Very true. What many don’t know is that sucrose, table sugar, is half fructose and half glucose. The PTBs have demonized high fructose corn syrup but not table sugar. HFCS is approximately half fructose and half glucose, but in their individual forms, not linked together to make sucrose. One of our enzymes can break the link that makes sucrose at the rate of thousands of per second and we’ve got thousands of those enzymes in our intestines, so functionally, there’s no difference between sucrose and HFCS. When the issue comes up, I like to ask people if they’ve heard that HFCS is bad for you, and then tell them about table sugar.
Also, fructose can only be used in the liver, while glucose can be used in much of the body. All that fructose goes in to making fat and that’s the start of the fatty liver, which is in turn the start of type II diabetes. Regardless of weight loss, my A1c is normal and I’m off all diabetes meds. Huge win and no blindness or kidney dialysis in my future!
I like Gary Taubes’s point that most people think that it’s the eating too much that caused the weight gain, whereas it’s being in weight gain mode that caused us to eat so much. After all, it’s quite clear that children don’t grow to adulthood because they overeat; they eat their parents out of house and home because their hormones are making them grow.
I’m old enough to remember back before the dietary guidelines were a thing, and the common wisdom back then was that it was certain foods (such as sugar, grains, and starches) that caused us to get fat, not the overall quantity that we ate. Back then, some calories really were different. But all that changed because Coca-Cola and the Sugar Foundation had to get us to stop worrying about consuming all that sugar. And we had to eat something to replace all that fat that Ancel Keys said we shouldn’t eat.
It’s 45% glucose and 55% fructose, to be precise. That makes it a bit sweeter per gram than sucrose, and therefore a bit cheaper (because you don’t need to put quite so much in your product). But the two are nearly indistinguishable in terms of their effect on the human body.
Paul, I hear you there, but weight loss is still a matter of taking in less than we use.
“Weight gain mode” - yeah, man, I was almost 30 before I started gaining weight, and that was after darn near 20 years of ridiculous, gratuitous, irrational greed for consumption on my part. I would say that in the end it does not matter - whether we talk about getting in “weight gain mode” or just plain gaining fat, it’s almost always because we did indeed eat more than we required, used, etc. There may be further pertinent questions about the nature of what we ate, but in no way do they negate the truth of what’s already in place.
If we, even after a long time of stable weight, use up our resistance to insulin resistance (if you will), put our livers on the road to getting fatty, etc., then it’s still usually because we took in too much.
And nothing above changes that fact that if we take in less than we use, we will lose weight.
Yeah, I can dig it. And still, the fact remains that if we take in less than we use, then we will lose weight. Misperceptions, or the desire for ‘magical thinking,’ i.e. like fatuous nonsense like, “calories don’t matter,” change nothing.
Hopefully, nobody who’s reading these posts totally denies the difference that hormones, insulin sensitivity, etc., can and do make for many people, and an increasing percentage of the world’s population all the time (at least to the point of this writing). I feel certain that at least a majority of the readers realize that that does indeed operate.
There’s still nothing that negates the physical reality of what we’re talking about. Even now in 2022, most of the world’s population isn’t obese, is reasonably insulin sensitive - even the relative few who eat a very high-carbohydrate diet (their behavior tends to keep insulin resistance at bay) - and for that group, as with every other single group of humans, it’s still true that CICO applies (of course it does) and that taking in less than we use means weight loss.
“Dietary guidelines” - whatever way the political wind is blowing at a given time has nothing necessarily to do with reality (surely we have had good, illustrative examples of that, lately, eh? )
Ifod14’s point is well-taken.
Of course calories matter. And of course - when we are considering every person on earth - that is not the total equation nor proper consideration for weight loss, for everybody. To say, “It doesn’t matter what you eat,” may well be wrong. But pretending that CICO somehow does not apply is just as wrong.
That is awesome Susan! HFCS is actually a bigger culprit because it is much cheaper than sugar, so it gets put in everything. Since it is made from corn it is subsidized by our govt – essentially, the gubbermint is poisoning us slowly. Oh, but of course they still subsidize big sugar back in my home state…
Back to part of the initial conversation on how to frame keto and weight loss in discussions, one of the suggestions was to talk about hormones instead of CICO. (@OldDoug and @Janie) I’ll bet when most people think of ‘hormones,’ they think of estrogen, testosterone and other anabolic steroids. It might be better to say ‘sugar control hormones’ and mention that when those get in better control, you’re not as hungry so can eat less. Eating simple carbs (sugar) gets you a sugar high and then a serious sugar low as your body tries to compensate and that leads to hunger. It’s the sugar control hormone (insulin) that brings the sugar low and hunger. For me at least, hunger leads quickly to the CI part of CICO!
