine is indeed bad because it often contains high amounts of trans fat but for example coconut oil isnt good either for its high saturated fat content. Plenty of other vegetable oils should be fine judging by their fat contents rather than "really bad".


I'm surprised that no one mentioned it here already but the whole article smells of submarine marketing[0]. A short back story about calorie reduction then some science and then they casually mention Susan Roberts which uses a tool called iDiet. When you visit the website you will see that Dr. Susan Roberts is the one who created this iDiet tool so... yeah

[0] http://www.paulgraham.com/submarine.html


>I'd hate to suffer through a life of egg whites and margarine

I know this wasn't your point but: I don't think people recommend eating margarine instead of real butter anymore.

I won't claim to know if avoiding egg yolks is healthy or not, but many seem to think that dietary cholesterol isn't as bad as once thought.


It's right there in the recipes on the iDiet website, recommended in the article by "Susan Roberts, a dietary scientist at Tufts University". I was surprised too-- I didn't think anyone still believed margarine was healthier than butter, but here it is:

https://www.theidiet.com/food/idiet-recipes/vanilla-spice-co...

And here's their cake made with egg whites, which I imagine is great for crying yourself to sleep while trying to ignore your hunger: https://www.theidiet.com/food/idiet-recipes/idiet-chocolate-...


The margarine and egg-whites-only feels like the nutritional advice of the 80s...I wouldn't follow any of the advice on that website...


My father has had a low calorie diet all of his life. At 78, he is in perfect physical and mental condition. His doctor had only one concern; he is slowly losing weight each year and needs to reverse that. The doctor wanted to prescribe an appetite enhancing drug but my father explained he can not simply gain weight by eating more. It's as if his digestive system is already at a maximum threshold.

I wonder if habitual CR inevitably trains the body to stabilize its weight and if that can not be undone if practiced too long. That then put you at increased mortality risk when you start losing body mass in old age. Caged animal studies might miss this risk because a valued lab rat won't suffer sudden injuries and the resulting prolonged hospital visits.


>The doctor wanted to prescribe an appetite enhancing drug but my father explained he can not simply gain weight by eating more. It's as if his digestive system is already at a maximum threshold.

It's more likely that his weight set point has been lowered, and now his hormonal hunger indicators are defending that set point.

He needs to power through it and eat more, even though it's going to feel like he's uncomfortably full all the time. I went through the same thing. It's all mental. It has nothing to do with the digestive system.


Note that he doesn't need to eat much more. A few hundred kilojoules a day will do the trick over time - he could reverse such a slow trend by something as small as switching from low fat to full cream milk, or having a couple of Tim Tams with his morning coffee.


>The doctor wanted to prescribe an appetite enhancing drug but my father explained he can not simply gain weight by eating more. It's as if his digestive system is already at a maximum threshold.

Well, actually he can. It's not 100% just calories in/calories out, but it's very much that. If he eats potato chips and fries and lard every day he WILL gain weight.


Although this is true, I can say from personal experience that my body will ramp up the vomiting and diarrhea to keep the weight gain to a minimum.


Does your father do any resistance training? He should. Strength training stops muscle loss and improves bone density.


That's not the easiest thing to just pick up at 78.


> I wonder if habitual CR inevitably trains the body to stabilize its weight

This would not surprise me too much, in the same way that being overweight and habitually overeating basically trains the body to always want to be fat, always be hungry, etc


testosterone production also drops significantly with age. there are natural supplements that can boost it and aid in muscle growth.


Assume that you had a garden with acres of produce all perfectly grown and in season. If you wanted orange juice all you would need to do is walk out into this garden, pick some oranges, bring them back to the kitchen and manually squeeze them into a glass.

Now imagine if you wanted to have a bit of toast, maybe with some chocolate-hazelnut spread. All you would need to do is walk into the garden, grab some hazelnuts off the tree and some cocoa beans, perhaps with some cane sugar for good measure. Some blender in the kitchen would be able to make your hazelnut spread, just so long as you shelled the nuts first. Similarly with the bread, in this garden, free for the taking would be some strong wheat that you can put through some kitchen appliance, then after a few hours with the breadmaking machine the bread would be good to eat. Butter would be equally simple too, you just needed to milk a cow, put the milk in some glorified washing machine with a bit of salt, then wait a while to get the freshest butter ever tasted.

