A calorie is not a calorie


A calorie is not a calorie. There are plenty of studies demonstrating how different kinds of food affect us in different ways – despite having the same number of calories.

Recently another interesting study was published. The participants were served milkshakes that were identical in every way, except how rapidly digested the carbs were.

The milkshakes with rapidly digested carbs quickly resulted in a higher blood sugar. But after 4 hours the blood sugar was lower and the participants were hungrier. They also had increased activity in brain regions connected to cravings for food.

In other words: fast carbs makes you hungrier, increases cravings and makes you want to eat more food.

The findings are yet another reason why a calorie is not a calorie. Another reason why the weight advice to “just eat fewer calories” rarely works long term. Soon the only true believers will be found at the marketing department of Coca Cola.


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  1. Zepp
    Sorry, but I forgoten to ad Leptinresistance and defiency.. as a way!

    And you probably know that insulin can overide leptin signaling.. perticaly if it got help from Dopamine?

    Well you know.. calories dont exist.. and there is no such a thing as a calorie receptor in our bodys!

    They are only some measuring thing to predict energy from food you eat, not how they are reacting in the body or how they make the body to react.. different calories make our body to react in different maners.

    And the measuring thing we call calories is Atwater factors actualy.. Atwater did burn food and feces and everything to try to figure out the energy value that we can absorb!

    "If calories do count, does that mean they are a cause or an effect?"

    Its a strange question.. it dont make any sens for me at all.

    We eat for the reason of energy and essentiall macro- and micro-nutrients, its regulated by a whole lot of things, but the basics is energy.. becuse we do need around 2000 Kcal a day, some more other less.. and its primerely regulated by availebel energy in blood and in stores, like glykogen and triglycerides.

    The major part of your meal is stored.. at least a big part of it, and it comes out again inthe blood when needed.. essentialy by reversing those storing mechanismes.

    Our body have controll of our stores, in fat cells by Leptin, in blood by insulin and glucagon, the liver is monotoring the inflow of glucose, your deodendum send signals to pancreas by incretine hormones, the pancreas senses both glucose and ketonboddys, and our brain feels both overall signaling from most hormons and the glucos/keton levels.

    Its not a very exactly system, its robust and works by cascades of signaling, mostly by feedback and can coop with a lot of situations.

    Its then ends up with a signal of apetite, and there is altso a negative feedback.. an aversion system that shall stop you to eat more then whats good for you.. or you feel bad.

    I can give you my hypotes about that this complex system is not made for that much easy digested energy.. it takes to long time to hit the brake.

    However.. it seems that different macronutrients are better then others to hit the brake, protein in the form of meat is one of this, and it have long lasting satiety effect.

    Fat have other behaviors, one dont realy feel satisfyed by eating it, but the brakes hits real hard if you eat to much.. one feel sick.. and want to puke.. and one dont want to eat for a long time.

    And on the other hand, carbs make you satisfyed of your meal, but have a very short duration.. and ghrelin increse the apetite and make you not that sensitive for leptin.. perticaly so cald fast carbs, that make your blood súgar rise quickly.

    One cant eat that much meat, its stay in the stomage for a long time, and there are limits for how much amino acids our gut can absorb in an our.

    Fat has even a slower absorbtion rate!

    But carbs are quickly absorbed, stored and then your blood sugar falls.. one get peckish about somthing to eat, even if ones stomage contain both protein and fat.. there are always some rom for a sweet dessert.

    Its get a merry goround.. if one dont stop it, and one thing to do is to lower carbs/cuting out a lot of easy digested and absorbed carbs and ad some more fat.. then you cant eat that much.

    You know we got a buildt in calorie counter, but its relying on that one eat food its designed to coop with.. and then it can manage a mixed diet too.

    But if one flush the system with easily digested carbs, its in a postprandial state all the time and the maine problem is to get a normal blood sugar.. its in a storing state a lot of the time.

    And after some time.. your muscle cells get loaded with glucose, there are no more place, then they retract there GLUT4, then you have to store glucose in other places.

    Sorry to say, but our Denovo lipogenes is just rudimentary, so its nesecery to excrete more insulin to push some more glucose in the muscle cells and to promote more DNL.

    And after some years or decades, cells do protect them self from insulin, and its not needed that much GLUT4 anyhow.

    Soo, where do calories comes in, well if one have a broken apetite regulation, by bad genes/broken signaling patways, bad homeostasis, eating disturbance, or others, then one dont react on calories as one should!

