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The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food (nytimes.com)
362 points by danso 1607 days ago | hide | past | web | 216 comments | favorite



It amazes me that this article still pushes the agenda that "fat makes us fat." If there's one thing that hasn't proven out at all, it's that fat makes us fat!

The NY Times has even run other articles saying as much: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/opinion/sunday/what-really... (by Gary Taubes, whose book "Why We Get Fat" is a must-read.)

The problem with "low-fat" processed food in particular is that the fat is often replaced with sugar to add taste, but sugars and other high-carb grains are more problematic than fat consumption. Hence skyrocketing obesity.

Eating a low-carb diet and easing off grains (particularly "white" grains) and sugars will help you lose weight. From the article I linked above: "On the very low-carbohydrate diet, Dr. Ludwig’s subjects expended 300 more calories a day than they did on the low-fat diet and 150 calories more than on the low-glycemic-index diet. As Dr. Ludwig explained, when the subjects were eating low-fat diets, they’d have to add an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity each day to expend as much energy as they would effortlessly on the very-low-carb diet. And this while consuming the same amount of calories."

I can also speak from personal experience: I went gluten-free after being diagnosed with gluten intolerance in 2009. In three weeks, I effortlessly shed 12 pounds--12 pounds that had refused to come off previously no matter how much exercise I was doing or how religiously I tracked my caloric intake. I wasn't doing gluten-free to lose weight; I got dragged into it by a diagnosis, so this was a wholly unexpected yet awesome side benefit.

I've since noticed that if I slide back into eating too many carbs and sugars (even gluten-free ones), I start to gain weight again, and I feel groggy and disoriented. As a side effect of this diet^Wlifestyle change, I've also completely been able to drop caffeine consumption--something I never expected. Put simply, I didn't feel like I had been hit by a train when I woke up. Caffeine and energy drink consumption has spiked right along with "low-fat", high-carb diets. Something to consider.


Nitpick: Not exactly correct.

Once 30% of your total caloric intake is in the form of fat calories, genetics comes into play. Apparently, and for reasons no one yet understands, there is a gene marker APOC3 [0] and other apolipoproteins like it [1] [2] that will cause your body to no longer break down all consumed fats, and leading to part of that fat to be "absorbed" instead. However, this only affects around 5% of the population, for the other 95% your "calorie is a calorie" approach is correct, be it fat, carb, or protein.

0: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/12/health/research/12heart.ht...

1: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/134/10/2517.full

2: https://www.23andme.com/health/familial-hypercholesterolemia...


It amazes me that this article still pushes the agenda that "fat makes us fat." If there's one thing that hasn't proven out at all, it's that fat makes us fat!

Overeating makes us fat. Caloric surplus makes us fat. It's pretty trivial to consume a caloric surplus eating lots of fatty foods. In that sense: fat makes us fat and it's silly to try denying it. It doesn't mean a low-fat diet will make you lose weight, it just means that high-fat diets are going to make you fat.

Excellent refutation of Taubes hypothesis:

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/08/carbohydrate-h...

Insulin does not regulate fat storage, leptin does. Obesity is a complex state and there are no simple answers. A diet that may be best for weight loss in one individual may not be the same diet that is best for another. This seems particularly likely if one of the two individuals is not obese.

The problem with "low-fat" processed food in particular is that the fat is often replaced with sugar to add taste, but sugars and other high-carb grains are more problematic than fat consumption.

They aren't more problematic. Aside from the relationship to cholesterol levels, they are the same problem.

The problems are:

    1.  High caloric density.
    2.  *Vanishing* caloric density-- foods that prevent satiation.
    3.  Addictive flavors and sensations that cause cravings.
Calorie surplus makes you gain weight, and unless you're building muscle it's going to be fat. All Ludwig's experiments suggest (as reported by Taubes, with lazy citation[1]) is that obese people who have just lost 10-15% of their weight tend to have a higher daily metabolism without conscious addition of physical exercise on a low-carb diet, compared to a low-fat diet or a low-GI diet. This in turn suggests it might be easier to maintain calorie balance on a low-carb diet than a low-fat diet (for formerly obese people who have just dieted to lose 10-15% of their body weight).

postcript:

I would also add that lifestyle changes are a factor as well as diet. Addictive foods are more dangerous to someone who has a snacking/forager mentality than someone who plans and eats fixed meals every day.

[1] This appears to be the study referenced in the NY Times article: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1199154


I'm not too impressed by Stephan Guyenet's article. He is wrong about one of his main points that fat is completely regulated by the brain and that insulin does not cause fat gain. You can Google for photographs of people who have done insulin injections in a single place over many years (rather than moving the injection point around) and see huge fat deposits at the injection site. That has got to be tissue regulation. Further, lipodystrophy is hard to explain by only invoking brain regulation.

We know that artificial insulin is a great way to gain weight. But is that only for diabetics? Hardly. It works just as well on athletes. Stop by your local gym and ask any of the chemically-assisted bodybuilders there for details. Insulin injections are a very common way to put on weight while bulking.

The idea that the body is "confused" by food density, which seems to underlie many of your ideas, is simply unsupported. The brain is very good at measuring calorie intake irrespective of density. I could point you to rat studies to confirm this, but I'd rather propose the following experiment that you can try in your own kitchen: Try making cream of cauliflower soup tonight, one with skim milk and the other with heavy cream. Measure how many spoonfuls of each that you can eat before getting full. Your brain does not get fooled by food density.


Try making cream of cauliflower soup tonight, one with skim milk and the other with heavy cream. Measure how many spoonfuls of each that you can eat before getting full.

The important question is not how many spoonfulls it's, how many calories?

1 cup of skim milk is 86 calories. 1 cup of heavy cream is 821 calories.

Let's imagine something a little more simple than cauliflower soup: strawberries and cream. 50 calories of strawberries + 1/2 cup of heavy cream would be 460 calories. An easy, common dessert. You could also eat those 50 calories of strawberries along with 5 cups of skim milk. Or maybe eat a whole pound of strawberries (150 calories) and only need 3.6 cups of skim milk. Or maybe 50 cals of strawberries, 100 calories of shortcake, and 3.6 cups of skim milk.

Which eater is more likely to overshoot their ideal caloric intake by a bit? Which eater is more likely to stop eating the moment they get full?

The brain isn't fooled, but it doesn't have to be. The person who gorged on the shortcake knows they overate, but they still took on more calories than they're going to burn. And of course-- if the brain can be fooled, being fooled by high-calorie foods is going to be worse than being fooled by low-calorie foods, on average. Which is more likely to result in a calorie surplus: Salt on your mashed potatoes or salt on your buttered, cheese-smothered mashed potatoes?

That is why I listed calorie-dense foods as #1. Without understanding caloric density, it's very hard for anyone to know (without outside guidance) when or how they are being fooled.


Are you really putting a full cup of cream into a serving of cauliflower soup?

For your strawberries and cream example, I'm known to have blueberries with cream from time to time. Which ends up typically being a half cup or so of blueberries, and a tablespoon or two of cream. Much more than that is far too much (and that's from someone who's got an appetite).


Your appetite sounds much smaller than mine. But the examples are mostly a waste of time. Either you accept my premise or not, which is:

    You're more likely to get fat eating calorie-dense foods.
There are many mechanisms to regulate calorie intake. The fullness feeling is just one of them. If you are only relying the fullness mechanism to regulate calories and every meal is loaded with high-calorie foods like butter, olive oil, gravy, fatty meat, eggs and the like, odds are higher that you're going to be running a surplus more often than not. And thus: gaining weight.

Yes, not all weight gain is bad and there is more to body composition than weight. But weight was the topic under discussion for this thread.


I largely don't accept the premise in favor of: you're more likely to get fat eating foods that promote overeating,, and partitioning those calories into fat, while failing to burn off the excess calories.

That's a large part of the salt, sugar, fat trifecta. It stimulates overeating, it spikes insulin at the same time that you're dumping large quantities of fats directly (dietary fat) and indirectly (triglycerides from fructose) into the body, while depressing inclinations toward activity.a

As to my diet, intake typically ranges ~3500-4500 cal/day. I eat consciously and exercise portion control according to my goals.


I largely don't accept the premise in favor of: you're more likely to get fat eating foods that promote overeating

My argument is that the factors are not mutually exclusive.

Huh and yeah, 4000 calories per day would constitute an absolutely enormous intake, consistent with a professional athlete (marathon runner, NFL linebacker, etc).


Male, 6'2", 250#, athletic, weightlifting and rowing.


I don't see how your example is related. Firstly, Stephan's description of the brain's role is that it regulates both appetite and metabolism. These mechanisms indirectly regulate fat storage.

Insulin of course would cause fat storage, but your example neither eliminates the other mechanisms, nor is a fault in the brain signalling system as it's an local injection. It's unrealistic to expect the system to have such a fine degree of control.

The role of insulin is to remove excess energy and funnel it into fat cells. That is of course why you see the weight gain. But that is only one part of the system.

As for your experiment, I can say it won't work on me - I typically eat until there is no food left, regardless of "fullness". In fact if I were at a buffet I would eat to actual physical fullness. Yet I do not have discomfort and I am still lean enough for me stomach muscles to show. I have stayed the same weight for the last 15 years. Thus, there has to be a regulation system, perhaps as proposed by Stephan.


Guyenet literally addresses the issue of fat gain around injection sites in the linked article.

Like you, I am generally not impressed with articles I have not read.


He addresses it (barely), but not in regards to brain versus tissue regulation, which is the context where I brought it up.

What he says (the injection site issue is "argument #4" in his article):

"cases where insulin levels and/or insulin sensitivity are changing independently of one another, [...] through drugs. This is why they're irrelevant..."


The truth is, you guys are both right. The only people I know who think obesity is complex are the people who still believe in calories in = calories out. Calories DO matter, but only at a certain point. Fat only makes you fat if you are also consuming a huge amount of calories. But in that case, anything can make you fat, including carbs and protein.

If you stick to a paleo/primal diet, it's very hard to get fat because we feel satiated since leptin is being properly regulated. You can also lose weight with caloric restriction, but if your diet consists of pizza and other gluten-containing foods, you will constantly struggle with it due to the addictive nature of these foods. You'll probably be skinny fat (skinny everywhere yet have visceral around your waist). And you won't be precluded from getting diabetes or another disease of civilization.

Like anything, the devil is in the details and the truth is in the middle. But this stuff is not a mystery. Industrial food producers want health to be a mystery for us, so they can sell us their junk. It's actually very simple. Stick to foods that can be obtained by hunting or foraging, and don't eat anything that comes out of a package. My dad followed this advice for a year after getting heart surgery. He went from being pre-diabetic to having normal biomarkers. His doctors are amazed. I'm glad I didn't let him follow their advice of loading up on statins and drinking Ensure shakes.


The only people I know who think obesity is complex

Do you think obesity is not complex?

You'll probably be skinny fat

Probably? What if you are not? Do you just not count those people?


