A Calorie is A Calorie – Part II

November 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

The previous blog disputed the fact that all calories are created equal.   Turned out to be perfect timing as this study was just released by CNN called “The Twinkie Diet” – which grabbed mainstream attention.

I take several issues with this study and would like to bring up a couple of points that back up my reasoning. Let’s take a look at the absurdness of the notion that, “ a calorie is a calorie.”

I am by no means an expert on physics, but the concept of metabolism relates to the laws of thermodynamics.  A popular way to defend the calorie is a calorie statement is to argue that anything other than calories in versus calories out violates the first law of thermodynamics !  This first law states the total amount of energy lost cannot be greater than the total amount of energy gained.

In other words, the form of the energy can change, but the total will stay constant.  People see this and apply it to the calories in  – calories out equation. This makes sense.  What doesn’t make sense is that the second law of thermodynamics is ignored.  This law states that in any reaction that is irreversible, such as the first law, there is a loss or dissipation of energy in that reaction.  Simply, balance is not to be expected.

Picture for a second a snowy winter day.  On the first day, the total snow accumulation was three inches and the ground was cold enough that the snow stuck and was able to accumulate in the form of snow.  On the second day, the total snow fall was also five inches, but the ground was not cold enough for the snow to accumulate.  Same amount of snow fall, but the reaction was different.  Can you see how this relates to the bodies reaction to different types of food or calories?

Of course total caloric intake will always be a factor in body composition.  There is no sense denying this important concept.  But it is not the only factor. Our bodies are not storage machines.  You don’t put food into it like a refrigerator. Reactions will occur based on the food you put in.

Another example to use to illustrate this point is the difference between regular gasoline and premium gasoline.  Both gases fill the tank and provide the same amount of “calories,” but the premium one is much more efficient and will enable the engine to run better than the regular.  If there were no difference between gases, a premium option would not be available because no one would purchase it.

As we can see, it is no longer a question of whether or not the same amount of calories effect the body differently, rather how much of an effect.

As we can see, it is no longer a question of if the same amount of calories effect the body differently, but how much of an effect.

So this is all great in theory, but what about real life examples?  Realistic people prefer real life examples, as do I.  Not surprisingly, there have been tons of studies that prove that eating a low carb diet, even when calories are equal is superior to a high carb/low fat diet.  There are also numerous studies that have proved that the addition of almonds or peanuts on top of an unchanged diet will not cause weight gain.  A comprehensive list of low carb diet research articles can be found here: Low Carb Diet

So what about the nutrition professor and his recent study?  Keep in mind this is only one study, and the study could have been flawed. I don’t believe it was regulated by any type of organization.  It certainly was an interesting experiment, but I certainly am not sold.  In life we always want to talk about the majority.  There are always going to be a small percentage of those theories that defy logic. The outliers.

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