    I never meet any person that stuff him self with the aim to get obese, but I know peopel that are obese and hungry all the time.

  2. grinch
    "Soo, where do calories comes in, well if one have a broken apetite regulation, by bad genes/broken signaling patways, bad homeostasis, eating disturbance, or others, then one dont react on calories as one should!

    I never meet any person that stuff him self with the aim to get obese, but I know peopel that are obese and hungry all the time.
    So I believe in the CICO paradigm, but do not believe in the ELMM philosophy. I do not believe that obese people simply eat too much because they want to, they eat too much because they have an increased appetite that is driving them to eat more. So the playing field isn't level when compared to the typical lean person who does not have to put a massive amount of effort into not overeating. This is why I generally don't fault people for being obese. I do fault those who don't put an honest effort in to improve their health though. I respect those who try and fail over those who never try.

    So now the question is, why do they have this appetite that caused them to eat too much? Well I think its mostly genetic, partially influenced by upbringing, and ultimately success or failure is determined by the environment the person is in and how convenient it is to overeat. If 100 years ago we took a sample of 100 random people and made them live in a bubble with nothing but fast food and desserts, probably a greater portion of them would be obese than those who are today in the American population. Our genetics haven't changed that much over the decades, but our environment and culture certainly has.

    So one could say I should reject the CICO paradigm because I am essentially saying that our biology dictates our energy intake. Well to be honest I believe that most of the IN side is dictated by our biology responding to the quality of the food we eat, as well as what our fat store leptin signaling is telling us. The OUT side I think is a little more static, of course with variations between people and OUT is loosely coupled with the IN side as far as energy balance goes. Some people are biologically resistant to obesity as well.

    But at the end of the day, eating the wrong foods does not wreak such hormonal havoc that we are unable to create a calorie deficit, independent of total energy intake. The macro-nutrient composition barely makes a difference in the OUT side of the equation. Even when studies demonstrate macro-nutrients affect the IN side, there are a million confounders. There are just way too many differences between how low fat and low carb diets are constructed to know exactly what properties of the diet are at work. I think the effect of macros on the OUT side is grossly exaggerated by the likes of Taubes, et. al.

  3. FrankG
    Since you seem so focused on conservation of energy (mass) do you know what else is a great way to lose significant "weight"? Amputation of your lower limbs.

    And I'm not just being flippant. That is exactly the fate that awaits too many Diabetics who listen to the kind of advice you still promote Ondrej.

  4. Christopher
    Could anyone explain to me please why grass-eaters have the urge to blog on low carb sites?. I have several friend who are (for many years) very low or no carbs, none of us blogs or have a desire to blog on grass-eaters sites; we do not even visit them. Occasionally we would watch You-tube presentation of one of the vegetarian 'health professionals' explaining biochemical principles behind obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease et cetera, but we do it instead of watching a comedy channel - it is a great entertainment, highly recommended. I recall once watching one of them explaining how he calculated when (precisely to the window of few years) Steve Jobs (Rest In Peace) got his cancer !!??. It is hilarious.
    Did you know that humans would have to eat approximately 10x more grass than sheep to supply energy for brain function?
    Reply: #55
  5. FrankG
    I agree Christopher. There are blogs such as WHS where I did read for a while, disagreed with many things that were written there -- usually because they did not stand up to scrutiny -- offered my point of view and was either ignored or dismissed so I moved on.

    Find a blogger that you trust and stick with it. I don't see the point of trying to "convert" others who seem too closed-minded to listen to reason.

    On the subject of eating grass, did you see the documentary Did Cooking Make Us Human ..? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HY_vd4SNC-U

    Reply: #56
  6. Christpher
    Than you Frank for the link. I did not see this one. I am one of those who argues that ability to control fire and to cook meat was the key turning point in the development of our brain, physically and functionally.
  7. ZellZ
    Margaret, I think, pointed out that just because people can & do lose weight on low calorie diets does not mean they can keep Off that weight by keeping on the diet.

    In fact, with ANY kind of diet, regained "lost weight" is extremely common.

    The Nazi comparison is truly offensive & quite stupid. Will people who are forced into starvation lose weight? Yes. But if you have to use that kind of comparison (Nazis starving people, for god's sake) to bolster a claim that calories DO count, you are on shaky ground, indeed.

    We live in the real world, with tons of food all around us, much of it quite toxic, yet readily available & seen as more or less innocent by most people (except that they guiltily acknowledge how addicting & fattening desserts are). Even so, desserts are associated with birth days, holidays, celebrations of all kinds.

