which is a more accessible version of his more rigorous book Good Calories, Bad calories.
I've been on a bit of a health binge since the beginning of the year and have been doing lots of research into these things. In a nutshell, not all calories are the same the some can wreak havoc on your system (grains, it turns out, aren't that good for us). The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf, is another great book - he goes to great lengths to discuss the science and biochemistry behind the points he is making. Highly recommend.
I hope you can see by now that the carbohydrate hypothesis of obesity is not only incorrect on a number of levels, but it may even be backward. The reason why obesity and metabolism researchers tend not to take this idea seriously is that it is contradicted by a large body of evidence from multiple fields. I understand that people like ideas that "challenge conventional wisdom", but the fact is that obesity is a complex state and it will not be shoehorned into simplistic hypotheses.
Carbohydrate consumption per se is not behind the obesity epidemic. However, once overweight or obesity is established, carbohydrate restriction can aid fat loss in some people. The mechanism by which this occurs is not totally clear, but there is no evidence that insulin plays a causal role in this process. Carbohydrate restriction spontaneously reduces calorie intake (as does fat restriction), suggesting the possibility that it alters body fat homeostasis, but this alteration likely occurs in the brain, not in the fat tissue itself. The brain is the primary homeostatic regulator of fat mass, just as it homeostatically regulates blood pressure, breathing rate, and body temperature. This has been suspected since the early brain lesion studies of the 1940s (47) and even before, and the discovery of leptin in 1994 cemented leptin's role as the main player in body fat homeostasis. In some cases, the setpoint around which the body defends these variables can be changed (e.g., hypertension, fever, and obesity). Research is ongoing to understand how this process works.
For example, Peter over at HyperLipid recently ripped him to utter shreds:
Not to mention, Taubes countered Guyenet with a 6-part series refuting Guyenet's widely mocked food-reward/palatability hypothesis:
The thing is, there's a lot of infighting; These guys are always going back and forth. They both have their camps. Those both have their arsenal of studies. It's almost a sport...
The simple fact of the matter is that we're not really going to actually know conclusively and incontrovertibly one way or the other for at least another decade.
Of course, not all digestive systems are created equal and YMMV. For instance, wasn't until after eating paleo for a while I discovered I had a mild gluten and dairy intolerance (most people develop the latter).
Girth Control: The Science of Fat Loss & Muscle Gain - Alan Aragon
This is the bible, it has absolutely no fluff/filler content.
I'd say that if there is any value to Taubes, it is this:
Different foods, given the same calories, will fill you up or nourish you at varying degrees.
300 calories of oreo cookies isn't the same as eating a banana and some chicken.
The main practical benefit people get from low carb, paleo, etc is that they're eating less sugar and junk, and thus eating healthy food with better overall satiety. As a result, they lose weight because they're eating fewer calories.
You can lose weight eating twinkies, it's just hard to do because it's bad for your health, not nutritious, and leaves you feeling hungry because it's all carbs.
A more scientific and less paleo-obsessed way to think about carbohydrates is this:
Carbs are fuel, if you're an athlete, you have a use for them. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, excess fuel isn't going to do you any favors.
In the end: calories in, calories out. Humanity hasn't defeated the laws of thermodynamics. It's just a question of how easy and healthy it is to maintain a sub-maintenance caloric intake.
Okay people, I just got done saying low carb made sense if you weren't an athlete, what exactly are you arguing against? I agree with you guys, I just think the reasoning and rationale should be taken in the context of current nutrition research and not some demagogue's book that is obsessed with a dietary aesthetic rather than data.
I mean seriously this article pretty much says "wow, this stuff is complex and really hard to make sense of", and the top comment is "but I have found the truth in this book!"
I fully agree with you, I think the paleo approach has some pretty sound ideas. But when I hear people talk about how "evolution" commands we shall eat no grains I get really worried about how quickly educated people can turn science into magic.
Really? My comment pointed towards two books, and a follow up argument suggested Feinmans old well known article for kicks.
What exactly is the point you are trying to make? By contrast, your comment lacks any real substance other than accusing me inciting religious war and telling us about your burden having to worry that educated people turn science into magic.
Bullshit. Where are your articles? Please, point to the articles that show that a diet abundant in grain from carbohydrates is ok, let alone good for you.
Coincidently I am currently reading the aforementioned book myself (oh no, I am a religous loon!!), and if anything I get the impression of an exacerbated person basically pointing out that:
1: The current status quo in nutritional science was established before there was large scale data to confirm/refute it. It was heavily influenced by very few (I believe he mentions 1 or 2) specific scientists and became orthodoxy almost through force of will not necessarily because the data (which they didn't have) actually supported the hypothesis.
2: There are now numerous studies and quite a bit of data that seem to at least point to alternative hypothesis that should be explored. I don't recall yet having seen the author claim even the carbohydrate hypothesis he talks about is correct, just that it should be getting more study/attention than it is in main-stream nutritional science, and that it is better supported by the study data we do have than the currently accepted hypothesis which the studies we undertaken to test.
3: The idea that sedentary lifestyles coupled with abundantly available food just doesn’t track with the actual data as obesity seems to track much more closely with availability highly refined carbohydrates and massively increased sugar consumption. That said both could well play into it, it isn’t necessarily an either-or but much like the famous global warming vs. number of pirates graph it also doesn’t show causation, just correlation, and perhaps meaningless/misleading correlation at that.