Would you be able to complete all of these tasks by breakfast? Would you really bother to shell all of those hazelnuts? Would you question why it is that you have juiced 14 oranges when actually just the one orange, non-juiced was satisfying enough and didn't require all that effort dicking about with juicing?

Of course people have allotments and smallholdings so this does happen, albeit with greenhouses instead of some magic 'always in season' aspect. But my office workmates of the obese variety have no idea of the effort needed to get their food, even if it is healthy food. The connection is not there.

One of my dream is to rock up at the doctors one day having eaten too much fruit and veg. For the doctor to recommend me to stay off the veggies and eat some sugary snacks instead. I am fairly sure that no amount of fruit and veg would age me, not in the way that sugary snacks, beef products and everything processed would.


Does that imply that lifting, building up one's body and consuming excess calories to bulk up is somehow stressful for the body's metabolic aging process?


Absolutely, yes.

Although gaining muscle is much healthier than gaining adipose tissue, the implication of the article (and an abundance of empirical evidence) is that eating itself is a stressful process. Eating is the vector through which you expose yourself to oxidative stresses and pathogens. Eating less but still meeting your caloric needs would mean minimizing exposure to these risk factors.


In a sense, yes - to build up your muscles they must first be broken down, a cycle which is going to create some amount of stressful churn. If you think about any machine, a higher operating energy/intensity generally correlates to faster breakdown.

At the same time, humans in good shape are definitely healthier, and too much calorie restriction can lead to malnourishment.

There's a sweet spot somewhere, proponents of calorie restriction are basically saying to err on the side of eating less.


I think it's the sort of activity that matters. Low impact exercise wears on your joints/etc less than higher intensity stuff (think swimming or walking compared to running).


I read somewhere that physical activities are stressful but then make your body more resistant to oxidative stress, which may explain the paradox of physical activity like lifting improving health and longevity. So maybe caloric restriction compared to slight calorie excess+muscles might end up being relatively equal in terms of longevity


whether you are muscular or skinny, you have the same set of organs. The fact you are 30 percent bigger in mass means all your organs (heart, liver, kidney, muscles, ...) are working much harder than if you had less mass.


>your organs are working much harder

That's very misleading logic. You make it out that your organs working much harder is a bad thing in all cases. That's not true.

When you exercise, your organs work much harder. Yet it is much better to exercise and have your organs work harder than to not exercise at all.


It's probably not so simplistic one way or the other. However, some organs do function as filters, so overloading them would be detrimental.


Adding 30% body mass I would be a very large increase...almost no one but the most dedicated lifters could do that.


That's wrong. The heart grows proportionally with effort ( hence why pro athletes have troubles later in life.


In addition to differences in recommended calorie intake, is there a good, scientific, international comparison that puts dietary guidelines side-by-side, nutrient guidelines, balanced meal?

It's amazingly difficult to find clear information anywhere. For instance, CDC Nutrition guidelines?! It's an example of something that, in trying to be comprehensive, results in a mess of awkwardly qualified terms and difficult to digest (couldn't help it) high-level recommendation.

USDA Food Patterns, Healthy US-Style Eating Pattern. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendi...

Meat poultry and eggs in the same line? They are completely different foods with wildly varying nutrients.

[UPDATED: good start] - Pictorial Nutrition Guidelines: http://www.fremont.k12.ca.us/cms/lib04/CA01000848/Centricity...

- Comparison of International Dietary Guidelines and Food Guides in Twelve Countries across Stages of the Nutrition Transition http://www.fasebj.org/content/29/1_Supplement/898.36.short


Most articles on eating tend to focus on weight, drawing the conclusion that weight (fat) is the problem, not eating. This article provides a refreshing perspective:

> But the latest results suggested that significant health benefits can be garnered in an already healthy body – a person who isn’t underweight or obese.

The take away here is that the problem with excessive eating isn't just the weight gain. There's something about eating itself which is stressful. Restricting calories is good for you even if you're already within a healthy BMI. This means that just because you can eat anything, doesn't mean you should.


> Restricting calories is good for you even if you're already within a healthy BMI.

How much of this study, and your statement, applies to highly active individuals, and atheletes? I box and train 5 - 7 times a week, and spar (high intensity with protective gear) twice a month.

