Imaginary Health

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IMAGINARY HEALTH.  The lack of knowledge about nutrition is appalling. As Dr. Willis A. Gortner, former professor of biochemistry at Cornell University and director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Division in Maryland, said at a science writer’s seminar: “We can tell the farmer more about feeding his livestock than about feeding his family.”

Many is the time, Dr. Gortner said, that patients go to a physician with symptoms and are told that they are not really sick but that they have an imaginary sickness. The real problem says Gortner is just the opposite.

Many of us have “imaginary health”

“We think we’re well when we’re not . . . because we have never really known what it feels like to be superhealthy! We suffer from nutritional deficiencies that we don’t even know about. We think the way we feel is natural, or that we’re just getting a little older, and it isn’t true.”

Dr. Gortner calls nutrition “internal environmental protection,” and maintains that if subtle, or sometimes not so subtle, nutrition problems could be recognized at a very early stage, we might be able not only to counteract common fatigue and depression, but even to prevent or delay symptoms of obesity, anemia, heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems, probably starting from birth.

—Dr. Atkins Superenergy Diet, The diet revolution answer to fatigue and depression, by Robert C. Atkins, M.D. and Shirley Linde. Crown Publishers, Inc. New York. 1977, pages 8-9

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Boosting Energy with Food

FreshFlower
Some days you feel great, like you can do anything. You are full of energy and ready to conquer the world. You feel like you can go out and get things done.

Other days, you don’t feel the same, just dragging along, not really feeling the energy you once did. Perhaps you didn’t get enough sleep, have been working too much, not eating right, or all of the above.

What’s the difference? What makes those times you feel full of energy different? What is going on internally when you are full of energy—when you feel energetic? When I feel full of energy, what’s going on inside me to produce such a feeling of abundant energy?

There are numerous sources on the web that will tell you how to have more energy, but most of them fall into the “eat this, not that” variety, or “do this, not that.” I think we need to dig deeper—to figure out the conditions we need in our bodies and in each of our cells to produce more energy.

Feeling more energetic requires the actual production of more energy. Energy is produced in your cells, by the mitochondria in your cells. There must be a biological and biochemical reason why I feel energetic, right? What regulates our energy metabolism?

After some research and consultation with my biologist friend, here’s what I learned. To have your body produce lots of good energy, you need to have all these factors in place:

Good energy depends on

  1. Good oxygen supply
  2. Lots of available energy nutrients (carbs or fats)
  3. Good thyroid hormone levels
  4. Good levels of B vitamins
  5. Good (low) level of insulin
  6. Adequate water

Other factors may play lesser and transient roles in affecting energy metabolism. For example, adrenaline (epinephrine) may be released in acutely stressful situations—the fight-or-flight response—which will yield quick energy but not sustained energy. I doubt this is what you want. You want a feeling of good energy that lasts.

1. Get enough oxygen — breathe well

This should be a no-brainer, right? But it helps to make sure you have good breathing, originating from your diaphragm, not short, shallow chest breaths.

  • Relaxed, deep breaths from diaphragm, not shallow chest breathing
  • Get adequate dietary iron and other micronutrients to maximize oxygen transport
  • Typically, oxygen supply is not a problem

2. Eat enough energy nutrients (fuel) — carbs or fats

Your cells need fuel to burn to produce energy. You can run on carbohydrates or fats. If you run on carbs, you will likely need to refuel often. Eating a lot of carbs quickly can raise insulin levels leading to less available fuel to burn. For example, carbohydrate burners often experience the dreaded afternoon slump—that drowsy, low energy, sleepy feeling you get a few hours after a high-carb lunch. That’s why I prefer to get my body to run on fats when I can. It’s a much more steady and dependable supply.

  • Eat lots of good fats
  • Or, eat carbs often
  • Keep insulin levels low to burn energy nutrients

3. Ensure good thyroid hormone levels

Thyroid hormone is known as the master regulator of metabolism. It regulates the production of energy. Thus, it’s crucial to give your body what it needs to produce adequate levels of thyroid hormone.

