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Math Science

The Mathematics of Obesity 655

Posted by Soulskill
from the pi-is-tasty dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that Carson C. Chow, an MIT-trained mathematician and physicist, has taken a new look at America's obesity epidemic and found that a food glut is behind America's weight problem, with the national obesity rate jumping from 20 percent to over 30 percent since 1970. 'Beginning in the 1970s, there was a change in national agricultural policy. Instead of the government paying farmers not to engage in full production, as was the practice, they were encouraged to grow as much food as they could,' says Chow. 'With such a huge food supply, food marketing got better and restaurants got cheaper. The low cost of food fueled the growth of the fast-food industry. If food were expensive, you couldn't have fast food.' Chow and mathematical physiologist Kevin Hall created a mathematical model of a human with hundreds of equations, boiled it down to one simple equation, and then plugged in all the variables — height, weight, food intake, exercise. The slimmed-down equation proved to be a useful platform for answering a host of questions. For example, huge variations in your daily food intake will not cause variations in weight, as long as your average food intake over a year is about the same. Unfortunately, another finding is that weight change, up or down, takes a very, very long time. Chow has posted an interactive version of the model on the web where people can plug in their information and learn how much they'll need to reduce their intake and increase their activity to lose."
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The Mathematics of Obesity

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  • Fruit is the problem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:19AM (#40014249)

    Fruit is the problem - it's full of sugar. I suppose low-sugar fruits are OK then.

    • by Kergan (780543) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:35AM (#40014329)

      Fruit isn't so bad, because it has fiber -- this keeps part of the sugar in your bowls, until it gets refined by bacteria and farted. Plus you need the vitamin. Fruit juice is another story: might as well drink beer.

      Some videos on sugar from the UC:

      http://www.uctv.tv/skinny-on-obesity/ [www.uctv.tv]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        In that case, just eat legumes - all the fiber (more, actually) with none of the sugar.

    • by bazim2 (625704)
      Fruit is also full of soluble fiber. The fiber prevents the digestive system from absorbing the sugar as effectively. Our current western diets contain nowhere near enough fiber.
      • Take an orange and eat it. You feel full, it tasted good. Take a glass of orange juice (an average size glass can have the equivalent of three oranges, thus three times the calories AND with most of the fiber removed). A glass of juice has the same amount of calories as a can of COKE.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:04AM (#40014441)

      Fruit is bad, but so is meat. I think we all know that. Veggies are also a problem with those carbs. Best just to eat water.

  • That the primary problem with people becoming obese being that they consume too much food is hardly news, nor is it news that food is much more abundant these days than it was in the past.

    That said, it is interesting to read about this approach to studying obesity. And the simulator was also kind of interesting although it told me that in order to maintain my current weight I need to increase my energy intake by 300-800 kCal/day (depending on activity level specified) which is sort of odd since I'm currentl

    • More than that even, weight change can go up and down quite drastically in a short period of time, so I'm not sure what the summary is on about. This looks like a case of "mathematical models not accurately representing reality" I reckon.

    • by Fished (574624)

      I recently watched Ken Burns' Prohibition documentary, and was struck again and again by how many people were overweight despite the image of Americans back then as skinny.

  • by Krneki (1192201) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:28AM (#40014299)
    The main problem is sugar.

    It's everywhere and you don't need it. Drink only water and don't buy any food that has sugar (fructose excluded) in it.

    You DON'T need it. You like it because your are an addicted junky.

    • by Shivetya (243324) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:52AM (#40014385) Homepage Journal

      Far too many Americans are simply not active. This is compounded by the fact that while not active they have easy access to food that it too conveniently packaged for consumption. I love the people at work who blame medical conditions for their weight while consuming a whole bag of chips or having that bagel covered in cream cheese. People don't know the calories they are consuming and woefully underestimate the amount of them in the foods they eat.

      So sugar is only part of the problem. I know lots of people who don't eat cookies, drink soda, or the like, and yet they little walking cubed shaped individuals. All because of the mass amount of carb and fat filled foods they consume.

