A Calorie

…is not a calorie:

“Our current system for assessing calories is surely wrong,” said evolutionary biologist Richard Wrangham of Harvard University, the co-organizer of the panel.

In a wide-ranging discussion of how food is digested in everything from humans to rats to pythons, the panel reviewed a new spate of studies showing that foods are processed differently as they move from our gullet to our guts and beyond. They agreed that net caloric counts for many foods are flawed because they don’t take into account the energy used to digest food; the bite that oral and gut bacteria take out of various foods; or the properties of different foods themselves that speed up or slow down their journey through the intestines, such as whether they are cooked or resistant to digestion.

Of course, in addition to that, the thermodynamic theory of nutrition doesn’t take into account how your metabolism responds to different kinds of calories. In a just world, much of the lipophobic nutrition industry would be sued into oblivion, or in prison, bearing responsibility for millions of premature deaths, and sufferers of ill health. Instead, they still seem to be in charge of the FDA.

9 thoughts on “A Calorie

  1. cthulhu

    Boy, the comments over there are gruesome…

    Best site I know of right now for this stuff is Peter Attia’s http://www.eatingacademy.com. Peter is an aerospace engineer / MD / PhD with a passion for finding things out; the level of the science on his site is very high.

  2. Donna Hankey

    “In a just world, much of the lipophobic nutrition industry would be sued into oblivion, or in prison”

    As opposed to competing in a free market. So, you’re akin to Bloomberg, except you just don’t agree on which nutrition theory should be the one which justifies curtailing our freedom.

    1. McGehee

      Donna. Honey.

      Competing in a free market means that your outcome hinges on how the market reacts to what you’re offering.

      If the market reacts by suing you into oblivion, you might have chosen poorly.

    2. Dick Eagleson

      Part of a rule-of-law free market system is sanctions against fraud. Most of what the nutrition establishment has to say is verifiably fraudulent. I imagine that’s what Rand was getting at.

      With respect to calories specifically, calorie counts are determined by burning precisely weighed samples in a calorimeter and measuring the total heat output. Unfortunately, many foods contain constituents that will burn just fine in a calorimeter, but are not assimilable by the body, e.g. cellulose and lignin. A chunk of 2 x 4 will generate an impressive calorie count in a calorimeter, but a human body won’t assimilate any of it should it be eaten. Virtually all calorie counts are, therefore, misleadingly high and the degree to which they are off varies widely.

      More importantly, as Taubes demonstrates in his books, fat intake, regardless of its caloric content, is almost unrelated to either serum cholesterol levels or fat accumulation. I ate a heavily carb diet and tried to limit fat most of my life and got fat anyway. My diet since July has consisted almost exclusively of protein and fat. I’ve lost 40 pounds. Conventional caloric theory and nutritional dogma claim this to be impossible. Still, it moves.

  3. Der Schtumpy

    “…much of the lipophobic nutrition industry would be sued into oblivion.”

    Or at a minimum they’d get backed into a corner and at least one company would go “S & W”, and admit their ‘responsibility’ in the obesity problems, and outright ‘murder’ of purchasers of their products.

  4. agimarc

    It’s not the calories. It’s the carbs, which have been pushed ad nauseum by the feds via their fraudulent (and incorrect) food pyramid for the last 50 years. Take a look at Gary Taubes “Why we get fat (and what to do about it).”

    Taubes web site: http://garytaubes.com/

    1. cthulhu

      FYI, Attia and Taubes are the founders of the Nutrition Science Institute, which aims to do the rigorous experiments that are needed to answer all of these diet and health questions.

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