Calories In/Calories Out

Is it time to de-bunk this claim from nutrition and diet studies?

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Calories In/Calories Out

#1  Postby Apollonius » Mar 07, 2011 1:41 am

Is it time to de-bunk the "calories in/calories out" theory in nutrition science?

Gary Taubes, author of "Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion" thinks so.

He hired a team of researchers and wrote "Good Calories, Bad Calories" in 2007, and followed up with "Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It" last December.

If I get this right, he is saying that authorities on diet and nutrition that write advice for the public are wrong as far as treating calorie intake and calorie burn as a simple equation. His books go into a lot of detail about how the current trends in diabetes and obesity are attributed to "low fat" advice, and what he considers a false claim: "calories in=calories out."

Here are some links in case someone is interested enough to give this one a shot:

Taubes takes dead aim at the calories-in / calories-out hypothesis. This is the hypothesis that obesity is *caused* by over-eating or under-exercising (a caloric surplus). It seems true on the face of it -- the only way you can become heavier and fatter is to take in more calories than you expend. This hypothesis has dominated the last fifty years of mainstream health advice from doctors, government officials, and many health gurus. It underpins our nation's low fat hysteria (fat has more calories per gram than carbohydrate, therefore fat is evil!), our exercise madness (go burn those calories!), and contributes to the notion that fat causes heart disease (if obesity increases the risk of heart disease, and if fat leads to obesity, then Honey Nut Cheerios must be heart healthy!). But what if the calories-in / calories-out hypothesis is wrong?


http://www.hunter-gatherer.com/blog/buy ... ary-taubes
(This one is a book review of "Why We Get Fat.")

Everything that we believe about obesity basically came out of the 1970's. This was a period in which a half a dozen men completely dominated the field. So they controlled what everybody was allowed to think.

They wrote all the textbooks. Every textbook on obesity that isn't about behavioral therapy was written by one of these six men.
-Gary Taubes


http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_art ... ing_leaner
(This one is an older review of "Good Calories, Bad Calories")

This stuff is making the rounds on websites, and there is a lot of disagreement.

The calories in/calories out theory (at least as I understand it) is that weight can be reduced to a simple equation. A pound of fat equals X amount of calories, and to reduce one’s weight one pound, you simply do a specific amount of work (in calories) corresponding to that pound and the pound is gone.

If you want to lose another pound, just do it again. Keep going until you reach your goal. Easy.

If the body really works this way, there should be no disagreement. If there is something specific wrong with what Taubes is saying (calories in/calories out is a myth), it should be simple, and everyone on each of the sites that say he is wrong would be saying the same things. Also, we would not know anyone who tried to “work it off” and watch it come right back on.


http://dietforhumans.com/2011/03/06/a-p ... ories-out/
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#2  Postby amused » Mar 07, 2011 10:58 am

All I know is that calories-in/calories-out reliably works for me to lose weight.

The obsession over fat in food is misleading because the main culprit is carbohydrates. If you try to stay around 1200-1500 calories a day, and still eat 50-60 grams of protein, the math will force most carbs (and fats) out of your diet. Drinking 700 calories in a (fat free!) Big Gulp soft drink is where the hidden calories sneak in.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#3  Postby Apollonius » Mar 07, 2011 12:54 pm

The people who wish to de-bunk the caloriesin/calories out thing are saying the same things you did about carbs.

The low fat folks are the source of the calories in/calories out theory, pretty much.

The low carb folks say that's a myth.

In other words, it appears that you agreed, then didn't!
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#4  Postby XiledSpawn » Mar 07, 2011 2:50 pm

:popcorn:

low fat products only occasionally have a low total of calories, same goes for low carbohydrate products like beer.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#5  Postby Scot Dutchy » Mar 07, 2011 3:13 pm

Exercise does not lose weight. It can even make you heavier but well leaner. Muscle is three times as heavy as fat so turning fat into muscle can increase your weight.
Calorie counting helps me. To me it is logical if you burn more calories than you eat you must lose weight.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#6  Postby XiledSpawn » Mar 07, 2011 3:22 pm

I think when the majority of people say they want to lose weight, they mean they want to reduce their waist size etc.
However I have known people who rely on the scales far too much.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#7  Postby Matt_B » Mar 07, 2011 3:49 pm