  • Iodine, Selenium, and Zinc are needed for good thyroid hormone production
  • Copper is also suspected to be important to thyroid production
  • Eggs are a good source of iodine, selenium, and zinc, along with the highest quality protein and other vitamins and minerals

4. Get enough B vitamins every day

“The importance of B vitamins…vital vitamins. All B vitamins play a role in converting your food into energy that the body can use. Therefore, making sure you get your recommended daily amount will ensure your body has a reliable source of energy to call upon. Avoid deficiencies by eating a diet rich in whole foods” —BBC, How to eat for more energy

  • B vitamins are vital enzymes and coenzymes in the production of energy from food
  • Get a good daily supply of all B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid, B12)
  • Especially be aware of getting enough vitamin B12, which is only found naturally in animal products
  • See this excellent guide to the B vitamins, Vitamins and minerals – B vitamins and folic acid

5. Keep your insulin levels low

You want to keep your insulin levels low so your fat cells can release body fat and burn it for energy. Not getting adequate sleep can also result in elevated insulin levels, so try to get as much good sleep as you can.

  • A low carb diet is a good way to keep insulin levels low
  • Get enough sleep to prevent chronic elevated insulin levels

6. Stay hydrated

“Water makes up the majority of your blood and other body fluids, and even mild dehydration can cause blood to thicken, forcing the heart to pump harder to carry blood to your cells and organs and resulting in fatigue. Also, ample fluids keep energy-fueling nutrients flowing throughout the body. Monitor how often you urinate. You should be going every two to four hours, and your urine should be clear or pale yellow in color.” —WebMD, Your Guide to Never Feeling Tired Again

  • Drink enough water – often
  • Avoid sugary soft drinks and fruit juices
  • Go easy on coffee, energy drinks, or other caffeine drinks

So, what foods do I eat for better overall energy?

Each of us have different situations and needs, but here’s what works for me:

  • Liver — it’s called a superfood for good reason, delivering excellent amounts of vital B vitamins (especially B12), minerals, and protein
  • Eggs — highest quality protein with iodine, selenium, and zinc to keep your body supplied with what it needs to make thyroid hormones
  • Red meat — for iron, protein, potassium and other vital nutritents
  • Butter — delivers concentrated energy nutrients (good fats), and a recent Time magazine cover story said “Eat Butter”

Eating the right foods—the foods that work for you—is always the best choice. Knowing what conditions are required to produce energy in the body is useful, though, because sometimes food alone will not get you there. You may sometimes find supplements useful to help your body produce the energy you want.

What do you do for better energy? Let me know what works for you!

Nutrition 1966

NAPF.000.Cover

What can we learn from a 1966 college-level nutrition textbook? Let’s find out…

…and be sure to check out the gallery of selected pages below.

Weston Price photos in a 1966 nutrition textbook!

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page 6, Eskimo mothers and Masai chief vs European

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page 163, Effect of mineral-poor diets on face and teeth vs native diets

If you don’t know who Weston Price was, here’s an excerpt from the Weston A. Price Foundation‘s website. It’s a great source of nutrition information, and one of the best websites I found early on in my nutrition exploration.

The Weston A. Price Foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charity founded in 1999 to disseminate the research of nutrition pioneer Dr. Weston Price, whose studies of isolated nonindustrialized peoples established the parameters of human health and determined the optimum characteristics of human diets. Dr. Price’s research demonstrated that humans achieve perfect physical form and perfect health generation after generation only when they consume nutrient-dense whole foods and the vital fat-soluble activators found exclusively in animal fats.

None of my more recent nutrition textbooks, circa 2010-2012, dares to mention Weston Price!

  • Nutrition – Science and Applications 2nd ed – L. Smolin, M. Grosvenor (Wiley, 2010)
  • Nutrition – Concepts and Controversies 12th ed – F. Sizer, E. Whitney (Cengage, 2010)
  • Nutrition for Healthy Living 2nd ed. – W. Schiff (McGraw-Hill, 2011)
  • Understanding Nutrition 12th ed – E. Whitney, S. Rolfes (Cengage, 2011)
  • Nutritional Sciences – From Fundamentals to Food 2nd ed – M. McGuire, K. Beerman (Cengage, 2011)
  • Nutrition and You 2nd ed – J. Blake (Pearson, 2012)

Why you need Sodium and Potassium on low carb diets

NAPF.p401

page 401, Ingestion of high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets

“Just as there is a limit to the degree to which soluble substances can be concentrated by the kidney, so there is a limit to the acid-base range within which urine can be excreted. Normally the acid-base balance of the diet is well within the functional range of the kidney. The chief acidic products of the diet are sulfates and phosphates formed in the process of protein metabolism. The organic acids found in most fruits and vegetables do not yield acid residues because they are oxidized in metabolism to carbon dioxide and water and are accompanied in the foods by large amounts of potassium and other basic elements. The most frequently encountered instance in which large amounts of acidic substances must be excreted is when fat is incompletely oxidized in the body and acidic intermediate products of its metabolism (ketone bodies, see p. 388) accumulate, as in starvation and diabetes. Ingestion of extremely high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets has this same effect. Under these conditions, basic elements (chiefly sodium and potassium) are required for their neutralization, and thus they are lost from the body.”

