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Calorie Cage Match! Sugar (Sucrose) Vs. Protein And Honey (There Is No Such Thing As A “Calorie”, Part VI)

Caution: contains SCIENCE!

We’ve already proven the following in Part II, Part III, and Part IV:

  • 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.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it as protein, instead of carbohydrate or fat.
  • Controlled weight-loss studies do not produce results consistent with “calorie math”.

Next, we’ve proven the following in Part V:

  • Calorie counts on food eaten away from home are off by over 10%, with the lowest-calorie and most “healthy” items most likely to be underreported.
  • Even when cooking at home, our estimates of portion size and calorie content, both immediate and retrospective, are wildly inaccurate: the average error exceeds 50%.
  • Therefore, even if all calories were equal (and we’ve proven they’re not), the errors in estimating our true “calorie” intake exceed the changes calculated by the 3500-calorie rule (“calorie math”) by approximately two orders of magnitude.

And we’re not done yet!

Empirical Evidence: A Calorie Is Not A Calorie When You Substitute Protein For Sugar

(Hat tip to George Henderson for the next three studies. They’re fascinating, and there’s far more to discuss than the side effect of dismantling CICO and “calorie math”—but for now I’ll stick to the subject at hand.)

J Biol Chem. 2008 Mar 14;283(11):7196-205. Epub 2007 Dec 10.
cAMP-dependent signaling regulates the adipogenic effect of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Madsen L, Pedersen LM, Liaset B, Ma T, Petersen RK, van den Berg S, Pan J, Müller-Decker K, Dülsner ED, Kleemann R, Kooistra T, Døskeland SO, Kristiansen K.
(Full text)

“We show that n-6 PUFAs were pro-adipogenic when combined with a high carbohydrate diet, but non-adipogenic when combined with a high protein diet in mice.”

Both diets were purified lab chemicals, containing 25% corn and soybean oil by weight, and both were exactly the same, with one exception: the “high-carbohydrate” diet contained 20% casein (milk protein) and 43% sucrose (sugar) by weight, whereas the “high-protein” diet contained 54% protein and 9% sugar by weight.

Note that the mice were pair-fed by weight, not calories—so the high protein+corn oil group was eating 10% more “calories” than the high sucrose+corn oil group…and 33% more “calories” than the chow diet group. Therefore, according to the self-appointed “guardians of science”, they should have gained 33% more weight.

Figure 2B, Madsen 2008

Meanwhile, back in reality, the high-sucrose group gained over six times as much weight as the high-protein group, despite consuming fewer “calories”…

…and the chow group gained exactly the same amount of weight as the high-protein group, despite consuming 1/3 fewer “calories”.

“The mice fed corn oil in combination with sucrose gained an average of 11.3 g of body weight and became visibly obese (Fig. 2, B and C, and Table 1). The mice fed corn oil in combination with protein gained on average less than 1.8 g of body weight during the 56 days of feeding and had small amounts of white adipose tissue (Table 2 and Fig. 2, B and C). In fact, the weight gain and amount of body fat in mice fed a high corn oil diet supplemented with protein was comparable with the body weight gain and adipose tissue mass in mice fed an energy-restricted low fat chow diet (Fig. 2, B and C, and Table 1). “

Fortunately, this study also addressed a couple common canards. The authors measured the digestibility of each diet, which didn’t vary significantly. (It was slightly larger in the high-protein group.) And apparently high-protein diets don’t cause mice to exercise, either: the study measured both energy expenditure (which was actually smaller in the high-protein group) and oxygen consumption (roughly equal).

Conclusion: A calorie is not a calorie when you substitute protein for sugar.

Empirical Evidence: A Calorie Is Not A Calorie When You Substitute Protein For Sugar (Again)

Here’s a similar experiment, again done by the Madsen group:

PLoS ONE 6(6): e21647 (2011)
Sucrose Counteracts the Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Fish Oil in Adipose Tissue and Increases Obesity Development in Mice
Tao Ma, Bjørn Liaset, Qin Hao, Rasmus Koefoed Petersen, Even Fjære, Ha Thi Ngo, Haldis Haukås Lillefosse, Stine Ringholm, Si Brask Sonne, Jonas Thue Treebak, Henriette Pilegaard, Livar Frøyland, Karsten Kristiansen, Lise Madsen

I’ll skip to the punchline. In this case, the pair-fed diets were isocaloric (contained the same number of “calories”):

Figure 4, Ma 2011

Yet the fish oil+sucrose group gained about five times as much weight as the fish oil+protein group.

As a bonus, when fed ad libitum (science-ese for “food was freely available 24/7″):

Mice fed a fish oil-enriched diet in combination with sucrose had markedly higher feed efficiency and required less than 50% of the calories to achieve the same weight gain as mice fed a fish oil-enriched diet in combination with protein. (Hao 2012, referencing Ma 2011)

Conclusion: A calorie is not a calorie when you substitute protein for sugar (again).

