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More Peer-Reviewed Evidence That There Is No Such Thing As A “Calorie” To Your Body
(Part III)

Caution: contains SCIENCE!

Even after the previous installment of this series, there are still people who believe that calorie intake—and calorie output via exercise—are the only factors that affect weight loss. Apparently my work is not done!

(This is a multi-part series. Go back to Part I, Part II.)

Empirical Evidence: A Calorie Is Not A Calorie When You Add Lots Of Coconut Oil Or Butter To Your Regular Diet

Take three groups of Wistar rats. One group gets free access to standard low-fat rat chow; the others get free access to both standard chow and a “high-fat chow”, 2/3rds of which is butter or coconut oil. (Hat tip to George Henderson for this one.)

Nutr Metab (Lond). 2007; 4: 4.
Long term highly saturated fat diet does not induce NASH in Wistar rats
Caroline Romestaing, Marie-Astrid Piquet, Elodie Bedu, Vincent Rouleau, Marianne Dautresme, Isabelle Hourmand-Ollivier, Céline Filippi, Claude Duchamp, and Brigitte Sibille
(Note: link is to fulltext.)

A fourth group of rats in this study ate a methionine- and choline-deficient diet, which was the primary subject of the study (a successful attempt to give rats fatty liver). Short version: deficiencies caused fatty liver, but massive fat ingestion (and “calorie surplus”) did not.

Unsurprisingly, the rats with free access to the rat version of buttered popcorn ate it. By the end of the diet, both the coconut and butter groups were consuming slightly more high-fat chow than regular chow, the butter group was consuming 30% more “calories” than the chow-only group, and the coconut oil group was consuming 140% more “calories” than the chow-only group!

If a calorie is a calorie, we would expect the rats to gain fat roughly in proportion to their calorie intake. Here’s what actually happened, from Figure 1:

Figure 2 from Romestaing et.al.

Figure 1 from Romestaing et.al.
The open triangles and dashed line represent the chow-only rats, the gray circles and solid line represent the butter+chow rats, and the black circles and solid line represent the coconut oil+chow rats.

Results: “Surprisingly, in spite of a larger energy intake, body mass was not affected in rats fed the high fat diets.” The chow+coconut oil rats ate 2.4 times as many “calories” as the chow-only rats—

—and gained exactly the same amount of weight.

Even the butter+chow rats ate 30% more “calories”, but gained only a non-significant amount of extra weight.

Errata?

Note that the graph above is partially incorrect: Table 3 gives calorie counts for each group, which agree with the figures quoted in the Results section but disagree with the graph. Apparently the calorie curve for the chow-only rats is shifted upwards, and the calorie curve for the butter+chow rats is just plain wrong! (Or Table 3 is wrong…I’ll pass on any additional information I find.)

Why It’s Important To Report Absolute Change, Not Just Relative Change

The study makes much of the extra WAT (white adipose tissue) gained by the coconut oil+chow rats—62% more—but as the rats started with very little fat, the total gain was approximately 8.4g versus 5.6g for the chow-only rats, for a difference of appx. 2.8g of fat on a 450-gram rat.

In human terms, that’s a 0.6% difference in bodyfat percentage…just under a pound for a 160-pound human.

This, gentle reader, is why it’s important to look at absolute percentages, not just relative percentages…a 62% increase in almost zero is still almost zero. (And this is why so many drug trials report relative risk…a 40% decrease in mortality sounds great until you discover that your absolute risk dropped from 1 in 200 to 1 in 333. Meanwhile, the chance of harmful side effects has stayed the same—and it’s usually far greater than the chance of being saved.)

Conclusion: A calorie is not a calorie when you add lots of coconut oil or butter to your regular diet.

Empirical Evidence: A “Calorie” Of Almonds Does Not Equal A “Calorie” Of Complex Carbohydrates

Take 65 obese and insulin-resistant people. Divide them into two groups, and place each group on a different 1000-calorie starvation diet for 24 weeks. (Another hat tip to Kindke for bringing this one to my attention.)

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Nov;27(11):1365-72.
Almonds vs complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program.
Wien MA, Sabaté JM, Iklé DN, Cole SE, Kandeel FR.
(Fulltext available here.)