So this is why you should ensure you get enough sodium and potassium on a low carb diet.

Experimental Work on Obesity

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page 457, Miller and Payne “…found the caloric intakes required to keep body weight constant varied with individuals over a wide range”

Here’s a section from the above-pictured page, discussing the classic Miller and Payne study, Miller, D. S, and P. R Payne. “Weight Maintenance and Food Intake.” The Journal of Nutrition 78, no. 3 (November 1, 1962): 255–262.

“Recent experiments seem to indicate that certain factors hitherto not taken into consideration may be operative, and these raise questions as to whether it is possible to express the energy required for weight maintenance with the degree of mathematical accuracy formerly assumed. It may be that the total amount of calories needed depends to some extent on the relative proportions of the three classes of energy nutrients provided in the diet and to adaptive body mechanisms.”

Once again we see that weight change may not be as simple as calories in, calories out (CICO), and that what you eat may impact energy needs.

I find this whole section (pages 457-459) fascinating, and recommend reading it all if you have time. You can view the full section in the gallery below.

Here’s the conclusion of the section:

“In conclusion, modern research (as exemplified by experiments previously cited) has raised the question whether the potential energy value of foods (as determined by oxidation outside the body) is a true measure of the energy they necessarily provide for the work of the body and upkeep and building of tissues. Although the answer is still imperfectly understood, it may well be that the actual amount of energy yielded by fuel nutrients in the body varies under different circumstances and with different proportions of the fuel nutrients. This gives emphasis to the statement (made in Chapter 7) that figures given related to the energy value of the diet required for weight maintenance are only approximate estimates. Such estimates apply fairly well to certain individuals under definite conditions, yet they may show considerable individual variability according to how efficiently the body is able to utilize the food energy by converting it into forms available for body use.”

This is real science–stating where uncertainties exist and mentioning other possibilities. Such a contrast to the surety found in today’s nutrition experts.


Nutrition 1966

Gallery of selected pages

(click on images to view them gallery-style)

There’s so much interesting stuff here for those interested in our nutrition past. Enjoy!

Origins of Calorie Counting

100 Calorie Portions of a Few Familiar Foods

  • 1886 – First public mention of “calorics”
  • 1887 – Calories as food energy first explained
  • 1896 – Birth of calorie counting concept
  • 1906 – Measure food by calories instead of weight
  • 1918 – First bestselling calorie counting diet book

You might be wondering, dear reader, as a person mildly to very interested in nutrition and health, why would you care about the history and origin of calories and calorie counting?

Well, maybe you’ve just wanted to know where it all started, but never had the time to dig deeply into the history and origins of calorie counting. Somebody must have been the instigator. Who was it? And what was the timeline of how calorie counting got rolling and continues to this day?

Unless you’re a nutrition historian, you may not really care about this subject at all. But if you are one of the few who do, this post is for you – the intersection of calorie counting origins, history, and science.


Calorie Counting Origins

For a timeline of historical documents related to the origins of calorie counting, see this page, Calorie Counting Timeline.

Edward Atkinson
Edward Atkinson

1886: Atkinson – The Food Question in America and Europe or The Public Victualing Department

  • First mention of “calorics” (calories) in public magazine, The Century
  • Inventor of the Aladdin oven, saving fuel, cooking effort, and food costs
  • Successful entrepreneur and executive of cotton mills
  • Interested in dietetics and home economics

it will appear in Professor Atwater’s future treatment of this subject that, although the standard rations which have been established as necessary to sustain a workingman in full vigor by several leading authorities in Germany, France, and England vary somewhat in the relative proportions of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, yet when reduced to calorics, or mechanical units, or equivalents of heat, they correspond almost exactly each to the other.

—Edward Atkinson, 1886, The Century magazine, The Food Question in America and Europe or The Public Victualing Department

Wilbur O. Atwater
Wilbur O. Atwater

1887: Atwater – The Potential Energy of Food; The Chemistry and Economy of Food III.