      Gone are the long days and long weeks of manual labor. Instead most Americans sit during their workday and spend only a third of their week at most working and traveling too and from work. I am not declaring that working only forty hours or less is bad; but lets be honest those we know who do more tend to get further; but it did leave many people with way too much time on their hands and they don't know what to do with it.

      You can maintain a healthy weight and eat some truly trashy food. As part of a diet and exercise contest we have at work I set out to prove that some seriously trashy breakfast foods could be consumed while losing weight as long as the diet and exercise balanced out. This meant items like donuts or muffins with coffee and cream from Dunkin in the morning every work day for two weeks. Yet followed by sensible lunches and dinners which most of us kept logs for. Those who logged their food showed the most loss. That is the real key, knowing what you eat.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        So sugar is only part of the problem. I know lots of people who don't eat cookies, drink soda, or the like, and yet they little walking cubed shaped individuals. All because of the mass amount of carb and fat filled foods they consume.

        Then there's the successful dieters who still sit on their ass, and that ass is flat. I see women all the time who are conventionally attractive, but they just look frail and I'm afraid I'd hurt 'em. Sitting on ass is likely to become the new fat, which used to be a sign that you were rich. Now the sign of being rich is that you are thin but weak since you can afford to eat the best food, and afford to go to the dietician, but you don't do anything for yourself.

      • by ayjay29 (144994)

        >>while consuming a whole bag of chips or having that bagel covered in cream cheese

        I love American food...

        I visited the US for a week a while ago, and gained 3 kg (5 lb), I was aiming for 5 kg. If you go to Prague you go an a beer binge, in Amsterdam its a drugs bunge, but if you go to the US you go on a food binge.

        I worked out that if I lived there for a year I would weigh about 230 kb (460 lb).

      • by merlinokos (892352) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @07:46AM (#40015039)

        I am not declaring that working only forty hours or less is bad; but lets be honest those we know who do more tend to get further;

        Science and reality both say you, and those whose viewpoints you represent are deluded.
        Labor, experiments, and industry all agree that a 40-hour work week is better for everybody - individuals and companies. Productivity by people who regularly work more than 40 hours per week is lower than those who work 40 hours.
        The only reason people get ahead for working longer hours is because a generation of managers appears to have been taught to think that bums in seats = productivity. So longer hours = increased likelihood of promotion. It's a vicious cycle that's fuelled by people like yourself who speak with no understanding of how the human mind and body work. As a matter of fact, /. posted an article on this very subject [slashdot.org] 2 months ago today.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Labor, experiments, and industry all agree that a 40-hour work week is better for everybody - individuals and companies. Productivity by people who regularly work more than 40 hours per week is lower than those who work 40 hours.

          Given current unemployment, it might be nice to change that to 30 hours per week. Medieval serfs worked less than 40 hours a week. I wouldn't trade places with them, but the point is still made. Haven't we supposedly realized massive improvements in efficiency since then? Where is all the extra work going, when it comes to just subsistence living? No, you MUST work to keep the system running over people, or you don't get health care. Welcome to the corporatocracy.

    • SUGAR is POISON (Score:3, Insightful)

      by arcite (661011)
      Yes, go watch this youtube vid: Sugar: the Bitter Truth [youtube.com]

      Sugar IS indeed a poison, like alcohol...in fact, alcohol and sugar both get turned into FAT, which is killing us because we eat too damn much of it.

      Anyway, on a personal note, I have cut out sugary drinks (no sodas) I only allow a few coke zeros (yes I know they are also poison, but I still drink a couple a month). Similarly, cut out fast food, white bread, beef, anything processed, juice, salt. Cook everything yourself then you know what goes in

      • Sugar is a needed and necessary nutrient for our bodies. But, much like anything else, the poison is in the dose. For example, our bodies are mostly made up of water. Good old H2O, necessary for all life on Earth. But drink too much water in too short an amount of time and you can die from electrolyte imbalance. By and large it's the dose, not the substance that is poisonous.