The study subjects were in bad shape. Mean BMI: 38, weight: 250# (113kg), fasting blood glucose: 152 mg/dl, fasting insulin: 46 ulU/ml (320 pmol/l). Note that a reasonable fasting glucose measurement would be <100 mg/dl, and reasonable fasting insulin would be <9 ulU/ml...so these subjects exhibit classic signs of the metabolic syndrome in addition to being obese.

Now, here comes the interesting part: Just over half the 1000 calories were fed as either "self-selected complex carbohydrates" ("peas, corn, potato, pasta, rice, etc.") or as unsalted, unblanched almonds. I'll skip to the punchline:

Figure 2 of Wien et.al.

Figure 2 of Wien et.al.

That’s 43 pounds lost (19.5kg) for the almond group versus 26.6 pounds lost (12kg) for the complex carbohydrate group.

The authors quote, with typical scientific understatement: “The difference in weight loss was unexpected, given the study design featuring a matched prescribed total calorie intake and equivalent levels of self-reported physical activity between the groups.”

Furthermore, we can see that the “complex carbohydrate” group had plateaued by week 16 (92% of total weight loss after 67% of the time), whereas the almond group was continuing to lose weight at the end of the study (only 77% of weight loss after 67% of the time).

“Calorie math” says that to lose 16.4 more pounds, the almond group would have to have eaten 340 fewer “calories” per day…that’s 2/3rds of the “calories” in the almonds!

Even if we only count the 11.1 pound difference in fat mass lost (see Table 3), “calorie math” requires the almond group to have eaten 230 fewer “calories” per day.

Yet the subjects were voluntary inpatients at a medical clinic, where access to food was controlled. Additionally, “Subjects did not differ in their self-reported evaluation of the acceptability of their assigned dietary intervention in terms of satiety, palatability and texture at weeks 0, 8, 16 and 24,” and “Both groups had equivalent levels of noncompliance…during the 24-week intervention.” So cheating by either group seems unlikely, unless you posit that almonds give you the magical ability to jog for half an hour every day without anyone else noticing—and lie about it.

There were dramatic improvements in health markers for the almond group, which I’ll leave as an exercise for my readers. (Hint: see Table 3.)

Conclusion: A “calorie” of almonds does not equal a “calorie” of complex carbohydrates.

Our Story So Far

Using peer-reviewed science and publicly available population-level statistics, we’ve proven that:

  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it at a different time of day.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it in a differently processed form.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it as a wholly different food.
  • Controlled weight-loss studies do not produce results consistent with “calorie math”.
  • And, therefore:

  • “Calorie math” doesn’t work for weight gain or weight loss.

The juggernaut continues to roll! Continue to Part IV, Protein Matters…and feel free to stir up some controversy by sharing this article with the widgets below.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.

JS

(This is a multi-part series. Go back to Part I, Part II.)


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41 comments

Permalink: More Peer-Reviewed Evidence That There Is No Such Thing As A “Calorie” To Your Body
(Part III)
  • […] / Posted on: June 17, 2013GNOLLS.ORG – Even after the previous installment of this series, there are still people who believe that […]

  • Asclepius

    Another fine installment!

    The whole ‘calorie is/n’t a calorie’ debate has become rather laboured to the point where it isn’t very useful and much of the disagreement is semantics. There is some common ground between the ACIAC and NSTAAC groups, who’d both agree that:

    – ‘Isocaloric is not isometabolic’
    – Fitness, strength and body composition are moving targets. Our bodies are adaptable, and, static inputs will not cause static outputs (an obvious example of this is our having to change reps and weights in a strength-training routine to make it more challenging).
    – The SLOT is immuteable!

    On a personal note, I hope you are managing to take advantage of spring/summer!

  • Keeli Kaye

    Thank you, J. Stanton, for another great post in this extremely interesting series! I love the work you do – it’s informative and accessible, which is a combination that many try for and few achieve.

  • Carole AKA Carbsaner

    Thank heavens you find time to post occasionally, J!! You make the internet a saner and more interesting place.

  • Whilst on the topic of NSTAAC, I happened to find a study looking at diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT) between two isoenergetic meals – one 'wholefood' (WF) and one 'processed' (PF). On average, WF DIT was nearly double PF DIT!

    • “A higher thermogenic response was observed after a meal composed of whole foods than after an equivalent and isocaloric meal comprised of highly PFs. The lower DIT of the PF meal indicates greater net-energy assimilation.”

