Weight Loss News and Current Events - A calorie is a calorie? Opinion about this article




Moondance
02-28-2013, 10:07 AM
I found this article to be interesting but don't understand all the science. Is he right? The comments at the bottom are also enlightening. Do you believe a calorie is a calorie?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-lustig-md/sugar-toxic_b_2759564.html


Robin41
02-28-2013, 11:21 AM
A calorie is simply a measurement of energy. One calorie is one calorie. That doesn't mean that there aren't other factors at work, and how the body reacts to the various forms that calories come in is certainly relevant to overall health.

That being said, I think the good doctor has stumbled onto a catchy phrase that he hopes will make him a lot of money and get him onto Dr. Oz. I also question anybody who cites a single study as irrefutable proof of anything. To call an issue settled after a single study is not good science.

toastedsmoke
02-28-2013, 11:43 AM
I believe in a sense that a calorie is a calorie. What that means for anyone, depends on what their goals are. Weight loss, health, overcoming food sensitivities etc.

For me, in my journey, I lost about the same amount of weight on a diet of 1200 calories of Popeye's fried chicken and Snickers chocolate as I did on 1200 calories of chicken breasts and veggies. Obviously one diet made my journey a lot easier and filled me up a lot better and another was a load of constant hunger and cravings, not to talk about whatever unknown damage was being done to my insides.

I think a calorie of junk is the same as a calorie of "real" food in terms of what it takes to burn it but definitely not in terms of how it makes you behave around food, or how it makes you feel or even look. And of course if you have food sensitivities, then a calorie becomes even less of a calorie in the real sense.


bargoo
02-28-2013, 11:44 AM
A calorie is simply a measurement of energy. One calorie is one calorie. That doesn't mean that there aren't other factors at work, and how the body reacts to the various forms that calories come in is certainly relevant to overall health.

That being said, I think the good doctor has stumbled onto a catchy phrase that he hopes will make him a lot of money and get him onto Dr. Oz. I also question anybody who cites a single study as irrefutable proof of anything. To call an issue settled after a single study is not good science.

Agree.

TripSwitch
02-28-2013, 11:45 AM
In Dr. Lustig's defense he does make some reasonable recommendations when it comes to dealing with childhood obesity such as cutting out soda and making kids be more active in exchange for "screen time" such as watching TV and playing video games... and I think regardless of how anyone feels about "a calorie is a calorie" and the whole "calories in, calories out" debate his presentation in "Sugar... The Bitter Truth" is worth watching... whether you believe him or not, because at least it gets people thinking about moving beyond just telling people to simply "eat less and move more" which when it comes to the obesity epidemic just doesn't seem to be working for so many people...

April Snow
02-28-2013, 11:49 AM
I posted a link to a different article on the same concept not too long ago.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2012/08/27/the-hidden-truths-about-calories/

Yes, a calorie is a unit of energy. But caloric availability from food isn't that clear cut, nor is each individual body's utilization of that energy.

I don't believe that scientific knowledge about this is currently sufficient for anyone to modify their diet over it, but I think that continuing research will end up helping develop more effective treatments for obesity.

It took me a really long time to discover and accept how my body reacts to sugar and simple carbohydrates. It would have been a lot easier to have known that information a long time ago and developed a personal eating plan based on it.

I think that ultimately, people will be able to get detailed and specific information about their personal metabolism in a way that helps them optimize diet and activity to maintain good health.

gailr42
02-28-2013, 12:06 PM
Thank you for sharing an interesting article.

For my purposes, a calorie is a calorie. I think, if you read more about this particular thesis, you will see that there are different ways of assigning calorie content. For instance, some nutritional analyses count the calories in both soluble and insoluble fiber. So we may not know exactly what the calorie count means to our bodies.

People who make comments on articles like this tend to be very passionate in their views. Unless you want to spend the rest of your life doing research, you probably need to take it all with a grain of salt, so to speak.

Only you can know what works for your mind and body. If sweet foods make you have terrible cravings for more sweet stuff, you need to think about what this means to you. If you can't eat just one slice of cheese [talking about me on this one], you need to think about practical solutions to the cheese problem. My solution here is to not buy cheese.

Calorie counting is an imperfect science. Be consistent, honor what works for you, and be honest with yourself and you will do fine.

katrinakit
02-28-2013, 12:13 PM
I actually do not think many proponents of low carb diets would disagree with that statement. It is essentially correct. However, it is a lot easier to stick to a diet that is low carb and many people have less cravings on a low carb plan. So, in a practical sense, you might say "a calorie is a calorie but some calories lead to eating more calories". I'm sure someone who is less stressed and better with words could phrase that better but that is basically a summary of my opinion

JohnP
02-28-2013, 12:45 PM
No doubt about it a calorie is a calorie.

No doubt about it the body processes different substances differently.

He is certainly right but in my opinion he overstates the case by not bringing in the context of dose.

That said - if he was more reasonable we would have never heard of him.

Alan Aragon is one of my person favorites because he is very science based and always recognizes the importantance of context but most people will never hear of him because ... he is too boring. In fact he got a lot more popular when he took on Lustig.