        Our bodies were designed to take in small amounts of natural sugars from fruits and vegetables. Large amounts of sugars will, as

    • Sucrose and glucose cause insulin spikes which cause fat to be stored. If you've not eaten fat within 2 hours either side, they just make you hungry, but aren't a direct cause of becoming fat.
      Caffeine seems to block fat storage to some degree as well as help you burn those calories.

      Being inactive probably also causes fat to be stored. Those calories have to go somewhere.

    • The main problem is sugar.

      YES

      It's everywhere and you don't need it. Drink only water and don't buy any food that has sugar

      YES

      (fructose excluded) in it.

      Ahhhghhh - train off the rails! If you mean fructose that's bound up with fruit fibers - sure, fine. The fiber slows down the absorption. And honey for some reason absorbs slowly (we don't know why).

      What's really important is the rate of fructose absorption. If it's too fast, the liver just turns it into fat - similar in process to heavy drinking - and po

  • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:29AM (#40014301) Homepage Journal

    Why is this appropriate for Slashdot, for the math, or for the obesity?

  • by martijnd (148684) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:30AM (#40014309)

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/05/06/why-the-campaign-to-stop-america-s-obesity-crisis-keeps-failing.html [thedailybeast.com]

    According to this its a change of diet (as in the promoted healthy diet is anything but) in the 1970's and way too many sugars.

  • A cursory look at the app and I can see some definite uses. I've been wanting to create (mostly for my wife and myself; but theoretically for others later as open source) a personalised diet planner application based on some fuzzy logic, the "USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference" data, and user input for common/preferred/available meals. Combining it with the formula used in this simulator would be really helpful.

    Unfortunately, I don't actually see the formula or source code to the app a

  • "Well, what do people do when there is extra food around? They eat it! This, of course, is a tremendously controversial idea. However, the model shows that increase in food more than explains the increase in weight."

    So he's not just modelling physiology, he's also modelling economic decisions? And he's modelling the impacts of various government policies?

    I wouldn't be surprised if poor people ate more food when the price went down, as they are highly affected by food costs, and they are the ones who experie

  • by sco08y (615665) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:01AM (#40014429)

    Just so we can get them out of the way:

    "I tried diet X and lost Y pounds, thus clearly establishing that substance Z is causing everyone to become fat."

    "Moral failing Q is the real culprit! We need government policy R! I have no proof!"

    "I'm from country C and we have no fat people. You Americans are fat, and I have a ridiculous accent!"

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Inda (580031)
      The norms upsetting the fatties again? They should stop. Stop it. Stop it now.

      "I'd go to the gym but gas prices make it too expensive a journey"

      "I can't afford fresh food"

      "My genetics make me eat birthday cake"

      "They don't make push-bikes large enough for my frame"

      "The objects on my desk have started to orbit me"

      "I don't like sports; I only like birthday cake"

      "It's my birthday and it's my cake"

      "Fatties run in my family! Well, actually they waddle, and the scooter only travels at a walking pace"

      "Nom, nom, nom
  • > created a mathematical model of a human with hundreds of equations

    and at least hundreds of parameters?

  • So, Chow found that Americans chow down on cheap chow too much...
  • A mathematical model is a simplification of the underlying system. That means it is worthless unless validated against experiments. Even after validation, the model cannot make predictions ouside the range where it has been validated.

    Statements like "huge variations in your daily food intake will not cause variations in weight, as long as your average food intake over a year is about the same" seem go way outside where there could possibly have been any experimental validation, and suggest that this MIT res

  • by Riggity (1344893) <chris,rhinehart&gmail,com> on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:51AM (#40014663)
    Newsweek had a nice writeup [thedailybeast.com] about obesity and consumption of processed grains that pairs well with this story.

    she arrived in New York in 1934 and was "startled" by the number of fat kids she saw - "really fat ones, not only in clinics, but on the streets and subways, and in schools." What makes Bruch's story relevant to the obesity problem today is that this was New York in the worst year of the Great Depression, an era of bread lines and soup kitchens, when 6 in 10 Americans were living in poverty. The conventional wisdom these days - promoted by government, obesity researchers, physicians, and probably your personal trainer as well - is that we get fat because we have too much to eat and not enough reasons to be physically active. But then why were the PC- and Big Mac - deprived Depression-era kids fat? How can we blame the obesity epidemic on gluttony and sloth if we easily find epidemics of obesity throughout the past century in populations that barely had food to survive and had to work hard to earn it?