    Of course we kind of know this as cooking and other forms of processing begin the process of digestion long before food reaches our stomachs.

  • Adan Kosloff

    Yay to J Stanton! LOVE this series. CICO = madness and flat-earth-ery. Thanks for your good work exposing it :)

  • Pipsqueak

    All I know is that if I eat too much and don’t get enough exercise I get fat.
    I started the mosely 5:2 regime in January. Involves limiting to 600 cals two days a week .it is brilliant and I can do it, I feel so much better. I have lost 21lbs in 20 weeks. On my five days off I just eat as normal- lovely, it’s the only way. By the way humans are not rats! Today I met a bloke who went on about his bad knee, he must have weighed more than 18stone, 250lbs, Doctors not interested, just give him pills, he said he wanted to see an osteopath. I didn’t have the heart to say lose some weight- perhaps I should have?

  • Albert

    When referring to the rat study you say “Even the butter+chow rats ate 30% more “calories”, but gained only a non-significant amount of extra weight.”

    Eyeballing Figure 1B, it seems that the butter fed rats reached about 550 grams, whereas both the coconut fed rats and the chow only rats reached only about 450g. This difference, if extrapolated to a 200 lb man, would be about 40 lbs, clearly not insignificant.

    1) Am I missing something?
    2) If I’m not missing anything, do you think the difference between coconut oil and butter is also that significant in humans?

    Thanks
    Albert

  • Valerie

    Hi,

    sorry to nitpick, but figure 1A doesn’t seem to show 30% and 140% increases in energy intake to me. It looks more like 50% and 75% or something like that. Can you double-check?

    Thanks,

    Valerie

  • Asclepius:

    Fortunately the rabid “calories uber alles” zealots (none of whom were ever paleo anyway, to my knowledge) seem to have moved onto attacking each other and leaving us alone.

    However, the mainstream is still full of naive CICO/ELMM advice (“calories in calories out”, “just eat less and move more”, “just eat one less slice of bread per day”) — and I write these articles for those new to paleo, as well as those needing ammunition against well-meaning but naive questions like “Have you tried Weight Watchers?”

    Thank you for the DIT study link!  I'll discuss known and measured factors like DIT that affect CI vs. CO soon…for now I've stuck to the unexplained phenomena.

     

    Keeli:

    Thank you!  I try to end my articles with a summary and, if possible, a useful takeaway.

     

    Carole:

    I do my best. 

    After the controversy I kicked up with the first installment, I've noticed a surprising silence from the peanut gallery after these last two!

    My opinion: there are too many paleo and nutrition bloggers starting needless controversies in order to keep the page views coming, whether for profit or for self-aggrandizement — and it's confusing a lot of people, particularly those new to paleo.  In my case, if I don't have anything substantive to say, I try to resist saying it.

     

    Adan:

    As mentioned in the comments to the first installment, CICO is trivially true, because physics is true.  However, CI and CO are not independent quantities, and there are so many contingencies that it's impossible to measure either one accurately enough to predict the results…all you can do is figure out what happened in retrospect, which isn't useful when you're trying to figure out what to eat next.

     

    Pipsqueak:

    “All I know is that if I eat too much and don't get enough exercise I get fat.”

    That's true…but if you try to measure “too much” and “not enough” in “calories”, and extrapolate that to how fat you'll get (or how much food and exercise you'll need to stop getting fat or lose weight), you won't come up with the right answer.

    That's why I recommend that adjusting the amount of food you eat comes last, after you're already doing all the recommended steps from Eat Like A Predator: eat the right foods, stop eating the wrong foods, don't snack, challenge yourself physically (preferably outside), experiment with eliminating common allergens and irritants, etc.  THEN, if that isn't enough, try decreasing the amount of food you eat.

     

    Valerie:

    Table 3 of Romestaing et.al. (the rat study) gives exact figures for calorie intake at week 3 and week 16, from which I derived the percentages.  These are the same percentages the authors quote in the Results section…

    …however, the graphs, as you correctly note, don't appear to represent the same numbers. 

    The calorie curve for the chow-only rats has been shifted upward (actual range 45-73, apparent range 55-95).  The calorie curve for the coconut oil+chow rats appears to be about right, but the butter+chow curve is way off (actual range 62-95, apparent range 60-165).

    I'll add a note to that effect in the text.  No, peer-reviewed science is not infallible, even in “high-impact” journals!