Empirical Evidence: A Calorie Is Not A Calorie When You Change The Type Of Fat Or Substitute It For Sugar

Here’s yet another paper exploring the relationships between linoleic acid, EPA and DHA, and carbohydrate content:

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Oct;20(10):1984-94. doi: 10.1038/oby.2012.38. Epub 2012 Feb 15.
Dietary linoleic acid elevates endogenous 2-AG and anandamide and induces obesity.
Alvheim AR, Malde MK, Osei-Hyiaman D, Lin YH, Pawlosky RJ, Madsen L, Kristiansen K, Frøyland L, Hibbeln JR.
(Full text)

This time, all diets contained 20% protein by calories. “Medium-fat” diets contained 35% fat and 45% carbohydrate: “high-fat” diets contained 60% fat and 20% carbohydrate…and though this study (like the others) contains much fascinating data, I’ll skip straight to the graphs.

“Feed efficiency” is the amount of weight gained per mouse, per dietary “calorie” consumed. Note that it varies by over 30%, depending on the total fat percentage (higher fat diets were, on average, less efficient) and the proportion of linoleic acid (higher LA diets were, on average, more efficient).

Figure 2B, Alvheim 2012

Conclusion: A calorie is not a calorie when you change the type of fat, or when you substitute it for sugar.

Empirical Evidence: A Calorie Is Not A Calorie When You Substitute Protein For Sugar (Yet Again)

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2012 May 15;302(9):E1097-112. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00524.2011. Epub 2012 Feb 14.
High-glycemic index carbohydrates abrogate the antiobesity effect of fish oil in mice.
Hao Q, Lillefosse HH, Fjaere E, Myrmel LS, Midtbø LK, Jarlsby RH, Ma T, Jia B, Petersen RK, Sonne SB, Chwalibog A, Frøyland L, Liaset B, Kristiansen
(Full text)

“…Increasing amounts of sucrose in the diets dose-dependently increased energy efficiency and white adipose tissue (WAT) mass.”

Again, these are isocalorically pair-fed mice:

Figure 1A, Hao 2012

“…An increase in insulin secretion alone was insufficient to promote obesity development because mice receiving glybenclamide in combination with proteins and fish oil did not become obese. This finding is in keeping with the observation that a high-fat diet is unable to increase adipose tissue mass in the absence of carbohydrates (47, 50).

“Obviously, increased adipose tissue mass is related to energy intake. However, macronutrient composition can influence energy efficiency in such a way that mice consuming the same amount of calories end up with quite different amounts of adipose tissue. Thus, increasing the amount of sucrose in the feed from 13 to 43% led to approximately fivefold higher energy efficiency.”

Conclusion: A calorie is not a calorie when you substitute protein for sugar (yet again).

Empirical Evidence: A Calorie Is Not A Calorie When You Substitute Honey For Table Sugar

This one speaks for itself:

J Food Sci. 2007 Apr;72(3):S224-9.
The effect of honey compared to sucrose, mixed sugars, and a sugar-free diet on weight gain in young rats.
Chepulis LM.

“Overall percentage weight gain was significantly lower in honey-fed rats than those fed sucrose or mixed sugars, despite a similar food intake.”

And…

“Weight gains were comparable for rats fed honey and a sugar free diet although food intake was significantly higher in honey-fed rats.”

Conclusion: A calorie is not a calorie when…you know the rest.

Conclusion: Protein and Honey Beat Sucrose

In this article, we’ve demonstrated the following:

  • A calorie is not a calorie when you substitute protein for sugar.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you change the type of fat, or when you substitute it for sugar.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you substitute honey for sugar.

The weight of the evidence points towards the following hypothesis: adding refined sucrose (“table sugar”) to a diet in exchange for protein, or even honey, makes it more fattening—per calorie. (There is also evidence for sucrose making a high-fat diet more fattening per calorie, but I need to do more reading first.)

This effect is in addition to the usual effect of refined sucrose causing greater food consumption…and since the experiments used purified ingredient diets, it’s not a matter of unprocessed food vs. refined sugar.

Note that I’m not going to defend this hypothesis too strongly, because these experiments involve mice and rats, not people…but it’s worth further investigation.

Continue to Part VII, “Carbohydrates Matter, At Least At The Low End.”

(Or, you can refresh your memory by going back to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, or Part V.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.

