Monday, January 16, 2006

'Calories In, Calories Out' Message Unfounded, Researcher Concludes

Dr. William Evans says "calories in, calories out" may no longer hold true

This University of Idado Argonaut story about a new study promoting a high-carb diet that produces weight loss contains several unnecessary and disparaging remarks about livin' la vida low-carb.

Penned by student-reporter Sarrah Benoit, the article started off in typical fashion for a media story against low-carb.

"Say goodbye to Atkins and hello to bread."

Sarrah, why? Are they teaching students these manipulative journalism tactics or is this just something that is inherently a part of anyone in the media writing about low-carb these days? The cynicism about the Atkins diet and the low-carb lifestyle is painfully obvious to everyone who reads these articles that start off like this one.

The column itself refers to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine that featured 34 overweight adults who were split up into three categories: 1) high-carb, low-fat diet with no exercise; 2) high-carb, low-fat diet with exercise; and 3) a control group that ate the same way they were already eating.

At the conclusion of the 3-month study, the group that ate the high-carb, low-fat diet without any exercise lost an average of seven pounds, the high-carb, low-fat diet group that exercised four times a week on a stationary bike lost an average of 11 pounds, and the control group maintained their weight.

I have a few observations about the results of this study. What's the big deal about it? The study participants are described as "overweight," and yet they lost significantly less than just ONE pound a week in the group that did not exercise and just below a pound a week for the group that did exercise. And, frankly, I'm surprised the "control" group that kept eating like it always had didn't GAIN weight in the 90-day period of the study since their poor eating habits continued.

There is no doubt you can lose weight on a high-carb, low-fat diet, with or without exercise. I proved that to myself when I lost 170 pounds on a low-fat diet in 1999. I even bragged about how much weight I had lost at the time eating a low-fat diet and without doing a single exercise. I was a dope and didn't even realize it at the time.

The problem comes in when you try to keep your weight maintained by continuing to restrict your fat intake while counting calories and measuring the amount of food you can eat. Who does that over the long haul anyway? Is that a realistic and permanent way to live a long and healthy life? I don't think so and I don't think it's very healthy either.

But lead study researcher Dr. William Evans from the Nutrition, Metabolism and Exercise Laboratory at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said the old adage of "calories in minus calories out" may not be a deciding factor in weight loss.

“Calories in, minus calories out, does not always determine the amount of weight loss,” Dr. Evans explained.

In his study, Dr. Evans allowed the participants to eat as much as they wanted to eat and return any uneaten food to the researchers so they could determine the calorie intake of each participant. They ended up eating an average of 2,400 calories during the study. And yet they still lost weight, even the ones that did not exercise.

I thought it was all about "calories in, calories out?" Isn't that what we always hear from so-called health and fitness experts? And yet these study participants were consuming 2,400 calories and STILL lost weight. Can you imagine how much MORE weight they could have lost had they eaten 2,400 calories and reduced their carbohydrate intake? That would have been a very telling sub-group for this study to observe and measure their weight loss as well. How much you wanna bet they would have lost significantly more weight than all the other groups, exercise or not? You know it!

But a nutritionist is quoted in the story as saying it is "pretty difficult to lose weight without exercise.”

As someone who has lost a significant amount of weight both with and without exercise, I have to disagree with that statement. However, what I am sure the nutritionist meant to say is that it is pretty difficult to lose AND MAINTAIN weight loss without implementing a regular exercise routine into your schedule. Exercise is essential to anyone wanting to bring their weight under control. It doesn't have to be much, but 30 minutes a day will do the trick.

But what would a nutritionist be without a tainted view about the what kinds of foods should be consumed? She recommends college students need to eat 50-55 percent carbohydrates and college athletes should up their carb totals to 60-65 percent.

