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Fifty Shades of Calories
- Updated: December 17, 2015
Losing weight has never been simple. There isn’t a clear answer on why ninety percent of dieters gain back the weight they lost. How many times have you heard someone say “I am not eating much, how is it that I don’t lose weight?” It is a mystery that haunts us every day and is yet to be solved.
It is embedded in our consciousness that losing weight is simple math: counting our calorie intake versus the amount we burn. How much truth is behind this equation? Does counting calories really matter? What exactly is this unit called a calorie and why does it behave the way it does?
The idea that calories are the most important part of weight loss, weight maintenance, and that the sources of those calories don’t matter is a huge fallacy. In fact, for those looking to lose weight, the source of those calories is far more important than the number of calories.
A very low-carb diet – rather than a low-fat or low-glycemic index diet – offers the best chance of keeping weight off, research suggests. In a study published in 20121, participants ate about 1,600 calories a day on each of the diets. Even though they ate the same number of calories, the study participants burned about 300 calories more a day when following the very-low-carb eating plan compared to the low-fat plan. Moreover, the study participants burned about 150 calories a day less on the low-fat eating plan than they did on the low-glycemic index diet.
The researchers also noted that people often lose weight on a low-fat diet, but the vast majority end up gaining the weight back very quickly. This is because this dietary approach could actually slow a person’s metabolism down to a level where it is not burning calories as efficiently as it could. Thus, from a metabolic perspective the research concludes all calories are not alike.
The type of food consumed is much more relevant to weight loss, than the number of calories because intake calories interact differently with your biology. The body processes calories from fat, protein and carbohydrates differently.
Scientists now have evidence that 90 calories of broccoli is different than 90 calories of soda. The research challenges the common idea that a calorie is simply a calorie. It suggests that weight loss is not just a matter of counting calories, but focuses on the quality of one’s caloric intake. A study published in in the Journal of the American Medical Association1 has proved that certain foods and diets may be better than others for burning calories and helping people maintain weight loss.
For example, 7.5 fluid ounces of the most popular soft drink on the market contains about 90 calories. With soda consumption, the body quickly absorbs the glucose and fructose, increasing your blood sugar, which leads to high insulin levels and turns on a hormonal response in which your body stores belly fat. High insulin levels also raise blood pressure and may cause other consequences that can be detrimental to your health, such as heart disease.
On the other hand, the equivalent number of calories from broccoli will lead to a positive full-body biochemical reaction. Due to the high-fiber and low-sugar content of broccoli, and many other foods of similar composition, these calories will be digested much slower than the 90 calories of a soft drink.
Taking these examples into account, a calorie is not just a unit; they come in many forms and have different biochemical behaviors in the body depending on the nature of food. Choose your calories wisely and you can enjoy rich, delicious flavors without packing on those unwanted pounds.
1Ebbeling CB, Swain JF, Feldman HA, et al. Effects of Dietary Composition on Energy Expenditure During Weight-Loss Maintenance. JAMA. 2012;307(24):2627-2634. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.6607
About the Author:
Luiza Petre, MD (http://www.mediweightlossclinics.com/locations/manhattan/physicians-and-staff/) is a Cardiologist and Medical Director of three Medi-Weightloss® locations.
Medi-Weightloss® offers individualized, physician-supervised programs that balance education, appetite management and activity to support weight loss goals and long-term weight management.http://www.mediweightlossclinics.com/locations/manhattan/
Source: Medi Weight Loss.com