I tried restricting calories to lose fat and "lean out" but I find that I am constantly hungry (even after consuming proteins) and like someone else has mentioned here, I don't get good sleep when I eat less...


If you're highly active you will definitely need to eat more to support the repair of muscle and bone. Assuming you're already within healthy BMI (don't need to lose fat) then I doubt anyone would suggest you restrict calories while physically active. You need food to support the repair of muscle and bone - there's no getting away from that.

What is up for consideration is how MUCH food do you really need? The general takeaway from the article which can be broadly applied, is that less food is probably better for you. So if you have a large need for nutrient restoration (from high intensity sports) then try to eat nutrient dense, quality food.


I'm guessing very little. Most of the time I think that active people are not considered -- that the data is pointed at those who are moderately active (a few gym classes a week, or a few runs).

I've been working on leaning out a while now, but I have the affliction of loving beer and whisky so much... (Canadian).

I work out 5 or 6 days a week for at least an hour in the morning immediately after waking: bike, run, weights, calisthenics. I'm 6 ft, ~210 lbs at present.

I start out with a high protein breakfast, a light lunch, and a high protein supper. I don't snack a lot, but if I do I go for nuts or a little chocolate. As is, I still feel hungry regularly and as is, I am at least a thousand to fifteen-hundred calories below my maintenance requirements.

Did I mention I enjoy my beer? I enjoy regular libation, usually beer and a (one or more) scotch, irish or canadian whisky and yet I'm losing weight at ~2 to 3 lbs a week. That said I very rarely indulge in any junk food, fast food, or overly fatty or carbed meals. So rarely do I eat pasta or potatoes these days. I usually have one slice of bread with breakfast and that's all unless I take a sandwich for lunch -- but I don't make rules out of that either.

I have heard many times over about the benefits of intermittent fasting, but I personally can't be bothered with the attention that fad diets and labeled lifestyles require.

I tried restricting my caloric intake as well, and I found I just had a severe drop in energy and focus when it came to my morning workouts and my daily work.

Just eat your greens people! Go heavy on the spinach.


Probably not much. But really think back on your training arc in the past.

When I am in my training phase doing krav-maga, lifting weights, biking... yeah, I need thousands of calories to feel healthy (I never really counted how much).

But immediately after (assuming the muscle you built is not just inflated and is comprised of lean strength), I have personally found I can get away with very few calories/day for several months.


> There's something about eating itself which is stressful.

Which is more stressful -- eating, or being hangry all the time?


Eating. I don't want to be fat again.


Thing is, we're not "hungry or the time".

Developing world kids are. We just have cravings -- and we eat much more than recommended for our age/height/etc.


It is pretty ironic and sad that following a healthy diet, including CR, is much harder in Western nations and esp in the US.

- Processed food costs less than fresh food. - Multiple generations of people have been conditioned to eat processed and junk food. - People believe in the myth that 'cooking takes too long' - People are lazy and don't want to spend any time on cooking/food even when living a life of luxury compared to the rest of the world.

All of which is the opposite of most developing countries. US and UK are very close in this respect. Even many European countries value shopping for and eating fresh food much more.

CR, and eating in general should be about buying nutrient dense but low caloric foods - which is a mostly plant based diet of fresh food. The exact kind of food which is artificially expensive and considered a 'fad'.


If you're concerned about the "Western Diet", Michael Pollan wrote an interesting treatise on it, called In Defense of Food.

His arguments are very similar to yours.


I can't find the study right now, but from what I understand it is only really beneficial to animals the size of a mice, as soon as you move to bigger animals the effect is sharply reduced, and experiments with monkeys (or was it even primates? I don't remember) didn't find any real life prolonging effect. So you might be subjecting yourself to not enjoying food for no real benefit after all.


The article discusses studies with Rhesus monkeys that largely confirmed the results of the mice studies, and also mentions a study with humans (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CALERIE) and some early, positive results.


I recall watching a video of an engineer practicing CR. He looked miserable and older than his years. He was constantly cold and had chronic sore feet because the soles of his feet were too thin.

When I don't eat enough, I don't get hungry, and I don't loose much weight, but I do have trouble sleeping which results in daytime fatigue and depression. For me the happiness/sleep threshold is sharp, so I eat just above that threshold.


I'm not sure if you skip breakfast, but if you do, you are missing a strong signal to your circadian rhythm. What happens is you end up sleeping later and waking up later as the rhythm shifts towards your first meal of the day.


