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Thread: The energy-balance equation

  1. #1

    Default The energy-balance equation


    Here's a good article about the calorie balance equation. It explains a lot about why the equation is often claimed to be wrong, when in fact it comes down to a misunderstanding in interpreting it. Quite an in-depth read and don't be put off by his somewhat aggressive style, the information is good!

    http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat...-equation.html

    "The point of all of this is this: When people say that the energy balance equation is invalid, this is simply not the case. The equation is completely valid, what is invalid are the assumptions that people are making about what the equation means or says."

  2. #2
    Club Host Zoe's Avatar
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    Hi again! This one is a very good read. Very rare for an article to have both the first and second laws covered. I have yet to find a diet advisor working in public (or private) health (dietician or nutritionist) say anything other than "energy in = energy out". If I'm harsh (but fair), they don't have a clue about thermodynamics so, inevitably, they miss both energy conservation and entropy. The thermogenesis numbers with which I am familiar are: 6-8% for carbohydrate, 2-3% for fat and 25-30% for protein (Jequier 2002).

    I agree with the summary, therefore, for the huge majority of people who don't understand the laws. I don't agree with it beyond this for the following reasons:
    1) it is one thing for energy conservation and entropy to be fully accounted for when enough energy is put into a living being (this is what Rubner and Atwater did). Things just don't add up when insufficient energy or too much energy is involved. The corollary of less energy in should be less energy out rather than weight loss?

    If you search "larger than life" in this club, you will see some refs to a programme where a chap called Paul was studied in a documentary. Just got the headlines here: As Paul eats approximately 32,000 calories a day more than this, he should be gaining at the rate of nine pounds every single day. Paul is therefore supposed to be gaining weight at the rate of 3,337 pounds per year – 238 stone. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the World’s heaviest ever man was approximately 100 stone. Paul should have reached that weight in 84 days from the time the programme was made – notwithstanding the fact that he had been bed ridden, at not far from his current weight, for six years. Things just don't hold any more for excess calories (with the 3500 thing) than they do for calorie deficit. We have got to the point where this law is not helping us understand weight loss or gain. Yet, instead of saying - this isn't helping, let's see what does, we seem more interested in explaining thermodynamics than understanding weight loss. Where do Paul's' 32,000 calories go? We try to answer that in one of the club newsletters but the best answer is - we know where they don't go. They don't go into fat at any formulaic rate, let alone 3500 per pound.

    2) The 3500 calc in the article is no where near accurate and I show in the book that you can get any number between about 2800 and 3750 and make a nonsense of the whole thing, but then this doesn't matter much because the formula doesn't hold anyway.

    3) His final point I refer to in the book as: "The deficit is a function of energy need. The energy need is a function of weight and weight is a function of the deficit." So we would agree that there is a circular reference - which is never accounted for in the diet world - again - why this is a good article - but I still don't accept that people are adhering to formulas in any of this.

    You may be interested in the stuff Gary Taubes did in the brilliant Diet Delusion and I use this as one of the earliest building blocks in the book... When you come at obesity from a completely different angle and ask the question - what is human fat tissue? what enables it to be stored? what enables it to be broken down? biochemistry starts to become way more important than physics...To cut to the chase - human fat tissue = triglyceride = can only be stored in the presence of carbs/glucose/insulin and fat can only be broken down in the absence of carbs/glucose/insulin. As Feinman and Fine say, if a calorie were a calorie, the second law of thermodynamics would be violated.
    The ultimate irony here is that calorie counting drives people down the route of eating more carb/protein vs fat/protein, because of the lower calories in carb/protein (protein being in everything other than sugar and pure fats). So, calorie counting/carb eating enables dieters to store fat beautifully and stops them from burning fat. Then we have the mad current diet advice to graze i.e. eat carbs even more regularly and then you can store fat more regularly and then you actually never get any period in the day when you don't have glucose/glycogen available and might burn fat for a few minutes.

    We are then very familiar in this club with the addictive nature of (processed) carbs (especially - but even 'good' carbs) and the way in which they feed conditions like Candida, Food Intolerance and Hypoglycaemia, which feed further food cravings. This all makes healthy eating way more difficult than it should be. We crack the conditions and the cravings and we're laughing.

    The other main point we haven't touched on is calories with a job to do. Carbs are good for energy and that's it (any vits and minerals are useful, but carbs are for energy). Fat and protein are required to meet the basal metabolic needs of the body. If we eat a low cal/high carb diet (low cal/high protein is not healthy without the fat/protein in a natural balance), we can't use the carbs for cell repair and all the other BMR jobs. We have to burn them off or we will store them (as fat). We also still have a BMR need to be met - which will have us craving stuff to meet it. If we just eat more of the sugar and white flour that the average Brit eats 1,150 cals a day of, we still get no where near meeting our body's basal health needs and hence we achieve a state of overfed and undernourished - a reasonable description of the 'developed world' today.