JS


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30 comments

Permalink: Calorie Cage Match! Sugar (Sucrose) Vs. Protein And Honey (There Is No Such Thing As A “Calorie”, Part VI)
  • […] / Posted on: January 01, 1970GNOLLS.ORG – We’ve already proven the following in Part II, Part III, and Part […]

  • js290

    J, I asked Dr. Rosedale at AHS13 about omega-6. His opinion seems to be that omega-6 oils are a problem when one can’t metabolise it for fuel. This adheres to his general theme that the problems with fats in general is one’s inability to use it as fuel due to insulin and leptin resistance. I don’t think Dr. Rosedale was advocating for a high omega-6 diet, but it puts into context why PUFAs may be problematic within the milleu of SAD.

  • Death Yoga

    I lost 20 pounds recently by counting nothing and not really intentionally limiting what I ate except for a nonspecific preference for low carb foods, but instead by being fanatical about the quality of the food I consumed.

    My diet has pretty much consisted of olive oil, cod liver oil and almond milk for fat, cottage cheese, tofu and eggs for protein and small amounts of berries, potatoes, rice or granola for carbohydrates (no flours), plus assloads of every low carb vegetable and every herb and spice I can possibly get my hands on.

    20 pounds off, right there. Boom. I haven’t lost any strength in my weight lifting as a result of this either, all I did was ban crap quality food from my life.

    The article in this series on food being powdered vs. whole causing differential weight change when fed to rats was a real eye opener for me.

  • Ooof! Pow! PUNCH! Big pack of science, there, pal! You know me … I'm not into my science, but that was an interesting read and a sound round-up of proof to back up and compound what you've said so far. Glad you brought honey into the equation. I love honey. Funnily, hate sugar in just about every other form … honey, love … particularly from that apiary just there (points), lovely.

    Death Yoga – like you, when I went paleo a couple of years ago, the stones dropped off. No counting, no weighing, no measuring. J's 'Eat Like a Predator' was the yardstick, and I did just that – I did not eat “paleo”, I ate “predator” … still do.

    For about the last year, I've been practically a pesce-predator. I do eat dairy, because I can … I'm adapted. It's my evolutionary advantage, but I err on the side of fatty, fermented and A2 type. Cottage cheese is gorgeous! My favourite is a nice creamy log of goat cheese. Eat the lot in one sitting, don't care about the calories, just eat, enjoy and have a big smile. Goat cheese and cottage cheese forms many of my lunches, oily fish as the protein for the rest. Eggs with everything.

    Another sound chapter, J. I'll re-read and try to enjoy the science bit as much as you clearly do.

  • […] Calorie Cage Match! Sugar (Sucrose) Vs. Protein And Honey (There Is No Such Thing As A “Calori… Hey, Choco and Derp (or anyone else who cares), J. Stanton just wrote another piece to his 'No such thing as a calorie' series. This one is heavy into sugar calories. Could you guys take a look and see how it fits into your feelings on sugar and calories? Reply With Quote […]

  • Peter Haynes

    Well I am going to defend the hypothesis…wholeheartedly! If the laws of thermodynamics do not apply to these creatures in relation to their food metabolism – and they clearly don’t – maybe we have to accept that they don’t apply to humans either.

  • js290:

    I believe the pro-inflammatory effects of n-6 on the eicosanoid system occur when it becomes incorporated into cell membranes and other tissues…so Rosedale is right in that case AFAIK. 

    The problem, of course, is that linoleic acid (the only dietarily significant n-6 fat) is prone to oxidation and glycation, it's trickier to burn due to all the double bonds that must be saturated before conversion to acetyl-CoAs — and as Petro @ Hyperlipid has been exploring, it's likely a strong fuel for cancer and adiposity. So it's probably best to minimize intake: since you can't avoid a couple % in the diet, that will maximize the chance that it does get burned.

     

    Death Yoga:

    Congratulations on your progress!

    The powdered food paper was great, and I'm indebted to Kindke for bringing it to my attention.

    There are indeed some robust trends in these studies: more processed = more fattening per “calorie”, less protein = more fattening per “calorie”…and that's independent of their effects on hunger, which are usually synergistic to those factors, since processing usually strips out nutrients.

    And this is the main reason I take issue with the CICO zealots: they don't even believe their own propaganda!  None of them ever says “My calculator says I can eat 1800 kcal today…I'll take that as three Snickers and a 2-liter Coke.”

     

    Paul:

    The honey results surprised me, too: there isn't a lot in honey besides simple sugars, but apparently it's enough to make a difference…at least in rats.  I wish I had the fulltext!

     

    Peter:

    While I agree that sugar seems to make diets more fattening, the laws of thermodynamics absolutely still apply.