4: Explaining obesity by overeating is as useful as explaining alcoholism by overdrinking (okay, I just threw that in because it is a funny quote :))
His primary push that I have taken away thus far is ‘we should be exploring this hypothesis, which isn’t actually terribly new nor is it terribly radical’. He claims people generally aren’t for unclear reasons (though I haven't picked up any sort of conspiracy vibes yet, which I was expecting). I have looked around for someone to refute his book but all I found was a weak refutation in Reason which he responded to, and in my opinion, destroyed the critique quite handily . I would be very interested in any responses that actually take to task the quoted studies / science from his book instead of attacking him by-proxy by calling Atkins a kook.
>The mere presence of a personal attack does not indicate ad hominem: the attack must be used for the purpose of undermining the argument
2. I'm not going to respond to (or even read) any of your points about nutrition because you seem to be arguing with someone else, not me! I have no horse in this race, because I've never looked into it. I think you and gxs rather misunderstood Homonculiheaded's words -- which were about the general way folk were arguing, and not really about specific points at all.
Other people are more worried about general health than getting their calorie consumption under 3000 a day.
The micro-religion fanatics were causing me to question why I even bother.
That's because most dietitians and nutrition researchers follow conventional wisdom, which was established back in the 50s and 60s. Taubes himself included an amazing commentary on how conventional wisdom is incredibly difficult to dislodge in medicine and related fields. He had no illusions about his book being enough to do it, especially since he's a science writer rather than a scientist.
But his work is very valuable, and his dissection of why we believe what we believe is spot on. He goes a little overboard in blaming carbs, but does an excellent job vindicating fats.
Sadly, you hit the nail on the head, 100%. That is exactly the problem, most dietitians will still try to sell you on the CDCs protein intake recommendation of 50g and and a diet that consists of 80% carbohydrates - which just plain contradicts mounting scientific evidence.
Furthermore, most people will just say you need a "balanced" diet, having taken absolutely no thought to consider why they consider certain diets balanced to begin with.
If you move past your comfort zone, to the point where you can draw your own conclusions, without needing to refer to government guidelines to validate your every belief, you will see that in a few years we will look back on our current recommended diets and laugh.
Taubes does a more than adequate job of trouncing the old thermodynamics, calories in, calories out argument. The guy does have a masters in Physics from Stanford, after all. I leave it to you to look it up.
Edit: Feinman on a calorie is a calorie and why it violates the second law of thermodynamics
I've got a Ph.D. in CS from UTAustin, but I don't think you would want to take medical advice from me.
In nutrition there is never ever (never ever) such a thing as a "scientific evidence".
All the nutrition research around is a pile of conflicting information.
Just as an example, a short time ago in HN was pointed a research where "a calorie is a calorie" was proven, in the context of a diet.
I still remain convinced that having a basic clean nutrition and a decent amount and consistent of sport would turn any healthy individual (9x% of the population) into a fit one. People keeps feeling attracted to nutrition religions just because they think they can get in shape without changing their unhealthy habits.
Yep, working great.
That's mostly evidence that dieticians are solving the wrong problem. To borrow from another poster in this thread, if the composition of what you eat was enough to solve obesity, it is likely that saying "don't drink alcohol" would be enough to solve alcoholism. And yet, hundreds of years of experience show that it is wrong for the latter.
A diet that is easy to follow (such as Roberts' Shangri-La and Asprey's RFLP) is what dieticians should be striving for, but instead most of them recommend a regime that their clients are unlikely to follow (and then blame the clients).
I suppose things like the food pyramid sort of count, but even the old one didn't endorse the empty calories evident in shopping behaviors (i.e, chips and pop).
> but even the old one didn't endorse the empty calories evident in shopping behaviors (i.e, chips and pop).
But it made the (now) classic "calorie is a calorie" mistake, so it implicitly okayed them.
Many people will eat relatively healthy, but due to poor satiety or portion control, still gain weight.
1. Not eating carbs has nothing to do with our hunter-gatherer origins, there are no over-arching truisms that can be made about the macronutrient distribution of how hunter-gatherers used to or currently eat. Concordantly, paleo "proper" insofar as it resembles utilizing our understanding of hunter-gatherer diets to eat healthier than a Standard American Diet is not necessarily low carb.
2. Eating carbs doesn't cause you to turn into the Stay-Puft man like magical fairy dust, even if they're relatively unhelpful to sedentary people as a nutritive calorie source. Sedentary people should get more protein and fat than carbs relative to what an athlete would.
Moving onto 'keto', which is the more GI/ketosis focused variety of low carb/paleo:
High-fiber and whole-grain calorie sources should be preferred to the opposite. The only thing that makes an apple not "junk food" is the fiber. Fiber has been shown to blunt the glycemic impact of carb-bearing foods. Apples are otherwise useless unless you really need the carbs to survive/fuel your activities.
>Determining which aspects of the Western lifestyle are truly aberrant for our species and pose the greatest risk of obesity is complicated by the conflicting and limited data on diet and metabolism in non-Western populations. For example, while Western diets are certainly more sugar-rich and energy-dense than more “traditional” diets and wild foods , , , many hunter-gatherers seasonally consume a large portion of their daily calories as honey ,  (Fig. S2), which has high concentrations of glucose and fructose .
>As is typical among traditional-living Hadza, over 95% of their calories during this study came from wild foods, including tubers, berries, small- and large-game, baobab fruit, and honey  (Fig. S2).