    Time to walk the dog!
    Thanks for the great post
    Best wishes - Zoe
    "Those who are enlightened before the others are condemned to pursue that light in spite of others." Christopher Columbus ("1492")

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    Club host Andy's Avatar
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    I think Zoe's being over kind here.

    the equation: Energy in = Energy out + Change in Body Stores is incorrect.

    A more accurate equation could be:
    Energy available ( from ingested energy) = energy in - energy to convert ingested energy in to useful energy - energy lost in doing so.
    This takes into account the second law of thermodynamics (law of the universe) usually referred to as entropy. I'll agree that even this is an over simplification as it ignores that fact that a calorie, as measured by traditional means, does not have any direct correlation to ATP units within the body.

    There are no semantics here, this is a fundamental mis-application of the 'Laws of the Universe' that have been overly simplified in the weight-loss arena. The First Law of Thermodynamics that is most often referred to is a principle. It is theoretical and can only be used as a book-balancing exercise when used alongside the second law, the law on entropy.

    To be continued...
    The truth is deafening, no matter how quietly spoken.

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    Forum Guest Jenny Wren's Avatar
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    Hi Zoe and Andy

    I tried to understand what Zoe wrote above in her lengthy piece and have lost it!!! I don't understand "thermodynamics" and so forth! Any chance of translating this in to layman's terms please???

    X X

  5. #5

    Default

    Thanks for the replies, it shows a lot of class that you are willing to take the time to discuss these matters, a lot of sites just ban people who don't tow the 'party line' of that particular website! I will admit over the last few years I have been convinced by the work of such writers as Lyle Mcdonald, Alan Aragon and James Krieger, all of whom basically support the calorie hypothesis and are dismissive of the work of Gary Taubes and the Insulin hypothesis. So for me this is an opportunity to see how you respond to their strongest arguments, hopefully it can help everyone to learn a thing or two!

    So, on with the links!

    Insulin - an undeserved bad reputation. http://weightology.net/weightologyweekly/?page_id=319

    Critique of Chapter 14 of Good carbs Bad carbs http://weightology.net/?p=265&cpage=1#comment-76

    Why is it so easy to regain weight? http://weightology.net/weightologyweekly/?page_id=415

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    Club host Andy's Avatar
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    Hi Mark,
    Open-mindenness to solve a huge problem is what's needed, not entrenchment in long held beliefs. The only people we ban on this site are spammers. Those who are prepared to debate and learn are welcome so thank you for your contribution.
    Zoe started her weight-loss journey believing the calorie theorists and has evolved her thinking over more than 20 years. She has written about them openly in her books and online.
    For me personally, it has never made sense to apply a law of physics that was developed to help pioneers of steam and internal combustion engines understand the thermal transfers that were in those processes to the human body. Further, the law that is usually quoted is also mis-quoted and is never used along side the second law. If the laws are to be used then the first AND second laws must be used together. They cannot exist in isolation. Please go and ask any physisist or engineer.
    When it comes to solving the obesity epidemic, the commonly held beliefs are now getting in the way of open minded thinking and are stopping progress, not helping it.

    I'm going to grab a coffee and read the links you provided.

    Andy

    ps. what's your particular interest in this area?
    The truth is deafening, no matter how quietly spoken.

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    Club host Andy's Avatar
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    Hi Jenny,
    For a definition of thermodynamics, read here
    The interesting part is how it came about...
    Historically, thermodynamics developed out of a need to increase the efficiency of early steam engines, particularly through the work of French physicist Sadi Carnot (1824) who believed that engine efficiency was the key that could help France win the Napoleonic Wars
    No mention of solving any obesity epidemic!
    The truth is deafening, no matter how quietly spoken.

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    Club Host Zoe's Avatar
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    Hi Mark - This is fun! Supposed to be documenting book references, so no wonder this is dragging me away!

    I started with the Gary Taubes link as I do like that book (understatement - I really like that book - it was brave and bold and came from no self interest, so ticks many boxes straight away). I would love to debate some bits with him. I would love to debate some stuff on cholesterol with him and Malcolm Kendrick in the same room - their views differ in some key areas and my money is on Kendrick for that one. Taubes also mentions only 2 flaws in thermodynamics application: 1) direction of causation and 2) he challenges that energy in, energy out and energy storage are independent variables.He's right on both, but I wish he'd gone further into the errors we have made on the specific laws. He also doesn't get into the 3,500 calorie formula (he's a scientist, not a nutritionist or someone who works in obesity/weight, so this is understandable), but I should be grateful that he left that one for someone else - me hopefully! But, overall, it is a work of brilliance and the world would be a better place to be more open minded to the themes presented.