Let me clear that up. The biochemistry of obesity is not trivial, but knowing what to eat to control your weight is not hard. It just takes some research and self experimentation. It's empowering when you figure out how certain foods affect you. I'm at a point where if I want a six pack again, I know exactly what to eat and for how long. I understand the makeup of most of the foods I eat and understand the consequences of eating them, how they will affect my blood sugar, which ones trigger my asthma and eczema, etc. When you throw out all the bullshit spewed out by mainstream health media, and take human anthropology into account, it is amazing how quickly you realize how much we've been duped into thinking it's all about calories.

If you're on a Standard American Diet and don't get fat (or skinny fat), you'll most likely get some other disease caused by inflammation, like cancer, Parkinson's, or Alzheimer's. There are always exceptions though, like genetic outliers, people who produce high amounts of salivary amylase, and high level athletes who burn through all that sugar.


Paleo isn't the only other option to the "Standard American Diet."

Sure it's one answer, but the Paleo fear of agriculture can get a bit extreme. People in the US have been living to healthy ages for a long time despite eating lots of wheat, corn, rice, potatoes, and dairy products.


If you discovered a new species of ape, and wanted to put it in a zoo, what would you feed it? Would you try random things, or would you try to emulate what it ate in the wild? This is what paleo is attempting to do for humans. Agriculture is just a drop in the bucket compared to how long we've been eating an ancestral diet. Modern paleo folk don't fear agriculture. They just want to get back to a system of small, local, organic, sustainable farms, and away from GMO crops and factory farming. More Joe Salatin's Polyface farms, less Monsanto/ADM.

Sure you can sustain yourself on grains, but why would you do that when you can thrive on paleo? Hunter-gatheres were stronger and 4 inches taller than the farmers that followed. Keep in mind that modern wheat is nothing like our grandparents' wheat. Modern wheat is a dwarf variety 42-chromosome plant that cannot grow without human intervention. Ancient emmer wheat had 28 chromosomes and much less gluten than modern wheat. Cultures that traditionally ate lots of carbs also lived near the equator in warm climates and were way more active than us in the Western world. Potatoes are fine. Just eat them with plenty of fat/butter to blunt the resulting blood sugar spike, but it's traditionally eaten that way anyway. Dairy is a gray area. If you're of Eastern European descent and still produce the lactase enzyme to handle dairy, then you're fine. There's no cut and dry rules saying what is paleo and what isn't since it's impossible to perfectly emulate our ancestral diet. Modern fruits have been bread to contain much more fructose for example. This is why I believe Steve Jobs' pancreas problems were due to his fruitarian diet, but I'm getting way off topic now.


    small, local, sustainable
How do these relate to paleo?

    Modern wheat is a dwarf variety
    42-chromosome plant that cannot
    grow without human intervention.
Relevance? Why does the chromosome count matter?

And why does size matter? Do you think it's good that modern corn is much larger than ancient corn? Then why would it matter that modern wheat is half the height of the wheat people were growing a century ago? (Though probably still larger than the first domesticated wheat.)

    Hunter-gatheres were stronger and 4 inches
    taller than the farmers that followed.
This is misleading. You mean the farmers that immediately followed, not modern day people. While early farmers were malnourished in many ways your typical American is not.

    Ancient emmer wheat had 28 chromosomes and
    much less gluten than modern wheat.
Rephrased as "modern wheat has much more protein" it has a more positive sound. The pair of words gluten/protein is like calories/energy where you can choose whichever has the connotations you like.

    still produce the lactase enzyme to handle
    dairy, then you're fine. 
Isn't that just a fancy way of saying that lactose intolerant people should avoid dairy?

    I believe Steve Jobs' pancreas problems
    were due to his fruitarian diet
You have nowhere near enough information on his health to conclude this.


Fresh raw milk (plain milk or cultured products) will have the enzymes intact, so everyone sould be able to tolerate it. Pasteurizing milk destroys the enzymes, making it difficult to digest.


Sure you can sustain yourself on grains, but why would you do that when you can thrive on paleo?

Grains are cheaper.

Grains are more efficient to eat, especially on a regular basis.

Grains taste good.


Taubes has responded to the wholehealthsource critique (I have not read it, but it was referred to as a "thorough multi-part smack down"):

http://garytaubes.com/2011/09/catching-up-on-lost-time-ances...


I'll read it, but I'm unfortunately suspicious now. When a response to a piece as thorough and logical as Guyenet's gets called a "smack down," it's almost always full of rhetorical blustering which is highly satisfying to people predisposed to side with the smacker. But anyone with genuine interest in seeing the discussion advance and see where Guyenet's argument breaks down is likely to be disappointed.

Beginning the article with a lengthy, seemingly unrelated narrative (shaggy dog story) is precisely the sort of rhetorical distraction that I am disappointed to see.


There are two things that come to mind when we ask if dietary fat causes obesity. First: fat and carbohydrates sum to literally all of food. The caloric value of protein is (essentially) negligible. What is certainly the case is that we can point to people who are fat (preferred term) on a low-fat diet. We can point to people who are fat on a fat-intermediate diet (rough balance of fat/carbs). Can we find many people who are fat on a low-carb diet?

I suggest that if we do, most such people will not be found eating fat in its natural form, but as rendered fat and pressed oil. It is almost certainly the case that the way in which fat is consumed affects satiety: the body cannot see a caloric benefit from fat until it is beta-oxidized in the liver, many hours after it is consumed. So in order to estimate how much you have eaten, the body assumes you have consumed fats in their natural form.

This is key to most low-carb diets: fat is usually consumed in its natural form, since nobody drinks oil (eww) and fatty snacks such as potato chips are banned. It is also an intrinsic feature of the "paleo" diets, which ban processed foods.

So, it might not be too much of a stretch to say that fat as a naturally occuring part of foods like almonds does not make us fat.

The second thing that comes to mind is the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a healthy diet. When this is tilted excessively in favor of omega-6, the body produces an excess of certain endocannabinoids (arachidonic acid) which contribute to overeating:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100726221737.ht...

[NB: the mechanism is up in the air. The effect is real.]

The additional, final consideration is the alleged link (as stated in the article) between consumption of land meats and obesity. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_meat#Obesity

I've been harping on "natural", and meat is natural, so what gives? Weirder yet, the correlation is with meat protein, not with fats. And we do know, though, that people on e.g. ketogenic diets lose weight while eating lots of meat: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/1/1.short

The simplest way to assign blame is to cry confounding: while meat itself is natural, it is rarely consumed in a natural-food context. Instead, since meat is culturally considered unhealthy, it is often eaten on white bread or in a pack of Lunchables. Support for the confounding hypothesis would be a low r-value in studies that link meat consumption to body fat (i.e. total variation in body fat is only weakly related to variation in meat consumption); falsification might be a very high r-value, or a very well-controlled study.

[NB: I believe the confounding hypothesis.]


The big issue, addressed in part in the linked article, is that processed foods have been engineered to fool the body's natural hunger and satiety signaling. They've been relentlessly tested and optimized to maximize enjoyment and minimize fullness or desire to stop (this point on the curve being the so-called "bliss point" alluded to in the article).

It's possible, and perhaps likely, that the body treats processed fats very differently from natural fats. But the real crux of the issue is everything the fats come packaged in. In an almond, the fat comes packaged with a lot of fiber, a decent amount of protein, and a host of other nutrients. In a handful of Cheetos, the fat comes packaged with an array of chemicals designed to circumvent satiety signals, plus a lot of salt, sugar, and other goodies thrown in for good measure.

Dietitians like to draw comparisons between, say, the nutritional profile of a single serving of almonds vs. the nutritional profile of a single serving of Cheetos. But who eats just one serving of Cheetos? That's the real issue. It's pretty hard to eat natural foods to excess; it's exceedingly easy to eat artificial foods to excess.

In other words: it's not simply that artificial ingredients, in and of themselves, are bad. It's that artificial ingredients are intentionally combined in ways to increase caloric density and decrease the brain's recognition of said density.


the fat comes packaged with an array of chemicals designed to circumvent satiety signals, plus a lot of salt, sugar, and other goodies thrown in for good measure.

I think that, in many cases, no extra chemicals are even necessary. Salt, sugar, fat in the right ratios and right texture is all it takes. Moisture and fiber content may also make a difference.


    The caloric value of protein is (essentially) negligible.
In what sense? Protein gets you about 4 cal/g like carbohydrates. I agree that the amount of protein we ingest is much smaller than the amount of carbs, but certainly not negligible.


Not the person making the claim, but it's more like 3g with TEF taken into effect, and combine that with the satiating effects of protein, it isn't very likely that people are going to eat 2000+ calories of protein. Even if you consume it in vast quantities like many bodybuilders, 300g of protein is only 1200 calories, ignoring TEF. Eat 1200 calories of protein and see how hungry you are for even more.

Not quite "negligible" but food for thought. (pun intended)


The main issue I have with the paleo example and banning of processed foods is that it neglects to explain people who can eat processed foods in moderate quantities without getting fat.


> Insulin does not regulate fat storage, leptin does. Obesity is a complex state and there are no simple answers. A diet that may be best for weight loss in one individual may not be the same diet that is best for another. This seems particularly likely if one of the two individuals is not obese.

You have this backwards. Insulin DOES help regulate fat storage (among other things). Leptin controls appetite and can act as an indication of overall adipose levels. It is conjectured that treating things like diabetes with both insulin and leptin together is better than insulin alone.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leptin and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulin

And I'll jump in on this calories vs everything else. If, as I've said many times before in other posts, all you care about is weight, only track calories (you'll most likely end up skinny-fat...but at a certain weight. Horray! You are now unhealthy at a lower weight. Congratulations!) If you care about losing fat, track macros and reduce carb intake to lose fat (along with weight lifting, HIIT and some carb-refeeds to manage hormone levels).

This is a rather complex topic, though I'm going to try and frame it a different way. What is the most effective way to put on lean, pure muscle mass? Weight lifting? A caloric surplus? High protein? Yeah, sure, all of that. Do you know what is even more effective? Steroids, specifically some combination of test, deca (or dbol), maybe some sustanon. What is the most effective way to lose body fat, particularly get to a ridiciously low level of body fat (think, getting on stage in a thong)? Caloric deficit? Low-carb? HIIT? hours of cardio? How about steroids again. Clen+Tren+Test. Sure, in both cases, caloric excess or deficit will help, but the stacks ALONE will work.

Why does that matter? Everyone always overlooks the hormones.

Why would it be any different if we don't talk about steroids? Hormones play a very important role in putting on muscle (think, stimulate the muscles by weight lifting, give them aminos (protein) to rebuild and spike insulin to make sure the muscles get the protein). And losing fat is no different (keeping fat high is vital to keeping testosterone high, protein to spare the muscles and lowerish carb to make the body look for an energy source (ie. fat) that you aren't providing. Throw in some weight training and HIIT to further deplete your glycogen stores. Viola, fat loss, muscle spared. Carb refeed once a week to reset your hormones (don't go into starvation mode) and you have a wash-rince-repeat cycle).

So, yes, calories matter, but only once you understand the broader picture. If you only talked calories, frankly, you can't be taken seriously.