  • Public introduction of calories, calorimetry, calorimeters, and potential energy of food
  • Introduction of standard calorie values of protein, carbohydrates, and fats: 4.1, 4.1, 9.3, respectively—the original Atwater values
  • Professor of Chemistry, father of nutrition science in America
  • Seminal article on calories as fuel values of food and the conversion of potential energy into work and heat
  • Measuring food amounts in calories was initially a way to ensure food economy–getting enough food at lowest cost–in an era of widespread undernourishment
AMOUNTS OF POTENTIAL ENERGY IN FOOD-MATERIALS

Modern physical science has taught how to measure the potential energy in combustible materials. The apparatus used is called a calorimeter, and the energy measured by the amount of heat produced in burning the substances with oxygen, the equivalent of the heat in terms of mechanical energy being quite definitely known. The amounts of potential energy in different food-materials have been measured this way. …

Since these German researches are very recent and have not yet been made accessible to English readers, I could hardly expect to be excused if I did not give at least an inkling of the details. …

Taking our ordinary food-materials as they come, and leaving out slight differences due to the differences in digestibility, etc., Dr. Rubner has made the following general estimate of the amounts of energy in one gram of each of the three principal classes of nutrients. The Calorie, which is the unit commonly employed in these calculations, is the amount of heat which would raise the temperature of a kilogram of water one degree centigrade (or a pound of water 4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Potential Energy in Nutrients of Food

—Wilbur O. Atwater. The Potential Energy of Food; The Chemistry and Economy of Food III., The Century Magazine, 1887

Edward Atkinson
Edward Atkinson

1896: Atkinson (again) – The Science of Nutrition, Treatise Upon the Science of Nutrition, Fourth Edition.

  • Birth of calorie counting concept — “we may even put the whole art of nutrition … into the common school arithmetics, in the form of examples of addition, multiplication and the like”
  • Introduced the Calorie as the “unit of nutrition”
  • “…at the very beginning of … a true Science of Nutrition”

…it has become apparent that we were at the very beginning of what will be necessary in order to establish a true Science of Nutrition…

When the chemical units of nutrition in all these various dietaries are computed in units of heat or Calories they are all substantially uniform–through this conversion the computation of standard dietaries becomes very simple and can be varied according to the age, sex and the kind of work for which the food is to supply energy.

If we may now adopt the Calorie as the unit of nutrition, it becomes a very simple matter to prepare rules and tables that shall be a true guide to intelligent persons in the purchase and in the consumption of food; not day by day, but by the adoption of standards corresponding in every way to the chemical elements and to the units of heat, say for thirty days. I think we may even put the whole art of nutrition by and by, into the common school arithmetics, in the form of examples of addition, multiplication and the like

The Calorie or mechanical unit of heat may well be adopted as the unit of capacity for work either mental or manual–either with hand or brain. …

In order to make allowance for unavoidable waste we may safely adopt 4,000 Calories as the average units of nutrition for a man at active but not excessive work for one day. …

This is a sketch of the elements of the science or art of nutrition which may perhaps be perfected and may possibly be taught in the common school arithmetics.

—Edward Atkinson. The Science of Nutrition, Treatise Upon the Science of Nutrition, Fourth Edition. 1896 (original copyright 1892)

Irving Fisher
Irving Fisher

1906: Irving Fisher – A new method for indicating food values

  • Promoted measuring food by calories instead of by weight
  • Introduced the 100 calorie standard portion
  • Advocated his method of expressing food values visually in geometrical representation
  • Well-known Yale economist, perhaps most famous for proclaiming in 1929 that the stock market had reached “a permanently high plateau” just prior to the Wall Street crash

… Dr. J. H. Kellogg of the Battle Creek Sanatorium devised a table in which, instead of the percentages [by weight] of Atwater and Benedict, the number of calories of proteid, fat, and carbohydrate for each food-stuff is specified. In addition to this, he provided his patients with a menu card on which the weight of each food as served at the table, and the calories of proteid, fat, and carbohydrate are printed. All the weighing is done in the kitchen, and the patient needs merely to check on his menu the articles eaten. His physician then makes the remaining computation, which consists in adding the calories of proteid, fat, and carbohydrate, and totals.

The method to be presented in the present paper is designed to still further save labor and at the same time to visualise the magnitude and proportions of the diet. It is similar to that just described in that it measures the food by calories instead of by weight, but differs from it in that it substitutes for the ounce, as the fundamental element, a “standard portion” of 100 calories. In order to carry out this method, foods should be served at the table in “standard portions” or simple multiples thereof.

