Let's face it, we despise counting calories and have done enough to document that the practice is complete bullshit, but if your Aunt Rita needs to "lose some weight," you can bet dollars to donuts (no pun intended) that the first thing she going to do after she begins the process of starving herself is to confirm that starvation by manically counting everything she eats. This is ingrained in the public psyche. Well, here are a few more reasons to sound the alarm...
Dr. David Ludwig, the director of the obesity program at Boston Children’s Hospital, argues that they are not. In recent studies, Dr. Ludwig has shown that high-carbohydrate diets appear to slow metabolic rates compared to diets higher in fat and protein, so that people expend less energy even when consuming the same number of calories. Dr. Ludwig has found that unlike calories from so-called low glycemic foods (like beans, nuts and non-starchy vegetables), those from high glycemic foods (such as sugar, bread and potatoes) spike blood sugar and stimulate hunger and cravings, which can drive people to overeat.
"While people can certainly lose weight in the short term by focusing on calories," Dr. Ludwig said, studies show that the majority of people on calorie-restricted diets eventually fail. “The common explanation is that people have difficulty resisting temptation,” he said. “But another possibility is that highly processed foods undermine our metabolism and overwhelm our behavior.” Interesting indeed!
At Harvard Medical School, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology, has said that the long-held idea that we get fat solely because we consume more calories than we expend is based on outdated science. You don't say....
He has studied the effects that different foods have on weight gain and said that it is true that 100 calories of fat, protein and carbohydrates are the same in a thermodynamic sense, in that they release the same amount of energy when exposed to a Bunsen burner in a lab. But in a complex organism like a human being, he said, these foods influence satiety, metabolic rate, brain activity, blood sugar and the hormones that store fat in very different ways.
Studies also show that calories from different foods are not absorbed the same. When people eat high-fiber foods like nuts and some vegetables, for example, only about three-quarters of the calories they contain are absorbed. The rest are excreted from the body unused. So the calories listed on their labels are not what the body is actually getting.
“The implicit suggestion is that there are no bad calories, just bad people eating too much,” Dr. Mozaffarian said. “But the evidence is very clear that not all calories are created equal as far as weight gain and obesity. If you’re focusing on calories, you can easily be misguided.”
Giant food corporations, being the super-villains they are, have responded with what you can expect... a recent food industry initiative – led by companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo – to remove calories from their products in an effort to address obesity. “If somebody is drowning in a swimming pool, you could remove a few gallons of water from the pool, and that person will still likely drown,” Dr. Ludwig said. “Whether there is on average 1,000 calories in the food supply too many per person or 800 is really unlikely to make a meaningful difference. What would make a difference is improvement in the quality of the foods available.”
Improvement in the quality of the foods available? That sounds like something we would say!