    James Krieger doesn't impress me on first reading of one article. First, we should approach new thinking in a book like Good Calories Bad Calories (it's called The Diet Delusion in the UK) with - what can we learn from it? Not - what can we tear apart so that we can hold onto our current thinking and carry on feeling safe and secure. In a quick read the key attacks seemed to be:
    1) Dieters under-report what they eat - they are eating way more than they think and if they counted calories properly we wouldn't have an obesity epidemic (forgive me again - but that smacks of the 'greedy' argument to which I don't subscribe). There is evidence of people eating more (and less) than they think, but it doesn't then follow logically that if people eat less they will achieve sustained weight loss. I have to reiterate all the works that will be listed out in my book - from Benedict to Minnesota to Franz (2007 - that chart in these pages), which all prove time and again that eating less does not achieve sustained weight loss.
    Quote from my book: The 1983 Royal College of Physicians report on Obesity states: “The traditional view that the majority of overweight subjects are eating more or exercising less than those of a normal weight is now recognised as not being uniformly true.” That was nearly 30 years ago. Kreiger bases his argument on one client. Taubes has over 100 pages of notes and references...

    2) Krieger seems to be saying that Taubes was saying that the increase in calorie intake (over the period of time in the US when obesity exploded) was accounted for by carb intake (which they both might agree on). Kreiger is effectively saying - I don't care what form the extra calories came in - a calorie is a calorie and it only matters that there were more of them. You know already that a calorie is not a calorie from last night's article and the figures for fat vs protein vs carb on thermogenesis! Taubes is saying it absolutely DOES matter the form the calories were in - it is uniquely the change in the American diet to such a high carb content (as advised by the US government) which has coincided with the obesity epidemic. I'm totally with Taubes on this one. Interestingly the UK calorie intake declined between 1974 and 1999 - from 2290 cals per day to 1690. I've plotted it and we should all have lost over 60lbs during the time when obesity increased 10 fold - that was in the Sun article I think. The FSA web site even mentions this - "we've been eating less and putting on weight and don't understand why" kind of thing - the exact quote is in the book.

    3) Exercise - this is just the 'lazy' flip of the 'greedy' argument. The facts on exercise/sedentary behaviour for the US and the UK are the entire chapter 14 in the book, so we'll have to wait for that one.

    4) The obesity poverty thing I address also. It's not just that 'poor people' eat energy dense foods (Krieger really does have the calorie obsession block that has got us into this mess and kept us there) - it is the type of foods that people eat when they are on a budget. It's not the calories per se but that they eat junk food - mcmuffin for 99 cents, cola thrown in if you have fries etc. Olive oil is the ultimate energy dense food (pure fat) or butter - but they don't eat these. People who can't afford to eat well are the ones most at risk of being over fed and under 'nutritioned' - full of empty calories, which their bodies can't use and lacking the nutrients that should be their basic human right. It's what these people are eating - not how much. Taubes again for me on that one therefore.

    Anyway - the Harcombe household has some chores to do that haven't been done for a while so we best disappear for a while!
    Have a fab day - Zoe

    p.s. Jenny - so sorry but you may need to indulge us for a while. The big problem that we've got into with all this is over simplification. We have dieticians and diet advisors world wide saying "energy in = energy out" because they have misapplied one law and ignored a second law - from a set of laws which were all about heat, power, steam engines, machines and the industrial revolution and nothing to do with human bodies. We continue to think that the human body behaves like a bunsen burner and it doesn't! The key layman bit is - if you think energy in equals energy out, the logical step is to tell people to put less energy in (eat less) or get more energy out (do more). i.e. overweight people are greedy and lazy and I think that is insulting and wrong. It also puts us in the wrong mind set to fix the problem...

    p.p.s. even that p.s. simplification is dangerous! It actually isn't logical if you think energy in = energy out to tell people to eat less and do more because, surely, less energy in -> less energy out? and more energy out will drive more energy in? We've got to stop thinking the laws of steam engines are the best starting point for solving this epidemic...
    "Those who are enlightened before the others are condemned to pursue that light in spite of others." Christopher Columbus ("1492")

  9. #9
    Club Host Zoe's Avatar
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    Opps! Just noticed all 3 links are to Mr Calorie Theory! I'll try to be open minded reading the other two ...
    "Those who are enlightened before the others are condemned to pursue that light in spite of others." Christopher Columbus ("1492")

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    Club host Andy's Avatar
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    Just another thought on the equation.
    If a more accurate energy equation is:
    Energy available = Energy in - Energy to convert ingested energy in to useful energy - Energy lost in doing so. Then if energy in is reduced, so the Energy available is reduced.

    Carnot never thought that you could get more energy out of a steam engine by making it 'consume itself'.
    The truth is deafening, no matter how quietly spoken.

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