Yikes! Is she TRYING to make these students obese?! I remember my years in college and it was one carb-binge after another just trying to make it through the long nights of studying and working on papers. Had I been livin' la vida low-carb while I was in college, I would not have had to worry about my weight going haywire and I probably would have been able to perform even better as a student as a result of the stabilized blood sugar levels.

Thankfully, one student quoted in the story understands the importance of watching your carb intake for weight control: “I think eating a high-carb diet is fine, but I’m an athlete. If you aren’t (an athlete), you’re probably going to get fat.”

How true, how true! Now that I'm no longer losing weight on my low-carb lifestyle, I can get away with eating a few more carbs since I engage in daily cardio workouts. But if I wasn't working out regularly, I could not get away with eating 100-125g carbs per day like I do now.

The study counted fiber as part of the "high-carb" diet, although most low-carbers will readily tell you that you don't have to count these in your daily carb count. Nevertheless, this study is being touted as proof that you don't have to cut your carb intake to lose weight.

Well, duh?! I could have told you that without this study. In the attempts to tear down the positive message of the low-carb lifestyle, all we hear about is how you can still lose weight by eating high-carb foods. That's the basis for the new Raz Diet plan that encourages eating 16 slices of bread every single day.

There is no denying you can eat a lot of carbs and still lose weight. But how your body reacts to all of those carbs is why so many people are unable to continue eating that way forever. Hunger, irritability, deprivation, cravings, and more will overcome you and bring you to your knees begging for the pain to go away (can you tell I was suffering on my low-fat, high-carb diet?!).

But our beloved nutritionist in the story mindlessly makes such asinine statements as this:

“Low-carb diets like Atkins are not healthy ... Low-carb diets rob from the muscle in your body.”

What's not healthy about them? Hmmm? Can you tell me? The Atkins diet or obesity -- which is worse? And low-carb diets don't "rob from the muscle in your body," but rather they are an excellent way to burn stored fat and maintain muscle mass.

What's with the hyperbolic statements? If low-carb diets are so dangerous, then why am I still alive and healthier than I've ever been? When are all of these devastating effects supposed to take place with my health? I'm waiting...

Unfortunately, that same student that understood the importance of controlling your carb intake for weight maintenance made some pretty ignorant statements about livin' la vida low-carb.

“I usually eat a lot of pasta, potatoes and breads,” the student-athlete said. “I don’t think Atkins is too healthy. Look at Atkins. Was he healthy eating all that meat? And is he still alive? No.”

If you can eat all of those high-carb foods and not gain weight, then do it to your heart's content. But don't assume the Atkins diet is not a viable alternative for those of us whose metabolism may not be as high as yours is. Wait until you hit 25 or 30 years old and tell me about how much pasta, potatoes and bread you are eating to maintain your weight. We'll see how that works for you.

But your comments against Dr. Robert C. Atkins from a personal standpoint were completely uncalled for. Yes, he ate meat as part of his diet plan, but NO he didn't die from doing so.

Using this same logic, why don't we proclaim that Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's, died because of the foods he served at his restaurants? We wouldn't! Why? Because the two had NOTHING in common.

Dr. Atkins died after a tragic slip and fall accident on some ice in New York City in 2003. Continuing to drag his good name through the mud is only dishonoring his incredible legacy and bringing needless grief to his family. Benoit should be ashamed of herself for printing such vitriol to suit her biased viewpoint about the Atkins diet.

How about sending your comments about this ridiculous column by Sarrah Benoit to her editor, Cady McCowin, by clicking here.

While you are at it, be sure to thank Dr. William Evans for releasing this study that proves you can still lose weight without concerning yourself over burning more calories than you take in. E-mail him at

1-16-06 UPDATE: Here's what one of my faithful readers and a devoted low-carber wrote to the editor of The Argonaut newspaper today:

To whom it may concern:

This is in response to your article by a certain Sarrah Benoit regarding a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Although the scientific study itself is worth reading, it was not written by your organization.