I don't think that anyone's ever claimed calories_in=calories_out to be strictly true. The point is rather that it's approximately true and whilst the real equation might be calories_in=calories_out+some_wastage, you're really not going to get much headway by attempting to change the last of these when there are far more obvious gains to be had with the other two. The bottom line is that there's no substitute for a calorie-controlled diet and a reasonable amount of exercise; well at least nothing short of some rather unpleasant drugs or major surgery at any rate.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#8  Postby Dudely » Mar 07, 2011 4:53 pm

Matt_B wrote:I don't think that anyone's ever claimed calories_in=calories_out to be strictly true. The point is rather that it's approximately true and whilst the real equation might be calories_in=calories_out+some_wastage, you're really not going to get much headway by attempting to change the last of these when there are far more obvious gains to be had with the other two. The bottom line is that there's no substitute for a calorie-controlled diet and a reasonable amount of exercise; well at least nothing short of some rather unpleasant drugs or major surgery at any rate.


Yes there is.

Everyone made fun of the Atkins diet when it came out, but guess what? It actually works. The weird part is we've known this since the 70s. Calorie-restricted diets work because they inadvertently cut carbohydrates. But they also starve you and your body compensates by making you hungry. You'll stay hungry for years until your body gets what it wants- the calories to replace what it lost. This makes perfect sense if you consider the following.

Just like everything else in your body fat growth is regulated by growth hormones, not calories. The growth hormone that regulates fat is called insulin (maybe you've heard of it :P), and it's production is triggered by eating carbohydrates, not fat. You can eat as much fat as you like and so long as your insulin levels are low you won't gain weight because your body has no signal to. That's why a lion can eat half an antelope and not get fat but a house cat on kibble seems to gain weight no matter what you do. Kibble has carbs. An antelope doesn't.

To think otherwise would be like asking why you don't get taller when you eat more. The answer to that is obvious and the answer to horizontal weight gain is exactly the same. Weirdly, no one likes to put 2-and-2 together on that one. I guess it's just easier tot think that you get fat by being lazy and eating too much, not due to some complicated hormonal dance. To make matters worse being lazy and eating too much really does make you gain weight, but it's just not for the reason people think it does.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#9  Postby David M » Mar 07, 2011 5:29 pm

Apollonius wrote:Is it time to de-bunk the "calories in/calories out" theory in nutrition science?


What is there to debunk about the basic premise of "calories in/calories out".

Unless you can work out a way that humans can violate the laws of conservation of energy then there is no way that the simple statement that if you consume more usable energy than you use you will gain weight can be considered untrue.

All the claims about "low GI", "good/bad carbs" etc only refine our understanding of how the body utilises the usable energy from food consumed and how this can affect the perception of hunger. It does not change the basic truth of "calories in/calories out" in any way.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#10  Postby The_Metatron » Mar 07, 2011 5:50 pm

David M wrote:
Apollonius wrote:Is it time to de-bunk the "calories in/calories out" theory in nutrition science?

What is there to debunk about the basic premise of "calories in/calories out".

Unless you can work out a way that humans can violate the laws of conservation of energy then there is no way that the simple statement that if you consume more usable energy than you use you will gain weight can be considered untrue.

All the claims about "low GI", "good/bad carbs" etc only refine our understanding of how the body utilises the usable energy from food consumed and how this can affect the perception of hunger. It does not change the basic truth of "calories in/calories out" in any way.

I was thinking similarly. There's no escaping physics.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#11  Postby Matt_B » Mar 07, 2011 6:23 pm

Dudely wrote:Yes there is.

Everyone made fun of the Atkins diet when it came out, but guess what? It actually works. The weird part is we've known this since the 70s. Calorie-restricted diets work because they inadvertently cut carbohydrates. But they also starve you and your body compensates by making you hungry. You'll stay hungry for years until your body gets what it wants- the calories to replace what it lost. This makes perfect sense if you consider the following.