     

    Albert:

    The lack of an asterisk above the weight graph means that the difference did not reach significance.  That threshold is usually P<0.05, a chance of less than 1 in 20 that the result was due to chance.

    Why would such a large difference not reach significance?  Because there were only four rats in each group. 

    Yes, it would have been nice if they used larger groups!  Rat studies aren't incredibly expensive, so I'm not sure why they didn't use, say, six or eight rats per group.

     

    JS

  • ItsTheWooo

    You’re blog is one of the few paleo site worth reading these days. Quality post as per usual :)

  • Mat

    Slight correction needed: “A calorie is not a calorie when you add lots of coconut oil or butter to your regular diet AND you are a lab rat.” Did they measure the activity levels of the rats?

    In the almond study, the almond group got their almonds by the researchers, while the carb group only got instructions which carbs to choose. That hardly qualifies as a neutral protocol, as people are way more likely to cheat when they are not supervised while choosing their food. If you allready got food, taking additional food is a higher mental hurdle than simply being “inaccurate” with the implementation of dietary guidelines.

    Anyway, great site and great content. I love to read it.

  • tatertot

    ““Calorie math” doesn’t work for weight gain or weight loss.”

    This is a way more accurate statement than “all calories are not created equal”. All calories are created equal when measured in the standard way, but they are not equal when eaten, as you’ve pointed out.

    My only critique is with the rat study…these were basically baby rats, age 3-15 weeks. You can’t really do a metabolic study on a fast growing baby mammal and make blanket statements–so much more is going on in fast growing babies than in adults. I’d like to see this same study done on fully grown rats or humans. If you saw a weightloss/metabolic study done on 6 month old human babies–you’d lol.

  • tatertot

    One more comment if you don’t mind…

    An explanation for the seemingly mysterious calorie mismatch from eating almonds can be found in this study:

    “[Whole Almonds] significantly attenuated second-meal and daylong blood glucose incremental area under the curve
    (AUCI) and provided the greatest daylong feeling of fullness. [Almond Butter] and [Almond Oil] decreased blood glucose AUCI in the morning period and daylong blood glucose AUCI was attenuated with [Almond Oil]. [Whole Almonds] and [Almond Oil] elicited a greater second-meal insulin response, particularly in the early postprandial phase, and concurrently suppressed the second-meal NEFA response. GLP-1 concentrations did not vary significantly between treatments.”

    If a food effects glucose and insulin as well as other metabolic properties, it throws the CICO model for a loop.

  • edster

    Interesting experiment here that supports your hypothesis: http://live.smashthefat.com/why-i-didnt-get-fat/

  • ITW:

    Thank you.  It's easy to get page views by causing controversies (EVERYTHING WE THOUGHT WE KNEW IS WRONG!!!1!!1!), but the recent examples I've seen are misleading oversells of something interesting but far less revolutionary than advertised — and they harm the greater community of people who are just trying to get or stay healthy by confusing them as to the message.

    There's a reason “Eat Like A Predator” hasn't changed meaningfully in over two years…I haven't yet found anything that redefines healthy eating.

     

    Mat:

    I saw no mention of activity levels in the study: let me know if you find any.

    Note that my contention is not that coconut oil makes “calories” somehow disappear by magic!  There is an explanation — whether through decreased absorption, increased thermogenesis, increased activity, increased protein synthesis, some combination of these, or something else entirely (I don't know).  The point is that if one can eat over twice as many “calories” and gain the same weight as someone else, counting calories is a less effective strategy than changing what we eat.

    As far as the almonds vs. carb source question, yes, it's possible that the carb group was cheating more than the almond group…but recall that the study was providing over half the calories in both groups, since the remainder of the diet was “Health Management Resources (HMR) 70 Plus, a protein-sparing formulation prescribed during LCDs to ameliorate the loss of lean body mass”.

    And even if the carb group was cheating more (despite daily detailed food logs and weekly reviews that booted anyone who deviated too much), then an interesting point still stands — which is it's easier to stay on a starvation diet of nuts than a starvation diet of “complex carbohydrates”.

     

    tatertot:

    They weren't “baby rats.”  Wistar rats become sexually mature somewhere between 5 and 7 weeks of age (depending on living conditions and which source you decide to cite), so they were adolescent rats for perhaps the first 2-4 weeks of a 12 week study. 