    From my personal experience, I recently lost a lot of weight. The biggest shift I made to burn off fat was to drastically reduce how much grain I consumed weekly. I exercised about the same amount during the time, but the weight loss tracked pretty closely to my change in diet.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Interesting. I think another factor that people ignore is epigenetics. It was found that the incidence rate of diabetes in some town in Europe that had good records seemed to be related to what people's grandparents ate.

      I have no idea whether it is true, but if there are epigenetic factors at work, then the best we can hope to do is prevent obesity in kids who have not been born yet, or find some way to manipulate our own epigenetic programming.

  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:51AM (#40014665)

    ... that the advent of Television (watching movies together, cartoons, simpsons, etc) was much more damaging. How many people are glued to TV or a screen in case of the net these days?

    The truth is our minds find it easier to find positively stimulating things on screens then being active.

  • by AbRASiON (589899) * on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @07:33AM (#40014943) Journal

    I think I found this here like 5 years ago and I've kept it since.
    http://muller.lbl.gov/TRessays/22-ThePhysicsDiet.htm [lbl.gov]

    I've emailed Richard last year by the way and he's still the weight he achieved in that article 9 years later.

    FWIW: I'm an endomorph who DOES believe that some people hold weight easier, crave carbs and sugar more than others and have a lower BMR. However science is science - these things only make up a small fraction of the work. 95%+ is simply putting in the effort.

    I can also confirm that adjusting diet is far, far far more rewarding than excercise for weight loss, despite other health benefits. Just as his article says.

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @10:08AM (#40016333)

      I think I found this here like 5 years ago and I've kept it since.
      http://muller.lbl.gov/TRessays/22-ThePhysicsDiet.htm [lbl.gov]

      I've emailed Richard last year by the way and he's still the weight he achieved in that article 9 years later.

      FWIW: I'm an endomorph who DOES believe that some people hold weight easier, crave carbs and sugar more than others and have a lower BMR. However science is science - these things only make up a small fraction of the work. 95%+ is simply putting in the effort.

      I can also confirm that adjusting diet is far, far far more rewarding than excercise for weight loss, despite other health benefits. Just as his article says.

      I agree with what you post, but research now shows that very often, it's not a craving for carbs, but an actual addiction to them in terms of the way they effect brain chemistry. As such, just like quitting smoking or giving up drugs and alcohol, since there is a chemical dependency, it is not as easy as one would think. Obviously, just as many people can drink and not become alcoholics. Many can overeat and not become addicted to carbs. But for many, they do, and for them, will power often is not enough.

      • by AbRASiON (589899) *

        I am really glad you posted, because as I hit post I forgot to breach the topic of food addiction.
        I've been watching a lot of supersize vs superskinny (ermmtv on youtube, whole series uploaded!) and observing my own behaviour for 34 years.

        I dont' need to go into the sobstory but ultimately I 101% believe in food addiction, without question. I am a major major comfort eater and the sensation is incredibly addictive.
        Just to note, when you shovel food in it's utterly mindless, the voice in your head saying "y

    • by Rolgar (556636)

      It's not really about the amount of what you eat. It's more about having the right ingredients. I made a long post further up you might check out. Drop the wheat, corn, rice, potatoes, sugar, and limit dairy and fruits, and eat healthy amounts of meat and vegetables, and you can eat until full find yourself at a healthy number of calories, with most of the recommended nutrients covered.

      Read marksdailyapple.com for info about this diet and a moderate exercise recommendations (5 hours of walking and 1 hour of

  • Duh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @07:39AM (#40014987) Journal

    This is news?
    When I was a kid, and McDonald's were few and far between (early 70s) a McDonald's "meal" was a hamburger, fries, and drink.