This is an oft-repeated mantra among proponents of low-carb paleo-style diets, but it largely ignores the role of micronutrients and particularly phytochemicals in human health. An intelligent choice of fruits can provide a bevy of phytochemicals that lower the risk of a wide variety of ailments. Looking at the macros when talking about the role of fruit in diet is largely missing the point.
IIRC, Homo erectus evolved to eat a lot more carbs than homo habilis. It's only if you pick specific points in human evolution that you can say we didn't eat carbs.
After a lifetime of fighting with my weight, including surgery to give me a fight change, I have to say that statement is the single most useless statement in a segment filled with misinformation. It is used by people who haven't struggled to (perhaps not intentionally) insult people who do. "Gee, can't you count. It's just a calorie."
The problem with that statement is it assumes our bodies are like a gasoline engine, where, yes, a calorie in is a calorie out. Our bodies are not like that. Instead, we take in many different kinds of fuels. Everybody's body is different in how it processes each of those kinds of fuels. More importantly, everybody's brain is different in how it reacts to inputs coming from the gas tank and engine.
Until you understand how the various fuels interact with your body, a calorie is a calorie is completely meaningless.
Carbs are fuel, if you're an athlete, you have a use for them.
Yes, yes, yes. I completely agree with this. The brain needs some carbohydrates to run. The body can, if absolutely necessary, convert other foods into carbs to make that happen.
The things paleo and the various low-carb diets do is give a structure around how to reduce those carbs, especially in a culture that worships the ultra-refined, processed-thrice, almost-straight-sugar carbohydrate.
Oh, and I agree on the "don't have to be, never eat any carbs". I've posted elsewhere that I'm a literal food addict. I have to put a lot of structure in place or I go off the deep end. For me, I have best control when I say "no carbs, period", but that is my personal diet (err, that I try to stick to, anyway :). I think a more reasonable world might be "try very hard to avoid simple carbs".
If you aren't lucky enough to not have to care (whatever combination of genes and lifestyle causes that, I curse thee ;), then finding the combination that works for you is critical. I found it though a lot of experimentation (including a major experiment of re-working my body's plumbing because so many previous experiments had failed).
So we replace one religion with another? The structure is good, but yeesh.
This isn't to say we should all ditch our bread and pray at the Church of Paleo. But with our current state of knowledge, I think it's more intellectually dishonest to cling to provably false "scientific" models of how different diets affect the body, than to just go with something that works (but we don't really know why). The scientific method dictates that theories must be made to fit observation, not the other way around.
Consider this: a theory that the world was round prior to any evidence of such has no more validity than the flat-world hypothesis. Post hoc, you may find out that the Earth is in fact round, but the knowledge was gained from the observation, not the theory. So call it religion if you want, but it's actually more scientific than the alternative.
It seems to work for a lot of people and the science behind it makes sense to me. I don't see why it should be discouraged.
1. Your stomach explodes, releasing the caloric content of the food as heat over a brief duration
2. Your digestive tract decides to stop digesting, and passes the food through unmodified
3. Normal digestion
As you can see, conservation of energy is completely meaningless in the context of diet.
The second law of thermodynamics concerns itself with efficiency of processes. To apply it usefully, we'd take into consideration the different metabolic pathways of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. We know for a fact that the pathway for sugars is thermodynamically more efficient than proteins  - the laws of thermodynamics directly contradict "a calorie is a calorie"! Not to mention the fact that consumed protein is metabolized and stored differently than consumed sugars, which are in turn different from fats.
The part where you restrict your assessment to more or less normal digestive function? Obviously if your stomach explodes or your intestine just plain stop working, caloric intake/deficit is now one of the least of your worries.
I think you actually hit the nail on the head here though, in using the word "imply". Calories in - Calories out doesn't give you an exact picture, but it comes reasonably close for the purposes of most people.
It's by no means a perfect understanding, but someone who is obese needs simple rules that can successfully get them started more than they need a perfect knowledge of the science involved.
what is that exactly? I have twin girls, one is a full foot taller than the other. One is noticeably pudgier than the other.
They both eat differing amounts, and clearly pretty much the same kinds of foods is used in differing ways by different digestive systems.
what makes you think there is an establushed norm?
"Calories in - Calories out doesn't give you an exact picture, but it comes reasonably close for the purposes of most people."
Im not at all convinced that this is true. It sounds true, and it naturally appeals as a simple truth, but I haven't seen much evidence to support it.
From what Ive seen across a wide range of people, differing bodies process foods in wildly differing ways - some people fart or burp a lot, some people hardly ever, some people prefer eating large amounts once a day, some people prefer eating small amounts regularly. As a teenager I could consume mcdonalds like a horse, now a single burger sits like a lead stone in my stomach for hours.
Convince me that it is true?
That said, how disparate are the "differing amounts" they eat? Are they identical twins or fraternal? Lifestyle differences? There are a lot of factors that could produce the effects you're seeing besides "calorie arithmetic doesn't work".
The essence of telling people "calories in - calories out" is to favor a simple (i.e. "easily applied") rule over an absolutely correct one. While people are growing, the equation changes. Get all of your calories in the form of twinkies and your body doesn't get the nutrients it needs to process food, so the equation changes. Assume "normal" ranges for diet and exercise and it more or less works.