    However, as has been amply demonstrated in this series, there are many other ways to produce “calories out” besides weight gain.  I explained the possible mechanisms behind them in Part I…and so do people like Lyle McDonald, who helpfully provides the equation:

    Energy In (corrected for digestion) = (BMR/RMR + TEF + TEA + SPA/NEAT) + Change in Body Stores

    However, the “Eat Less Move More…it's that simple!” crowd removes all the interesting terms from this equation:

    • (corrected for digestion)
    • BMR/RMR
    • TEF
    • TEA
    • SPA/NEAT

    …terms which themselves are catchalls (e.g. “thermic effect of food”) for empirically measured numbers which no one really understands.  That's why CICO/ELMM is not useful in practice:

    • It ignores all of these terms, which I've proven over the last five installments to be significant
    • It ignores the fact that we can't possibly estimate food intake accurately enough to hit our targets, even if we could account for all these terms
    • It ignores the effect of different foods on appetite — which statistically overwhelms all attempts to count calories

    JS

  • Valerie

    Hi,

    a few things get me confused here. If you could clarify a bit, I would be grateful.

    In the first study, you give the composition in % by weight. I am trying to interpret the figures: 25% by weight come from a combination of corn oil and soybean oil, and 63% by weight come from protein and sugar? If so, what about the remaining 12%? Even if I assume it is fiber and water, I am left wondering why you say there was a difference in calorie density between the two experimental diets. Isn’t it 4 cal/g for both sugar and protein?

    Still in the first study, there was a clear difference in weight gain, yet no difference in energy expenditure. Huh? Seems to me like calories disappeared, but you refute that in your answer to Peter. Maybe we are getting mixed up by the wording. When you write that the study measured energy expenditure and oxygen consumption, do you mean, basically, “calories out”?

    Thanks for your work,

    Valerie

  • Valerie:

    “If so, what about the remaining 12%?”

    According to the ingredients: cellulose (fiber), water, salt, vitamins and supplements.  See the supplementary figures.

    “Isn't it 4 cal/g for both sugar and protein?”

    That's a close approximation, but protein is actually slightly under 4 kcal/gram (and it depends on the proportion of amino acids) and carbohydrate slightly over.  (Also, the energy value of protein can range all the way down to negative: read Part I.)

    “Still in the first study, there was a clear difference in weight gain, yet no difference in energy expenditure. Huh? Seems to me like calories disappeared…When you write that the study measured energy expenditure and oxygen consumption, do you mean, basically, “calories out”?”

    The laws of conservation of energy still hold.  We know that the energy was not stored as fat or lean mass; we know that it wasn't pooped out in feces; we know that it wasn't dissipated as extra running-around; and we know that it didn't cause the mice to consume dramatically more oxygen.  Thus, it was most likely dissipated as heat — whether by futile cycling, peroxisomal degradation, and/or some other mechanism.  (I don't know enough to speculate which.)

    JS

  • js290

    Calories matter descriptively, not prescriptively. Anyone who’s had some college level thermo should know the laws are boundary conditions (effects), not initial conditions (causes).

    Anybody using first law of thermo as it applies to metabolism knows neither thermo nor metabolism. There are no metabolic pathways that uses a “calorie [kg*m^2/s^2]” in its biochemical reactions.

    “Rubner’s observations proved that, for a resting animal, heat production was equivalent to heat elimination, confirming that the law of conservation of energy, implied in Lavoisier’s early experiments, was applicable to living organisms as well.”

  • “more processed = more fattening per “calorie”, less protein = more fattening per “calorie”…”

     

    This is a key consideration – processed food has 'externalised'* the digestion process somewhat – which means less energy will be used to digest/metabolise the 'food'.

     

    *No apologies for the UK spelling!  ;)

  • Death Yoga

    Re: J. Stanton

    >And this is the main reason I take issue with the CICO zealots: they don’t even believe their own propaganda! None of them ever says “My calculator says I can eat 1800 kcal today…I’ll take that as three Snickers and a 2-liter Coke.”

    Sounds like you aren’t familiar with the IIFYM aka “If It Fits Your Macros” crowd among bodybuilders. It is fairly common among them to believe that so long as you only get X grams of carbohydrate per day, it literally doesn’t matter if you get them all via coke, white rice or yams.

    Also, interestingly enough, I have browsed a lot of bodybuilders’ nutrition logs and found that when they are cutting weight, they preach CICO but practice metabolic stimulation. They report that they restrict their calories, lose weight and then plateau, and then intentionally re-add a certain number of calories and “woosh” down to a new lowest weight. Calories in, calories out indeed.

    Layne Norton has a good video on metabolic stimulation and suppression, how people can tune their bodies to maintain the same weight on extremely high or extremely low amounts of calories/carbs based on their habits.

    (layne norton video)

    Don’t know if it’s useful to you as it isn’t exactly scientifically cited and sourced, but it sure is true as per experience.