    You can't say that about heroin.

    Dr. Robert Lustig sees sugar as addictive but as "weakly" addictive, compared to heroin. Maybe so. I've tried one but not the other. All I can say is: sugar can ruin your life, too. It just takes longer. (And by sugar I mean all the bad guys: HFCS, Fructose, honey, maple syrup, etc etc etc).

    My issue is that I can't stand to:

    1. count things
    2. weigh anything
    3. portion control
    4. measure anything

    There are barriers to measuring, that have to do w/money. Blood ketone meters may not be expensive, but the strips for them sure are.

    What I like about a hflc diet is that it seems to Naturally reduce hunger & increase satiation. Just by that, alone, one will eat less than before going on such a diet.

    The problem I find w/a lchf diet is that the longer one is on it, the more restrictive it seems to need to get. After initial weight loss (which can be as much as 56 pounds or more), the well known "plateaus" start.

    Further, cravings can begin to ratchet up in intensity.

    I do think, though, that "cheating" on whole grain bread & fruit (as well as dairy & nuts in greater amounts) is not so bad, compared to what one could be cheating on or with.

    There are temptations to drink too much diet soda & to have too much coffee. Caffeiene starts to sneak in, more & more, despite one's best efforts.

    And the much touted energy levels increasing may not happen for everyone.

    Plus, after a while, facing yet more fatty meat & eggs - well it can get tedious, no matter how much one tries to vary the diet. Bacon, at first a grand luxury & amazing "diet" food, becomes just another thing that one becomes sick & tired of.

    Then, lures to eat water melon, corn on the cob & delicious, whole grain (truly Whole Grain) sandwiches increase.

    If you "give in" to such temptations, you are no longer on the ketogenic diet & maybe your clothes start feeling tighter, maybe not, but you might still have low energy, which can be very demoralizing.

    Beans are very cheap, yet they are the anti christ, the satanic bad food for low carbers, as well. Yet beans can make a meal go much further.

    Ok, my Main Point is that Any diet can start to become tedious & increasingly hard to do.

    Even a lchf diet.

    We are not all the same nor do we get the same results - from Any diet!!!

  8. ZellZ
    So, I am not against lchf diets. Far from it.

    There is just a reason that ALL diets fail a Majority of people, & I don't see that being addressed here at All.

    I think variety matters. The foods on a lchf diet are So Restricted that the longer one is on this diet, the more deprived one starts to feel.

    Which is the problem of most Any diet.

    Again, I do not Presume to speak for all here who post. But I do think I am speaking for a great many people who try different diets, then find they cannot stay on them.

    Including the low carb/high fat diet.

    On the other hand, to use this diet as a tool to get off sugar & stop bingeing, to stop the simple carbs - this diet is an Invaluable tool for that!

    Most people probably can't stand to count calories Or carbs or feel hungry on a low calorie or low fat diet (for the Rest of their lives, at any rate, as one can do something for a While, but that is Different from doing it forEVER) but they will probably welcome any diet that lets them eat bacon, diet soda & bunless cheeseburgers.

    So, maybe that is not so great, it's not Perfect, but come on, it's a good deal better than regular soda, regular trips to get fast food & regular consumption of cakes, candies & ice cream.

    Perfection can be the enemy of the Good. Lots here seem to want Perfection.

    The problem is, you may have to stay on a very low carb diet far longer than you can stand to, to lose more weight.

    Which is why I like Dr. Robert Lustig's advocating of eating Whole Foods as much as possible. Even ones like whole grains.

  9. Andrew
    Reply: #60
  10. FrankG
    You must have a very odd definition of "sustainable" Andrew.
  11. sophie
    Thanks for the link Andrew!

    I must say that the experience reflects what I have been experiencing as well. Recently due to a number of factors I have dropped my LCHF habits and lived on a diet of Parisian pastries. I did not gain weight and even lost a little. I have to mention I added carbs but still avoid all sugars. The carbs seem to really curb my appetite, which really surprised me.

    To me it makes no doubt that the quantity of food seems to have the biggest impact. Granted, LCHF is a great tool to manage how much food one consumes. MAybe after almost a year of low carb and low sugar my body can now function on lower carbs.

    This is a very interesting article that asks a lot of valuable questions.

    This sentence sums up my experience:

    "There seems to be a disconnect between eating healthy and being healthy," Haub said. "It may not be the same. I was eating healthier, but I wasn't healthy. I was eating too much."