Thinking about this stuff is a premature optimization. Portion control and being serious about exercise is easier to comply with than worrying about macros and dubious claims about leptin. Most elite athletes eat garbage, yet are still fit because they exercise most of the day. Usain Bolt's "power food" is Chicken McNuggets. One can get very far without worrying much about meal composition. It becomes more relevant if you are an advanced bodybuilder or extreme endurance athlete.


1. Most people aren't Usain Bolt or some other high level athlete. 2. Most of them are on some sort of steroid, hormone or peptide and 3. What is "portion control" if nothing other than an unscientific way of saying "hit/eat your macros"?

I do have a saying, if your only go is "not be a fatass", then sure, there are many, many suboptimal ways to approach this problem. However, if you care about more than just not being a fatass, there is more to think about. Not much more, just a little bit. Overall, though, it is REALLY easy to get this right if you just can articulate your actual real goal.


I'm just saying it's not necessary to think about "macros" until you get to an advanced level. Even then, it might still not be necessary, unless you have specific goals like competitive body building or marathon running.


And I'll jump in on this calories vs everything else. If, as I've said many times before in other posts, all you care about is weight, only track calories (you'll most likely end up skinny-fat...but at a certain weight. Horray! You are now unhealthy at a lower weight. Congratulations!) If you care about losing fat, track macros and reduce carb intake to lose fat (along with weight lifting, HIIT and some carb-refeeds to manage hormone levels).

heh "most likely end up skinny-fat"

I have visceral fat, though I have never been outside my target BMI range. The only time in my adult life that I did not have visceral fat was when I was on a low FAT diet (doctor prescribed) and exercising every day. I do not have pre-diabetes. Other than the visceral fat I show no other signs of metabolic syndrome.

But I don't go around telling people they should be eating more carbs. I don't tell people that eating carbs will make you skinny-fat.


Your point is great, but could you elaborate on how you read the article as pushing, "fat makes you fat"?

I read it much more as saying that large food companies have developed deep expertise in tuning the quantity of sugar, salt, fat, and texture to make their products bypass our body's natural mechanisms for feeling full.

I think if you're reading this through some kind of paleo/non-paleo lens, then you're missing the point of the article.


It's amazing how much arguing and pontificating there is about subtle effects of dietary composition with little or no mention of massive increases in intake. For example:

http://www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf

Says ~25% increase since the mid 1980s.

I do tend to accept the idea that it is better to get excess calories from fat than from simple carbohydrates and sugars, but I don't think any ongoing significant excess is a good idea, elaborate metabolic theory or not.


While that's a good point, things are a little bit more subtle than that. Changes in dietary composition have an effect on satiety and whether or not you experience hunger spikes, and thus can affect intake quite drastically. Two links in the chain of causality.


Sure, food choices can be used to make calorie reduction/control easier. My point is more that eating approximately the amount of calories your body will consume in a day is going to be effective with little regard to the exact percentage of macro nutrients. That doesn't make it any easier to correctly estimate the calories needed or the actual calories consumed.


Well, we were talking about the obesity epidemic, which you mentioned was caused by overeating. My point was that if our diets have changed over time (different protein/carbs/fat ratio), that in itself can explain overeating. (Rather than assuming that overeating is "something we just do".)


>>Your point is great, but could you elaborate on how you read the article as pushing, "fat makes you fat"?

Yeah, I didn't get that message either. I think the parent is reading too much into it (a.k.a. projecting).


Same here. I read this whole article a few days ago, and discussed it with friends. The main takeaway for me is the incredible complexity and subtlety that goes into researching the "perfect" junk food.

In particular, the term "bliss point" which seems to apply to a number of properties that food can have. For one example, a "bliss point" as applied to the "crunch" a food should have, ie the most satisfying amount of resistance for a cracker or chip to have is apparently 4 lbs of pressure.

But often there isn't just one single answer- sometimes there are multiple mutually exclusive, highly optimal combinations of preferences, as with spaghetti where you have plain, spicy and chunky. And sometimes, the most satisfying flavor preference is not the most optimal result for profitability- snacks with too strong a flavor will "oversaturate" the brain and you will not have a strong desire to keep eating them after a few samples. In these cases it's better to have a subtle taste that never leaves the consumer feeling quite fully satisfied.

So yeah. It's not really about "fat makes you fat" -- though perhaps there is an aside to that effect -- it's more about corporate junk food researchers foraging their way through a world of data on consumer preferences and designing the most efficient products.


The article mentions in multiple places the saturated fat content of the junk food, often alongside sodium and sugar content, implying that these are the "bad numbers" to care about.


You are wrong. Too much energy dense food makes you fat. Fat will make you fat if you overeat (because the fatty acid molecules from your food will be stored in your fat cells). It's not as easy as "more carbs" = obesity epidemic. There are many more factors, most important being inactivity and overconsumption of food. The carbohydrate hypothesis is very clearly Bullshit: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.de/2011/08/carbohydrate-hy...

When people go on a low carb diet they: a. restrict their food intake by restricing their choices (less processed foods if you exclude a massiv part of " b. increase protein intake (protein has a higher thermic effect than any other macronutrient and drastically cuts down total kcal consumption in ad lib feeding trials by reducing appetite)

You can do something similar with a low fat diet (on which another part of the population will feel better - skewed towards more active and leaner people).

Low carb (whatever that means - not clearly defined) isn't a better choice for your health than a mixed diet with a high(er) protein intake. If it works for you: great. But that doesn't mean calories don't count and carbohydrates/insulin cause obesity. Nor that it works for everyone.


"Fat will make you fat if you overeat (because the fatty acid molecules from your food will be stored in your fat cells). It's not as easy as "more carbs" = obesity epidemic."

Insulin plays a role in regulating the patitioning of fatty acids in the body. The flawed thinking, that calories burned by the body is a fixed amount that doesn't vary based on calories consumed, is simply wrong. The key is that energy expenditures only rise when the calories consumed are not being partitioned for storage. Elevated insulin levels cause storage of fatty acids, and inhibit release of fatty acids from fat cells by triggering them to be bound up into triglyceride molecules.

I'm not some hardcore paleo/keto/Atkins dude, but reducing carbohydrate intake (particularly refined carbs) makes appetite control much easier, by virtue of several obvous and not so obvious reasons. The obvous is that proteins and fats fill you up more (satiety), and that could be accomplished with diets that aren't high in fat by simply upping protein intake, of course. However, the less obvious is the energy partitioning going on with low insulin levels. The fat cells are behaving as they naturally should, pulling in and releasing fatty acids in a balanced manner.


Fats and Carbs don't vary that much regarding satiety. Mostly protein and fiber, as I said.

How adipocytes "should" behave depends on circumstances... Insulin resistance is probably more a defensive mechanism against the deleterious effects of overeating.

"The flawed thinking, that calories burned by the body is a fixed amount that doesn't vary based on calories consumed, is simply wrong." Who believes that nonsense? Of course we have adaptive mechanisms that regulate energy output (especially NEAT) based on energy intake. The kcal in/out model is very much valid. You just have to account for fluctuating variables in the formula.

"The key is that energy expenditures only rise when the calories consumed are not being partitioned for storage. Elevated insulin levels cause storage of fatty acids, and inhibit release of fatty acids from fat cells by triggering them to be bound up into triglyceride molecules." But this does not happen in a vaccum. This does not matter if you undereat. And if you overeat on mostly fat we still have extremely significant mechanisms to store these TAGs independently of insulin : HSL / ASP.


The thermic effect of protein is pretty much negligible, and food restriction has also been shown to not be the obvious explanation in trials where they partitioned out exactly the same amount of food (2000 kcal, I believe) in different ratios to find that the lower-carb apportioning caused the greatest weight loss.

In short, whatever facts anyone wants to bring up, there will always be more that either disprove, or at least throw them into doubt. But your final point is absolutely spot on -- it is absolutely about what works for your health and your situation. I've found low carb, unprocessed (i.e. paleo) with a sprinkling of IF and cycling works great, but I don't intend to be a militant defender of this approach; rather, I absolutely advocate n=1 experimentation, figuring out what works for you, and doing something rather than nothing. Learning about paleo kicked off a huge revelation in terms of my personal health and I want others to discover this joy.


TEF: 20-30% is not negligible. There is even a group of scientist trying to change the default value to 3,2 kcal/g.

Yeah, weight loss is greater because of the bigger WATER loss. (1g Glycogen = 3g Water) Which results in greater intial weight loss. Besides the possibility of low carb being a better treatment for adipose patients/people suffering from Metabolic Syndrome.

"In short, whatever facts anyone wants to bring up, there will always be more that either disprove, or at least throw them into doubt." > Mostly, if you don't know what you are talking about and haven't dived into the actual primary literature. Most just lack some basic domain knowledge and read some Taubes. Now they think there must be some big controversy with carbohydrates and low carb going on. Meh.

Self experimentation is great if you use a non retarded approach. I find too many people trying to reinvent the wheel instead of focusing on some basics and then experimenting with how to integrate them into their life/habit.


I have the feeling that you misunderstood the article. It doesn't say that fat makes you fat, instead, it displays the lack of ethics and morality in the food industry when it comes to the obesity problem caused by overconsumption of processed food. Due to additional sugars, salts, fats, clever advertising and more, they managed to make people eat more of their processed and unhealthy food then necessary, thus causing a diabetes and obesity epedemic (not necessarily because of the contents of the junk food, but because of the amount of it being eaten).

I never understood this article as a cricicism of fat - that word doesn't even appear to often. Instead, it diligently describes the amount of money invested into making people eat more of this stuff even though more of it is not healthy for them. Moralics and ethics aside:

“How can we drive more ounces into more bodies more often?”


While you're right that fat in and of itself does not lead to weight gain, it's the combination with sugar that absolutely, 100% leads to weight gain. Sugar and other high glycemic index foods (eg white bread) causes an insulin spike and puts your body into an anabolic, "building" state in which it will assimilate whatever it has lying around. Usually, if you're eating something with high amounts of sugar, it will also have high amounts of fat (ice cream, cookies, etc). Thus you will have a large amount of fatty acids lying around which your body will go ahead and form into droplets to be stored in adipose tissue. That's how you build fat.

However, if you are in a state of muscular stress, such as after weight lifting, and you eat a ton of glucose - notice I said glucose, not sugar, which contains fructose - and you combine this with a moderate amount of protein and little to no fat, you'll have a bunch of amino acids floating around and this insulin spike will cause your muscles to soak up all that protein and become bigger/stronger/both depending on the type of weightlifting you did with no spillover into adipose fat tissue.

It's this very simple metabolic process that people don't get. Everyone gets all worked up on pointing the finger at fat or sugar or whatever, but this is the "secret".

Btw, for anyone looking to lose weight or put on muscle in a healthy way, check out intermittent fasting, specifically the leangains plan.

Source: I'm a biochem major with a six pack


Yeah, you are referring to insulin sensitivity and calorie partitioning. Still depends on genetic makeup (insulin sensitivity can vary 10-fold). P-ratio isn't the same for everyone. So not correct what you are saying (energy does not only go into muscle cells). You can still get fat(ter) with such a diet. Muscle and liver glycogen will be full at some point and more and more fatty acids will be stored in adipocytes. Berkhan got fatter when he overfed. Kcal still need to be controlled.