Do you have any source of proof of any of this? I have no problem waking up at 630am after 7 hours of sleep and not eating anything until after noon.

Thinking to premodern humans, do you think they would frequently have food waiting for them as soon as they awoke? Some days maybe, but then other days probably not.


Hmm. If food is not waiting for you when you wake up, then you should sleep some more!

Not surprisingly, I don't have proof of what I said, but I've read in articles and studies that breakfast (and meals in general) tend to anchor your circadian rhythms (Although, light is a stronger signal). I might have extrapolated from reading about fixing your rhythms after experiencing jet lag and also from my own experience.


I'm the same as you. I don't eat until noon and can't make myself sleep past 6 am.


> Do you have any source of proof of any of this?

Of course not. There's never been any significant evidence of health benefits from breakfast.


Why the snark? No need for that. There are many studies that show a link between meals, especially breakfast, and our circadian clocks.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4078443/

http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2013/03/05/eating-times-affect...

Here's a HN discussion regarding a Harvard study on the subject, from 7 years ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=199394

Please provide some evidence that these studies are insignificant and incorrect.


Because people have claimed for decades that breakfast is the most important meal and that you have to eat breakfast and made all sorts of unfounded claims with no evidence.

I have no trouble believing that breakfast is relevant to circadian rhythms. This is far different from saying that skipping breakfast inevitably results in "sleeping later and waking up later as the rhythm shifts towards your first meal of the day." This is a very strong claim that demands strong evidence. Some studies linking circadian rhythm to meals is not sufficient.


Firstly, you weren't asked the question. Secondly, you don't answer it. Proof was asked for yet you confidently come in with "Of course not" and no evidence or proof, for or against.


This is a public discussion forum. You can criticize my response. You cannot criticize me for responding. I certainly didn't ask for you to respond to me, and yet you did, which is perfectly appropriate.


Interesting. How much time after wakeup should the breakfast be? I'm usually 1-2 hours after, and I find that I tend to wake up later and later.


Did you read the article? It specifically mentions studies with rhesus monkeys.


I would be interested in reading that study if you could find it.


TFA actually talks about possitive experiments with monkeys.


One detail that isn't explicitly stated, but seems like a bit of a blind spot, is whether there's an age-appropiate aspect to this behavior.

Do non-growing adults (30+ years old) enjoy greater benefits than small children who have faster metabolisms and growth spurts ahead of them?

My inutition says that even if the concept still fits well with growing children, that their cycles are different, and closer together in frequency. Maybe they don't eat more calories, but eating several times a day might possibly tie into cycles of blood serum nutrient levels properly based of weight and activity.


There's an old joke about eating etc habits and longevity, it goes like this:

- Doctor, if I don't eat any sugar or salt, don't smoke, don't drink, don't have any sex, will I live a hundred years?

- Well, even if you don't, it will sure feel like a hundred.

Meaning: food is one of the pleasures of life. What the hell is the point of living to a ripe old age if your life is going to simply suck for longer?

And then of course you read some interview with a super-centenarian who goes "my secret is that I drink a small glass of wine after lunch and smoke a cigarette before going to bed" and realise that it really doesn't matter what you do, you just won't live forever, so enjoying your limited time on the earth is a much more realistic goal.


Doesn't really seem like calorie restriction. The monkeys who died younger would have definitely been considered unhealthy and gluttonous.

And it's no secret that being overweight causes premature aging, health problems and eventually premature death.


Totally agree. If you look at the two parallel studies, it seems like diet had a huge effect on the outcome. The NIA study found no significant difference in both groups, and fed the monkeys varied source of protein. The UW study found health improvements in the CR monkeys but fed them 'significantly higher amount of sucrose compared to the NIA diet'.

https://www.nia.nih.gov/newsroom/announcements/2017/01/calor... https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28094793 https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14063


They controlled for diet, natural feeding tendencies, etc. presumably to match conditions in the wild. They never said the monkeys who "naturally" ate the most DIDN'T die first; they probably did. But that certainly doesn't mean that calorie restriction below the "average" feeding tendency doesn't provide benefit.


Drift: Maybe a longer life of great experiences is better than a shorter life of great experiences, but a longer life at the price of greater experiences? Nah, hope I die before I get old. Case in point: http://io9.gizmodo.com/men-can-live-20-years-longer-but-ther...


