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From: Steve (
Subject:         Jeff: Your Opinion: Is a calorie a calorie?
Date: August 21, 2007 at 5:30 pm PST

Hi Jeff. I believe that low fat diets work. I believe they work because many low fat diets are dominated by naturally high bulk foods which cause people to ingest fewer calories.

Since the 90s, I've read claims that a human body doesn't process carbohydrates in the same way as fat, such that it is more difficult for a human body to turn excess calories from carobhydrates into fat ( for an example see two studies at the bottom of this post labeld "#1" ).

This seems to contradict the experience of many people who gained weight on low fat diets eating processed low fat, but high calorie food ( example cookies with no fat but extra sweetener ).

It would seem that no matter how you take in your excess calories that if they are excess, you will put on fat ( see the study pasted at the bottom labeled "#2" )

I don't know what to believe, except for my own experience in having success with calorie counting and a high bulk diet combined.

I don't have faith in either set of studies I pasted below. I've read several articles that small numbers of studies, even small numbers of QUALITY studies mean nothing. That the scientific community accepts something as true when a trend of many quality studies produce the same conclusion.

Since I have read only 3 my mind is open.

Since you are a well read professional I would like to ask you your opinion. Are carbohydrate calories harder to turn into fat and if so, to a degree that a person needs only be careful to watch fat intake, regardless of the quality of carbohydrates s/he ingests? Is a calorie a calorie?

Thanks in advance for your opinion


#1 - 2 Studies that show that it is hard to turn carbohydrates into fat

J Clin Invest. 1995 December; 96(6): 2735-2743. Short-term alterations
carbohydrate energy intake in humans. Striking effects on hepatic
production, de novo lipogenesis, lipolysis, and whole-body fuel

Excess carbohydrates are not significantly converted to fat by the
liver. When excess carbohydrates are taken in, carbohydrate oxidation
increases, fat oxidation decreases. Even with a 50% excess in calories
in carbohydrates "absolute hepatic DNL accounted for < 5g fatty acids
synthesized per day" It would take 3 months eating excess
carbohydrates to make a single pound of fat.

Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 Jul;62(1):19-29. Fat and carbohydrate overfeeding
in humans: different effects on energy storage.

Excess dietary fat leads to greater fat
accumulation than does excess dietary carbohydrate, and the difference
was greatest early in the overfeeding period."Carbohydrate overfeeding
produced progressive increases in carbohydrate oxidation and total
energy expenditure resulting in 75-85% of excess energy
being stored. Alternatively, fat overfeeding had minimal effects on
fat oxidation and total energy expenditure, leading to storage of
90-95% of excess energy."

#2 1 Study That *seems* to show that it doesn't matter where excess calories come from - for weight control

A Danish study in Ugeskr Laeger. 2000 Sep 4;162(36):
4794-9. by Dich J, Grunnet N, Lammert O, Faber P, Bjørnsbo KS, Larsen
LO, Neese RA, Hellerstein MC, Quistorff B. states:

"Ten pairs of normal young men were overfed by 5 MJ per day for 21
days with either a carbohydrate-rich or a fat-rich diet (C- and F-
group). The two subjects of a pair were requested to follow each other
throughout the day to ensure similar physical activity. The increase
in body weight and fat mass were not significantly different between
the C- and the F-group. Heat production during sleep did not change
during overfeeding. The accumulated faecal loss of energy, dry matter,
carbohydrate and protein was significantly higher in the C- than in
the F-group. Hepatic de novo lipogenesis was 212 g per 21 days in the
C-group and was too low to be determined in the F-group. Whole body de
novo lipogenesis was positive in six of the ten subjects in the C-
group (mean: 332 g per 21 days). It is concluded that the increase in
body weight and fat mass during overfeeding of isocaloric amounts of
diets rich in carbohydrate or in fat was not significantly different,
and that surplus of carbohydrate seemed to be converted to fat both by
hepatic and extrahepatic de novo lipogenesis."

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