—Irving Fisher. A new method for indicating food values. Am. Journal of Physiology, vol.15, p.417, 1906
Lulu Hunt Peters
Lulu Hunt Peters

1918: Lulu Hunt Peters – Diet and Health with Key to the Calories

  • Physician, newspaper columnist, and author of first blockbuster diet book in America
  • Wacky, funny, outspoken popularizer of calorie counting as means of weight loss
  • How to calculate your normal or ideal weight
  • The most influential book on calorie counting

Now you know that a calorie is a unit of measuring heat and food. It is not heat, not food; simply a unit of measure.

You should know and also use the word calorie as frequently, or more frequently, than you use the words foot, yard, quart, gallon, and so forth, as measures of length and of liquids. Hereafter you are going to eat calories of food. Instead of saying one slice of bread, or a piece of pie, you will say 100 Calories of bread, 350 Calories of pie.

Can you see now why fats are valuable? Why they make fat more than any other food? They give off more than two and one-fourth times as much heat, or energy, as the other foods.

By the rule I have given, adults require 15-20 Calories per pound per day, depending upon activity. For example, if you have no physical activities, then take the lowest figure, 15. 150×15—2250. Therefore your requirement, if your weight should be 150, is 2250 Calories per day.

Now, if you want to lose, cut down 500-1000 Calories per day from that.

Five hundred Calories equal approximately 2 ounces of fat. Two ounces per day would be about 4 pounds per month, or 48 pounds per year. Cutting out 1000 Calories per day would equal a reduction of approximately 8 pounds per month, or 96 pounds per year. These pounds you can absolutely lose by having a knowledge of food values (calories) and regulating your intake accordingly. You can now see the importance of a knowledge of calories.

If you want to gain, add gradually 500-1000 Calories per day.

1 lb. fat 4000 C
1/2 lb. fat 2000 C
1/4 lb. fat 1000 C
1/8 lb. fat 500 C

Any food eaten beyond what your system requires for its energy, growth, and repair, is fattening, or is an irritant, or both.

Chapter 7 Exercise
It is practically impossible to reduce weight through exercise alone, unless one can do a tremendous amount of it. For the food that one eats is usually enough to cover the energy lost by the exercise.

Chapter 8 At Last! How to Reduce
Nature Always Counts
Usually, if you have gained when you think you ought not to, it is because Nature has been counting calories and you haven’t.

Maintenance Diet
The maintenance diet is one which maintains you at your present weight, i.e., you are not gaining or losing. You may be over or under normal, but are staying there. The intake equals the outgo.
When you eat less than your maintenance diet, you are going to supply the deficiency with your own fat.

Third Order
You Are Down to Business
Now you will have to reckon on the amount of food or number of calories you need per day. Review the rule I have given. You find for your age and normal weight that you will need, let us say for example, 2200 calories. You have probably been consuming twice that amount and either storing it away as fat or as disease. (It is surprising how small an excess will gradually add up pounds of fat. For instance, three pats of butter or three medium chocolate creams a day, if over the maintenance limit, would add approximately 27 pounds a year to your weight!) — And Maybe Diabetes

Now you are to reduce your maintenance diet—the 2200 calories we are taking for example—to 1200 calories—quite a comfortable lot, you will find.

You will be surprised how much 1200 calories will be if the food is judiciously selected.

You may be hungry at first, but you will soon become accustomed to the change. I find that dry lemon or orange peel, or those little aromatic breath sweeteners, just a tiny bit, seem to stop the hunger pangs; or you may have a cup of fat-free bouillon or half an apple, or other low calorie food. (Count the calories here.)

One thousand calories less food per day equals four ounces of fat lost daily—approximately 8 pounds per month. If you do not want to lose so fast, do not cut down so much.

Fourth Order
You may eat just what you like—candy, pie, cake, fat meat, butter, cream—but—count your calories! You can’t have many nor large helpings, you see; but isn’t it comforting to know that you can eat these things?

You will be tempted quite frequently, and you will have to choose whether you will enjoy yourself hugely in the twenty minutes or so that you will be consuming the excess calories, or whether you will dislike yourself cordially for the two or three days you lose by your lack of will power.

Count your calories.

Every once in a while you hear that the caloric theory has been exploded. There is no caloric “theory.” Therefore none to explode. Calories are simply units for measuring heat and energy and never will be exploded any more than the yard or meter “theory” will be exploded. Foods must contain essential salts and the growth and health maintaining elements. These cannot be measured by calories. The quantity of heat or energy production but not the quality of the foods is measured in calories, and one must have a knowledge of the qualities also. No scientifically educated individual has ever thought otherwise.

—Lulu Hunt Peters, A.B., M.D. Diet and Health with Key to the Calories. The Reilly and Lee Co. Chicago. 1918.