  • Alex

    On the opposite end of the zealotry spectrum from the CICOites are the low-carbers (or, perhaps, a subset of them) who seem to think calories don’t matter at all. “Look at Sam Feltham! He can eat 5000 calories a day and not gain weight!” As if overeating by a young athlete who is genetically predisposed to being lean is somehow relevant to overweight people; it’s certainly not relevant to Jimmy Moore, who ate enough low-carb food to regain 100 pounds. Sure, people are not bomb calorimeters, but there is no magical macronutrient ratio that guarantees the ability to lose weight or not gain weight on a hypercaloric diet.

  • grinch

    I do not think “a calorie is a calorie” is dictated by the laws of thermodynamics. It’s the metabolic ward human studies showing when food intake and physical activity is tightly controlled, it doesn’t matter what the macro-nutrient composition is, the weight loss is similar across diets. Its only when you allow people to self-report their intake that you get this appearance that low carb has a metabolic advantage.

    I don’t think anyone denies there may be a significant metabolic advantage to one diet over another in rats, but it doesn’t seem to be the case in humans.

  • Death Yoga:

    What proportion of calories from carbs?  If you're only eating 15-20% max, and you're working out intensely, you can usually get enough nutrition from the 80% protein, fat, and green veggies (if you eat real food) so that the carbs can be junk and it doesn't matter much.

    However, if the IIFYMs are talking about a high-carb diet, then I suspect they're far from optimal: in addition to the nutritional issues, fructose, glucose, and lactose aren't equivalent.  Then there is the GI difference.  And if they're talking about a 30% micellar casein/30% seed oil/40% Mexican Coke diet, well, that's almost exactly the diet scientists use to make mice and rats obese as rapidly as possible…

    I haven't watched the video since it's 30 minutes, but I'm familiar with the idea: you need to refeed periodically to fool your body into thinking it's not starving so that it'll continue to let go of fat stores.  Sub-10% bodyfat land is where you're fighting uphill against leptin dynamics and a host of other issues.

     

    Alex:

    There's snake oil at every extreme — including the HCLF/raw vegan extreme, where only fat can make you fat, as well as the keto extreme, where only carbs can make you fat.

    Unfortunately the ELMM/”calories are all that matter” extreme is mainstream nutritional dogma at this point, whereas the other beliefs are small fringes.

    My point is simple: Calories count — but they don't all count the same.  This is just one reason why paying attention to the type and quality of the “calories” you eat is likely to be far more productive than simply trying to reduce their quantity.  (Other reasons include their differing effects on hunger and satiety, which is usually the biggest factor, and the awkward fact from Part V that we can't estimate our intake accurately enough to get results consistent with “calorie math”.)

     

    grinch:

    I find it unlikely that mice and rats (particularly rats) can produce wildly varying results, but humans are perfect bomb calorimeters. 

    Now, I haven't gone through every study AC cites (I assume you're quoting him because of your use of his trademark phrase “tightly controlled metabolic ward studies”), but from what I recall, none of the studies in question looked at situations similar to the mouse/rat studies I've quoted, e.g. powdered vs. regular chow (Part II), a diet of 2/3 coconut oil (Part III), swapping SFA for n-6 PUFA (this part)…and if anyone wants to dispute the higher TEF of protein, feel free to fight with the 34 citations in Bosse and Dixon 2012, from Part IV.  (I don't think AC disputes this…just whether the effect is large enough to be important in practice.)

    Nor do I recall any of those studies dealing with situations similar to those from the human studies I quoted, such as the “carbs at dinner” study from Part II, or the diet of 1/2 almonds (Part III)…the second of which counts as a “metabolic ward” study, since the patients were inpatients at a hospital!  (“Metabolic ward” just means “the part of the hospital where they keep people in metabolism studies”…it's not a magical guarantee that no one cheats.)

    Finally, I note that there are studies showing dramatically different effects from different macros, e.g. Kekwick and Pawan…which AC finds his own reasons to not include in his dataset.

    Please note: given what I know at this time, I think the effect of different foods on hunger and appetite is likely to be more important in practice than their divergence from the Atwater factors.  However, the multi-decade emphasis on “calories”/ELMM has proven to be remarkably ineffective, and I prefer to let reality guide me towards my hypotheses.  For instance, did America experience a massive failure of willpower contemporaneous with the Reagan inauguration?  I see no evidence for that.

    JS

  • Death Yoga

    >J. Stanton:

    >What proportion of calories from carbs? If you’re only eating 15-20% max, and you’re working
    > out intensely, you can usually get enough nutrition from the 80% protein, fat, and green
    >veggies (if you eat real food) so that the carbs can be junk and it doesn’t matter much.