This is a fantastically complicated topic, but it is not immune to human nature. We like simple rules that generally work, even if they're full of loopholes and caveats. For people that are overweight or even obese, calories in - calories out is good enough to get started. There are a lot of factors in managing that equation (satiety, nutrient balance, impulse management) but I think a clear goal is a better start than dumping people in a sea of (correct) information.
People will believe all kinds of stupid things if you can imply that science has made truth of them. For the purposes of getting someone started this is a rather innocuous lie.
well, here you go!
I know that the actual values are hard even to estimate, but we only get energy from food: if you need amount X of energy to keep functioning and the raw total of energy contained in the foods you eat is less than X, you simply can't gain weight, "asymptotically" speaking. That's why people invoke thermodynamics here.
In the end: calories in, calories out. Humanity hasn't defeated the laws of thermodynamics.
It is all about "calories in, calories out" but what on earth makes you assume that the human digestive system approximates the behavior of a bomb calorimeter? The whole article is about how the body extracts different amounts of the potentially available calories in food, and uses different amounts of energy to extract those calories.
But that doesn't mean what you think it means. Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC506782/
The people who say "a calorie is a calorie, and to deny that would violate the laws of thermodynamics" are arguing from the first law of thermodynamics (conservation), but misunderstand the second law (entropy). The article shows that if you take into account both laws of thermodynamics, then the statement "a calorie is a calorie" is actually a violation of the laws of thermodynamics.
The next two paragraphs are the conclusions of the article, quoted verbatim:
A review of simple thermodynamic principles shows that weight change on isocaloric diets is not expected to be independent of path (metabolism of macronutrients) and indeed such a general principle would be a violation of the second law. Homeostatic mechanisms are able to insure that, a good deal of the time, weight does not fluctuate much with changes in diet – this might be said to be the true "miraculous metabolic effect" – but it is subject to many exceptions. The idea that this is theoretically required in all cases is mistakenly based on equilibrium, reversible conditions that do not hold for living organisms and an insufficient appreciation of the second law. The second law of thermodynamics says that variation of efficiency for different metabolic pathways is to be expected. Thus, ironically the dictum that a "calorie is a calorie" violates the second law of thermodynamics, as a matter of principle.
The analysis above might be said to be over-kill although it is important, intellectually, not to invoke the laws of thermodynamics inappropriately. There are also, however, practical consequences. The seriousness of the obesity epidemic suggests that we attack it with all the means at our disposal. Metabolic advantage with low carbohydrate diets is well established in the literature. It does not always occur but the important point is that it can occur. To ignore its possibilities and to not investigate the precise conditions under which it appears would be cutting ourselves off from potential benefit. The extent to which metabolic advantage will have significant impact in treating obesity is unknown and it is widely said in studies of low carbohydrate diets that "more work needs to be done." However, if the misconception is perpetuated that there is a violation of physical laws, that work will not be done, and if done, will go unpublished due to editorial resistance. Attacking the obesity epidemic will involve giving up many old ideas that have not been productive. "A calorie is a calorie" might be a good place to start.
There are people convinced that they can gain weight on a hypo-caloric diet. Of course this is easy to do, drink a glass of water, but that isn't what the muddled thinkers mean.
If you're just talking about "weight loss" then yea, that's right, but you don't address body composition at all here.
If you just wanted to "lose weight", then you could chop off an arm and BOOM, you just lost weight. What MOST people want to do is to burn and lose fat, NOT weight - they just express it differently.
If it was just calories in vs calories out, I could drink 3000 calories of vodka a day and still be okay as long as I burned off 3100 calories, and we all know that's not the case.
I get the point, mind you, just shocked by how much alcohol that is...
For your "more scientific" view, you offer assertions without citing any supporting evidence. So, as is, your statement is an opinion, as is so much nutritional advice.
Hope your startup is based on more logic and less conventional wisdom than shown here.
Programmers hate it when people question them, you'd think they'd extend the same professional courtesy and benefit of the doubt to other academic and professional disciplines.
It is entirely possible there is a well-understood theory with masses of supporting evidence that for whatever reason the public don't think is sexy enough to be true. This is the problem with evolution for example, where there is the data behind it but the US public still think its controversial.
Note: If Person A provides a book reference (secondary evidence) and Person B provides no specific reference (no evidence) then I am biased towards Person A. If Person B could provide a reference to some research (primary evidence) then I am biased towards Person B. If Person B ends with some general slur against my profession after someone asks for a reference, Person B loses the bias.
My comment here lays out some ground facts/truths.
Respond there for questions.
Magnesium burns a lot hotter than corn therefore it has far more calories than corn yet eating a pound of magnesium a day is not going to make you as fat as a pound of corn a day.
So please stop with the "calories in, calories out" simplification.
Calories ARE a measure of energy. One calorie = 4.2 joul = 4.2 wattsecond.
A calorie is defined* by the amount of energy needed to heat 1 gram of water by 1 degree celsius under a pressure of 1 temperature. But heat is energy, and a calorie (as well as a joul) are a measure of both.
> So please stop with the "calories in, calories out" simplification.
That part is true: Calories in, calories out is wrong, as has been shown repeatedly over the last 50 years. But somehow it is still the religious belief of many.
I should been clearer. I meant "energy" in terms of energy the body can use. E=MC^2 means everything can be considered energy. But can something be used as energy for a specific process, like making a body fatter, is another issue.
We agree, calories do not measure how much energy the body can extract or use from a piece of food. They only measure how much energy is produced burning the food. Bodies don't burn food, they digest it. So measuring calories doesn't say anything about whether a particular substance can be used by the body.
