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Calorie Cage Match! Sugar (Sucrose) Vs. Protein And Honey (There Is No Such Thing As A "Calorie", Part VI)
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October 24, 2013
3:22 am
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Caution: contains SCIENCE!

We’ve already proven the following in , , and :

  • 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 [link…

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October 24, 2013
7:05 am
js290
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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.

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October 24, 2013
11:34 am
Death Yoga
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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.

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October 24, 2013
3:05 pm
Halifax, UK
Gnoll
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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.

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Living in the Ice Age http://livingintheiceage.pjgh.co.uk
October 24, 2013
3:49 pm
Peter Haynes
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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.

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October 24, 2013
5:27 pm
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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

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October 24, 2013
6:12 pm
Valerie
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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

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October 24, 2013
10:30 pm
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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

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October 24, 2013
11:11 pm
js290
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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."

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October 25, 2013
1:43 am
UK
Gnoll
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"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!  ;)

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October 25, 2013
3:55 am
Death Yoga
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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.

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October 25, 2013
5:51 am
Alex
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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.

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October 25, 2013
10:26 am
grinch
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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.

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October 25, 2013
7:21 pm
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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

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October 25, 2013
10:02 pm
Death Yoga
Guest

>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.

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October 28, 2013
4:24 pm
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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

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October 29, 2013
4:27 am
joe v
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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).

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October 29, 2013
8:13 pm
sylvie
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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!

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October 30, 2013
3:30 pm
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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

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November 9, 2013
9:28 am
Michael
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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.

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