Some references for those who want to dig in.

Will calorie restriction work in humans? http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/aging.100581

Caloric restriction improves health and survival of rhesus monkeys https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms14063

In general, the consensus in the research community is that we shouldn't expect more than an additional ~5 years from the life-long practice of calorie restriction. The evolutionary argument is that the calorie restriction response evolved very early on in as a way to enhance fitness given seasonal famines. A season is a long time for a mouse, not so long for a human, so only the mouse evolves a very plastic lifespan. The practical argument is that 5-10 years is about the largest effect that could exist and still be hard to pull out from existing demographic data of restricted calorie intake in a bulletproof, rigorous way. Obviously any much larger effect would have been discovered in antiquity and be very well known and characterized by now.

So that said about longevity, it is very clear that calorie restriction does better and more reliable things for health in ordinary humans in the short term of months and mid-term of few years than any presently available enhancement technology can replicate.

A good deal of research into aging is focused on trying to recreate the calorie restriction response. So far this has consumed billions with little of practical use to show for it beyond increased knowledge of some thin slices of cellular biochemistry relating to nutrient sensing and energy metabolism. It has proven to be very hard and very expensive to get anywhere here.

So calorie restriction itself is free and reliable in its effects. Everyone should give it a try. There are, however, far more important areas of aging research to direct funding to instead of trying to recreate this effect with pharmaceuticals. In an age in which meaningful rejuvenation is possible to create in the years ahead (see, for example, clearance of senescent cells, something that calorie restriction can only slightly achieve in a very tiny way, while drug candidates are managing 25-50% clearance) it seems just plain dumb to instead be chasing expensive, hard ways to only slightly slow down aging.


I wonder if Americans' declining life expectancy¹ is due to them eating more and more.

¹ https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/us-li...


My guess is that excising less and less will also be a factor.


Also stress. Or maybe all of it caused by work stress.


There's eating less, and there's eating to obesity.


Perhaps eating is just one of the most common ways of getting dangerous toxins into our body?


What toxins?


Pesticides are showing increased evidence of hurting society through the foods they protect. In fact there was a post here on HN today regarding this.


Look up what sugar does and why diabetics lose nerves and legs.


Due to social conditioning, It's not commonly known, but you don't actually need to eat every day. You could lose 10 lbs in just a couple of weeks of not eating any calories, but I would recommend eating 1 lbs of spinach and maybe a combination of other green, red and orange vegetables: that will keep your calorie count under 200 for the day. Drink lots of water.

I know the hunger will drive you crazy in the first few days, but your body gets used to it and it's not so bad, after 3 days.

The first time you do it, perhaps start off with some 16 hour fasts at first for a few months till your used to that, then you can increase it.


This kind of aggressive diet is usually followed by gaining back the weight.


I have to agree with this. However it's not because it's aggressive. It's because he's recommending eating at all. When you eat very little, your body's metabolism drops to match the new standard energy intake.

A much preferable recommendation would be to simply water fast for the same time. Lose even more weight (mostly water weight), then eat normally. Much more natural in the context of evolution. Periods of eating, periods of fasting. The practice is as old as time itself.


I've found that I can manage a day without taking in any calories, if I'm willing to feel really tired and have a moderate headache by ~1pm, and be horribly brain-fogged and useless by ~2pm. I've got a job and kids to take care of—I can't afford to have days like that very often. The hunger's not a problem—it's that I feel rather ill by mid-afternoon.

FWIW I rarely eat breakfast, so I guess I'm usually doing the (lame, IMO) "16/8" fasting pattern, though I'm skeptical that has any benefit.


The reason you feel sick is because you're body isn't used to the shift from carbohydrates for energy and ketones as energy (body fat). You get brain fog because only fat in the form of ketones can cross the blood brain barrier. So adaptation to ketones are vital. You need to work into it. No different from exercise, or climate adaptation.

Having cold showers shifts your body into using ketones more and more.

Regarding not eating breakfast, watch these videos from FoundMyFitness:

Dr. Satchin Panda on Time-Restricted Feeding and Its Effects on Obesity, Muscle Mass and Heart Health

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-R-eqJDQ2nU

Ruth Patterson, Ph.D. on Time-Restricted Eating in Humans & Breast Cancer Prevention

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qlrB84xp5g

Time restricted eating, AKA your 16/8, is VERY important. Even if you don't immediately notice changes. Those changes could begin to occur 2 to 8 years later. Depending on adherence. Also based on Dr. Ruth Patterson's advice, skipping breakfast leads to eating late into the night, which is not good for your health generally.