You need to review your biology. The most common energy extraction process in the body actually IS, at its essence, oxidation - a.k.a "burning". And that's why people did the calorimeter burning measurements. The other common process is essentially fermentation, but in a healthy human, the vast majority of energy is obtained from food through oxidation.
> So measuring calories doesn't say anything about whether a particular substance can be used by the body.
It puts an upper limit because (as far as we know) oxidation is the most efficient process the body uses, but not a lower limit.
The body may flush out anything without any form of digestion, fat conversion, or oxidation (thus no energy extraction), even if it is pure sugar. Furthermore, the enzymes used by the body for oxidation are very specific. The most abundant carbohydrate around us, cellulose (wood and paper are examples), cannot be digested / oxidized / burned by the human body.
Taubes isn't taken seriously by most dieticians and
nutrition researchers we talk to
One of those studies involved a comparison between a group of people that were placed on a low-carb diet and the weight loss was more efficient than in the other group placed on a high-carb diet that ate less calories.
Of course, when it comes to nutrition, most studies are flawed because you can't do double-blind studies and because controlling the variables involved is hard. However, that's one reason why I go by my gut feeling and completely ignore "most dieticians and nutrition researchers", at least for now.
And I'm doing that because those same dieticians and nutrition researchers have recommended and are still recommending high-carb diets, with complete disregard to the health issues associated with consuming a diet rich in sugar, starch and deficient in proteins, fats and certain vitamins (the fact that we are omnivores that need a balanced diet should have rang a bell, but no).
Has any other culture in history EVER counted calories? I'm betting "no" considering the calorie is a relatively new concept (1842). And yes, somehow they managed not to have the obesity problems we have today.
Yes. It is (or at least was) the core mechanic of Weight Watchers (converted to a "points" scale), and it worked pretty damn well.
For me, it was a pain for about 2 weeks. By then, I'd figured out all of my common food items, and how to cook dishes with reduced calories but that were still plenty filling.
As a result, I now know how to structure my diet to get the same benefits without actually having to count.
And yes, I do count calories. I'm committed to staying fit, and counting is not an option.
Not as poetic, but you said it yourself - 300 calories of oreos are not equal to the same calories of chicken. And wood sure has a lot of calories (right?) but chew it up and eat it and you're not gonna get many of them absorbed. And some food triggers more of an insulin response which affects what your body does with the calories. It conveys the wrong point to the person who doesn't learn more to say "calories in, calories out" even though at some level of course it's thermodynamically sound.
The tricky part is that causality runs both ways. When a child grows, they take in a caloric surplus. If you surpress caloric intake, the growth will be suppressed. It's the same for plants too. Block the sun & they will grow slower.
So (according to good/bad calorie theories) it's not that calorie accounting is incorrect. Take in fewer calories and you'll lose weight. It's that it misses the point. The correct question is why is your body growing (and pursuing the calories necessary to fuel it).
*My own pet theory is that foods aren't inherently bad or unnatural for us to eat. We're just wired to build different bodies depending on available food sources. Mono-croppers need to survive bad harvests & hungry winters. Sugary fruits usually aren't available for very long, it might be good to build up a reserve while they are.
Human body does not extract 100% of energy from food, and waste that comes out is not calorie free. So it is not simple 'calories in, calories out'
Being on an 1100 diet that you think is 1400 (or vice versa) doesn't matter that much. What matters is that it isn't 3500--something that can easily happen by accident if you don't pay attention.
If each ingredient in the food you eat is digested at a different efficiency depending on the bacteria in your gut and other specifics of your digestive system and the food itself varies by upwards of 20% because of natural variation and how much you cook it, then it seems it would be downright impossible.
I've tried in the past and given up (I would gain weight on a 1200 calorie diet of processed diet food). I finally just went to an extreme nearly vegan diet where I get over 90% of my calories from plants and exclude grains, oil, sugar and salt. It makes it virtually impossible to overeat even if I have to eat 4x the mass of food other people.
My opinion - food processing and the agricultural revolution. A metabolic derangement caused by overly processed agricultural products.
> "Humans up until a hundred years ago (or so) had a need to do it."
Actually, the aristocracy and nobility have all suffered from obesity since ancient times. Historical texts have many, many records of... robustly sized... monarchs, nobles, and the rich. Indeed, the image of the rich fat-cat is a lot older than merely the last century.
> "My opinion - food processing and the agricultural revolution. A metabolic derangement caused by overly processed agricultural products."
Or perhaps more simply, the majority of the population stopped doing hard physical labor day in day out. We started sitting behind desks for 8 hours a day instead of toiling in a field or factory for 12.
I'm also willing to believe that we are simply eating more than we used to. In industrialized nations the ratio of food cost to income is almost laughably low - compared to agrarian nations where the cost of food can sometimes be up to half of a family's income. If you look at countries with smaller average serving sizes you will see a corresponding drop in obesity rates.
Thankfully I think the country is starting to come around to the notion that no amount of sodium reduction, fat-reduction, or carb-reduction will work if you continue to shovel it into your mouth by the gobful.
It's become vogue to blame every ill of society on industrialization, when instead the answer seems to be simpler and more obvious.
The things I usually want to shovel in my mouth are carbohydrates, and insulin spikes explain at least part of that. I eat far less when I'm trying to keep my insulin low.
Everyone knows you have to eat less to lose weight. The question is how. Some techniques are more successful than others.