    >However, if the IIFYMs are talking about a high-carb diet, then I suspect they’re far from
    > optimal: in addition to the nutritional issues, fructose, glucose, and lactose aren’t equivalent.
    > Then there is the GI difference. And if they’re talking about a 30% micellar casein/30% seed
    > oil/40% Mexican Coke diet, well, that’s almost exactly the diet scientists use to make mice and
    > rats obese as rapidly as possible…

    I have seen various plans in terms of carbs. Generally speaking the conventional wisdom I’ve seen is that when bulking up, eat roughly 1:1 carbs to fat alongside lots of protein, while the wisdom in cutting is to keep your carbs inversely proportional, either high fat/low carb or low fat/high carb.

    As for myself, I eat roughly 1g/1g fat to carbs. I usually end up getting more calories from fat than carbs by about 2:1.

    Some people swear by IIFYM, but as far as I can tell it’s only because they want to “get away with” eating junk food, as if gaining a few pounds is the only problem eating McDonald’s will cause them.

    That crap doesn’t fly with me, I insist on being fanatically healthy even if I can “get away without it.” Unlike them I insist on having organs that still work when I’m old.

  • Death Yoga:

    “Some people swear by IIFYM, but as far as I can tell it's only because they want to “get away with” eating junk food, as if gaining a few pounds is the only problem eating McDonald's will cause them.”

    If you're young, male, and only overweight by 20-30 pounds, just about any diet plan will work for you.  Unfortunately, this is also the age group that gets most evangelistic about their own diet plan (which is usually the first one they've tried) once they lose that first 15-20.

    And yes, aging sneaks up on you!  The problem most people don't realize is that looking old and feeling old are the product of decades of life choices…we can stop ourselves from aging as quickly, but we can't reverse much of the damage.  It's like most diseases: the best way to beat cancer is to not get it.  Etc.

    JS

  • joe v

    I would try to kindly ask Adel Moussa of Suppversity (his blog) if he could provide assistance in gaining access into fulltext of paywalled studies (such as the one with honey vs. sugar).

  • sylvie

    Great posts, and very interesting. Does this mean low carbers don’t need to worry about consuming nuts?

    On a separate note, do you know of any scientific evidence or theories supporting the idea of why cheese or low carb dairy would cause people to stall in their weight loss? Even in the paleosphere, people seem to think that it’s a CICO issue, even though plenty of individuals ensure that they’re not ‘overeating’ cheese. The insulin theory doesn’t seem to hold either, given that the insulin response is matched by a glucagon response. Your thoughts would be welcome!

  • […] Cliffs: -Even if calorie counting were useful or important, it is almost impossible to do so accurately -At restaurants a study reported >10% error in calorie count per dish (~18% more calories than listed) -Packaged foods can underreport calories/macros by up to 20% by federal law -Freehand portion size estimates off by more than 60% in both directions -Therefore, even if calorie math were legit, calorie calculation is basically impossible Part VI: www.gnolls.org/3559/calorie-cage-match-sugar-sucrose-vs-protein-and-honey-there-is-no-such-thing-as-… […]

  • joe:

    Thanks to an alert reader, I now have access to the fulltext.  However, I do enjoy reading Suppversity.

     

    sylvie:

    As I said in my interview with Jimmy Moore, “Yes, calories count…but they don't all count the same.” 

    The people in the nut study were heavily restricting their food intake…so it doesn't mean you can just blithely eat all the nuts you can stomach.  (Not everyone is Sam Feltham, a young, fit male who is very resistant to weight gain.)  What it does mean is that a “calorie” of nuts is, apparently, less fattening than a “calorie” of hearthealthywholegrains.

    Also note that there is a huge difference between whole almonds and (for instance) nut butters!  Nut butters probably count as a powdered food (the powder just sticks together due to the oil).

     

    I'm not sure why cheese has such a stalling effect: I suspect the insulin response is related.  Yes, it's matched by a glucagon surge…but insulin still inhibits lipolysis.  And if your metabolic flexibility is impaired, you're still going to have trouble switching back to fat-burning afterward. 

    There might also be something to the idea of casomorphins: I don't believe people have such issues with whey protein, even though it's just as insulinogenic AFAIK.  Is ricotta “cheese” stalling, too?  That would be an interesting experiment to try, because ricotta isn't actually cheese at all — it's pressed whey.

    Do note that these are educated guesses on my part!

    JS

  • Michael

    JS “Lyle McDonald, who helpfully provides the equation…”

    But he’s still a calorie balance supremacist. If your audience is bodybuilders I can understand because they’ll need to count them to achieve the results they want but as we all know that’s not really going to help the obese. He dismissed Gary Taubes/GCBC without having read it if I remember correctly (I rarely read what he writes he’s too much of a troll). I also think it was on his website that I saw the definitive energy balance equation and it was something like 20 pages long. When you invest so much time & energy into proving something chances are you’re not going to let go of it, no matter how intelligent you are.

