Sunday, July 15, 2012

A calorie is a calorie

Food journalist Gary Taubes writes:
A CALORIE is a calorie. This truism has been the foundation of nutritional wisdom and our beliefs about obesity since the 1960s.

What it means is that a calorie of protein will generate the same energy when metabolized in a living organism as a calorie of fat or carbohydrate. When talking about obesity or why we get fat, evoking the phrase “a calorie is a calorie” is almost invariably used to imply that what we eat is relatively unimportant. We get fat because we take in more calories than we expend; we get lean if we do the opposite. Anyone who tells you otherwise, by this logic, is trying to sell you something.

But not everyone buys this calorie argument, and the dispute erupted in full force again last week.
He refers to this JAMA research study and editorial. But this study does not contradict the idea that we get fat because we take in more calories than we expend.

When people lose weight by dieting, their metabolism slows down somewhat. That can make continued weight loss difficult. This study looked at how dietary far influences metabolism after weight loss. Interesting, but not contrary to thermodynamics.

Different types of food are metabolized differently. It is still true that if you burn all the calories you eat, then you will not get fat. Taubes writes useful reporting on food research, but I don't know why he keeps arguing that a calorie is not a calorie.

Also I happened to notice this govt report that says that Prohibition worked:
Alcohol consumption declined dramatically during prohibition. Cirrhosis death rates for men were 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 and 10.7 in 1929. Admissions to State mental hospitals for alcoholic psychosis declined from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1919 to 4.7 in 1928. ...

Following the repeal of prohibition, alcohol consumption increased. Prohibition did not end alcohol use, but it did succeed in reducing, by one-third, the consumption of a product that had wide historical and popular sanction.
It is funny how everyone says that alcohol prohibition didn't work, but there never have any data to back up the claim.

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