However, the article by your student-reporter Sarrah Benoit is, sadly enough, not worth reacting on if it wasn't so incredibly ignorant and pompous, not to mention full of sheer hyperbolic and unfounded accusations, with absolute and total disregard for scientific as well as clinical facts and evidence.

Hence, I am sorry to say that this was one of the most distorted, biased and unscientific pieces of misrepresentation I have read in a long time.

This article already starts off with a unnecessary, extremely biased headline, and continues to make unfounded, unproven, unscientific and disparaging remarks about controlled carbohydrate dietary regimens.

The fact that your students have no clue of nutritional science is rather obvious, but that still doesn't entitle them to insult the intelligence of your readers, no matter how few readers that might be.

Halfway the story a, no doubt self-appointed, "nutritionist" is quoted to make sure the misinformation in this article gets at least some air of credibility. Unfortunately this "nutritionist" also suffered from Alzheimers or perhaps chronic tunnelvision because the dietary advise was of the same abysmal caliber.

I challenge you, or this "nutritionist", or this Sarrah Benoit to provide me with ONE (that's 1) scientific study that even remotely proves ANYTHING that is said in this sorry piece of crapola. To be sure, I mean scientific studies, not AHA or ADA propaganda.

If you cannot, and I am sure you cannot, as there is no scientific evidence for anything stated in this "article", I would recommend your students to:

a) Read the latest scientific literature for a change;

b) Try to make one's own decisions after that based on FACTS;

c) Do not publish biased, insulting, and outright lies like in this crappy article, especially if you don't know what you are talking about: it might bite you in the back one day and make you look even more stupid;

d) Stop playing doctor when you clearly are not.

I trust you will be so kind to forward this email to the dimwit in question.

I think that letter pretty much speaks for itself! :)


Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

Wow Jimmy! This is one of your best posts yet!

1/16/2006 7:53 PM  
Blogger Logical guy said...

As someone who has dieted and lost weight over the years, I have come to one important realisation. What works for one person may (or not) work for another, what works for you one time may not work another time. I recently read a paper that showed that exercise for obese people had no effect on weight loss, but the post you wrote said it had. Conclusion: everyone's different.

1/17/2006 5:21 AM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Glad to see that somebody finally notices the fact that a calorie is not a calorie. I've said it many times before and I'll say it again: the Calorie Theory might be a established scientific fact - but the Calorie Theory as applied to nutritional science is absurd.

1/17/2006 10:33 AM  
Blogger CB said...

While I certainly appreciate the indignation toward such an outlandish opinion piece published under the guise of objective journalism, I don't think this reader's letter to the editor will yield much benefit. In my experience, such ad hominem vitriol as is included in this letter - along with some blatant grammatical errors - result in nothing more than the letter being dismissed by the recipient.

I agree whole-heartedly with writing to editors, publications, or authors who continue to misrepresent the principles of controlled-carbohydrate dieting and who continue to demonstrate a lack of understanding of basic nutritional science; however, such responses must meet the utmost standards in grammar and ettiquette - and ought also to include links to bona fide sources corroborating the position of the writer - if they are to be taken seriously, and are to have any hope of making a difference.

This understanding is why blogs such as yours are so incredibly helpful. History will eventually prove us right (though, hopefully it does so before we lose an entire generation to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease). Thank you so much for your contributions!

(By the way, this is my first comment here. I only recently found your blog. I am a low-carber for over seven years now, and I will put my results - and my bloodwork and overall health - up against any non-low-carber, anytime!)

4/08/2007 10:26 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Welcome to the conversation, CB! I encourage you to share your comments often as a long-term low-carb success. We need more voices of truth out there sharing the good news with the world.

4/08/2007 3:09 PM  
Blogger iddysmartypants said...

we all have different body types so the ideal thing to do would be to find out what works for you. I, for instance, do a lot of exercise but have found that without it my body remains the same (of course just not toned) and that might not be the case for someone different.

6/25/2008 7:32 PM  

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