    That's a single hamburger, what is now a small fries, and a small beverage. That was a satisfying full meal for an adult. Is that even a kids meal any more?

    Another example, I believe it was mentioned by a poster on slashdot. He was remodeling a 100yr-old farmhouse and he hadn't planned to, but found he had to rip out the cabinets as they were too small - the only plates that fit in the cupboard were the 9" (small) dinner plates, not our today-common 12" dinner plates.

    Finally, I was talking with a friend that runs a restaurant. I asked him why their portion sizes were so massive. His response was that it was to camouflage the prices with extra food, since food prices were cheap - it's the labor that drives costs. If he offered a moderately-sized meal, it might cost $8. If he was to DOUBLE the amount of food on that plate, it would cost perhaps +$1. Conversely, cutting the amount of food in half would only save $1. Consumers are far more willing to pay $9 for a GIANT pile of food (they feel they're getting a bargain), than $7 for 1/4 the food. On the latter, they feel they're being ripped off.

    • Re:Duh? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @09:19AM (#40015825)

      A few years back, I lost a lot of weight (about 80 pounds). One of the big things that helped was eating my meals on the small dinner plates instead of the big ones. This gave me the illusion of having more food than I really had. Try it sometime. Put the exact same amount of food on a big plate and on a little plate. Ask someone (who doesn't know they have the same amount) to tell you which plate has more food. Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly), the illusion of eating a lot of food versus very little food makes you feel fuller. About the only exception we made to the small plate rule was when we had salads, but we didn't load these up with unhealthy dressings and the like. The bigger plates became vehicles to transport more veggies into us.

  • by Bongo (13261) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @07:52AM (#40015093)

    The energy balance equation of, food eaten equals fat stored minus exercise, is used in a very misleading way. Most assume you can manipulate it yourself by eating less and exercising more. But that ignores entirely the body's own control system. There are some lab rats that were starved to death by underfeeding, in an experiment, and whilst they starved to death they were gaining fat and died obese. Why? Because they were also receiving insulin and this told their bodies to store fat no matter what, even if they were not being fed, so they converted their muscle and organs into fat and stored that instead. They died of weak heart mucles and heart failure.

    It is like a child eats extra to grow but he doesn't grow because he's eating extra, he eats extra and grows because the body's hormones are controlling things and telling the body to eat more and grow. It is all about hormones. Why do diabetics take insulin? To CONTROL their blood sugar. That's what insulin does. Insulin decides that you have to lower that blood sugar. And how does it control it and get it out of the blood stream? It tells fat cells to open up and absorb it. That's what "lowers" your blood sugar. The insulin decides to store it. And as it is storing it, your normal metabolism is still hungry. So the energy equation is used wrong. You don't get fat because you overeat, you overeat because you're getting fat.

    What drives up insulin levels beyond normal, beyond what our 100,000 year old bodies are used to? Carbohydrates. You can eat fat and that'll be converted to energy and you'll want to move more. But eat carbs in the massive unusual quantities that we do, like pasta, pizza, bread, potatoes, and sugared drinks, and it all turns to sugar and insulin has to be produced in huge quantities to deal with it. Your normal blood sugar is one teaspoon of sugar. That's it. That's all we're made to deal with. So insulin goes nuts trying to deal with all that "healthy slow release energy" and eventually you get obese and you get diabetes.

    The food pyramid was a huge shift towards grains (bird food) and away from fat. The fat / heart disease / lipid hypothesis was wrong 50 years ago and by committee "we have to tell the politicians what to regulate even if we aren't sure ourselves" consensus opinion ended up dominating and it is still wrong today. Eating a low fat high carb diet is a recipe not only for obesity but also depression. Just try switching to a genuine low carb high fat diet (see Sweden's latest magazine, "LCHF") and try it for yourself. After a month carbs just don't look like food anymore. Sleep better, feel lighter, feel satiated all the time (fat is filling, whilst carbs increase appetite or make you sleepy) and have more mental clarity. YMMV but that's been my experience to my surprise.