  • Michael

    @grinch
    I think a better human study for looking into how much calories matter would be a fat gain study not a fat loss study, i.e. get a couple of japanese subjects and feed them a sumo diet (high carb low fat) VS an inverted sumo diet (low carb high fat) at different calories levels and see who gets fat the fastest and then try to find where do the missing calories of those not getting fat on LCHF go

    (and if the metabolic ward studies you’re refering to are those used by AC to bash Eades with you need to read Eades’ reply because his explanations are very good.)

  • Michael

    @sylvie, re: nuts & cheeses

    Nuts & cheeses are two low carb foods that don’t provide much satiety. That might have something to do with them being more easily stored as fat. That’s a good question.

  • Luther

    [My readers are welcome to link relevant information — but keep in mind that too many hotlinks will generally cause the spam filter to hold your message for moderation, and I may not get to it for a day or three.  That's what happened here: I have not yet censored any comments, even those critical of my work. -JS]

    I'll just leave these here:

    Macronutrient disposal during controlled overfeeding with glucose, fructose, sucrose, or fat in lean and obese women.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10919929

    Conclusion: Short term study found no significant difference in fat balance during controlled overfeeding with fat, fructose, glucose, or sucrose.

    Effects of isoenergetic overfeeding of either carbohydrate or fat in young men.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11029975

    Conclusion: Fat storage during overfeeding of isoenergetic amounts of diets rich in carbohydrate or in fat was not significantly different

    Weight-loss with low or high carbohydrate diet?
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8968851

    Conclusion:Neither diet offered a significant advantage when comparing weight loss or other, metabolic parameters over a 12 w period.

    Regulation of macronutrient balance in healthy young and older men.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11673772
    Conclusion: Results suggest that the ability to adjust macronutrient oxidation to changes in diet composition is maintained in older men and, thus, is unlikely to contribute to the increased susceptibility to weight gain and obesity development that accompanies aging.

    Finally:

    Is a calorie a calorie?http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/5/899S.long
    Conclusion:
    We conclude that a calorie is a calorie. From a purely thermodynamic point of view, this is clear because the human body or, indeed, any living organism cannot create or destroy energy but can only convert energy from one form to another. In comparing energy balance between dietary treatments, however, it must be remembered that the units of dietary energy are metabolizable energy and not gross energy. This is perhaps unfortunate because metabolizable energy is much more difficult to determine than is gross energy, because the Atwater factors used in calculating metabolizable energy are not exact. As such, our food tables are not perfect, and small errors are associated with their use.

    In addition, we concede that the substitution of one macronutrient for another has been shown in some studies to have a statistically significant effect on the expenditure half of the energy balance equation. This has been observed most often for high-protein diets. Evidence indicates, however, that the difference in energy expenditure is small and can potentially account for less than one-third of the differences in weight loss that have been reported between high-protein or low-carbohydrate diets and high-carbohydrate or low-fat diets. As such, a calorie is a calorie. Further research is needed to identify the mechanisms that result in greater weight loss with one diet than with another.

  • Catherine

    @Luther: I think the issue is long-term feeding, and UNcontrolled feeding, though? After all, in free living humans, the results seem a bit different, since people feel more or less energetic on different diets, and thus expend more or less energy. They also feel satiated differently on different diets. The problem isn’t necessarily losing weight short-term, but maintaining the loss long-term. I’ve also seen studies showing that age does have an effect on metflex, so . . cherry-picking? And well, I think this series is trying to show that food is more than just a source of calories: it has many constituents that act differently in the body, so reducing food to just calories is a bit too . . reductive.

  • Luther:

    1. No matter how many white swans you cherry-pick, I've already posted over a dozen black swans — so I'm not sure what you're trying to prove.

    2. None of the studies you've linked contradict any of the studies I've described in this series.  They only prove that variations in macronutrient balance, away from the extremes, don't change much.  (For instance, the lowest carbohydrate content of any diet was 25%.)

    3. The sentences you cherry-picked often don't mean what you imply they mean.

    However, I thank you for bringing these studies to my attention, because they'll be useful in a future installment about metabolic individuality!

    Let's go through them one by one.

    The first study you posted (McDevitt 2000) fed subjects a normal, high-carb diet — and only then overfed the subjects with fat or carbohydrate.  Result: the macro percentages didn't change all that much.

    Quote: “The control diets provided 48% of energy as carbohydrate, 40% as fat, and 12% as protein. The [carb-overfeeding] diets provided 50% of energy as carbohydrate, 42% as fat, and 8% as protein. The [fat-overfeeding] diet provided 32% of energy as carbohydrate, 60% as fat, and 8% as protein.”