This is a great read (http://www.alanaragonblog.com/2010/01/29/the-bitter-truth-about-fructose-alarmism/).

bethFromDayton
02-28-2013, 12:49 PM
I actually do not think many proponents of low carb diets would disagree with that statement. It is essentially correct. However, it is a lot easier to stick to a diet that is low carb and many people have less cravings on a low carb plan. So, in a practical sense, you might say "a calorie is a calorie but some calories lead to eating more calories". I'm sure someone who is less stressed and better with words could phrase that better but that is basically a summary of my opinion

I think you said it wonderfully.

From a weight loss perspective, a calorie may well be a calorie. That doesn't mean that sugar calories aren't a contributor to the high rate of diabetes in much of the western world, or that they doesn't cause cravings. I think there is widespread agreement that our processed food has way more sugar added to it than it needs.

I don't know anyone who says "all calories are created equal and are equally good/bad for your body". There aren't doctors going around saying "It doesn't matter if you eat 100% carbs (or protein) (or fat) as long as your calorie count is right." I think he set up a straw man and then tried to tear it down.

TripSwitch
02-28-2013, 12:59 PM
Wasn't Lustig part of the AHA recommendations of coming up with an acceptable daily "dose" of sugar... the recommendations of up to 6tsp for women and up to 9tsp for men? And while he does call fructose "poison" he does say that it is dose dependent.... just as ETOH with which he draws some of his conclusions as to the processing of fructose in the liver...

mnemosyne
02-28-2013, 01:40 PM
Alan Aragon is one of my person favorites because he is very science based and always recognizes the importantance of context but most people will never hear of him because ... he is too boring. In fact he got a lot more popular when he took on Lustig.

This is a great read.

I really enjoyed that article. Thanks!

ringmaster
02-28-2013, 01:50 PM
I agree with the article. I think for some people it does matter where the calories come from. People say it's all calories in and calories out, simple as that... but I think some people will have a harder time losing on a diet high in sugar if sugar calories turn to fat quicker. Some foods also take energy to digest and burn more calories that way.... It might not matter so much at the higher weights, but when you start getting to goal weight, and getting the vanity pounds where those calories come from will matter I think.

bubblybarrister
02-28-2013, 02:03 PM
I think I only somewhat agree with that article. I still lose weight when I eat junk food, as long as I stay under my calorie goal, but I definitely RETAIN more water when I consume carb-heavy (or the obvious, sodium-heavy) foods.

gailr42
02-28-2013, 02:15 PM
Down towards the very end of the Alan Aragon article, he says that, "The big picture solution is in managing total caloric balance with a predominance of minimally processed foods and sufficient physical activity." In my opinion this is 100% correct. If you don't like to read all the science, non-science and everything else in between, this one statement says it all. Eat a reasonable amount of real food, and get out from behind the computer screen [message to self].

Two interesting articles, great discussion!!

katrinakit
02-28-2013, 02:17 PM
ohhhh! I love your kitties, gailr! I have one that could be their triplet!

gailr42
02-28-2013, 02:31 PM
The kitties aren't even related.

As far as expert opinion goes, I think it is very important not to let it derail us. The devil is not necessarily in the minute details that the scientists study. What we care about here is whether or not we are losing weight and getting healthy.

Also, I meant to point out that Aragon says we should include a preponderance of minimally processed foods. He did not say "NEVER" eat anything that isn't organic or a slice of cheap white bread with grape jelly. He said choose wisely. IMHO, anyway.

LockItUp
02-28-2013, 04:20 PM
A calorie is simply a measurement of energy. One calorie is one calorie. That doesn't mean that there aren't other factors at work, and how the body reacts to the various forms that calories come in is certainly relevant to overall health.

That being said, I think the good doctor has stumbled onto a catchy phrase that he hopes will make him a lot of money and get him onto Dr. Oz. I also question anybody who cites a single study as irrefutable proof of anything. To call an issue settled after a single study is not good science.

No doubt about it a calorie is a calorie.

No doubt about it the body processes different substances differently.

He is certainly right but in my opinion he overstates the case by not bringing in the context of dose.


Down towards the very end of the Alan Aragon article, he says that, "The big picture solution is in managing total caloric balance with a predominance of minimally processed foods and sufficient physical activity." In my opinion this is 100% correct. If you don't like to read all the science, non-science and everything else in between, this one statement says it all. Eat a reasonable amount of real food, and get out from behind the computer screen [message to self].




As far as expert opinion goes, I think it is very important not to let it derail us. The devil is not necessarily in the minute details that the scientists study. What we care about here is whether or not we are losing weight and getting healthy.

Also, I meant to point out that Aragon says we should include a preponderance of minimally processed foods. He did not say "NEVER" eat anything that isn't organic or a slice of cheap white bread with grape jelly. He said choose wisely. IMHO, anyway.