    That's an interesting paper on nut metabolism: thank you! As you may have noticed, I favor explanations that rely on established biochemical pathways –and while the effects in that study don't seem strong enough to account for all the observed differences, they're likely to be significant.  (There is also research suggesting that a significant amount of the fat in nuts isn't actually absorbed.)

     

    edster:

    I've seen it before, and it's an interesting link!  I'll probably bring it up later in the series.

     

    Thanks, everyone, for your interesting and informational comments.  I try to keep gnolls.org a safe place for civil and informational discourse…and so far I've been able to do that without heavy-handed moderation.  (I haven't yet blocked or deleted anyone for anything but blatant spam.) 

    Please help me keep it that way!

    JS

  • Matthew

    I think it is worth noting from the rat study that while the body weights were the same between the groups the rats on the butter and coconut fat diets were fatter than than the chow fed rats. The rats on the coconut fat diet also had a significant increase in the volume of their adipocytes.

    This suggests that they were channeling at least some of the excess calories into their adipose stores at the expense of lean tissue. I suppose the equivalent for a human would be becoming more “skinny fat” without gaining weight.

    The study also reports an increase in brown adipose tissue and uncoupling protein UCP1 and so the rats are likely to have increased their energy expenditure through heat production.

    “In our study interscapular BAT is larger, or tends to be
    larger, in the high fat fed groups, concomitantly with and
    increased content in UCP1, suggesting the implication of
    this tissue in fatty acid oxidation. BAT thermogenesis and
    UCP1 expression are known to increase during high-fat
    feeding, possibly to dissipate energy and to regulate body
    weight [35,47-49]. We can therefore postulate that rats
    can adapt to excessive lipid ingestion: firstly, by increasing
    the storage of fatty acids in peripheral white adipose tissues, and secondly by over-expressing the UCP1-related
    thermogenesis in BAT.”

    So they were both getting fatter and expending more energy to try to deal with the higher calorie intakes.

  • Matthew:

    Read my article more carefully: I already addressed the fat issue.

    “The study makes much of the extra WAT (white adipose tissue) gained by the coconut oil+chow rats—62% more—but as the rats started with very little fat, the total gain was approximately 8.4g versus 5.6g for the chow-only rats, for a difference of appx. 2.8g of fat on a 450-gram rat.

    In human terms, that’s a 0.6% difference in bodyfat percentage…just under a pound for a 160-pound human.

    So the fat difference was insignificant in real-world terms…especially when a nearly 100 gram weight difference between groups was considered non-significant because of the small sample size!

     

    Also note that the absolute amount of brown fat was even smaller: a 26% difference yields a whopping 67.5 extra milligrams of brown fat per coconut oil+chow fed rat. </sarcasm> 

    That's about one-twentieth of a teaspoon.  This 67.5 mg of brown fat must have been burning like a meterorite in order to burn through 105 kcal/day!

     

    JS

  • Matthew

    What I meant to add to that last comment is that the researchers only measured the retroperitoneal white adipose tissue by dissection and weighing which is difficult to do for other fat deposits. While a doubling of the relative fat mass from 1 to 2g/100g of body weight is not that much, it does not exclude an increase in fat in other areas of the body. This would include an increase in epididymal, and mesenteric fat tissues in the abdomen and also include increased subcutaneous fat in the rest of the rats body. So the authors would be treating a doubling of the retroperitoneal as representative of increased fat in other areas.

    As a normal Wistar rat could have a body fat percentage in the order of 10% a doubling of this to 20% is significant, as would be the case if all fat stores increased along with retroperitoneal WAT. This could be the equivalent of a human going from 20% to 30% body fat. I am just suggesting that this can indicate a bit more fat accumulation than just a 2.8g of fat on a 450-gram rat.

    It is a shame they could not have carried out a whole body scan to determine the total body composition.

  • Dave

    @ Matthew,

    I think you pose some valid points. Perhaps you could point to a similar rat study that does measure the fat mass you speak of? Conjecture does not prove anything. Even more so, how does this play out in clinical human trials on obesity? What are the mechanisms you propose that assumes ‘excess’ fat consumed simply must be stored and not used for fuel or excreted?