Also you can get fat on a very low carb diet if you eat too much fat/energy. As a lot of low carb "gurus" do (such a jimmy moore). As a biochem major you should be aware of other mechanisms besides insulin. (ASP & HSL) Insulin is so terribly overrated.


Then exercise with weights at high-speed on an empty stomach (empty glycogen supplies) and wait for a couple hours before enjoying your large amount of carbs and protein. Maybe consume some branched chain amino acids to signal to your body not to break down any muscle. You'll enjoy all the benefits of interval training and your body will tap directly into your fat for energy at this point to burn through whatever small amount of spillover you're speaking of.

Obviously if you eat far more than your body needs you will get fat because that's how your body's efficient machinery works. But it's quite hard to do when your stomach physically only has enough room for so much and you'll throw up before consuming that many calories.


Oh dear, intervall training. http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/stead-state-versus...

Spillover can be very significant, regardless of training. It depends on the makeup of the trainee. The body doesn't work like that (first muscle, than fat) for most people. It's a constant flux in and out of the cells and the overall trend over weeks and months matters for your body composition. For that reason muscle gain (as a more advanced trainee) tends to require some with fat gain if you want progress at any decent speed (Leangainers often don't). Why wait for a couple hours btw? There is no magical switch flipped, which prevents fat gain after waiting a bit longer. You probably misunderstood how important some of the processes after a high intensity training session will be for body composition. Read the article above for an explanation.

Depends on caloric density. I have no problem overeating vastly on good ice cream or nuts& dried berries. Easy to get down an additional 3000kcal.


It seems us hacker news readers certainly love nitpicking. I'm not talking about traditional HIIT (spring, walk, sprint, walk, repeat until you're dead). I'm talking about very fast weight training (Vince Gironda ftw!) which gives gives you plenty of cardio. Done on an empty stomach this demolishes your fat reserves.

I read your article and this quote stuck out the most: "The simple fact is that, given that most people train like wimps, if you get them to work harder for a change, good things usually happen." Going to the gym and talking with your buddy is not exercise, but it's exactly what the average gym-goer does.

Between that article and the other one I read which it linked to, Steady State vs. Interval Training: Summing Up Part 2, it seems to prove my point, which is that you can train high-intensity like interval training provided you give yourself enough carbs.


I think you are mixing up high volume pump training with HIIT.

If I say I swim, but I actually bareknuckle fight with other guys. Would it be correct to call this "swimming"? Kind of weird to just rename an activity. Regarding empty stomach: http://examine.com/faq/is-it-better-to-do-aerobic-exercise-f...


This sounds like a terrible, shoot yourself in the foot idea for the vast majority of weight trainees. Why on earth would you want to make something hellishly hard(weight lifting) even harder with shitty nutrition?


What part of this sounds like shitty nutrition? Fasting is wonderful for your health. I used to do the whole preworkout meal, snack, post-workout shake, all that "bro" science. Now I won't train any other way. If there's one common thread among health enthusiasts, it's stubborn tendencies. Try it before you call it a terrible idea, I think you'd love it.


Well I can see it working for some people, but I think it's very dependent on what sort of workouts you're doing.

When I'm doing heavy squats and deads I drink a fuck ton of milk with ice in it during the workout. I find this helps me get through it and makes me feel better.

If I'm doing BJJ I'll have a medium/light meal and a glass of water or 2 before hand so I have nutrients but my stomach isn't all bloated.

I have heard some good things about fasting and I'm not against it per se. I just think it's a bad idea if you're doing heavy strength training for any purpose, especially fat loss.

If one is trying to loose fat, heavy compound movements + a slight calorie restriction seems like a very effective method. But lifting heavy is hard as hell on a calorie deficit so why not do yourself a favor and have nutrients in your blood during the time you're lifting the weights at the very least.

IMO fasting before lifting seems more likely than not to be counter indicated for the typical novice who is trying to loose fat/get fit.


Heavy strength training in the vain of powerlifting or something like that with a bunch of potentially dangerous heavy exercises is certainly something you'd want energy for and drinking milk or something like that is probably a good idea. Personally I like a gallon full of water mixed with BCAAs and pure dextrose, but then again I don't really do power lifting much anymore, mostly out of vanity. I tend to think powerlifters have a tendency to look like blobs, and I like Vince Gironda's style of training at least partially for aesthetic appeal, but that's all personal preference of course. So yeah, if you were doing something like starting strength or madcow 5x5 then I'm not sure training on an empty stomach is a great idea, but then again I'm not sure that it isn't. I don't have the necessary data to make such a conclusion.

But I do actually think the average novice would benefit greatly from intermittent fasting because, at the very least, it's far easier to get exactly the right amount of calories and fat/carb/protein distribution with 1-2 large meals than with 10 small meals.

Edit: btw, I misread your name and thought I was talking to the Doctor for a second. I was a little disappointed :P


IF is just the latest broscience fad.

Anything related to nutrition, exercise and sports performance is broscience to a degree.


There is just no way anyone CAN eat high fat diet the way high carb diet works.

The more carbs you eat, the more you carve, the more fats you eat, the less you want to eat. Of course if you do not combine them.

For me it has become once per 24h food intake sometimes and then it is more like a necessity than hunger.

I do eat once per week some chips with honey.

But now I cringe thinking about coke, cake, donuts, bread, cookies, chocolate.


Yes! The once-a-day meal plan (warrior diet). That's what I'm currently doing and my fitness gains have shot through the roof. I love binging on homemade fat-free pizza and cookies after my workout and being able to feel my abs on top of my bloated, satisfied stomach. Then I can go write software for 9 hours and not eat. It's truly remarkable really. I feel bad for those guys who are still driving themselves crazy eating 10 small meals a day. The body is more efficient than we give it credit for.


just curious, how long have you been on the warrior diet? been doing all the time? What sort of gains.

I did the warrior diet this summer and lost all sorts of bodyfat/weight. I stopped and forgot about it, then I had the revelation that the last time I made progress was with the warrior diet. Now I am including it two to three times/week with slow carb diet and a cheat day for the others. It is good stuff and not worrying about food has increased! my mental focus. There are points in the day where I literally have felt like I was on adderall. Anyways, just curious about the endorsement...


I've been doing the full-on warrior diet for the past two weeks or so along with the full-body workout on this page: http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/gironda-8x8-system.... I do that workout at least 3 times a week. I've gained about 5-6 pounds of muscle in the past two weeks and gotten leaner. It's been unreal. Like steroids unreal. But I also haven't been following the warrior diet to the t. I eat mostly high-gi carbs to spike my insulin along with about 1.5 grams of protein per pound of my body weight. I have a bucket of pure glucose that I substitute in for table sugar (sucrose, which includes fructose - bad) when I make things like pancakes or cookies. I also eat a lot of candy that contains zero fat and is made primarily from glucose-based corn syrup, such as gummy worms and candy corns. Brushing your teeth is crucial for this program ;). The end result is 70% of my calories coming from high-gi carbs, 25% protein, and < 5% fat. All consumed within a few hours of my weight training.

I'm not 100% convinced that my specific diet is very healthy, so I'm planning on checking in with my doctor to make sure I'm not killing myself. I doubt it's unhealthy because I feel and look fantastic, and, if this trend continues, I'll probably make a website or something to go public with this program.


Would you be so kind and elaborate a bit more on your resistance training, especially for 6-pack (repetitions, breathing, technique)? I am also doing great on IF and simply drinking natural goat milk whey before exercise instead of suggested BCAA intake. I can also second on avoiding fructose.


Certainly! First of all, the most important thing for having a visible six-pack is low bodyfat, around 8-9%. Having a strong, defined core is also important, so doing ab exercises such as hanging leg raises and ab wheel rollouts is a good idea. Avoid crunches though because those don't do anything.

Read up on hypertrophy as this is how your muscles get bigger. German volume training, vince gironda's 8x8, chad waterbury high frequency training are good plans to look into (all of chad waterbury's workout plans are "cutting edge" imho). I've recently been doing very high number of reps with very low intensity and not going to muscle failure so that I can target the same muscle groups several times a week. Such a workout plan focuses more on muscles getting larger rather than stronger.

Also, if you're looking to cut down on bodyfat in order to see your abs, I would actually use bcaas instead of the whey simply because the goat milk whey likely has calories that your body will use for fuel (ignore that sentence if it doesn't have calories), whereas bcaa's take a different metabolic pathway and go right to your muscles. The point of exercising on an empty stomach is that you're working out with a depleted glycogen supply, which your body will always use up before touching fat storage. If you take in calories before working out then your body will burn through those first before reaching into the fat storage.

After you've finished working out - hopefully your workout was done quickly so you should be very sweaty and have burned a ton of fat calories - wait for a couple hours (at least 2-3) before eating anything. During this time I generally drink almost a gallon of water containing a bunch of bcaas. Your body will continue to burn a shit-ton more fat and will still be primed for building muscle once you spike it with carbs and protein. Be careful to avoid fat though!

Good luck on attaining your fitness goals ;)


Good stuff man. I am with you 100%.

My only tip for you is that I have a ganja induced munchies addiction and I think that at one point I was eating too much of the shit and not enough of the good stuff. Resulted in terrible stomach pains that landed me in the doctors office with pills to stop my stomach muscles from spasms. Anyways, good luck with your fitness as well.

badapada I'm loving it.


Funny you mention that, it seems to help with some of my less-appetizing zero fat pig-out sessions ;)


Thank you for your tips! Legs and top was kind of easy for me, but the six-pack had been a mystery. I might look conservative, but I try to avoid "artificial" or unnatural proportions of amino acids that might kick me out of metabolic balance. Possible issues to consider: capillary and tendons getting behind the muscle tissue growth.


'Carbohydrate' is a fine chemical term, but it is not a useful nutritional category. A plate of steamed vegetables and a can of Coke both contain carbohydrate, but they are at opposite poles in nutritional terms. The most useful nutritional term is 'junk food', and the most useful advice for most people is, instead of trying to fine tune the amount of this or that chemical substance, just stop eating/drinking junk food of any kind.


> 'Carbohydrate' is a fine chemical term, but it is not a useful nutritional category

That's why we have simple carbohydrates (sugars) and complex carbohydrates (starches).

> The most useful nutritional term is 'junk food',

That's not a useful term. Most people wouldn't think freshly squeezed orange juice is junk food, yet it contains a lot of sugar.


Again there's a distinction between a chemical analysis perspective and a practical nutritional perspective. Freshly squeezed orange juice contains sugar to be sure, but in practice very few people guzzle the stuff to the point of destroying their health, whereas lots of people do precisely that with Coke.


"If it comes in a package, it's candy" is probably the correct rule. It's not that eating candy will kill you, but if you eat a bag of chips, drink some soda, and eat a packaged snack, the reality is that you have almost certainly just had a meal consisting entirely of what is best described as "candy." So don't do that regularly. :-)


Carbs are one of the three macronutrients. The two examples of carb sources you mention differ in that one offers a great deal of bulk fiber, as well as copious micronutrients, while the other doesn't.