All of this! :D

Arctic Mama
02-28-2013, 04:41 PM
Lustig's hypothesis is overly simple and, given who he makes recommendations to and his field of practice, such a statement makes much more sense. And certainly, it takes care of a huge portion of the problem. But yes, it isn't the whole story. I think he ignores the effect of starch (ie: sugar upon basic metabolizing) on the body, and that energy balance is a factor for many folks who are not medically obese, as well. But overall it is a good article and his work, especially clinical experience, is noteworthy.

lunarsongbird
02-28-2013, 08:45 PM
I've listen to Lustig's lecture, "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" and it really resonated with me, but I think I was probably looking for something to convince me to ditch processed and packaged foods.

Amarantha2
03-01-2013, 10:52 PM
This ...

Thank you for sharing an interesting article.

For my purposes, a calorie is a calorie. I think, if you read more about this particular thesis, you will see that there are different ways of assigning calorie content. For instance, some nutritional analyses count the calories in both soluble and insoluble fiber. So we may not know exactly what the calorie count means to our bodies.

People who make comments on articles like this tend to be very passionate in their views. Unless you want to spend the rest of your life doing research, you probably need to take it all with a grain of salt, so to speak.

Only you can know what works for your mind and body. If sweet foods make you have terrible cravings for more sweet stuff, you need to think about what this means to you. If you can't eat just one slice of cheese [talking about me on this one], you need to think about practical solutions to the cheese problem. My solution here is to not buy cheese.

Calorie counting is an imperfect science. Be consistent, honor what works for you, and be honest with yourself and you will do fine.

200poundquest
03-02-2013, 04:18 AM
I agree with the "catch phrase" thing. Anyway, I look at it like this, the "a calorie is a calorie" thing is like saying a pound of feathers and a pound of lead weigh the same thing.

Foods have more properties than just calories and our body uses them in different ways, just the same as feathers and lead have more properties than just weight.

I'd probably rather stuff my pillow with that pound of feathers and use the lead for a doorstop than vice versa.

Back in the day before calorie trackers became common and free, there used to be some software that marketed the "breakthrough" idea of including the calories involved in digesting food in their calculations. i.e. if you logged 100 calories of chicken breast, it wouldn't count the same in your log as 100 calories of Twinkies. I wonder if it's still around.

mascara blue
06-22-2013, 08:49 AM
I think a calorie is a calorie but how your body responds to the food is what determines weight loss. I have insulin resistance and when my calories come from processed sugar or bad carbs I don't lose weight even though I eat exactly same amount of calories,. Intact I put weight on. But I guess if someone had normal hormone function it be different

kaplods
06-22-2013, 01:54 PM
The problem with "a calorie is a calorie" logic is that it does assume that, at least for weight loss, 50 calories of broccoli are equivalent to 50 calories of candy bar.

A really gross, but dramatic example:

The problem is that some foods are not entirely digested (or digested at all) which is why some animals eat from other animals poo, if corn and other seeds were entirely digested, birds wouldn't be interested in picking them from poo.

Another extreme (not gross) example is fiber calories. Humans cannot digest cellulose (fiber), so the calories aren't available to us. Hay, tree leaves and wood have calories, many animals survive on nothing else, but if humans tried to, they would starve to death, because the calories in cellulose are not available to us, because our gut can't break it down.

So why are cellulose calories included on many nutrition labels?

In many countries, they're not (and not allowed to be), but in the USA the fiber calories CAN be subtracted, but they don't HAVE to be. In my experience, most USA-based calorie counting resources, at least online, the fiber calories for natural foods tend to be included, but are often (but not always) subtracted from processed foods, making processed foods seem like they contain fewer calories in comparison to the natural foods.

Resistant starch and sugar alcohols (the sugars ending in -ol like sorbitol) are other substances humans cannot digest entirely, problem in counting them, is that research seems to suggest that some people have less trouble digesting them, so that one person might absorb half the calories, and someone else might absorb zero.


All that being said, calorie-counting (as inaccurate as it is) is still one of the most useful tools available for weight loss. At the very least, it provides a "worst case scenario," for weight loss purposes. That in itself is useful.

Since I joined Weight Watcher at 8 years old, I've used exchange plans to count calories (WW was exchange-plan based until the mid-90's). I've used the information found in the article to adjust my diet by swapping out some of the starch exchanges for protein and vegetable exchanges of equivalent calories.

When I follow it, I do indeed lose a bit better than when most of my calories are coming from carbohydrates.

Unfortunately, I get very bored and frustrated with exchange plans and any kind of food documenting and when I stop documenting, I stop losing, and often gain.

In my experience, it's the counting that matters, not what is counted or how the counting is done.

So count calories, exchanges, points, fat grams, carbohydrate grams, pre-measured food replacement "packets".....anything... but count SOMETHING.

Even documenting without counting can help some, because simply reviewing your food log can help you reduce your calorie intake.


I think articles like this one are informative, and can certainly influence the food choices you make, but they have very little if any value for HOW you choose to count, because there's no way (as of yet) to quantitatively measure the calorie differential, so for counting purposes, we're still left as a calorie is a calorie (minus fiber calories, if you feel like doing the math to see whether they've been counted or not - I usually don't).