While this is true, thinking of the causality in this direction leads to thinking that the solution is to cut calories, whereas what worked for me was to change the foods I ate. Any calorie cutting I may have done to lost the fat I lost happened without my intending it. I never lost more than a very small amount of weight by trying to cut calories intentionally, and counting calories drove me crazy.
As Eric Westman says, “Calories count—but we shouldn’t count them.”
The latest figures I’ve seen showed that 30% of the U.S. population was obese. A further 28% were normal weight, but metabolically ill. Those figures were from about eight years ago. I don’t imagine the situation has improved any. And so far as I know, similar percentages apply worldwide.
Definitely - not all calories are ‘equal,’ especially for people like on this forum, to generalize.
Paul, yeah - this goes to how situational it often is. Preventing metabolic damage isn’t the same as dealing with it, necessarily. And ‘cutting calories’ wouldn’t be the whole deal, anyway, even from the simplified “take in fewer calories than we use.”
I never counted calories either, and the only thing that really works for me is ketogenic eating.
CDC says that for U.S. adults the obesity rate was 41.9% (ouch) in 2017. For the world as a whole it’s ~13%. Certainly the trend in almost all places is going in the wrong direction.
11+% of Americans are diabetic, and 29% is prediabetic. Both are on the rise - it’s an incredible epidemic.
I was just watching a youtube of Jason Fung - who I gotta love for his utter contempt and frustration with both stupidity and profit-led “science” - who, paraphrased, said "calories are a unit of physics, not bio chemistry. Kilocalories are measured in a bomb calorimeter as to how much heat energy a substance will release.
By this definition, WOOD is loaded with calories. And if you were to eat a chunk of wood (or a pound of sawdust), you would receive nearly no caloric nutrition whatsoever from it." Loads of calories in, but not an ounce of fat gained even if you sat on your butt all day long. The body is not a bomb calorimeter, it’s a collection many of bio-chemical mechanisms for metabolizing (or not metabolizing) various substances.
I was on Twitter a while back, and man does that bring out the trolls. Anyway, one person said that thermodynamics laws apply to the human body. He’s so convinced that he just trolls people on Twitter, reiterating the same thing.
So, I cited to a study where they gave men testosterone. Guess what happened? They lost weight. How does “thermodynamics” apply?
I cited to another study where they gave insulin to people. Guess what happened? They gained weight. How does “thermodynamics” apply?
There are just so many problems with CICO. You can’t verify what’s coming in, for instance. I’ve been making meats where I know what the “input” is, and the output is much lower. For instance, bought 5 pounds of ground beef, cooked it, drained it, and got 3.5 pounds. How many “calories” are in a serving now?
Been cooking top round or other roasts. Got one that was about 4.5 pounds. Cooked it, got 3.5 pounds afterwards. How do I account for this to determine what my caloric intake is? (And let’s not even get into the fact that there are different amounts of fat on each roast, and most calculators assume you cut off the fat.)
There’s no way to determine what your calorie output is. Every time you breath or pee out ketones or poop and have something that’s undigested in it, those are calories lost to the system, and there’s no way to account for those.
If I go jog 1 mile, how many calories did I burn? What about HIIT, which I’ve been doing instead for both time and darkness constraints? Your metabolic rate goes up for a long time after HIIT, much better than after jogging. (Will go jogging 1 mile this weekend, to take our puppy on her first jog. Should be “fun”!) How do you account for this?
The problem with CICOphants is all they do is repeat over and over again that you lost weight because you ate fewer calories (and I can actually contest that too) or you gained weight because you ate more (and I can actually contest that too), but they NEVER once ask WHY.
And let’s not even get into the fact that scale weight does not mean you gained or lost fat weight, which is really what you care about. You do not want to lose muscle mass if possible (and even here, there’s an exception in that if you lose a lot of weight, say 100 pounds, you could be fine, because the muscle mass you lost could be because you no longer need as much to move that 100 pounds you no longer have).
There’s no complexity in CICO, and the body is incredibly complex.
No it isn’t unless you don’t eat all the result… It’s very basics for calorie counters that we uses raw weight. Just because it loses water, it loses no calories (unless we make it charcoal ;)).
So I have no problems with it as I use the raw weight. My “problem” (not so much a problem, actually) is that I don’t know about the macros of my raw ingredients. Oh well, I guesstimate, good enough. It’s just some potential CI while I don’t know my CO anyway And eaten stuff -> CI isn’t always straightforward either. (For me, CI is what my body actually gets, absorbs. I suppose the difference is minimal in my own case but it’s not true for everyone.)
I still can’t imagine CICO wouldn’t be always true, it’s pretty much unavoidable - but CICO how I see it is super complicated and we can’t know either CI or CO ever. And some people work in so interesting ways that tracking isn’t useful for them anyway.