This doesn't make either any less a source of carbohydrates.


> 12 pounds that had refused to come off previously no matter how much exercise I was doing or how religiously I tracked my caloric intake

This, aside from other potentially valid points you may make, is utter nonsense. The concept of "stubborn weight" simply doesn't make sense.

Your comment as a whole reeks of the pseudoscience that plagues the nutrition field and makes it incredibly difficult to determine fact from fiction when trying to get healthy.


> The concept of "stubborn weight" simply doesn't make sense.

Except, you know, in practice. There are many potential explanations for why this could happen, but "pretend it doesn't happen" is not one.


It's a false implication that it's the body's set of physiological processes that are to blame for the inability of a person to lose weight, when in reality it's a myriad of psychological issues which are really to blame.

So yes, in practice, it doesn't make sense.


Are you arguing that losing weight is purely a psychological process with no physiological component?


No?


Taubes actually started the mainstream reexamination of fat over 10 years ago with his New York Times Magazine article "What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?":

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/07/magazine/what-if-it-s-all-...

The key point is that it is only very specific varieties of fat that matter for heart disease. It goes in to much more detail than his opinion piece for those looking for more info.


Taubes is a dogmatic cherry-picker.


Not sure why your comment is being upvoted, since it offers no evidence whatsoever to support your claim that Taubes is a cherry-picker.


Perhaps you could provide some, I don't know, facts or reasoning or something?


May as well provide evidence on the earth revolving around the sun.

But here you go: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/12edbj/im_gary_taubes_...


Yes, the opinions of one pop-sci writer are just as well-studied and well-understood as something that has been carefully examined since 1543.

Your jerkiness aside, his reply to that seems clear and cogent. In particular, this seems like a reasonable criticism: http://nusi.org/the-science/review-of-the-literature/

It's not even clear to me that the post you link and his reply are necessarily at odds. A calorie-metering approach and a shift in diet could both be effective weight-loss strategies in that they would be acting at different points in the process and using different resources.


I'm sorry, I didn't realize I needed to put a disclaimer to hyperbole.

Besides his general criticism (which is valid), he doesn't actually address any of the findings of the studies.

Aka, cherry-picking.


The hyperbole wasn't the problem. Which you surely know.

Cherry-picking is where you pick the sources that support your case while ignoring the rest. What he did was a sweeping dismissal.

He may be right or wrong; I have no idea. But if you're going to accuse somebody of being an intellectual fraud, you should probably know what you're talking about.



>Meta-analysis of effect of saturated fat intake on cardiovascular disease: overadjustment obscures true associations http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/92/2/458.long

I find it hard to take that site seriously when they call fish oil a "brain booster" next to a great big affiliate link to buy fish oil supplements on Amazon [1]. Also they don't seem to have a page about trans fats at all. Are they pushing an agenda through cherry picking and deliberate omission of contrary information? I don't have the time or energy to investigate. (Note: I'm not trying to defend Taubes here, as far as I can tell he is a hack).

[1] http://examine.com/supplements/Fish+Oil/


Fish oil, via EPA or DHA, has been implicated in acting as [1]:

An anti-inflammatory An anxiolytic A brain booster A heart health compound A liver health compound

How is this misleading? See: http://examine.com/about/#support

Trans fat page is in the works AFAIK. Also it's mainly a supplement site. (wiki for the evidence on supps) FAQ is just a useful addition.


My issue was that "brain booster" is a bullshit term that means nothing. I put it in the same category as "super food" and other such meaningless terms. If they want to be taken more seriously they should use more precise language.


You should be skeptical, however language can be used for its gestalt. Coming to conclusions without evaluating the rest of the situation (in this case, evaluating the quality of Examine) is pretty meaningless.

In my personal opinion the content that has showed up on Examine has been pretty stellar. It has grown considerably in a short amount of time and is one of the few sites that hosts this sort of content and isn't riddled with ads.


Is Glen Beck a rapist? I'm just asking questions.

That is the exact equivalent of what you did. They clearly say "Why the buy link" right next to that link.

And if you actually tried reading it, right here: http://examine.com/supplements/Fish+Oil/#summary7-1 - "brain boosting"

So no time or energy for anything but wild accusations.


If I see claims using bullshit non-scientific language next to a link selling the product then yes I'm going to question the scientific credentials of the site. I make no apology for that.


Question credentials without spending a single moment looking more in-depth.

A+, would read your scientific literature.


If "a colorie is a calorie", then why do you single out "eating too many carbs and sugars" as the cause of your occasional weight gain?


A colorie is a calorie (in the sense that a unit of energy is a unit of energy); however, there are some (I don't have science to cite, so I won't say it is factual) people that say fructose is worse for you than glucose (the two monosaccharides). Here's an interesting article you can read: http://www.eatingrules.com/2011/05/introduction-to-sugar/

In this sense, a calorie is not a calorie - but to be precise it's more that different sources of calories have different side-effects on the body when converted INTO energy/calorie.

Now to grains (specifically wheat-based products): gluten. The single reason why people in my athletic sphere (CrossFit) avoid wheat products as a source of calories when training is because of gluten (and sometimes yeast - as it does stimulate candida growth).

Gluten can cause all sorts of problems that aren't related to the calorie intake - diseases, obesity, inflammation, etc...

(I won't cite anything here for that because the information is widely available and in many books - although there are still "studies" that would say this information is bunk)

I consume around 4-5k calories per-day as part of my training. As long as you use it, the calories aren't bad for you but the source of the calories must be clean.


Oh god. What the hell does "clean" mean. That's orthorexic nonsense. Unprocessed foods can be very helpful, but they aren't magically different kcal, If you eat too much potatoes and nuts (instead of cake) you'll still gain the same amount of fat (controlling for fiber and protein energy loss). http://www.wannabebig.com/diet-and-nutrition/the-dirt-on-cle...

Regarding fructose: http://www.alanaragonblog.com/2010/01/29/the-bitter-truth-ab... http://weightology.net/?p=434

Gluten is extremism overhyped, but sensitivity to it can be a problem.


>> If you eat too much potatoes and nuts (instead of cake) you'll still gain the same amount of fat

I think the point of the article is that it is easier to overeat processed foods (such as cake) than unprocessed ones (such as potatoes and nuts) because the former are engineered to not trigger your brain's sense of satiety.

Aside from that, I'm a bodybuilder and I hold CrossFitters in very low regard - but the comment you are responding to is correct in the sense that "clean" foods make it easier to manage one's weight, even though "a calorie is just a calorie."


Why the need to jab at people who do CrossFit? Sure, there are people in the mix that coach in ways that damage the body but there are plenty of people/coaches/gyms who focus on building sustainable athleticism (read: not breaking people's bodies).

You're welcome to your own opinion, of course, I can't change that; but what you wrote is just as silly as someone saying that they hold "black/white/asian" people in very low regard.


There is needless damaging going on. No screening and a retarded or no progression at all. With bad technique. If it would be just useless training, that would be ok. Most Fads are like this. But this actively harms people : see high rep box jumps and Achilles tendon ruptures, kipping pull-ups and SLAP lesions and high rep Olympic lifts and broken bodies. Short term results by pushing hard and resistance training for the first time in their lives. Then long term failure.


Because the term "unprocessed" carries its own ambiguities. Is cooking a steak a form of processing? I would say so. What about the mashing of potatoes? Ultimately, processed and clean are largely subjective.


Meh, the degree of processing can be hard to measure. Yes, I agree. But it's far more useful than clean and unclean. Because these are fantasy.

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/should-you-be-...

People just call clean, whatever they like/think is beneficial. Everything they deem harmful is unclean.


@enraged_camel: Yes, agree. Ad lib it's far easier to not overeat. My point being, that "clean" is too vague and misleading. Why not say unprocessed.

Agree on the crossfit comment.


Because "unprocessed" means - nothing that's been processed by humans. That means no salt. No ground pepper. Which is obviously silly BUT there are purists in the primal/paleo community that do follow the guidelines of eating unprocessed food.

Is the word "clean" slightly ambiguous? Sure. Is English as a natural language ambiguous? Definitely. I'm not going to go write an entire article about what "clean" means to me then reference said article every time I try to talk about "eating clean".

Your agreement with the above poster about "holding CrossFitters in very low regard" is just as childish as the statement you're agreeing with. How would you feel if I decided to belt out saying (or agreeing) that something you do which can't possibly be represented by any one generalization is something I hold in very low regard?

I'm not about to get my feelings hurt across the internet - but I promise if you do go about your life acting like that you will hurt someone's feelings.


People just call clean, whatever they like/think is beneficial. Everything they deem harmful is unclean.

So it's useless. Regarding Crossfit: There are some very valid reasons I think very badly about CF. It has amazing marketing and can offer a great community (though cult-like). But harms a lot of people long term > see comment above.


Please read the entire link I posted above. He's rebutting the "calorie is a calorie" thesis, not endorsing it.


It didn't bother me, though. Most of the article is about attitudes about healthy food in the processed foods industry, and about how that industry is trying to get you to eat more. One or two little mentions about how fat is bad detract very little from the story. It'll take a while to root out 50 years of erronous dietary advice and conventional wisdom.


I think we all share the frustration of research being unable to give us conclusive answers about what works and what doesn't. Seems like good portions of nutritional studies over the past 100 years were either misinterpreted or even influenced by interested parties. We, the consumers, are paying the price.


Oh we do have answers on many questions. Just not 100% sure, because detailed experiments on humans are kind of hard to get through the ethic committee. Reading the available Pop science books/articles on nutrition however will probably just confuse people than help them.

What kind of questions do you have?


Well, as someone who has read some of the intermittent fasting, paleo and low-carb literature (including all of Taubes' monster tome GCBC) over the years, I continuously run into people pointing to articles (and perhaps studies?) of how all of the conclusions of these authors are incorrect and so we shouldn't believe the hype despite the dozens of pages of scientific references that some of these text propose.

I basically don't know who's right and who's wrong anymore, because everybody claims that everybody else has an agenda or is being intentionally misleading.

Having eaten paleo for several years and done low carb, keto, zig-zag and all that jazz under expert supervision, I still don't know if at the end of the day I'm killing myself. The chain of events that leads to atherosclerosis seems to be very poorly and inconsistently understood by mainstream medicine, and you hear vastly different interpretations of what your lipid panel numbers actually signify for your long-term health.

That's where my frustration is coming from.


It's so funny how, over the past couple of years, good-tasting food is now a "conspiracy".

When a Michelin chef meticulously constructs a dish to give you pleasure, he's a creative genius whose dedication to his art is applauded.

But when the people behind Snickers do it to give you pleasure, they're nefarious conspirators trying to manipulate you and keep you addicted.

Yes, people who make food are trying to make it taste better, minimize their own costs, and keep you coming back. Why is this suddenly considered "news"?

(I mean, the article is plenty interesting, it's just the sensationalism of calling it "food engineering", "addiction", etc. that bothers me.)


If you learn one lesson from The Great Recession, it should be that nefarious conspiracy is not necessary for horrific outcomes. You just need the correct arrangement a lot of self-focused, insufficiently thoughtful people trying to push a graph up and to the right.