Limiting calories works. Keeping people doing that long enough to lose weight, and the rest of their lives to some degree (so no yo-you dieting) is the true challenge.
We are learning that certain things in the diet (sugar, grains) promote metabolic issues that fuel overconsumption.
The ideal state of being, which everybody would like to enjoy, is being able to eat until you are full and then stop.
That is not such a simple process from a hormonal standpoint.
Edit: I suppose people don't see the connection between over consumption, availability, palatability, and processing.
I think potatolicious makes an excellent point- "processing" (the popular demon today) cannot be pointed to as the sole cause. It is probably part of the problem, but probably not the root.
Fruit tastes good, and rich people could get as much as they want, but they generally don't get fat on fruit. Confectionery items on the other hand...
What I'm saying is that over-consumption and processing drive each other.
Well, I suppose confectioneries in particular with confectioner's sugar could be considered "refined"...
Removing of fiber, adding of sugar, etc.
The end result of many types of processing is a food which is both more nutrient dense and less filling.
Have you never seen an obese dog or cat? Feeding to much of the wrong food will make any animal fat.
They may exist in a world of scarce resources, especially predators, but they are not constantly living on the edge of starvation.
I guess my point was not clear enough.
Feeding any animal an improper diet can lead to a metabolic problem where satiety and fat deposition do not work as intended.
Animals in the wild eating their natural diet do not have a need to limit their consumption. They self regulate effectively.
It's simpler than that: dense food and lack of exercise. More people have access to more calories than at any other time in history. At the same time, we spend more time at work and at play sitting and expending minimal energy than at any other time in history.
People researching modern hunter gatherer societies are finding that they expend roughly the same amount of calories as westerners.
Perhaps the fact of moving changes how the body partitions nutrients. Or handles hunger. Or some other factor. Or the specific modalities of exercise (brief, high-intensity vs. long, low-intensity) matter.
The study appears to rule out one possible mechanism (total calories consumed). There's still the fact of bodyweight / body composition differences.
If your test fails to account for observed differences in phenomena, then your test failed to identify the cause(s).
Just as the sick man who goes to the doctor for a battery of diagnostics and is told "we can't find anything wrong". The problem isn't in the state of the man's health, it's in the state of the doctor's diagnostics.
I don't have a particular reference, just piecing together the non-trash results of googling 'diet height' and 'history of human height'.
Why is it scientists can't get an accurate grasp on the calorie content of foods, and how our bodies process them?
I just posted another article that talks about the difficulty of doing human nutrition studies. Way back in the 1970s, I saw a television news magazine report about a group of nutrition researchers who found human volunteer subjects who were willing to be shut away from their normal life for weeks (months?) at a time (being paid for their time, as I recall) in conditions under which EVERYTHING the subjects ate was weighed to the nearest gram. The TV report even showed researchers washing crumbs off plates with distilled water so that the subjects ate every morsel of their measured meals. That was part of a study designed to elicit new information about human nutrition. Alas, I've never heard of results of that study. (Probably, the sample size was too small to have adequate statistical power to reach any firm conclusions.) This will always be the problem with human nutrition studies: people think they remember how much they eat, but often enough they don't really remember in detail, and the usual study methodology for a nutrition study is to rely on subject self-reports. If the sample size is extremely large, sometimes there is enough statistical power to pick up a few tantalizing signals from masses of carefully gathered data, but then there is still the whole issue of how well actual human beings apply advice based on the studies that have been done to date.
I am amazed at how much day-by-day obesity in very young people I now see in my town. I never imagined that most Americas in my generation or the younger generation would be as bulky as they now are. And the United States isn't even at the top of the world league tables in obesity. People all around the world today have eating tendencies based on human beings evolving in conditions of food scarcity, but there are fewer and fewer places each decade that still suffer from food scarcity. (Ethiopia is still poor, but it is now a food-exporting country.) The challenge for humankind in the remaining years of my life will be learning how to do what is "unnatural" and eat less than what is readily available to eat.
True, but only just (according to the WHO). The only countries that beat it on overweight or obese percentages of population are Saudi Arabia, Panama, or have a population under one million.
If you look at the progress of medicine with respect to addictive behaviors, there seems to be very little progress. I believe food eating behaviors are very similar. In fact I think obesity is the hardest addiction to overcome simply because you can't eliminate food from your diet as you can eliminate all other addictive substances.
I know I've lost 30-40% of my weight several times and kept it off for a number of years but it always returns due to my inability to resist the psychological pressure to over eat and/or eat dense caloric foods.
No matter how complicated it is, shouldn't there be a few basic things everyone can agree on? It seems that each new diet (based on scientific principles) contradicts the last. Low fat, low carb, low calorie, vegan, no dairy, no wheat...
They can't even agree on whether a calorie matters. (i.e. is eating 100 calories of steak vs eating 100 calories of sugar the same?)
Nobody gets paid for solving solved problems.
I liked this factoid in the article: "Back when it was the craze to measure such variety European scientists discovered that Russian intestines are about five feet longer than those of, say, Italians." Useful adaptation there (I wonder if it tends to make Russian guts any bigger?)
But by the same token, it's a useless fact, utterly.
Look at the same argument as applied to finances. If you make more money than you spend you will build up savings until eventually you are rich.