Just like everything else in your body fat growth is regulated by growth hormones, not calories. The growth hormone that regulates fat is called insulin (maybe you've heard of it :P), and it's production is triggered by eating carbohydrates, not fat. You can eat as much fat as you like and so long as your insulin levels are low you won't gain weight because your body has no signal to. That's why a lion can eat half an antelope and not get fat but a house cat on kibble seems to gain weight no matter what you do. Kibble has carbs. An antelope doesn't.

To think otherwise would be like asking why you don't get taller when you eat more. The answer to that is obvious and the answer to horizontal weight gain is exactly the same. Weirdly, no one likes to put 2-and-2 together on that one. I guess it's just easier tot think that you get fat by being lazy and eating too much, not due to some complicated hormonal dance. To make matters worse being lazy and eating too much really does make you gain weight, but it's just not for the reason people think it does.


How do you think the Atkins diet works if not by cutting the amount of calories that you take in?

It's certainly not that just eating meat won't make you fat; Lions might not get fat, but easy meat is rare in their habitats so they're a bad example. However, take a look at a polar bear; they're practically pure carnivores, yet they'll typically enter hibernation in a state of extreme obesity. If a human being could actually stand to stuff themselves with 3000+ calories worth of meat and fat every day, they'd likely gain weight too.

Of course, most people would find such a diet rather unpalatable, so Aktins usually works so long as you can stick to it. Still, that's true of any calorie-controlled diet, and most of them have rather more in common with what would be conventionally considered a balanced diet. As such, I'd only recommend Atkins to people who just can't stick with anything else.

Still, they might want to read this first:

http://www.atkinsexposed.org/atkins/17/ ... sguise.htm
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#12  Postby Templeton » Mar 07, 2011 6:39 pm

C in / C out is contributory, but the process of losing weight is more complicated than that. In order for the body to use stored fat (Energy) reserves specific hormonal triggers must be activated. If there is stress in any of the following organs/glands; Liver, Thyroid, Adrenals, and Ovaries then your body may not be able to activate the specific hormones that cause fat loss.

An example of this as was stated in the previous thread; True or False-Exercise Makes You Thinner?, the thyroid releases two fat burning hormones T3, and T4, but these must be activated in the liver. If the liver is overstressed then the liver will not activate these hormones. The liver is one of our most important organs and is primarily responsible for filtering toxins from our bloodstream. If the liver is not functioning properly this can affect every organ and system in our body.

It is important to note that excess Fat is a symptom not the initial cause of health issues in the body. What many of these diets attempt to do is treat fat as the cause of the problem when in truth it is only symptomatic.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#13  Postby amused » Mar 07, 2011 6:42 pm

Eating protein stimulates the release of hormones that suppress hunger, so switching to a higher protein and lower calorie diet helps maintain the weight loss trend. Atkins is going too far, IMO.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#14  Postby NilsGLindgren » Mar 07, 2011 7:44 pm

amused wrote:Eating protein stimulates the release of hormones that suppress hunger, so switching to a higher protein and lower calorie diet helps maintain the weight loss trend. Atkins is going too far, IMO.


My primary grouch with Atkins is that apparently the Atkis diet not only causes ketosis as a side effect, it is supposed to cause ketosis, in order to metabolize fats stored in adipose tissue, rather than glucose. Ketosis, while sometimes unavoidable, I guess, is not a state that to my professional mind is wholesome for longer periods.

There may be other issues with Atkins, I have read about a few, but this was the one I immediately reacted against.

As for it working, as in, leading to weight reduction, of COURSE it works! It is a calorie reduced diet and calorie reduced diets in most persons lead to weight reduction. I, for my part, use a Weight Watcher regime, not Atkins, and I have lost 16 kg+ since October (round of appluse here please ... :clap: ... Thank you!).
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#15  Postby Apollonius » Mar 07, 2011 8:32 pm

It seems to me that cal in/cal out is very tempting to accept for a short moment in time, but the critics are talking about how this does not explain weight loss over time, and they are losing their readers by not being very clear about that.

People are seeing the simple eat/work/weight off as a simple equation and saying "of course."

Taking into account that we all expect to live another day, what happens next matters. Your body wants that weight back. How much it wants back depends on hormones (insulin included).