Even if it’s all about calories for someone’s fat-loss, very apparently (like for me and for my SO), tracking doesn’t necessarily help much. It gives us some information that we can use later, it can be fun experimenting, I like numbers… But it’s not needed and not enough either.
My SO simply skips his 3rd meal and bam, quick smooth fat-loss until a slim figure. And I skip lunch (and do zillion other things) and I am pretty sure it will help eventually. I put effort into (getting information to ensure) my fat-loss in the last 11 years without fat-loss, I think I changed and learned enough so it should work now. But I need to eat little for it to happen, there is no way around it. And for that to happen? I need a bunch of things, unique to me. It doesn’t matter if my body follows simple CICO for fat-loss, in the end I need to find my own method to ensure I eat little enough. So I don’t even see why would it matter what we think about CICO - unless we tried to force things upon our poor body, that’s so foreign from me… But yes, I know people do that and cause harm.
And we like to know things too, yes.
Oh, exercise. I just have NO. IDEA. I had days when I truly didn’t know if I exercised 1000 kcal or 2000 or WHAT Oh I wish to be that active again, it was very occasional but happened.
Exercise is simply a mystery. CI is a mystery too but less so. CO for an active person is something I can’t even have a vague idea about. It even changes if we do it regularly.
The CICO site I use has numbers for “walking”. Slow, medium, uphill, something like that. It’s totally different for different people anyway, obviously and other problems but what if I walk slow with huge elevation? And sometimes I stop as it’s a 10 hour hiking tour? Not the foggiest idea at all. And it’s perfectly fine. I don’t need these numbers. I don’t even need my energy deficit number. I only need the knowledge about HOW to eat to get whatever I want. It takes a lot of time for me but I got some quick answers in the beginning already. It wasn’t enough to slim down or get more energy but I still went in the right direction.
You are totally right in that Of course, someone with 400 pounds actually want to lose weight as no way they can have little fat like that… But for a 100-150 pounds of woman? Scales often do a lot of harm as they just can’t look at it properly. Not everyone should weigh themselves. And count calories, I saw so many things from people, it was sad to see.
And fast, I saw horrible examples there too… People in general are skilled enough to mess up nearly anything by doing it wrong.
There is huge complexity, even you wrote about that a lot… CO is super complex. Isn’t it for the calories we use up? We talked about that, it is super complex and a mystery.
And CI too, to a smaller extent, usually.
WHAT do people think about the simplest CICO? I never fully got it. I can’t imagine a really simple CICO. I know how people simplify it (they imagine CO can be calculated and it’s always the same if the activity is the same, it’s very wrong, of course) but it’s still not super simple.
Excellent rant, Bob. I’m going to save it for future reference.
Forgive me for adding on my own rant, which just reinforces the irrelevance of calories. The concern with caloric intake forgets that the body doesn’t even deal in calories, because it doesn’t actually burn the food we eat. Instead, it converts things into ATP, water, and carbon dioxide. So we really should be thinking in terms of ATP yield, instead of the heat content of food.
ATP yield is even more of a mystery to me, I just grab some amount of my 2 pillars of food that seems to work, little else and see what happens I don’t need to know about these deep underlying things I can’t possibly know just to lose fat, I need to know what input works for me. And then my body refuses to eat like that so maybe it’s not that easy but I figured out a cute amount and I just offer it for my body and hope for the best
Actually no, there is timing too. And individual things. We avoid this, embrace that and tweak until it works? I don’t really see any other way.
Or I focus on results here while the topic is what is right and wrong?
Can release, not “will release.” Fung often writes “for the masses” and at times embraces a bumper-sticker mentality, rather than being strictly correct about things from a scientific/physical perspective. Calories in, calories out applies all along. (And just what would be “a unit of biochemistry”? )
Yes, certainly. The rub comes when we forget to think about things scientifically and logically. For example, it would be silly to say that, “Keto doesn’t work because I ate meat and I didn’t lose weight.” At the very least, more information is needed, i.e. including were they eating other things, and in what quantity, like carbohydrates, for example.
Wood, calories in, no doubt about it. But here too more information is needed. So, how about “Calories out”…? What happens to that wood in the human body? Geez, the person didn’t gain fat. Now really, how surprising is that?
Think about it - let’s weigh the bomb calorimeter before and after. After, when the wood has been combusted, the weight of calorimeter and contents will have declined. For our wood-chomping, sawdust swallowing human, the rate of weight loss from ‘burning’ would be drastically less, approaching zero, actually, while for the calorimeter it tends toward or even achieves 100% of what is possible from the burning. Here, there is a massive and easily understandable difference in the 'calories out" part of the equation; a good illustration of CICO at work, applying as always.
Of course they do. Is anybody seriously pretending otherwise?