    I was the healthiest eater before LCHF. I ate moderate grains, plenty of produce, and moderate protein. I don't think my current diet is as varied and rich as it was. I do eat less, and I am less hungry, and I don't know if the lesser amount of nutrients going through my system is a good thing.

    I also appreciate his admitting to not knowing and not holding the gospel by saying: ""I wish I could say the outcomes are unhealthy. I wish I could say it's healthy. I'm not confident enough in doing that. That frustrates a lot of people. One side says it's irresponsible. It is unhealthy, but the data doesn't say that."

  12. ZellZ
    That Twinkie diet guy? I bet if he takes up smoking, he'll lose even More pounds!

    And cancer, well, we All know how That dreaded disease carves the weight right off the body.....(and let's not forget bulimia, anorexia & concentration camps, the last of which, a certain commenter to this blog is known to frequently cite in the ridiculous belief that calories Do count).

    Gosh. I guess there's Lots of ways to take off weight, a whole Wonderful Array of techniques! Who Knew???

  13. grinch
    The twinkie diet guy's health improved by simply losing weight. This is consistent with the CICO paradigm and that calorie intake largely determines energy balance. Neither carbs nor insulin determines energy balance. There is simply no evidence that insulin drops energy expenditure in a way to ensure positive energy balance. There is no obese mother with a starving baby. Excess energy in the system seems to contribute to poor health more so than poor quality foods.

    This is why I think the key to improving health and weight status is by finding a diet where you can keep your calories low while managing hunger at the same time. If your calories are high, then your weight loss will plateau real quick, no matter how ketogenic it is. I think food palatability and the status of the long term homeostatic system play a huge role in managing food intake. This is where the research may find useful answers.

    Reply: #64
  14. Zepp
    Well it seems that you still trys to break in open doors.. ofcourse energy intake determens the energy balance.. nobody denys that!

    Its about what is causing excess energy intake.. how diferent macro nutrient compositions affect our homeostasis in different ways.. and my hypotesis is that a twinkie based diet is the cause, or similar diets!

    "We conclude that insulin resistance and/or hyperinsulinemia (a) are present in the majority of hypertensives, (b) constitute a common pathophysiologic feature of obesity, glucose intolerance, and hypertension, possibly explaining their ubiquitous association, and (c) may be linked to the increased peripheral vascular resistance of hypertension, which is putatively related to elevated intracellular sodium concentration."


    "Hyperinsulinemia, or hyperinsulinaemia is a condition which there are excess levels of insulin circulating in the blood than expected relative to the level of glucose. While it is often mistaken for diabetes or hyperglycaemia, hyperinsulinemia can result from a variety of metabolic diseases and conditions. While hyperinsulinemia is often seen in people with early stage type 2 diabetes mellitus, it is not the cause of the condition and is only one symptom of the disease. Type 2 diabetes only occurs when pancreatic beta-cell function is impaired. Hyperinsulinemia can be seen in a variety of conditions including diabetes mellitus type 2, in neonates and in drug induced hyperinsulinemia
    Hyperinsulinemia is associated with hypertension, obesity, dyslipidemia, and glucose intolerance.[1] These conditions are collectively known as Metabolic syndrome."


  15. FrankG

    A Nutrition Paradox — Underweight and Obesity in Developing Countries
    Benjamin Caballero, M.D., Ph.D.

    "A few years ago, I was visiting a primary care clinic in the slums of São Paulo. The waiting room was full of mothers with thin, stunted young children, exhibiting the typical signs of chronic undernutrition. Their appearance, sadly, would surprise few who visit poor urban areas in the developing world. What might come as a surprise is that many of the mothers holding those undernourished infants were themselves overweight."

    Quality of the food vs. quantity of the food...

    I guess the Earth *is* flat after all.

  16. grinch
    "Well it seems that you still trys to break in open doors.. ofcourse energy intake determens the energy balance.. nobody denys that!

    Its about what is causing excess energy intake.. how diferent macro nutrient compositions affect our homeostasis in different ways.. and my hypotesis is that a twinkie based diet is the cause, or similar diets!"
    Well many low carbers say energy intake doesn't determine energy balance, but instead energy balance (made positive by excess insulin action) determines energy intake (and/or energy expenditure, depending on where they have positioned the goal posts for the day).

    I think the more likely cause of excess energy intake lies somewhere in the feedback loop to the brain, and insulin is only one of many hormones involved.