Of course you will gain the weight back, if your eating above your daily calorie burn - that has nothing to do with aggressive weight loss. You just need to keep your weekly average low enough to not gain the weight back. Depending on your metabolism and your bodies "set point" you might only need 3-5 days a month of this to maintain your current weight.


Late response, but: My point was not that the mechanics are flawed, rather that most people don't have the discipline to maintain their weight loss when it comes from a short, extreme intervention rather than a holistic lifestyle change.


While eating less and having CR and IF is important, equally important is the actual process of eating.

Most of the articles focus on results, but not on the actual process.

If one is eating sitting on the couch, watching television, completely oblivious of the activity, it is not going to help.

There is nothing absolute in nature, everything is connected.

How do we eat is far more important than how much we eat.

One simple experiment one can do at dinner is to sit alone, without any distraction with the dinner plate and for every morsel one takes in, chew it till you count 20 and then swallow.

Notice what happens...


Does this surprise anyone? Humans did not spend millions of years eating 6000 calorie hyper refined lab perfected highly processed meals three times per day. We did evolve foraging, hunting, gathering, and eventually and much more recently farming, all of which would naturally include a ton of physical activity and occasional bouts of not eating if a meal was yet unavailable, which we now call "fasting" as if it is some harsh or deprivational activity.


anecdotal datum: A few years ago I lost about 40 pounds (230->190ish) in a little over a year by limiting the amount of food and not caring about the type of food.

steak, sandwiches, cheese, potatoes, all good. salad, bananas, cereal, all good.

I had to make sure to look at the nutritional info. If the food was small but energy dense you have to eat less of it.


Investigation into calorie restriction isn't at all new. Roy Walford wrote five books about it, dating back to 1983.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Walford


I eat a protein & fat heavy breakfast & dinner, & skip "lunch". I find it to be highly effective at keeping me productive through the day (both more time & more steady energy cycle).


CR Red Wine and Weed are the secrets to a long and healthy life.


Maybe the more you eat the more chance you eat crap that is adverse to your health hence the variations


What if you're already eating less? It should say: eat the right amount.


If you haven’t watch this documentary on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ihhj_VSKiTs


A remarkably click-baity food "science" head line, especially for the BBC.

Edit: "Permanently [...] may turn out to have a profound effect on your future life, according to [...] scientific studies."

And that's a Bingo, folks.


[flagged]


Hmm. It seems like countries that are more well off and have a much higher amount of excess consumption also have better life expectancy. This sounds like a personal ramble instead of being based on actual data.


Pet ownership is generally believed to increase life expectancy, for example http://animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/live-longer-with-a-pet...


There is lots of proof now that obesity is not caused by "more calories in than calories out", it is caused by hormone reactions to what you eat (esp. insulin). Just read the books by Gary Taubs for zillions of details and references to studies.

So the "eat less" claim in this article is again back to the old MD advice, "eat less and move more". Not going to work if you don't look at your macronutrients.


Both basic rules still apply, we do eat too much and move too little. Of course, if you wish to optimize the diet for the best results it quickly gets much more complicated then just that. However in my personal, purely anecdotal, experience of being severely obese and dieting for years, you don't really need to get in all these biochemistry peculiarities. It's in dieting what a premature optimization is in programming. Instead of obsessing about a new superior diet it's much better to concentrate one's efforts on a self-discipline and building a reasonable life style.


That doesn't mean that "more calories in than calories out" is wrong... it means that "calories out" is FAR more complex than people give it credit for. We don't even know all the variables yet. Taubs' writings do bring to light some of our unknowns. We keep finding more variables for the equation, but that doesn't mean the equation is wrong... just incomplete.


Not to mention that if the "more calories in than calories out" people aren't measuring the calories in their excrement or (in the case of diabetics) the amount of glucose in their urine, then they aren't getting the complete picture anyway regardless of what gets stored where. They would also have to factor in how many calories are burned to process each type of food.

As you say, it appears to be more complex than just watching how much you take in.


