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Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Nutrition, Chewing It Over, Food | 0 comments

The Calorie Count Fallacy

The Calorie Count Fallacy

calcul“Calories in vs. calories out” principle asserts that weight gain is just a matter of eating too many calories, and source of calories have little influence. We are advised to eat less, move more and count calories to maintain balance. Piece o’ cake.

Most of you have embarked on the weight loss journey some time in your life, worked out, counted calories and were utterly discouraged when the fat didn’t slough off.  Been there, done that. Don’t beat yourself up, it wasn’t your fault, the advice is inadequate and exquisitely shitty.
Don’t get me wrong! If you tend to sit on your booty and consume 3000 calories per day, you will end up as big as a house. Calories do matter, just like size matters (ahem)…, but the source of calories is also of importance and deserves your attention. Here is why:

Different foods are metabolized through different pathways and affect different hormones.
Take fructose for example,

  • It is readily absorbed and rapidly metabolized by the human liver to glucose and stored as glycogen. If exposed to large quantities, as in a Westernized diet, fructose is transfigured to fat (hepatic de novo lipogenesis), and either shipped out to the blood stream as VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) [1], the nasty cholesterol, or lodged in the liver that eventually leads to NAFL, non-alcoholic fatty liver [2].
  • In excess, fructose increases internal insulin levels and cause insulin resistance comparable to that of glucose (~73%) [3]. Insulin is a hormone, which among other things, is responsible for fat gain….a double whammy. Wouldn’t you say?
  • Moreover, fructose is registered differently in the brain compared to glucose, and has little impact on satiety [4] and lowering of the hunger hormone ghrelin [5].

Now let’s look at protein,

  • It is estimated that 20-35% of the calories in the protein is spent on digesting it, a thermogenic effect much higher than the other macronutrients (5-15% for both carb and fat).
  • hhungryIt increases satiety [6] and prevents over consumption, a highly desirable feature, because who the hell enjoys feeling hungry all the time?
  • The increased protein also serves as a stimulatory effect on muscle protein retention and anabolism, when accompanied with weight lifting. This is advantageous, because overall resting metabolic rate is increased with increased muscle mass.

As you can see, eating fructose will have a completely different impact on the body than protein with the same calories. It is safe to say: a calorie is NOT a calorie.

GrumpyChanging macronutrient (protein, fat, carb) ratios affect appetite in dramatic ways.

Macronutrient proportions can help you create a calorie deficit needed for weight loss. Studies comparing low-carb/high protein and low-fat/high carb diets reveal that appetite is decreased in low-carb diets with a better short-term weight loss [7] and an improved mood and cravings [8]. That’s right, you’d be less cranky and more tolerable to people around you.
Actually, you’d become irritable and grouchy, if your carbs were too low for too long compared to your activity level….just so you know. It’s all about that darling personalized balance.

Calories in vs. Calories out’ Pitfalls:

  • pitfallIgnores individual hormonal profile. Hormones are highly implicated in weight control and this couldn’t be any truer for females. Hormonal fluctuations due to under active thyroid (hypothyroidism), cortisol (and other stress hormones), anti-depressants, birth control pills, etc. all alter the physiology of the body to trigger weight gain.
  • Disregards essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, etc. vital for well-being.
  • It ignores the negative health effects of some foods. There are numerous foods that have harmful effects on the body. Trans fats can lead to inflammation, cardiovascular disease[9], insulin resistance and  and type II diabetes [10]. Fructose from added sugars (not fruits) when consumed in large amounts can lead to insulin resistance, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides and increased abdominal obesity [11].

[1] Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity.
[2] Soft drinks consumption and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
[3] Effects of high-fructose (90%) corn syrup on plasma glucose 
[4] Effects of fructose vs glucose on appetite control
[5] Dietary Fructose Reduces Leptin & Increases Ghrelin
[6]Protein, weight management, and satiety.
[7] Perceived Hunger Is Lower and Weight Loss Is Greater
[8] The effects of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and a low-fat diet on mood and hunger.
[9] Consumption of Trans Fatty Acids Is Related to Inflammation and Endothelial Dysfunction.

[10] Trans Fat Diet Induces Abdominal Obesity and Changes in Insulin Sensitivity. 

 [11] Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose sweetened beverages increases visceral adiposity and decreases insulin sensitivity.

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