If you talk to a chef who makes a tasty dish, they understand a lot about their influence on people's health, and the ones I know feel responsible for it. A human's evolved moral mechanisms work in that context.

But if you look at the property bubble and the related financial engineering, every individual had plausible deniability. They were just following orders/incentives/the market. They had no direct moral connection to the outcome of their actions, and by and large refused to think hard enough that they could see one. As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

The same applies to the modern epidemic of diabetes and obesity. The human cost of that is incredible, and we will be dealing with it for decades, possibly generations.

Many processed foods are engineered, and they are addictive. The way they are created, marketed, and evaluated isn't materially different that how tobacco products were made and sold. The only real difference is how society's attitude to those products has shifted.


Take a chicken. Roast it, with vegetables. Include some lightly steamed vegetables. Have some kind of gravy. If you really want it have some kind of honey glazing for the carrots.

That's a reasonably healthy meal.

Take the same chicken. Take as much meat off it as you can, and sell that as chicken breast etc. Mechanically recover other bits of meat from the carcass. Shape it into a tiny mouthsize bite, with salt and spices and fat and filler. Then cover it in a breadcrumb coating. Deep fry it. (That crumb coating soaks up the oils.) Serve it with a sugary-sauce. You now have something which is much cheaper than the roast chicken; it's much easier to eat; it's weirdly tasty; but it's also weirdly not satisfying.

And the reason this is done is not to create the best tasting food possible (the motivation behind Michelin starred chefs) but to cuts costs while getting people to buy more. They don't care about the pleasure you get - they only want your money.


Or take the same chicken, cover it in salt, buttermilk, and highly processed white flour, then fry it in duck fat like the New York Times does in this recipe:

http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/03/good-techn...

Is it conspiracy that they use some of the same techniques as the processed food industry, or is it just those are some of the basic techniques to make food taste good.


There are a couple of differences.

Look at that recipe - you have big bits of meat, with bones, and some salt / fat coating. You take a bite, and you chew it, and then you have to fiddle about getting bits off the bone.

Popcorn chicken is tiny. You pop one in, and you're reaching for the next one as you're chewing the first.

The recipe uses big bits of chicken. Popcorn chicken uses the bits of the carcass that would normally have been used for soup.

There are different ratios of fat to meat content - popcorn chicken has a lot more fat, because it has a lot more coating.

Both of them are tasty, but one has been engineered to be maximally tasty at minimal cost.


Those are good points. The confluence of maximally tasty and minimal cost can leads to very unhealthy food. I just don't like the intent that is implied when the article uses inflammatory phrases like science of addiction or designed to addict.


I agree that the language is really poor. It's a shame that it sells papers and documentaries.

Food could be a fascinating documentary. Instead we get "supersize me", which is fun but not rigorous.


molecular gastronomy does to some extent end up making junk food sometimes, using the same techniques and ingredients. But not many people can afford to get obese on it.


You fail to address the points the article presents about politics and media. The Michelin Chef is not pausing the children's favorite television show to inform them of the New COOL WAY To Eat Lunch! The chef is not bribing my representatives in Congress to get more obscure labeling so he can misrepresent what actually composes the product he's trying to sell me.

The Michelin Chef cares about the quality of the ingredients that goes into what he serves me. If he tries to pass off "Cheese Food" as cheese, a human enterprise that has existed on this planet for centuries, he will be rightly ridiculed and stripped of any credibility.


The reality is that 70% of adults are overweight because of Coca-Cola and Doritos, not because of fancy French restaurants. The scale is the problem, not the unhealthiness of a single serving of their product.


No, we're overweight because we overeat and don't exercise.


This, plus a million. Nobody wants to take responsibility for their own diet these days. Stop feeding your kids luncnables and prepare them a damn lunch! Put the chips down, and don't buy shit with HFCS in it. Make your own damn pasta sauce (Crushed tomatoes, green onion, and garlic, it's about as easy at buying prego, but with a million less sugars/salts) Walk places and take the stairs. (brief side note, living in the burbs forces one to drive to the front door of wherever your going. it sucks, I crave either urban walkability, or rural space to move)

Everybody wants to blame Kraft, and Nestle, and Coke for being fat. It's up to you, not some company, to decide what you eat.


Bleh.

I may as well respond by bringing up the mother of three who works 12 hour shifts at walmart was expelled from highschool and never had even the most basic idea of food preparation or culinary training. I suppose she should simply 'bootstrap up' like the rest of us did when we were in that situation. Hah, oh that's right, the vast majority here are college educated and in the top 15% of income earners.

This gets us nowhere. It's a circular argument that has been done to death.

If you want to argue that I (me personally) should know better, absolutely, if you want to argue someone in the bottom 50% should know better then go volunteer at a shelter.


Whoa!

In my country people who have never been to school or even know what a school is, ordinary farm labor workers or daily wage workers involved in construction work. Or people who work as a push cart vendors or name any low level work(Which probably you don't even know in the US exists) perfectly cook their own food and feed themselves.

But somehow in the US you need to go to Stanford to learn how to cook!


Or: in the US (and Europe, and other "developed" countries) you don't have to go to any school at all to learn that whenever you can blame a big company, that trumps any requirement for having sense.

For instance, take http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/921...

You actually need someone to take care of you so that you can't drink 9 litres of Coke per day, and if you do, the Coca-Cola Company is responsible?

I blame consumer protection laws, which have gone too far in some things. (In others, they haven't gone far enough.)


I don't think you need to be a top 15% earner to know to stop eating when you're full.


Did you read the article? If so I'd focus in on the "vanishing caloric density" section (and the rest of it too).

Not saying you don't have a good point, but it's not as mindlessly easy as you make it seem.


I don't think it's mindlessly easy--if it were, nobody would be obese. I just don't think American obesity demands a conspiracy theory or a lot of outrage to be explained. It's adequately explained by: there's no shortage of food and greatly diminished need for physical exertion.


Why can't it be some of everything? What you said in your comment, unhealthy foods being the cheapest and easiest, and these foods not causing satiety when eaten.


It can be some of everything, but some of everything sort of undermines the conspiracy theory, don't you think?


Actually, you should stop eating before being full. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hara_hachi_bu


Let me know how many calories of Coca Cola it takes to make you full.


Let me know how many times you've been forced to drink a Coke at gunpoint.


Every Michelin starred restaurant I've ever been to has made food that has made me contented at the end of the night, not craving more. Nor do I remember any of them specifically engineering their food so that I could eat it every day and not get bored of it.

Would people even pay for a dinner that left them feeling empty at the end of the night? I don't think so.

Let's not pretend that restaurants and junk food engineers have the same goals.


Engineering food to be "addictive" is no different than vendor lock-in. It's either a normal result of incentives, or a sinister Borg plot, depending on your perspective/narrative.


So when you start eating Snickers, that locks your stomach into not accepting Mr. Goodbar until a long "upgrade"?

I think there's a big difference from standard vendor lock-in, in that many different companies provide similar junk food.


The analogy is a very loose one: I mean more the general incentive to maximize profit to the detriment of customers, going right up to the line, but not over, where they stop paying you.


Sure, but it breaks in that customers don't have to buy from the company that got them hooked -- it drives them to buy from everyone who sells that, not just the initial "pusher".[1]

It's similar to the implausibility of group selection -- doing things for (unrelated) group members doesn't give a differential advantage for the doer's genes, so it tends not to happen. Likewise, techniques that hook you on "sugar-fat foods" ("superstimuli") in general benefit all companies in the market, not just yours.

So I don't think the vendor lock-in model has the same dynamic or is representative of the incentive set that food companies have.

[1] Pushers of illegal drugs have yet another dynamic at play, in which case finding a steady source of the drug is hard, so hooking one user will likely mean they buy from that pusher, not from dealers in general, due to the difficulties of navigating an illegal market.


You're right, the analogy doesn't entirely hold. But then, I used to have a hell of a Taco Bell/Mountain Dew addiction, and obviously couldn't get my fix anywhere else. :)

Food and willpower have a tricky relationship, because willpower is literally fueled by food (glucose). When you're well-fed, your willpower is high, but when your glucose is depleted, suppressing the instinct to reach for that donut is a non-trivial proposition.

I think it's absurd to hold super-stimuli providers legally or morally responsible for poor nutrition habits; they're giving people what they want. But I do think it's helpful for consumers to view Doritos and Coke in the same category as other risky behaviors with high addiction potential: cigarettes, gambling, etc.


>You're right, the analogy doesn't entirely hold. But then, I used to have a hell of a Taco Bell/Mountain Dew addiction, and obviously couldn't get my fix anywhere else.

That's a good point, and it would be interesting to learn what keeps consumers from searching for substitutes. I guess that marketing and branding makes people so strongly associate the good feeling with one very specific brand, which makes them not want to seek out all a low-bidder.

Otherwise, I think we're in agreement, and we have to recognize that the effects of the foods make people deviate from the "level-headed decision maker" that justifies leaving people to their own devices.


I agree with you 100%. However, I gotta say that the bit about pushing to increase Coke consumption on the extremely poor didn't sit right with me.

So they have this model called "drinks and drinkers" which tells them that heavy drinkers are their bread and butter because it is more efficient to get existing users to drink more than it is to find new 'drinkers.' OK, I get that. But how do they use this information? They identify poor people as potential heavy users and start targeting them by aggressively marketing to vulnerable areas and making smaller bottles that cost only 20 cents. Sure they'll have somewhat lower profit percentages but they can make up the difference in volume.

I follow the logic but here is my problem: is hawking the stuff off on Brazilians living in favelas really ok? You could make the case that it's a win/win scenario (Coke gets more money and poor people get Coke for cheaper than water) but the fact that they are being targeted because they are more susceptible to becoming 'heavy users' (read: addicts) seems nefarious to me.


I do occasionally enjoy pointing out to people that the soda/pop/cola they've bought is a drink designed to disappear. The water is carbonated, so that you do not savour the drink but immediately try to gulp it down. There is phosphoric acid and a surprising amount of sodium, which both make you salivate, so that you briefly feel that you're refreshed -- and then your saliva is depleted so that your mouth goes dry. The other ingredients -- sugar, flavorings, and caffeine -- are essentially the same mixture which makes coffee so popular. The huge difference from coffee is that cola's design allows you to not merely sip at it as part of your morning routine, but gulp it down while you're not even paying attention, then reach thirstily for... presumably another cola.


Exactly. Whenever I see an ad for cola with some variant of 'delicious and refreshing' I feel 'Well, why don't you just drink water? Sure its not delicious but certainly refreshing'. One thing that genuinely does refresh is lemonade; I wonder why that hasn't caught up though.


>>One thing that genuinely does refresh is lemonade; I wonder why that hasn't caught up though.

When was the last time you saw a lemonade ad?


Lemonade tastes great fresh, but it very noticeably tastes worse when canned/bottled. I think that disparity keeps it from being able to challenge carbonated sodas on a large scale.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WY_JKz9detM


In France you can get citron pressee in any bar, they just take a fresh lemon, ice, water and sugar (mix yourself how you like). Just keep some lemons in the fridge... it takes seconds.