If the body did not respond this way, everyone would be exercising off what they want and life would be pleasingly simple.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#16  Postby amused » Mar 07, 2011 11:46 pm

Apollonius wrote:If the body did not respond this way, everyone would be exercising off what they want and life would be pleasingly simple.


In large part, it is that simple. I know that all my weight gain came from an excessive fondness for, um, mixed drinks. Now that the fondness is gone, it's easy to melt the pounds back off using calorie control. My heavier weight isn't my normal weight, the slimmer me is normal. I suspect that a lot of people can admit to excessive fondness for a lot of foods/liquids that don't have to be a part of their daily diet.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#17  Postby Apollonius » Mar 08, 2011 1:13 am

amused wrote:
Apollonius wrote:If the body did not respond this way, everyone would be exercising off what they want and life would be pleasingly simple.


In large part, it is that simple. I know that all my weight gain came from an excessive fondness for, um, mixed drinks. Now that the fondness is gone, it's easy to melt the pounds back off using calorie control. My heavier weight isn't my normal weight, the slimmer me is normal. I suspect that a lot of people can admit to excessive fondness for a lot of foods/liquids that don't have to be a part of their daily diet.


If you cut out liquids with sugar/carbs, and it worked. That makes sense. That does more than just reduce calories. It changes your body's chemistry and leads to a lower weight over time. That is what the calories in/calories out critics are saying.

Calories in/calories out says that is not the case, and it's just an equation with calories as the only variable.

In other words, if you cut out the sugar/carb drinks, not only did you reduce calories, you lowered insulin, and therefor lowered the weight your body wants to adjust to. (I'm attempting to paraphrase Taubes, a critic of calories in/calories out) You can give the less calories credit if you want to, but there was more going on.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#18  Postby amused » Mar 08, 2011 1:51 am

Look at what these two are holding in their hands.
Image

That's about 600 calories in each cup. Drink two a day, and you can only eat another 800 calories before gaining weight, unless you are working out a lot. Which these two aren't. There's no fat in those drinks, but a lot of sugar and calories with no other nutritional value. It is not difficult at all to see why there is an obesity problem.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#19  Postby Apollonius » Mar 08, 2011 2:32 am

I totally agree that sugar is the primary culprit. No problem there.

Maybe I didn't write the OP very well and thought that people would read the three links as a starting point to get to what I wish to de-bunk, or not-de-bunk:

Calories in/Calories out would add up those sugar calories and what is left to budget for the rest of the day, and for that moment say you either went over or you didn't. End of story. Each day is a simple equation where calories are the only variable. That is all there is to know. The sum total of each day's equations of in/out tells the complete story.

The critics are saying no. The problem here is the content of those calories. Sugar would be the worst choice of calories. An excess of sugar calories over time increases insulin in the body. As a side effect, your body changes. That change results in a new "normal" weight for the sugar consumer. Continue consuming this worst choice of calories and the "normal" weight goes up. In Taubes summary of this, over time, you don't get fat from eating more, you eat more because you are getting fat. You are getting fat because you consumed the sugar over time that changed the insulin level to change what your "normal" weight would be to a higher number.

So if it is correct, it would not be the sum total of each day's calorie calculation that matters. What matters is what those calories do to the body to re-set a "normal" weight.

This is what the sources in the OP are discussing.

I tried to summarize about a book's worth of Taubes "Why We Get Fat" in one paragraph and I know I didn't do it justice. If Taubes is right, calories in/calories out does not work over time, and chemistry matters. If he is wrong and calories in/calories out is right, it's just a matter of what the calculation is for each point in time (like X amount per day).

Just about all of the health and nutrition writing I can find take calories in/calories out to be a truth beyond question.
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Re: Calories In/Calories Out

#20  Postby NilsGLindgren » Mar 08, 2011 6:01 am

Apollonius wrote:If the body did not respond this way, everyone would be exercising off what they want and life would be pleasingly simple.

Well, but how many actually do physical exercise? It is a minority, right? Car or coach to work, sit down by a computer screen, car or coach home, very little time for physical exercise.
There are obvious health benefits from physical exercise, e g influencing insulin resistance, lowering LDL and raising HDL, lowering diastolic blood pressure and pulse, raising tolerance to stress ... but it is very hard to motivate people to do it.
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