We have seen that weight gain and loss are more complicated than the energy balance model suggests. Weight is an issue involving water balance and content because 70% of body weight is water and water is controlled by mechanisms largely unrelated to dietary intake. Each organ controls its mass through local mechanisms particular to the organ and that has little to do with caloric intake, except in conditions of chronic starvation. The experimental diet evidence and the dynamics of body composition all point to a more fundamental root of weight gain and metabolism. I will take up these complex dynamics in my next post; they refute the “set point” theory, which is an auxiliary hypotheses to the energy balance model.
Now, we address the effect of calories versus the calorie source. It turns out that the evidence points primarily to the carbohydrate content of dietary intake rather than total caloric intake. The variable to be explained is not body weight, a hopeless task, but fat mass versus lean body mass, precisely what I stressed in my book.
Let’s begin with this abstract from the JISSN, as cited below:
The first law of thermodynamics dictates that body mass remains constant when caloric intake equals caloric expenditure. It should be noted, however, that different diets lead to different biochemical pathways that are not equivalent when correctly compared through the laws of thermodynamics. It is inappropriate to assume that the only thing that counts in terms of food consumption and energy balance is the intake of dietary calories and weight storage. Well-controlled studies suggest that calorie content may not be as predictive of fat loss as is reduced carbohydrate consumption. Biologically speaking, a calorie is certainly not a calorie. The ideal weight loss diet, if it even exists, remains to be determined, but a high-carbohydrate/low-protein diet may be unsatisfactory for many obese individuals. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 1(2):21-26, 2004.
In the article, the authors go on to say, “It is increasingly clear that the idea that “a calorie is a calorie” is misleading. The calorie content may not be as predictive of fat loss as is reduced carbohydrate consumption. Different diets (e.g., high-protein/low-carbohydrate vs. low-protein/high-carbohydrate) lead to different biochemical pathways (due to the hormonal and enzymatic changes) that are not equivalent when correctly compared through the laws of thermodynamics. Unless one measures heat and the biomolecules synthesized using ATP, it is inappropriate to assume that the only thing that counts in terms of food consumption and energy balance is the intake of dietary calories and weight storage.”
I said as much in my book. I say that using a bomb calorimeter to measure calories in various foods and then translating those results to a human body is treating human metabolism like a furnace into which you toss food as kindling.
Calories measure heat, metabolism produces heat and biomolecules. The human biome contains hundreds of thousands of biomolecules, perhaps more. It is just now being mapped thoroughly. Energy in and out balance only measures the heat, leaving the biomolecules out of the picture. The biomolecules compose the millions of signalling molecules, such as insulin and glucagon, gene effectors, DNA, mitochondria, and all the trillions of cells that a human is made of. ATP is part of the electron flux, which is the most fundamental aspect of physiology. It is how our bodies use electrons that runs the show.
Let’s cover some of the main points and the research this article points to.
- Willet and Leibel concluded that fat consumption within the range of 18 to 40 percent energy appears to have little effect on body fatness.
- Cochrane et al reviewed diet studies and concluded that fat-restricted diets are no better than calorie restricted diets for weight loss in overweight or obese subjects.
- They further say that were low-fat weight loss diets subject to laws that apply to the pharmaceutical industry, they would not pass scrutiny.
- Weinberg suggested that a low-fat/high-carbohydrate diets may have contributed to the current epidemics of obesity, lipid abnormalities, type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome. How long have many of us been saying that?
- A low-carbohydrate diet increases turnover of body protein, which is renewing, and increases many energy-dependent processes such as protein synthesis, protein folding, RNA turnover, ion pumps, second messengers, glucose/alanine cycle, and nitrogen disposal through urea synthesis.
- Thermogenesis is increased 100% on a high-protein/low-fat diet versus a high-carbohydrate/low-fat diet. (I throw off so much heat that WW can’t sleep right next to me.)
- Restriction of carbohydrate induces the oxidation of fatty acids and the production of ketones, leading to transcription of mitochondrial uncoupling proteins and elevated heat production. I stressed uncoupling proteins in my book and also showed that uncoupling proteins reduce oxidative stress.
- Hyperinsulinemia increases fat mass without an increase in energy intake. This might be the main point and is also stressed in my book.
- Intensive regulation of blood glucose in diabetics resulted in a weight gain of 2.6 kilograms in 2 months. I saw this with my son and wife and it was one of the primary reasons I abandoned the high-carbohydrate diets their doctors had put them on. We now know that, even with tight regulation of insulin, the stress of tight management increases mortality and does not reduce the oxidative stress diabetics suffer. That is why my family took Glutathione.
Even this study and the reviews it cites only scratches the surface. As we all know, there are many forms of carbohydrates and not all of them are the same even if they have the same energy content. It is the energy AND the biomolecules produced that play out in the complex landscape of human metabolism.