  17. FrankG
    Seeing the brain as the centre of energy balance makes little sense in evolutionary terms: where it ought to be apparent that whatever we evolved from, must have had energy balance pretty much sorted out long before we had anything even approximating a brain. Indeed there are many extant lifeforms that manage energy balance without a brain.

    But hey if you are an obesity researcher who focuses on the brain, then of course you miss seeing the big picture... if the only tool you have is an hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.

    Occams razor always applies, in that we have no need to search for complex answers when a simple one will suffice...

    Look around at the natural world for examples such as a murmuration of starlings, or a school of fish which outwardly appear to be a single complex entity, deceptively looking as if they are governed by a single complex brain. Whereas the truth is really much simpler: in that each fish or starling, individually follows a few relatively simple rules but the end result looks impressive.. from the outside. In much the same way that many relatively simple cells in a human body, each just doing their own thing, can give the outward impression of brain-centred control.

    Another analogy is a lake in the middle of nowhere: it has various possible "inputs" such as rain, mist, streams, rivers. springs, and a similar smattering of outputs such as streams, rivers, evapouration, seepage and so on. Over time it will have a fairly stable water level but no-one sensible is suggesting there is some guy hiding behind a nearby hill, with a set of pipes, taps and drains to manage that level.

  18. grinch
    It makes little evolutionary sense that our bodies would not take advantage of our extremely complicated and powerful brains, but instead use primitive means to manage energy balance.


    "Occams razor always applies, in that we have no need to search for complex answers when a simple one will suffice..."
    And there is no simple answer that will suffice, so Occam's razor fails.

  19. grinch
    RE: A Nutrition Paradox — Underweight and Obesity in Developing Countries

    So my 5-year old nephew is underweight. He is not starving.

    From the paper:

    "For example, on a per-calorie basis, a five-year-old
    boy needs five times as much iron in his diet as a
    man. Cheap, energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods
    may adversely affect the growth of the child but may
    provide sufficient calories for the adult to gain excess
    So you cite this paper, that doesn't disprove calorie theory at all or counter my arguments against the insulin hypothesis, but only points out that low quality nutrient-poor foods (independent of macros) could explain why an obese adult and malnourished child can co-exist.

  20. ZellZ
    Most anyone can lose weight if they try hard enough.
    Keeping it off is another matter & really the crux of the issue.
    Calories are a very meaningless way of looking at things. How food
    affects the body is what matters. Anyone who doubts this should just
    see what years of eating twinkies And being thin can do to a person. Thin
    people Also get diabetes. This really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. 40%
    of thin people have the same metabolic problems that 80% of fat people have, according
    to Dr. Lustig (which also means 20% of fat people are actually Not unhealthy).
    To elevate calories means to be for a diet of sugary donuts IF one can reduce weight
    on them. How foolish.
  21. Eric Anderson
    Eric 350 to 215 pounds in 18 months.

    IMO one of the best evidences of the addictive nature of carbohydrates like wheat and sugar is the 40 year old discovery that the drug that blocks opiates also results in weight loss and spontaneous reduction of carbohydrates (About 100 grams or 400 kcal per day for women) . Not every Doctor or patient likes the idea of taking a pill. For me, I like to take it as a prophylactic since it is easy to find carbohydrates like sugar have been added where you might least expect. Many reports of a moderate exposure to carbohydrates can result in binge eating behavior. Also a 4.5 mg dose of Naltrexone (LDN) is useful for many neurodegenerative diseases or for a history of optic neuritis.

    Second I take a 500 mg dose of glucophage with lunch and dinner. Yes brand names can be more expensive but many Doctors like Richard K Bernstein recommend it over the generics. Is it the fillers or something else? I do not know but watch some youtube presentations from women with PCOS and you might think it better to use the Brand Glucophage.

    What does this do for me? The combination Lowers both glucose and insulin from good to optimal. Being in the best quintile (Lowest 20 percent) of insulin and glucose means a 40 percent reduction in heart disease and cancer compared to just the next quintile up. SO a 5 to 8 mg per deciliter reduction can be significant. Research and decide for yourself if in addition to LCHF these two medications can help you. Eric

  22. Christopher
    ATVB in Focus: Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance: Mechanisms and Consequences
    Growth Signals, Inflammation, and Vascular Perturbations: Mechanistic Links Between Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, and Cancer
    Stephen D. Hursting and Marcie J. Hursting
    Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2012;32:1766-1770, doi:10.1161/ATVBAHA.111.241927
  23. Amy
    Howdy, found you by accident but I am glad I did.

    I had my lap band done a year ago in June....

    Come check me out :) Amy in South Dakota


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