Now you know where calorie counting came from, who started it, and when.

Doubling Down on Energy Balance vs Untold Truths

  • “…changes in body weight are expected when the macronutrient composition of the diet is altered, even when the energy content of the diet is held constant”
  • “weight change may not directly represent energy imbalances, particularly over the short term.”
  • “even with weight stability, ‘perfect’ energy balance over the long term does not occur in most older adults”


Last, week, I came across this press release from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM): Diet or Exercise? “Energy Balance” is Real Key to Disease Prevention.

The piece is about “the October 2012 expert panel meeting titled ‘Energy Balance at the Crossroads: Translating the Science into Action’ hosted by ACSM, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Agriculture Research Service.”

Here are a couple of snippets,

According to research, energy balance is a viable public health solution to address the obesity epidemic.

“It is time we collectively move beyond debating nutrition or exercise and focus on nutrition and exercise”

Did you get that? Their great new strategy is to stop arguing whether exercise OR nutrition works better to get us all into shape, and instead focus on BOTH.

Energy balance seems not to be working very well, according to them, so they need to train public facing nutrition and exercise professionals better and harder, so they learn it better I guess. This supposes that they didn’t really understand it before, which I doubt. I don’t see how “eat less, move more” is all that different from “eat less AND move more.”

Train the trainers harder to go forth and teach the masses better. That’s what I hear.

The other half of their strategy is to develop better messaging, promotion, standards, and programs to teach the American public and school kids about energy balance more effectively, since what they are doing now is not working.

The full paper, Energy Balance at a Crossroads: Translating the Science into Action, in the ACSM journal, does bring up an interesting point about trying a new approach to motivate people to practice energy balance:

One promising approach may be to shift the focus away from the emphasis on health (e.g., appropriate diet and PA) to discussing other benefits, such as improved learning, cognition, and productivity in the workplace.

The main focus of the paper, however, is to teach energy balance better by focusing on what they call dynamic energy balance.

By definition, energy balance is a dynamic, not static, process, in which altering one component of the energy balance paradigm can affect the physiological and biological components of the other in an unpredictable or unintended way.

Perhaps I should see this as a step forward, acknowledging that what you put in can affect what comes out, but what does “in an unpredictable or unintended way” mean? That what you put in can lead to random, chaotic outcomes?

They are making this sound more complicated than it is, or needs to be.

Dynamic energy balance instead of static — Is this better?

Just saying changing energy input affects energy output without explaining how or why or what foods do what—is hardly an improvement. Plus, how are you going to teach this complexity to the public and children when they don’t even understand static energy balance (“e.g., 3500 kcal = 1 lb”)?

These “experts” are doubling down on energy balance.

Ugh. Enough.

How about some better science and thinking on energy balance?

Energy balance and its components: implications for body weight regulation
Hall KD, Heymsfield SB, Kemnitz JW, Klein S, Schoeller DA, Speakman JR: Energy balance and its components: implications for body weight regulation. Am J Clin Nutr 2012, 95:989–994.

If you read only one article on energy balance this year, read this one. Highly recommended.

The paper was the report of A Consensus Conference entitled “The Role of Energy Balance in Health and Wellness” was organized and funded by the ASN [American Society for Nutrition] and the North American branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI North America).

Despite being partly sponsored by ILSI (think Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Danone, etc.), it’s got some amazing stuff in it.

Here are the untold truths in the paper:

  • “Therefore, changes in body weight are expected when the macronutrient composition of the diet is altered, even when the energy content of the diet is held constant.”
  • “The long-term stability of body weight is often considered a marker of zero Es [Energy Storage], and thus energy balance. However, as described above, changes in body weight also include changes in body water, which may be variable, and therefore weight change may not directly represent energy imbalances, particularly over the short term.”
  • “Thus, even with weight stability, “perfect” energy balance over the long term does not occur in most older adults”
  • “Energy balance is thus highly variable over a 1-d period, and this variability is shown in dynamic changes in Es [Energy Storage]. Most adults also vary their daily eating and activity patterns; thus, Es also varies from day to day, with energy balance achieved only when averaged over longer time periods.”
  • “…energy balance as a concept depends on the time domain over which it is considered. We are always in energy imbalance, but the relative imbalance is greater over the short term than over the long term”

Body weight changes are expected when you change the macronutrient ratio of your diet, even with the same energy content. Who knew?

And weight change may not directly represent energy imbalances.

Who still believes in energy balance?