Testosterone often changes the calories in, calories out (all other things being equal), both indirectly (as with increased or decreased muscle mass) and directly, via affecting things in the human body at the molecular level - including fat metabolism, among others. ‘Calories in, calories out’ is there all along, applying as it always does.
No. The problem is that people want to pretend that scientific fact is somehow rendered invalid, and/or that there is some nebulous ‘magic’ at work. And often, they just plain assert (intentionally or unintentionally [though horrendously illogically]) that the “calories out” part does not matter.
Does that matter to you, Bob? Nobody is forcing you to count, here. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. Has nothing to do with the physical reality of what is happening. Some people really like the data; measuring, tracking, etc. - personal preference, but in no way is it required.
I’ve always thought it was silly to be critical of the physical reality, i.e. ‘CICO’ while not knowing or considering the “calories out” part. Now, you seem to be unsure about the “Calories in” part. Well, okay, but there is no basis for denying the science there.
No - there is not enough information given there; that’s a straw man argument. a logical fallacy.
Same deal. You cannot make that assumption based on the incomplete information you gave. Tell us what is happening with the calories in and the calories out, and then we can proceed rationally. CICO will apply and it will all make sense.
The reason that ketogenic eating works for many people when fat loss is desired is because they have configured CICO properly, with that desire in mind. They have configured things so that their body is using some stored fat as part of the ‘Calories in,’ and on a net basis they are drawing down their fat stores. That process does not have to be from eating low-carb; any way of eating that achieves it will suffice in this case. In practice, eating low-carb enables many people to do that, and continue it, however, whereas with other diets they were unable and/or found it less pleasant.
Nobody says the scale weight has to mean one thing or another here, in that way. That’s just another strawman argument.
Paul, again - just looking at “caloric intake” isn’t necessarily going to determine things, and of course CICO will be applying all along, as it always does.
Our bodies definitely deal in calories. Try going without them, for like, a really long time.
Thinking about ATP is fine, but it doesn’t change anything - the same physical laws apply to the human body there too. We use ATP for energy storage and an energy source at the cellular level, among other things. There is an overall relationship between energy intake and usage, whether we say ATP, or calories, ions, protons, joules, etc. If one doesn’t like to say “calories” then one can talk about grams of fat, for example; the energy content of our stored fat (or the amount of ATP that can be created by using it) is known to such a high degree of accuracy that the particular term we pick here is not going to matter.
My point was that although when burnt, fats yield approximately 9 kilocalories per gram (a little more or a little less, depending on which fatty acid we are talking about) and carbohydrates yield just under 4 kcal/g (3.8-something or 3.9 something, I forget) and protein yields about the same, when ATP yield is considered, glucose and fatty acids yield an equivalent number of ATP molecules (fatty acids yield, I believe, a few more ATP molecules but take longer to metabolise), and protein yields considerably less (it is the deamination and conversion of each amino acid into a glucose or fatty-acid molecule that cuts so greatly into the net yield). This is why amino acids are used primarily for structural purposes, and glucose and fatty acids are used for energy.
Since it is ATP that fuels all the processes in our cells, how much water our food can heat when burnt to a crisp is largely irrelevant, since combustion is a vastly different reaction from those involved in turning ADP into ATP and back again. Also, the presence of enzymes or other catalysts in a chemical reaction greatly changes the energy balance of the reaction. None of this was known at the time of the invention of the bomb calorimeter, or our understanding of the effect of food on our bodies would be quite different.
(For reference, a calorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 mL of water by 1°C, and a food calorie/Calorie/kilocalorie is 1000 times that amount of heat. By contrast, the energy released by reducing a molecule of adenosine triphosphate—ATP—to adenosine diphosphate—ADP—is what is used to power our cells. There is a certain amount of heat released in this reaction, but I have never heard anyone mention what the value of that heat is in calories or kilocalories.)
It’s just as relevant; we’re still talking about the same thing, in the end. The human body is itself a calorimeter. Losing weight? Well then you’ve got more energy going out than coming in. Moreover, there are large calorimeters that a person can live in, and the math still works out, every step of the way, whether we talk about “calories” or not.
While it’s true that “oxidative burning” is not the end-all of human metabolism, so what? That’s not the argument. That’s all that happens in the bomb calorimeter, but the exact same thing goes on in the human body. That’s what cellular respiration is - oxidative burning of fatty acids, amino acids or sugars. Just as in the calorimeter, we get carbon dioxide and water, plus energy. The human body takes that energy and uses most of it to make ATP, certainly, but it all starts with oxidation, just like in the calorimeter.
ATP and calories are convertible, back and forth. The human body breaks down X amount of food, gets Y amount of energy, and can make Z amount of ATP.
A mole of ATP gives ~7.3 Calories (kcal or the ‘big’ calorie). So 1 Calorie is the yield from the breaking down of ~8.25 x 10²² ATP molecules.