    Adipocyte Insulin Resistance

  • Matthew

    @Dave,

    I don’t assume excess calories must be stored. The rats in the study above were clearly burning off a lot of the extra calories as heat using their brown fat. I was just pointing out that the excess energy intake was not without adverse consequence for the rats involved and that the rats would have gained much more than 2.8g of fat/

    It isn’t easy to find accessible papers but this one is ok. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/133/4/1081.full.pdf

    It is not quite the same as after 10 weeks the high-fat diet rats were 10% heavier but they did have significantly more body fat in both the retroperitoneal pads and the epididymal pads. It also shows that the normal body fat for a healthy rat on standard food is about 10g/100 grams of body weight.

  • Dave

    Matthew,

    I think that the point that JS was trying to make is that simple calorie math, the idea that all calories are equal is indeed overly simplistic. The fact that fat storage distribution changes with macronutrient content is also indicative of biochemical processes that make simple calorie math unreliable. The argument is not that eating ‘more’ won’t make one gain weight. Instead macronutrient ratio plays a part in whether food consumed will be burned, excreted, or stored, and as you pointed out, where it will be stored. (Let’s not forget the role of LPL in determining the preferred locations of storage.)

    I personally am not concerned about what happens to rats in some experiment. I’ve done my own n=1. When I ate a high carb standard American diet with lots of sugars and starches, I was overweight. I currently eat a very high fat, low carb diet. Without having to count calories or do ‘exercise,’ I now have far less body fat around my abdomen. I weigh about 35 lbs. less than I used to and fit in jeans with a 30 inch waist.

    I’ve done this by ignoring the advice of government, media, and food industry ‘experts’ who insist that all I had to do was “eat less, move more.” I’ve done this in spite of a massive campaign to create ‘fat phobia’ among the general populace. To put it mildly, it irritates me that the damaging role of processed carbohydrates is constantly obfuscated in the interests of corporate profits. “Just eat less” is not good advice. Worrying about a few grams of fat distribution on some experimental rats won’t fix decades of damaging propaganda, but it is useful for confusing a lay public with conflicting messages.

  • Dave

    Who needs Zucker Rats when we seem to be breeding a new generation of “Zucker” humans.

    http://www.livescience.com/10367-9-month-olds-obese-overweight.html

    I guess these babies just need to ‘eat less, move more.’

    I saw this ‘value added product’ on the shelves of my local grocery store the other day:

    http://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/kelloggs-fruity-snacks-mixed-berry-fruit-flavored-snacks.html

    The first three ingredients are Corn Syrup, Sugar, and Apple Puree Concentrate. The third ingredient is still just ‘sugar’ with a fancy name. It has no real resemblance to natural whole apples just as corn syrup has no real resemblance to natural whole corn. But it sounds better than simply saying “apple sugar.”

    So, yes, this product is basically candy in a Cereal Box. Of course, since ‘a calorie is a calorie’ according to ‘experts,’ there’s nothing wrong with stuffing your face with pure sugar so long as you aren’t a lazy couch potato. Right…

  • Matthew:

    I like the rat study you linked (Woods 2003), because it bolsters my point: the low-fat purified diet group ate non-significantly fewer “calories” than the regular chow group, but weighed about 10% more by the end of the experiment.

    I agree: it's annoying that Romestaing et.al. didn't come up with a more accurate measurement of total bodyfat. 

    I do note, however, that the coconut+chow rats did not develop fatty liver, so the odds are that they did not develop lots of mesenteric fat either.  And since the rest of the paper is trying EXTREMELY HARD to dredge up harmful effects of the butter and coconut diets, I suspect that the increase in total bodyfat did not parallel the increase in retroperitoneal fat.

    Seriously: there were only four rats per group — and there are many accurate ways to measure bodyfat that are far cheaper than a DEXA scan, especially when the animals are dead (see Dahms 1982 for more information.)  For instance, they couldn't be bothered to put all four dead rats in a blender and separate out the fat, which is how such measurements are typically done…but they had time to surgically excise one single fat pocket the size of a teaspoon from each rat (which comprises perhaps 15% of total bodyfat), measure it accurately, prepare slides, and compare adipocytes under a microscope?

    That smells like shenanigans to me…

    …like they were trying very hard to engineer the results to show some harmful effect of the high-fat diet, because Everyone Knows a rat that eats over twice as many “calories”, many of them in the form of ArteryCloggingSaturatedFat from coconut oil, simply must have something terribly wrong with it!

    Anyway.