Some big sit down chain restaurants in the US do a good fresh lemonade. California Pizza Kitchen comes to mind, and I'll often order it. But there is still all that fast food and canned/bottled/vending machine consumption to deal with.


Can we not build a robot real lemonade dispenser?


Do you live near a Hot Dog on a Stick? I don;t think a robot could compete. And if it did it would be sad for the lemonade stompers...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v...


Thank you, I actually never researched this. It is different than drinking green tea, where i juggle it inside my mouth, play around with taste then swallow it :)


Yeah, one of the things I like about drinking a good cup of hot coffee or tea is that spending a half hour or so savoring a single cup feels perfectly natural. There's a time limit in that it'll eventually get cold, but with a good pot and a good mug it's not all that hard to spend all day drinking tea without actually consuming all that much of it.


... "As a culture, we’ve become upset by the tobacco companies advertising to children, but we sit idly by while the food companies do the very same thing. ..."

Why aren't parents more responsible for their children's health?

As a parent myself, I know how damn hard it is for kids to eat anything consistently, especially "healthy" foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. And our kids have snacks in moderation.

It seems to me that if parents were more "responsible", which is a horribly generalized term, then the food executives wouldn't have private meetings to discuss how to deal with obesity - their products would have adapted to the healthy market.

Parenting is hard. Being a "responsible" parent is harder. Tough shit.


I've not found it difficult to get my kids (2 teenage daughters) to consistently eat healthy foods. Hell, we can't keep fresh fruits and vegetables in the house. A one pound bag of baby carrots lasts about a week, one pound bunch of bananas: about 3 days, a pint of blue berries: About an hour (blue berries never last long at our house). The list goes on, but that's not the point.

I don't think it's really a responsibility thing. I don't know any parent that _want_ their kids eating junk, but fresh fruit and vegetables are actually quite expensive and far more difficult to keep than your average junk snack. That's the hard part: justifying the higher cost and spoilage when you're just barely making the bills.

Most of my childhood was spent right at the government assistance threshold. During the down times, our health increased, and our dit included more fresh fruit and vegetables. During the times above that line, with no assistance, the high cost of fresh produce meant meant that it wasn't around.

So, to answer your question, "Why aren't parents more responsible for their children's health?" Because they can't afford to be. Though there are many factors that contribute to the obesity problem, claiming it's poor parental responsibility is a useless over-simplification.

Btw, I've been parenting for 18 years now. When is it supposed to get hard?


I've two teenage kids albeit a little younger than yours.

I found one way to hack their stomach share is to stick cut fruits/carrots on the table when they're doing homework. Another technique is to introduce subtle variety into the shapes, kind of like how pop songs have the same tune but a lot of work goes into varying the accompaniment. With carrots, give them a mix varying thickness, length, tapers etc. Observe how they eat. They'll start to play with the shapes etc.

Since you have daughters and they'd listen if you knew something tricks that'd help with weight. Talk to them about set points.

The level of sugar, salt and fat we prefer depend on what our "set point" is. A set point is like a thermostat. It determines what we feel is comfortable or not.

If you go to developing countries, you will find cakes and biscuits that are very plain tasting. It isn't because they don't know how to make cakes and biscuits. It is because the people have a different preferred set point. If you serve them typical American desert, they will actually react in disgust because it is overpowering.

The same with soft drinks. A person who consumes soft drinks regularly raise their set point for sugars. To the extent they will no longer drink plain water. One only has to look around at their friends to realize this is going on.

The trick though, is this - the set point can be altered. There are two parts to this - water, and attention.

Drinking plain water regularly will, after six to 12 months, increase your preference for water. It will also alter your set point that after a while, you will find rich foods a little too rich for your liking. Going cold turkey for two weeks can be very helpful when starting out. Initially, water will taste disgusting. But your ancestors have been drinking water for millennias. Put up with it for a while and your set point has to be down-regulated. I personally know of someone who lost 15 kgs from just changing their water-drinking habit alone.

Paying attention is another method. One of the common problems is food manufacturers have flavored their food to suit inattentive eating. Paying attention to the sugars in your foods will cause you to notice how overpowering it is. The same with salt.


>>It is because the people have a different preferred set point. If you serve them typical American desert, they will actually react in disgust because it is overpowering.

As a Indian I realize how true this is. People from my workplace generally bring chocolates when they come back from the US work assignment. I find it strange that chocolates are so cheap and easily accessible in the US.

I find that as an over dose of sugar. I mean one chocolate down and I don't feel like I need sugar for the next 2 days. That is how much I feel full and yet I see kids in US munching them all the time.

Its just how you are seasoning your body to it.


Yes yes yes, a thousand yes! Thanks for saying that. Drinking soda is the start of all problems.

Kids should drink only water, every day, all day.


... fresh fruit and vegetables are actually quite expensive and far more difficult to keep than your average junk snack.

Great points - and, besides the expense, even having access to fresh fruits and vegetables can be difficult for some.

Unfortunately, I over-simplified my view, but parents are a huge influence in their kid's behavior and choices. And the analysis of a market changing to be more healthy is not new - Frontline investigated this several years ago:

"The investment analyses -- and there have now been three of them that I'm aware of: one from UBS Warburg, and J.P. Morgan in Great Britain, and another from Morgan Stanley in the United States -- all three of them say the same thing, that if people start losing weight, they're going to have to be eating less. Eating less is going to be bad for business, and it's going to be much worse for some businesses than others, so that if these food companies don't fix their product mixes to make healthier food products, and market them in a way that emphasizes the healthfulness of food products, especially those that are lower in calories, they're going to be left behind in this mass movement towards more healthful eating."[1]

[1] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/diet/themes/th...


Because they spend 50% of their waking hours in school where it is impossible to monitor exactly what they're eating. Parents do take responsibility for what their kids eat at home. The alarm comes from schools marketing unhealthful food to them when we can't be there to ensure they make good choices.


You could lobby the school to make sure there are NO "snacks" available, anywhere, anytime, ever.

I don't know how it works in the US but here in France if there were vendor machines in the schools where my kids go to, or if they were served hamburgers or fries at lunch, I would be up in arms, and eventually I would take them to another school (they're in a normal state-run school BTW, not a fancy private school).

My kids drink only water, at home... or in school!

It may be impossible to monitor what our kids eat during the day, but it's certainly possible to make sure schools don't feed them junk food just because it's more convenient.

Also, I don't think it's up to (young) kids to "make choices", good or bad. We make choices for them (we being parents and tutors). Schools should ONLY offer healthy food, and nothing else.

That's what schools are for: educate.

Offering a mix of healthy and unhealthy food for kids to choose is like teaching maths by offering either to watch TV or practice math problems, and expecting kids to not choose TV.

I wouldn't call such a place a "school".


The alarm comes from schools marketing unhealthful food to them ...

How are schools marketing unhealthful food? (I'm assuming this is different from the school lunches.)


I think this is starting to change, slowly, but many schools do/used to get kickbacks from snack vendors in exchange for placing their products in vending machines in the school.

"Oh, you need new uniforms for the basketball team? We can help you with that. Just put our machine in the hallway, and our logo on the scoreboard." This is not hypothetical; this is how things were run when I was in school.


Look's like I'm having humble pie for dinner tonight ... hopefully Swanson's.

Our poll used a unique design to get at what is actually happening in the life of a "target child" in each household. We supplemented their responses with more than 800 that came in when we asked parents, through NPR's Facebook page, to describe their own "crunch times."

The most striking finding is that U.S. parents "get it."

When we asked a parent or other principal caregiver in our poll how important it is that their child eats and exercises in a way to maintain a healthy weight, more than 9 in 10 said it was important — and most said it was "very important."

But all too often, there's a disconnect. Despite good intentions, it's not happening. [1]

[1] http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/02/25/172717996/how-cru...


That's quite the red herring. The same argument could be applied regarding children smoking cigarettes, but I presume* that you don't think that the doors should be thrown wide open to kid-focused tobacco advertising because parents should be "more responsible for their children's health".

You do realize that you're saying "tough shit" to the children too, right? You know, those whose outcomes are the whole point of these discussions? They're ultimately the ones who have to deal with the consequences the most, and for some reason dismissing their stake in this with "you should have thought about that before you decided to have irresponsible parents" doesn't seem to hold much water.

Note that I'm not making a point for or against regulation of advertising unhealthy foods to children, but dismissing the comparison to tobacco with "parents should be responsible" is beyond silly.

*If my assumption is wrong and you are actually in favor of completely allowing the advertisement of tobacco to kids, then never mind, disregard this comment.


None of this stops us restricting cigarettes to adults only and banning smoking in school, and it shouldn't stop us placing the same restrictions on junk food.


No, it shouldn't stop the regulation of "junk food", but some parents will say, "Why are you telling me I cannot feed my family this?", and food companies will obviously complain as well.

In my opinion (as a casual observer), the regulation of "junk food" will be nearly impossible.

Edit: Fixed typo.


And my answer to that would be, "I'm not telling you you can't let your children eat junk food at home, any more than I'm telling you you can't let your children smoke at home. I'm just saying I don't want your children doing either of those things at school, because I don't want other children to have to deal with a social environment where those things are regarded as normal behavior."


I don't want your children doing either of those things at school, because I don't want other children to have to deal with a social environment where those things are regarded as normal behavior.

This is literally no way in which this could backfire.


So, you follow your children 24-7 and monitor everything they eat?


Well, they're all under the age of four...

I understand the downvotes since I knew my post would be controversial in its unfortunate generalization. Parenting is not easy - and a bunch of hand waving and saying "tough shit" doesn't make it better.

However, parents do have a significant role in the obesity in children. I would like to hear an argument that it's solely the food companies' fault and not the parents. (And please understand that I am not a champion of any sort of these food companies.)


"The snack that Dunn was proposing to sell: carrots. Plain, fresh carrots. No added sugar. No creamy sauce or dips. No salt. Just baby carrots, washed, bagged, then sold into the deadly dull produce aisle."

Ha, I've actually been doing this since I was a teenager. It's really fantastic for managing junk food cravings, which arise not because I'm hungry, but because I just like to have something to chew on while I work (especially while programming). A one-pound bag lasts me about three hours and is more-or-less guilt-free.


I'm curious how many pounds per sq. inch carrots require to chew. The article pointed to 4 as the magic number.

I wonder if there's a way to engineer healthy food to taste better without actually adding any ingredients. Maybe through bio-engineering or the like. Or maybe injecting them with air or drilling out little holes.


He seems to have brought his junk food carrots to market, except for one thing: they now contain 200mg of sodium.

http://www.babycarrots.com


People want to blame others for their problems. Whether it's junk food, drugs, joblessness, etc. The fact is you can't get fat if you don't consume the calories. Everyone I know who has restricted calories has lost weight.

I was 210, and lost 70 lbs by restricting my caloric intake (by eating vegan). I ate sugar during this time. I ate carbs.

Every single person I know who's overweight simply eats too much. They also are the first to tell you that its not as simple as eating too much. It is.


