All Good Science Is Sincere

Everyone wants the Free Lunch, especially a Calorie Free Lunch, so anytime you get good news about dieting, you seize upon it. You might have read a JAMA study that found an apparent advantage to anything but the Food Police recommendation of higher carbs and lower fat diets. In that research people who ate variations on the Atkins type diet with higher fats and lower carbs showed higher resting energy rates, indicating that all calories are not equal. It was a most persuasive study.

The results of our study challenge the notion that a calorie is a calorie from a metabolic perspective . . . Ultimately, successful weight-loss maintenance will require behavioral and environmental interventions to facilitate long-term dietary adherence. But such interventions will be most effective if they promote a dietary pattern that ameliorates the adverse biological changes accompanying weight loss.

Now, science weighs in. Gina Kolata, the NYT health writer, provides an interview with a guy who spent his career studying just this problem and his take on that research is sincerely debunking.

So the whole thing might have been an illusion? All that happened was the people temporarily lost water on the high-protein diets? Perhaps the most important illusion is the belief that a calorie is not a calorie but depends on how much carbohydrates a person eats. There is an inflexible law of physics — energy taken in must exactly equal the number of calories leaving the system when fat storage is unchanged. Calories leave the system when food is used to fuel the body. To lower fat content — reduce obesity — one must reduce calories taken in, or increase the output by increasing activity, or both. This is true whether calories come from pumpkins or peanuts or pâté de foie gras. To believe otherwise is to believe we can find a really good perpetual motion machine to solve our energy problems. It won’t work, and neither will changing the source of calories permit us to disobey the laws of science.

Diet as the Perpetual Motion Machine!

The Free Lunch!

The Calorie Free Lunch!

The Energy and Calorie Free Lunch!

But, it sure tastes great and is less filling to boot. Let’s get a Miller-cat fight started!

P.S. The good doctor also noted:

There is no hocus-pocus, no advantage to the dieters. Only water, no fat, has been lost. The paper did not provide information to know how the calculations were done, but this is a likely explanation for the result.

Glad to hear an old pro say that. I couldn’t figure out the calculations either, but thought they were saying something highly technical that I was misunderstanding. It’s appears they didn’t report on the Man Behind The Curtain machinations for the results after all.