    Moving on: I still contend that one-twentieth of a teaspoon of brown fat cannot be responsible for burning off 105 kcal/day — more than the entire rest of a 450-gram rat.

    Let's do some math: one kcal raises the temperature of a kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius.  67.5 milligrams (the extra brown fat that the coconut+chow rats possessed) goes into 1 kilogram about 15,000 times.  Therefore, 105 kcal would raise the temperature of 67.5 milligrams of brown fat by about 1.5 million degrees Celsius.

    I rest my case.

    JS

  • Dave:

    You correctly grasp my larger point, which is that a “calorie” of one food does not equal a “calorie” of another food.  The effects may manifest themselves relative to total bodyweight, fat vs. lean mass (“nutrient partitioning”), body temperature, REE, TEE, or any of the other factors I mention in Part I and its comment thread.

    “I guess these babies just need to 'eat less, move more.'”

    That would be 'eat less, crawl more'.

    Fortunately, the medical advice given in the article was both food-related and sane (breastfeed exclusively; don't introduce them to cereal, fruit juice, or other sugar and junk food)…which gives me some faint spark of hope for the future. 

    JS

  • eddie watts

    typical. i normally check your blog daily, not done so for a week and so i’ve missed this update!!

    wil be sharing when i get home via FB etc. great work JS as always :)

    getting tempted to try something like normal diet +100g coconut oil a day for a few weeks myself, i get it pretty cheap from an ethnic indian shop (health store £15 for 500g but under £3 for same in indian store!) i also get all my spices there

    from looking at that 5900 cal diet a day guy keeping fat high and carbs very low (on fathead last week or so)

  • eddie:

    From the anecdotal evidence I've seen, the ability to eat a huge surplus of “calories” and not gain weight depends on being in ketosis…so proceed with caution. 

    However, I'll be interested to hear your results!

    JS

  • Bill Lagakos

    Excellent post, J. Indeed, there are many ways in which calories are not calories.
    Best,
    Bill

  • Bill Lagakos

    To all CICO proponents: the Laws of Thermodynamics are cool, but they are irrelevant when it comes to body composition and weight management in real life.

  • Bill:

    Thank you!  I like your hypothesis that small changes in nutrient partitioning are primarily responsible for fat accumulation in the long-term.

    For my readers: Dr. Lagakos writes at http://www.caloriesproper.com

    JS

  • EatLessMoveMoore

    Heard you got schooled by CarbSane, bro. Personally, I think anyone still in bed with that drunk bully Nikoley forfeits a bit of their credibility, but what do I know…

  • “EatLessMoveMoore”/”Melissa”/”CarbSeine”:

    Just as I told you before: “Don't expect a response to sockpuppeting or gratuitous pot-stirring.”

    JS

  • […] “More Peer-Reviewed Evidence That There Is No Such Thing As A “Calorie” To Your Body (Part III)” from Gnolls.org […]

  • John Baker

    This is a great series

  • John:

    Thank you!  There's more to come, too.

    JS

  • […] Part III: www.gnolls.org/3433/more-peer-reviewed-evidence-that-there-is-no-such-thing-as-a-calorie-to-your-bod…Cliffs: […]

  • Chris

    Just wondering HOW on the ncbi website we can view the graphs. I can only see the abstracts. I wanted to see how many calories they fed the obese people with almonds and without.

  • Chris:

    Click on the (Fulltext available here) link in my original citation and you'll be taken to the Nature website, with fulltext and all the graphs.  Pubmed only has the abstract.

    JS

  • david wilson

    I would be very interested to hear of any references to scientific research or reviews on the subject of ‘a calorie is a calorie’. Dieticians always trot this out in defence of their lfca doctrine ,but we all know that it doesn’t reflect real-life experience.

    I’m aware of Feinman and Fines’ refutation in Journal of Nutrition 2004. Id like to know your opinion of it as I’m a layman biochemically.

  • david:

    AFAIK Feinman's point is that the “metabolic advantage” shown in some low-carb diet trials is due to the inefficiency of gluconeogenesis.  This is plausible.  However, as I discussed in Part I, gluconeogenesis is just one of many possible fates of dietary energy.

    There are two parts to the calorie fallacy: “a calorie is a calorie” and the “3500-calorie rule”. Multiple studies directly disprove both of them: for the 3500-calorie rule, see Part II, and for “a calorie is a calorie”, see all the parts in the series!

    JS

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