Quite the contrary, you can't go against basic physics. Even common wisdom from a lot of Keto diet practitioners (low carb/insulin, see /r/keto and /r/ketoscience) is that for the weight loss aspect it only helps by regulating hunger, studies showed that for the same restricted caloric input, macronutients (low-carb or high-carb) made very little differences (which is expected of course). The "insulin is the root of all evil" trend in the fitness circles seems to be pushed by interested authors.


Every time I hear the 'basic physics' or 'first law of thermodynamics' argument in favor of CICO I can't help but remember the joke about 'spherical cows':

"Milk production at a dairy farm was low, so a farmer wrote to the local university to ask for help. A multidisciplinary team of professors was assembled, headed by a theoretical physicist, and two weeks of intensive on-site investigation took place. The scholars then returned to the university, notebooks crammed with data, where the task of writing the report was left to the team leader. Shortly thereafter the physicist returned to the farm, and advised the farmer, “I have the solution, but it only works in the case of spherical cows in a vacuum.”

Human beings aren't black boxes, we are living, breathing organisms, and as complex organisms we can process food differently depending on what it is. For example, cows eat grass, and can survive on a diet of 100% grass, so they must get some calories out of it. Otherwise they wouldn't be able to sustain the energy expenditure necessary to power a ~2000 pound beast, and would die early. Humans, on the other hand, cannot digest cellulose, so it will land in your stomach as indigestible fiber after which you will promptly poop it out. If you were to give a human an all grass diet, he/she would die within weeks.

In a similar vein, a calorie of carbs is not digested the same way as a calorie of protein, which is also not digested in the same way as a calorie of fat. For the studies that you mention, I'm certain that the macronutrient composition made very little difference when it comes to weight loss in the short term, but I am far more skeptical about whether a high carb diet is actually sustainable after your body has adjusted to a lower metabolic rate. Most studies of this type show a bounce back in weight after the initial weight loss. Furthermore, it's not and shouldn't be all about weight loss; if a calorie is just a calorie why don't you just eat 1500 calories of pure sucrose per day? Assuming you were able to stick to it, you'll quickly get fatty liver disease, diabetes, and a ton of visceral fat. The idea that the macronutrient composition is irrelevant as long as calorie restriction is maintained is too simplistic a view, and a dangerous one to spread.


I'm not saying eating 1500 calories of sucrose is not dangerous, but from an energy point of view yes it's the same as eating 1500 calories of cheese. At the end of the day if your energy expenditure is 2000cal your body will have to burn 500cal. Macronutrients in this case make a small but negligible difference.

It's anecdotic but as an hobbyist bodybuilder tracking calories everyday I can confirm that my weight follows exactly my caloric input (there can be some latency but it's water retention mostly), in line with the experience of a lot of people like in /r/bodybuilding or /r/ketogains. Playing with macronutrients and insulin is interesting for muscle gain or breakdown prevention and energy and hunger management but not really for pure weight loss.

I agree with your last paragraph, macronutrients are very important for health and body composition, and sure I would recommend a low carb diet for losing weight in the long term, in part because fat and proteins are more dense and keep hunger low


From an energy point of view, it's true that 1500 calories of sugar is the same as 1500 calories of cheese. It's also the same as 1500 calories of sawdust. In a lab, you can burn each of these samples under a bomb calorimeter and they'll all read the same thing. There's no debating the scientific definition of a calorie as a unit of energy. My argument is that it's extremely disingenous to just say a calorie is a calorie when it comes to a living organism, because the metabolic pathways for each different macronutrient are so different. It doesn't really matter how much energy a food has, if your body can't use the energy contained therein.

The moment that you accept that macronutrient composition is very important for health and body composition, you acknowledge that in biological system a calorie is not a calorie. If I want to lose weight, I don't want someone to tell me that CICO so I can just eat whatever as long as I stay under x calories, because as you rightfully pointed out some foods are more energy dense than others, cause fewer cravings, and don't spike your blood sugar. With CICO, I can lose weight but get fatty liver disease, or I can lose weight but lose muscle while increasing visceral fat, since fat weighs less than muscle. These are terrible outcomes. People want to lose weight to be healthier and look better; what's the point of losing the weight if your risk factors for metabolic syndrome go up and you still look fat in the mirror?