The issue is that these are trivial facts. They don't tackle the core difficulties of the problem they are just bland tautologies. Ultimately long-term weight loss is a complex matter of psychology, motivation, habits, and indeed personal temperament and genetic baggage. For some folks it will come naturally and easily, for others it will always be an uphill climb, and for others it will be almost impossible. And the same thing is true with regards to being wealthy. Some folks quickly and intuitively acquire the skills to step into a business, tweak the knobs until its profitable and then start building up their personal finances from those profits until they have a desire to move on to something else where they do the same thing, continuing to get richer and richer over time. Whereas for others it can be much more of a struggle, or maybe even effectively impossible because they don't have the same opportunities.
This is just not true. Our bodies follow the laws of thermodynamics, but the laws of thermodynamics do not dictate how or whether we process calories. We can poop out fat. If you drink a bottle of olive oil, you will probably not digest it all. If you eat fiber, you won't process those calories. Our bodies are not bunsen burners.
However the rest of the comment is tangental does nothing to mitigate my response. Weight maintencance is not about calorie count, it's about understanding how our body processes food.
If you eat little enough and exercise enough you will lose weight, period, full stop.
We're not talking about helping sick people gain weight by shoving food down their throats, we're talking about losing weight.
p.s. Pooping out fat is 'calories out'. Several weight loss products even make use of this.
Not in the sense of what people mean when they say 'calories in equals calories out'. Usually they mean that most calories that are consumed are utilized, and hence anything not burned gets added to your weight. This is of course an incorrect assumption based on both laws of thermodynamics, and also, as you point out above, ignoring the calories that aren't absorbed during digestion.
As someone who has suffered and struggled with obesity in the past, I hear ya loud and clear, but IMO the notion that "calories in < calories out -> weight gain" is still very valuable.
One of the fundamental problems that lies between our society and healthy weight is that we continue to believe in miracle diets, or that somehow we can cheat the rule. We talk about being carb-free, being fat-free, rarely acknowledging that maybe we should just stop eating so damned much.
When I was in high school I was quite obese, and the (Canadian) government paid to send me to a dietician in a group program. Let me tell ya, the notion that "calories in must be less than calories out" was news to a lot of people there.
You're right of course - this knowledge, in an of itself, is insufficient force to turn a fat man into a thin man, but in the current state of our society, simply acknowledging and owning up to this fact is pretty tremendous.
Considering that you can eliminate heroin from a person's usage and that you can't eliminate food it seems that the relapse rate for both is reasonably close.
Until obesity and eating psychology gets more study in this area, I don't think anything's going to happen to improve the health of the typical US citizen (or Canadian, eh?).
Here's one quote from Anna Karenina which suggests that a similar approach was well known in Tolstoy's time:
On the day of the races at Krasnoe Selo, Vronsky had come
earlier than usual to eat beefsteak in the common messroom
of the regiment. He had no need to be strict with himself,
as he had very quickly been brought down to the required
light weight; but still he had to avoid gaining flesh, and
so he eschewed farinaceous and sweet dishes
It mathematically modelled from data of many large, longitudinal studies (Nurses' Health, Framingham, etc).
As a physician who reduced caloric intake in January, I've found the bwsimulator to be very predictive and informative on how I can modify things further in the future. But you really do need a couple of data points on yourself to plug in first.
The same goes for counting calories burned while exercising. You may not be able to figure out an exact count, but you can get in the ballpark, and that means that you can then adjust your habits so that you are moving toward your goal.
Counting the calories precisely will not allow you to scientifically formulate an optimal diet and exercise plan on paper without experimenting on yourself. It will, however, anchor you and protect you against fudging the numbers in the direction of letting you eat more or exercise less.
You could, I suppose, use an unbiased rounding system to try and use only as many bits of calorie information as you believe are significant, but that's a lot more work for very little theoretical gain.
But that's the point: you cannot make accurate adjustments unless you also keep track of the type of food you eat (cooked, processed, raw, etc.). Because you have no way of knowing whether you gained weight due to taking too many calories, or because the food you ate last week was processed and cooked.
The general approach of partitioning problem solving into fast/inaccurate and slow/accurate is very useful, since it's generally hard to make something that's simultaneously fast and accurate.
Note one other interesting thing about this approach: you can do unit conversions! That is, I can measure something with different units than the thing I'm trying to control. Our reference is body weight, but what we measure is caloric intake: the function we use to slowly adjust the calorie target as a function of our weight has units of calories per body mass.
A range of 2,500-3,000 seems to be a good fit for me. I'm a 5'9" adult male with a light workout schedule.
I don't expect labels to be 100% on target but I do expect them to be close enough for my rough estimates.
The food truck may not list the calorie count for the burger but I've probably eaten all the ingredients in the burger before. From experience of noticing nutritional content in the past, I can tell if it has more fat (lots of mayo, extra cheese), sugar (ketchup) and overall calories (heavy, overall size of the meat patty) than ones I've had in the past.
The caloric content is not the only tool, it's one of the many tools you should have when trying to keep a healthy diet.
Yes, absolutely, everyone should do this (I certainly know how many calories are on the label of most things I eat). But you aren't counting calories.
Is it that you can't do it accurately? That seems to be implied by the second two questions. I haven't found that accuracy actually matter that much; mostly what's important is nominal calories over time vs. weight/other health indicators over time. If the number's not technically accurate, I kind of don't care. All I know is I roughly ate so many calories, my weight changed by x amount, and I can walk x far without getting tired. Over time, I can have a pretty good guideline for the number of "back of the box" calories I should be eating to reach my targets (which addresses your first question of "what range to target")
You mention explicitly that most people won't do it over the long term, which is definitely relevant. But even doing it for a little while can give you a good baseline so you can at least make educated guesses as to what you're eating, which is especially helpful in the "food truck burger" scenario.