>People want to blame others for their problems. Whether it's junk food

Sure, personal responsibility and all. That doesn't imply that a drug-pusher/dealer isn't an asshole.


The human body has mechanisms for making you Hurt Real Bad when you don't have more calories coming in then going out. Maybe your ancestors had more reliable access to food resources and didn't have to develop these responses. The human population on this planet is incredibly varied. Good for you that you and the people in your social network do well following what you describe as a calorie-restricted diet.

The self-satisfied responses to your N=1 sample size study, just because it validates the commonly accepted nutritional orthodoxy is what makes me fear for the public policies that come out of this debate.


The science is pretty basic. It's the law of thermodynamics. Your body can't magically create fat or other weight from calories you don't have.


The number of calories are measured in a food using a bomb calorimeter can be different from how many calories of the digested food are available for use to the human body. Also, some foods require more energy to be broken down. Some foods can trigger secondary effects that change behavior which could alter metabolism.

Now, I think those secondary considerations have a small impact on overall calorie consumption. For just about any food, a calorie measured by a bomb calorimeter is probably just about a calorie available to move the body, maintain the body, or stored in fat for later.

The body is a tough thing to study objectively.


I don't think that's really OP's point. The point isn't that 1 calorie for me = 1 calorie for you. We know for a fact that the digestive performance of people can vary greatly, and caloric use varies greatly also depending on person and activity level.

The high variance is really besides the point, which is that if you are gaining weight, you are consuming too much for your current situation. You can either work to expend more, or reduce your intake, both of which are perfectly reasonable options.

There is no objective measure for eating too much, but it's also trivially easy to find out if you're eating too much for you.


>You can either work to expend more, or reduce your intake, both of which are perfectly reasonable options.

Perhaps I should be more clear: Your body has mechanisms for defeating your ability to work to expend more (fatigue), and driving you to eat (cravings, hunger pangs). I'm not arguing with your basic premise: you must consume less then you expend. I'm arguing with your "calorie is a calorie" dogma. For insulin insensitive people (read: overweight people), 1 calorie of fat will satisfy you more (turning on the satiety mechanism) better then 1 calorie of sugar will.


>The science is pretty basic.

Actually it's not. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metabolism


Over the past week or so I've seen a lot of food and diet related articles make the front page, and in the comments everyone is going on about how great their favorite diet is and how the science proves that it is the most effective way to lose weight. None of these people show any evidence however that their weight loss came from anything other than calories out > calories in. It's refreshing to see at least a few people like yourself who believe otherwise.


Out of all of the articles that I've read regarding weight loss, none seem to refute that: lowering calorie intake, and some moderate exercise will result in healthier body.

If you want to reach a certain aesthetic then that's fine, but as far as I know the "obesity problem" is more about a persons health and well being, not being aesthetically pleasing.

So we can sit here and point fingers at what diet is best or whether or not we should cut fats out of our diet, but at the end of the day the true issue is simply people do not have the will to exercise, and they either do not have funds or the will to eat a healthy amount of calories.


I love that you say some anodyne things and then, with no actual facts or reasoning, conclude that the "true issue" is something that fixes blame and dodges the issues raised in the article. And, naturally, is a classic example of the fundamental attribution error at work.

As somebody who has gone over the past decade from no exercise to running 15+ races and is now training for my first triathlon I am happy to say that "will to exercise" is not actually the problem for anybody I know. That certainly wasn't my problem.

The good news is that people actually study this for a living. If you want a readable introduction to the limits and uses of willpower, McGonigal's The Willpower Instinct is a fine place to start understanding why, "Oh, those people are just weak," is a lazy and wrong answer.


My questions are:

a) Were you considered obese or over weight before you started training for these races?

b) If exercising wasn't the problem, then was it food choices? Did you have to resort to something other than simply lowering calorie intake to reach (and maintain) a healthy weight.

Your also correct I haven't posted any references, my exposure to dieting/lifestyle changes and weight loss is little more than what I hear from colleague, what few articles pop up on hacker news, CBC radio and the little research I've done myself.

Also thank you for the book recommendation, I'll be sure to check it out.


I think it's about more than willpower and means, though. It's about education, having an example set for you, having healthy behaviors psychologically reinforced, food availability (cf. "food deserts"), awareness of marketing (most people think they're unaffected by marketing, but they're not), ...


Silly: spoonfeeding junk-food CEOs facts about obesity, in the vain hope they'll take their share of responsibility. What, did anybody imagine they didn't know they sell the food equivalent of crack to our kids? They're not idiots; they make money doing this, and are responsible to shareholders.


I can entirely believe that they don't know.

I think they find plenty of other things to think about, and they are so removed from the consequences of their actions that they can easily avoid the truth. They just keep those graphs moving up and to the right, mouth some platitudes about "an appropriate part of a balanced diet", and keep cashing those paychecks.

People can avoid thinking about human costs when they are stepping over bums on the street. I have no doubt that they can do it from the 33rd floor of an office building.


Responsible to their shareholders to avoid the deluge of lawsuits that will come; it will be like tobacco, you can see the tide turning. That was their chance to change course.


They've had that info on their desks for a decade. They've had a chance every single day to do the right thing.


When designed in the way described in the article junk food is pretty much a superstimulus. Those are problematic not just among food: http://lesswrong.com/lw/h3/superstimuli_and_the_collapse_of_....


Where is any mention of the disastrous consequences of the USDA "food pyramid" which has been drummed into children at school for decades, perfectly tracking the obesity "epidemic", and which promotes an obesity-causing high-carb, low fat diet.


Here's an article I wrote about this that contains an embedded video of 60 Minutes' "The Flavorists" which is closely related. http://www.humansarenotbroken.com/the-extraordinary-manipula...


Company finds out what people want and offers to sell it to them: News at 11!

Seriously, this hand-wringing is ridiculous. Excellent article here: http://reason.com/archives/2013/02/25/frito-lay-wont-make-yo...


Would you make the same argument about cigarettes? Heroin?


How is that relevant? This discussion is over junk food, a human fuel, a caloric substance.

Are you really asking why chips and snacks are thought of differently than a drug like heroin, or a drug delivery system like a cigarette? I'd say you're playing your hyperbole card a little too strong if so.


There's no bright line between food and drugs. Alcohol is a caloric substance, and also an addictive one. That's not to say that we shouldn't distinguish between potato chips and heroin, but it's not clear to me that foods are unproblematic by virtue of the fact that they're foods.


" small but crucial move: the industry should use the expertise of scientists — its own and others — to gain a deeper understanding of what was driving Americans to overeat. "

LMAO, they probably employ dozens of scientists trying to figure how to get people to eat more. Could the speaker have been any more clueless? He would have been better off pushing some solution that had been user tested not to hurt sales. E.g. use Stevia instead of sugar, cost goes up 5%, but sales rise to match as you capture some dieters you wouldn't otherwise or something. Instead he told them to research getting people to want less of their product.


Yes, they sit around in smoke-filled rooms scheming about how to make kids fatter and fatter. They in fact would like nothing better than if all children died of diabetes before they reach puberty.

They do like we all do. Try to develop a product, test it, refine it, in order to sell more of it. One of the common mantras here is that its good to do A/B testing to get better conversion. But when General Mills does it, it's somehow evil?


Fucking right it's evil. That's because actions get moral consequences from results.

Once a year or so I end up in Vegas for a weekend. Every time, I look at all the electronic games and think, "Man, I could build something much more engaging and compelling than slot machines." And then I start thinking about cool products.

After about 10 minutes of this, I wake up and say, "But that would be wrong!" because I've finally gotten as far as thinking about the moral consequences of making Vegas even stickier.

I've turned down lucrative offers from entrepreneurs for similar reasons. If I get rich by making the world worse, it's just an elaborate scam, taking advantage of weakness and ignorance to fill my bank account.


>One of the common mantras here is that its good to do A/B testing to get better conversion. But when General Mills does it, it's somehow evil?

I doubt people's objection is to the methods. It's probably to what they're used for. A/B testing is not inherently evil. However, to illustrate with an example (not necessarily related to the discussion), if I were to do A/B testing to determine the best way to sell heroin to little children, then what I am doing is evil. It is irrelevant that I'm using a method used by legitimate people.

I would find no sympathy if I said that selling heroin using these methods is fine just because you use these methods to sell your mail app or whatever.

GP's argument is easy to understand: Companies are trying to sell more of their product. This is their primary aim. Their product is suboptimal for children's health. Telling them to sell less isn't going to work because they don't care about this. It's not that they're intentionally malicious. It's just not a priority. Therefore, if you want them to sell healthier product, convince them of a business opportunity.

There's no value judgement in that.


When we do it, it's sometimes evil - see http://darkpatterns.org/.

But we're not poisoning people, even in the worst case. All we can do is screw up the internet.


Food companies aren't poisoning people either. People are poisoning themselves.

You can make the case that these "poisonous" snack foods are so appealing because they are cheap, because the government only gives subsidies to agriculture used in making junk food, but that's a stretch & still assumes there are no other options (like eating healthier or eating less).


Your implied intellectual model here is that people are entirely in control of their actions and are (or at least can be) perfectly rational about them.

That's far from the truth. These junk food brands spend enormous amount of money on advertising, product placement, and other ways to influence consumers. Why? Because it works to manipulate them.

See, for example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Cognitive_biases http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_economics

Or talk to anybody who works in mass-market advertising. Or hell, just visit Vegas. If people were rational actors, Las Vegas would still just be a place where the Hoover Dam workers lived.



There were only 2 comments on it then, barely worth linking to.


The food that is most readily available to us is the food that is most profitable.


but NYT, why some stupid equation on the top? http://commandcenter.blogspot.com/2010/08/know-your-science....


If restrict the tone of dicussion to calories, fat, carbs and proteins, it is just not going to work out.

If something has been learned in the last 10 years is that whole foods matter and that you cannot reduce them to their macronutrient profile. Two foods with identical profile yield totally different results.I recommend to read Willet book on eat, drink and be healthy. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/eat-drink-and-be-healthy-wal...


1 second on the lips, for a lifetime on the hips.

Doing the slow carb diet for over a year now. Lost over 50lbs. With the 1 day to cheat rule, I definitely ended up eating more candy, sweets, cake, chocolate, etc. than I would have at any other point in my life. Crazy as it seems, I developed a sweet tooth while on this diet! But it just goes to show, a calorie isn't a calorie because our body has functions and reacts differently at different times.


Soft drinks are one of the biggest offenders. Kids never fail to be amazed that there are the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar in one can of coke.


pg wrote on this some time ago: http://www.paulgraham.com/addiction.html


love articles on this subject.

somewhat related there is a great lecture about Sugar (sucrose vs fructose vs ethanol) and some history on HFCS in America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM


I read this last week when it was posted the first time (or maybe linked to on Twitter by pg). It reminded me of the details we heard about the cigarette manufacturers in the 80s and 90s. The junk food makers are operating in much the same manner.


Mediterranean Diet Can Cut Heart Disease, Study Finds:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/health/mediterranean-diet-...


Hacking the consumer.


you know the first thing I did upon loading this page is to go buy a bag of Doritos... thanks HN! It was very tasty!




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