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More Peer-Reviewed Evidence That There Is No Such Thing As A "Calorie" To Your Body(Part III)
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June 20, 2013
10:40 am
Dave
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@ 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

June 20, 2013
3:06 pm
Matthew
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@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.

June 21, 2013
7:10 am
Dave
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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.

June 24, 2013
3:34 pm
Dave
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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...

June 26, 2013
12:23 am
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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

June 26, 2013
12:33 am
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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

June 26, 2013
11:19 am
eddie watts
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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)

June 30, 2013
2:45 pm
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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

June 30, 2013
7:36 pm
Bill Lagakos
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Excellent post, J. Indeed, there are many ways in which calories are not calories.
Best,
Bill

June 30, 2013
7:36 pm
Bill Lagakos
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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.

June 30, 2013
7:42 pm
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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

July 5, 2013
8:27 pm
EatLessMoveMoore
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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...

July 8, 2013
1:53 am
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"EatLessMoveMoore"/"Melissa"/"CarbSeine":

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

JS

October 9, 2013
3:59 am
John Baker
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This is a great series

October 16, 2013
5:05 am
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John:

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

JS

November 13, 2013
11:20 am
Chris
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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.

November 15, 2013
4:08 am
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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

November 29, 2013
5:38 am
david wilson
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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.

December 2, 2013
1:42 am
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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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