    Furthermore, it didn't even measure weight gain or loss!  All they did was force the subjects into a room for five days, force them to exercise identically, and measure both heat production and RER to approximate fuel usage.

    Anticlimactic result, which doesn't contradict any of the studies I've cited: changing your diet form 50% carb/42% fat to 32% carb/60% fat doesn't significantly change how much energy you expend over five days.  Raise your hand if you're surprised.

    Next, Lammert 2000.

    “In phase 3, the C-group received 78 % of energy as carbohydrates, 11 % of energy as protein and 11 % of energy as fat, while the F-group received 58 % of energy as fat, 11 % of energy as protein and 31 % of energy as carbohydrate.”  So we're talking about the difference between a high-carb diet and a moderate-carb diet.

    Anticlimactic result, which doesn't contradict any of the studies I've cited: changing your diet from 78% carb/11% fat to 31% carb/58% fat doesn't significantly change average weight gain.  Again, raise your hand if you're surprised.

    Next, Golay 1996.  I don't have access to fulltext, but the abstract tells us enough.

    “The patients were assigned to one of two groups that received either a low (25% CHO, n = 31) or a high (45% CHO, n = 37) carbohydrate hypocaloric diet (5.0 MJ/d, 1200 Kcal/d).” 

    First, I note that the 25% carb group lost 19% more weight than the 45% carb group, though that wasn't deemed “significant”.

    Anticlimactic result, which doesn't contradict any of the studies I've cited: changing your diet from 45% to 25% carb produces a 19% improvement in weight loss, which the authors don't believe to be statistically significant.  

    Finally, Davy 2001.

    Again, the diets weren't all that different: “The specific macronutrient composition (protein, fat, carbohydrate) of each diet, as a percentage of total energy intake, was 15/30/55 for the mixed diet condition (M), 15/60/25 for the high-fat diet condition (HF), and 15/15/70 for the high-carbohydrate condition (HC).”

    And again, this study didn't even measure weight gain or loss: it measured RER using indirect calorimetry.

    Anticlimactic result, which doesn't contradict any of the studies I've cited: changing your diet from 70% carb/15% fat to 25% carb/60% fat doesn't significantly change how much energy you expend over 24 hours.  Again, raise your hand if you're surprised.

    Finally, I've already addressed Buchholz 2004 in the comments to Part I, but I'll expand on them here.

    Let me highlight these sentences, because they're so monumentally self-contradictory – and highlight the deficiencies of the calorie model so well.  Quote: “Diets high in protein and/or low in carbohydrate produced an ≈2.5-kg greater weight loss after 12 wk of treatment. Neither macronutrient-specific differences in the availability of dietary energy nor changes in energy expenditure could explain these differences in weight loss.”

    In other words, the CICO model, while trivially true in the physics sense, is completely inadequate to explain observed reality.  (By which I mean “Attempting to adjust the “calorie”-based calculations for all the factors I discussed in my article is apparently, in practice, impossible.”)

    “As such, a calorie is a calorie.”

    Wait, what?  They've just admitted that it isn't.

    “Further research is needed to identify the mechanisms that result in greater weight loss with one diet than with another.”

    And now they admit again that the calorie-based model fails to explain observed reality.

    Conclusions:

    1. Your references show that varying carb content between 75% and 31%, while keeping protein content constant (between 8% and 15%), doesn't have a significant effect. 

    2. These references do not contradict any of the citations in this series.

    Result: My points stand.

     

    Catherine:

    Read my reply above.  Luther isn't making the point he believes he's making.

    JS

  • […] can help, but it's not worth freaking out over the details because it's not really very accurate. Calorie Cage Match! Sugar (Sucrose) Vs. Protein And Honey (There Is No Such Thing As A “Calori… Can You Really Count Calories? (Part V of “There Is No Such Thing As A Calorie”) […]

  • eddie watts

    all Luther has shown above is
    “if you try to prove something it is easy to do by setting up your experiments up carefully”

    and in one case “so long as you equate 19% greater weight loss as insignificant”
    wow i wish i could get an “insignificant wage increase” of 19%!!!

  • eddie:

    As I said way back in 2011, in Eat Like A Predator, “Abstracts and conclusions often misrepresent the data.”  It's reasonably easy to design an experiment to get the results you want…and if you don't, it's easy to “adjust” the data and move the goalposts until you do.

    One future installment of this series will cover the topic of “When is a calorie a calorie?” i.e. “Under what circumstances do dietary changes not matter?”  One of the main ones seems to be “Swapping carbohydrate for fats that aren't coconut oil (i.e. high in MCTs) doesn't seem to change things unless you're at the extremes of carb or fat consumption.”

    JS

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