For the anecdotal evidence you provided, I think it's not as simple as how you've portrayed it, because your body can be in two energy burning modes, glucose burning or fat burning. If you eat more fat while in glucose burning mode (which is what most people are in), it will just get stored as fat and yes you will gain as much weight as the amount of calories you ate. In so called 'fat burning' mode, your body will increase its metabolism to burn off the excess fat. Likewise, if you're in fat burning mode and you eat more carbs, they'll just get stored as fat. This is also anecdotal evidence (sources: https://intensivedietarymanagement.com/who-needs-to-avoid-fa..., https://intensivedietarymanagement.com/smash-the-fat-calorie...), because unfortunately we don't really have good nutritional studies about this.


That's an oversimplification. Hormone response is not well-understood enough to make blanket statements like that, as far as I know.

There's been tons of research on diets. Low-carb high-protein diets certainly do work, but so do several other diets, including some of the traditional "eat less calories" diets (the research I've seen indicates those diets are on par with Atkins and keto in terms of long-term weight loss, and they all work when consistently/correctly applied). Reducing calories below resting metabolic rate demonstrably causes weight loss. It's almost impossible for it not to.

And, there are ways to manipulate insulin response without going to a high-protein/fat low-carb diet. I've been experimenting with intermittent fasting; where I eat mostly freely, but responsibly, for ~8 hours out of the day and fast the other ~16. This has been shown to improve insulin response, in similar ways to low-carb diets.

I've lost about 16 pounds over three months. Every few weeks, I change the diet, to see how my body responds, in terms of energy, weight, etc. And, also because I love food and really like variety (lots of weight loss programs suggest a very regimented diet of the same thing every day for months or years, but that's not for me).

I've found that when my calories are below my MR, I lose weight, no matter what I'm stuffing my face with. I did a couple of weeks of bread and pie and ice cream every day (to the point where I got tired of bread and pie and ice cream), and still lost weight during that time; calories were consistently below my MR. And, I did nothing but proteins, and healthy fats, and greens for a few weeks, too...also lost weight, but not notably more than the "bread and pie and ice cream" weeks.

I've kept logs of my weight and caloric intake for a couple of months, and it's pretty consistent. A couple days after I eat more calories than my MR, my weight either stabilizes or increases. And, a couple days after I return to below-MR, I see the weight dropping again. I will say that I've had better luck with intermittent fasting than with portion control as a means to achieve below-MR caloric intake; so maybe there's something to the insulin response theory since there's evidence fasting helps with that.

There may also be an argument to be made about cravings (sugar+fat can cause cravings; there's decent science on that), and that may lead to problems managing portions and caloric intake. And, there's certainly evidence that protein and fat calories are more satisfying than sugar or simple carb calories. It may very well be easier to lose weight on a high-protein and high-fat diet. But, when I was on the high-protein/high-fat diet, my cravings for fruit were pretty intense, and the weight loss was not measurably better than the other macronutrient mixes I've tried. I didn't find it valuable enough to continue, so I went back to eating rice, bread, and having dessert sometimes.

But, "eat less" still works, and always will. That's not really negotiable. The basic physics of the thing require it to work. It's just that a lot of folks have no idea what "eat less" really entails and don't keep track of what they eat well enough to know they're not actually doing it. When losing weight, you're going to experience hunger sometimes, which is not a thing modern people are accustomed to.


At the same time, I eat what I want and when I want to. I have been 172 pounds, with some exceptions, since I was about 18. I am retired and almost 60.

I am active but not for the sake of fitness. The only time my weight really changes is when I am sick.

My physician doesn't know, I don't know, and it is just how it is for me. I've tried to pound calories into me, but I pretty much stay at 172 pounds. Why 172? I have no idea. I can get on the scale and that's usually what it reads, within maybe two pounds.

If I eat less, I stay the same unless I really, really eat less - like go on a binge of illegal substances type of not eating. I dunno?


My life revolves around tech and food, so I wanted to comment on this OP but didn't see a reply that resonated until the very end... I'm in a similar position, 185 since 18, going on 36... I eat/drink even more than I want to and it doesn't change, same for generations... the good news for everyone else is this likely means there is a 'gene' for it. Otherwise, it's all the hard work and deep sleep responsible.


I don't even sleep well, I never have. Unless I did it to myself, I've pretty much always had great health. I'm 59 and never even had a cavity. I do wear glasses, now.




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