I guess my point is that we all agree knowing roughly how many calories you're eating is good, but the only way I know to figure that out is to, at least for a while, literally count them. There's still a huge margin for error, of course, but if I didn't keep tabs on it by looking at the back of the box, I'd have no idea at all.
Counting calories temporarily tells someone how much he is overeating, but the problem is the amount he eats is an ingrained habit. Habits die hard, eating less for a couple months doesn't change anything for most people. There is a lot of evidence that most people who diet put the weight back on because they took temporary measures to lose weight instead of making deep lifestyle changes. [Anecdotal evidence alert]: making deep lifestyle changes was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and I believe counting calories would have distracted me from that goal.
Whatever works for you, go with that. But weight and body fat will fluctuate naturally and shouldn't be a huge factor in how you decide to eat. You could eat all kinds of crap that would keep you low-weight and low-fat but wreck your body.
Limiting yourself to reasonable portions of healthy foods 85% of the time is the easiest way to keep a long-term diet. Want pizza and beer? Save it for Friday night. It can't get simpler.
This is one of those things that's really hard to understand unless you experience it, so don't worry if you don't get it.
I know the hacker in you wants a number to measure but if you know anything about math at all you should concede that calculating numbers which such a high error margin is indeed pointless.
It's really not, you just need to eat healthy relatively unprocessed food for which it is reasonable to estimate calories and start with a baseline calorie target and adjust according to your goals as you go.
This subject happens to be uh...my job...so I can answer questions if anyone has any.
The amount of effort it takes your digestive system to process raw chicken vs. cooked chicken is obviously different, but the fact that they chose to focus on these issues doesn't make them more impactful than portion control.
I was thinking in terms of cooking at home versus going to eat at a restaurant. Restaurants are far more egregious in terms of being calorific as well as highly variable and prepackaged food usually isn't that good for you.
So early on, "avoid processed food" was a good way to guess at which foods were likelier to be healthy without having to actually examine them closely. But the heuristic is highly exploitable (i.e. you can trick people into thinking unhealthy food is healthy by making it from "unprocessed" ingredients), and in a relatively free market, it was inevitable that it would be exploited.
Now, if you advise people to either eat raw, unmodified ingredients, or make their own food out of raw unmodified ingredients, then that will still help them. But I think most people hear "avoid processed food" and think "Oh, I should buy these cookies that are made of whole grains and honey", and that is not helpful advice anymore.
2. Any thoughts/experience with raw foods? (also juicing, water fasting etc? someone documented their water fast, I can't remember the URL now. It sounded dangerous, but also awesome to know the results)
3. For a moderately active person, which is better? Eating 2 huge meals a day, or 5-6 small meals?
You could claim a different number but you'd be fooling yourself. Pick a number that seems reasonable relative to BMR and your goals and adjust as you go. That's kinda the whole point of my company is helping people make these adjustments without going through the hassle themselves.
Humans learned to cook because it allowed us to extract nutrients from food more efficiently and thus survive. If eating too much is your problem, tending towards raw food might help (but not to the exclusion of proper meals). If you're an athlete, not so much. I wouldn't take any one movement or fad all that seriously.
Juicing is a fad designed to bilk money from people, any diet/fast predicated on getting the majority of your calories from nutrition-less sugar is loony and bad for your health.
>For a moderately active person, which is better? Eating 2 huge meals a day, or 5-6 small meals?
It depends on what moderately active means. I think this is highly individual but I'll tell you what the "usual" is.
Strength trainers will generally eat 6 meals, but that's so that they can fit more calories in without getting stuffed.
Runner eating habits are highly variable and have a lot to do with glycogen replenishment. Carb-backloading before going to bed is a current fad for both runners and strength-trainers, but it seems pretty similar to the carb-loading stuff from the 80s, but with the benefit of more rigorous testing and study.
This is one of those things that require tinkering and experimentation. Some people eat 2 meals, skipping breakfast, some eat like hobbits. If you're trying to lose weight, optimize for eating habits that prevent snacking as well as over-eating during meals. Portion control is paramount.
getting the majority of your calories from nutrition-less sugar is loony
What did you mean by nutrition-less sugar? Vegetable/leafy juices (celery, spinach etc) have lots of nutrition, correct? (much more than just a fruit juice).
It's fine to juice things, especially if it helps you to get vegetables in your diet, but avoid fruits and excess sugar. I know too many juicers who end up getting like 70% of their calories from sugar because they're sucking down glorified fruit smoothies all the time.
What I got out of the article is unprocessed foods are the least accurate when it comes to calorie counts because they aren't digested as easily.
What's your job BTW?
When I get the receipt at a restaurant, why isn't there a nutrition label printed on it, like the ones in grocery stores? Why aren't there QR encodings of nutrition labels for easy scanning by your choice of tracking app?
I see opportunity for improvement here :)
> Carmody fed adult, male mice organic sweet potatoes
What is the significance of this?
<imperial unit> per <metric unit>.
Must be an American article.
calorie: the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram (sometimes, one gram) of water one degree centigrade.
Apparently EU food labeling may be in either kcal or kJ (at ~4.2 kJ/kcal).