    There are so many things wrong with the current dogma around the food pyramid that you have to undo many issues before you can wade your way to some clarity. But the best thing is to actually try it for a period, and see if what the proponents of LCHF and paleo say is true. Your own body can tell you.

    Go and check what that research about bad fat and heart disease was actually based on, how they've repeatedly failed to show in good controlled studies that eating low fat is good for you, or that counting calories and exercising lets you lose wight. Those studies keep failing but the advocates keep hoping the next big study will show it. The start in rise in obesity coincided with the start of that advice about fat being the devil and to make most of your food plate carbs (sugar) instead. It has been a massive experiment on the public and it has gone catastrophically wrong, but rather than say that they just call people weak willed and lazy. All those carbs and sugar simply drive up your hunger whilst storing it as fat and keeping you tired.

    • by dunkelfalke (91624) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:59AM (#40015633)

      Sorry, but this is wrong on so many levels. You see, while you get energy from stored fat, it is a quite energy intensive process itself if fat should be the main energy source. You can experience the "hitting the wall" effect yourself after a long endurance training. When the glycogen storage is depleted, the body switches completely to fat burning and suddenly you don't have any energy to go on and breathe much faster, might even faint.

      Fat burning is meant to be an additional energy source, not the primary one. The reason why fat is stored is:

      1) you have eaten too much food. Otherwise the fat would be all used up

      2) You have got far too much fat mixed with carbohydrates in the food. Well, duh, the body takes what it can use right away and stores what it can use only with some effort.

      Your example with lab rats is very misleading because in the experiment the own control mechanism of rat's organism was artificially overridden. This matters to healthy organisms who don't receive additional insulin exactly how? Right, not at all.

      Oh, by the way, the insulin doesn't just tell "fat cells to open up and absorb it", it also (and this is actually its primary task) tells the muscle tissue and liver to absorb sugar so they can convert it to glycogen, which is the primary source of short- and middle-term energy for your body. Only the absolute excess of carbohydrates is stored as fat - and fat, of course, for already explained reasons.

      Of course, if your glycogen storage is still almost full, then most of what you just ate would be in excess and will be stored as fat. So yes, you indeed get fat because you overeat. Either don't overeat (which is difficult) or deplete your glycogen storage by using your muscles, then you'll be fine.

      The only reason why these "carbs are bad" - posts are marked as insightful is that most people don't want to admit that their own behaviour is a part of the problem.

      Oh, and don't even try to mention Inuit, they are a result of selective breeding and adapting from childhood on. They eat rotten meat that would kill many Europeans due to high levels of cadaverine.

      • I can't mod because I commented above, but the post above is awesome! I also want to chime in that the food pyramid has been replaced by "my plate". This has been the case for a few years, now.

        As for counting calories, it is the fundamental unit of measure for energy. I have shed a bit of weight and like to think of my body as a rational system. In the fact that the storage of fat and gains in girth are because I was eating too much energy than what I needed to survive so my body stored the weight. The Hac [fourmilab.ch]

        • by Bongo (13261)

          It seems rational but the causality is not simple. Your body can "decide" what to do with the energy you eat. It can burn it or store it. If it decides to burn it, your metabolic rate goes up (in my case I felt hot a lot) and you can have more impulse to move around. But equally your body could decide to store that energy, in which case you get fat, you feel tired (the energy has been stored already) and you metabolism goes down. That's what confuses a lot of the arguments, which direction does the causalit

      • Exactly wrong (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @10:22AM (#40016515)

        Sorry, but this is wrong on so many levels. You see, while you get energy from stored fat, it is a quite energy intensive process itself if fat should be the main energy source. You can experience the "hitting the wall" effect yourself after a long endurance training. When the glycogen storage is depleted, the body switches completely to fat burning and suddenly you don't have any energy to go on and breathe much faster, might even faint.

        Fat burning is meant to be an additional energy source, not the primary one. The reason why fat is stored is:

        1) you have eaten too much food. Otherwise the fat would be all used up

        2) You have got far too much fat mixed with carbohydrates in the food. Well, duh, the body takes what it can use right away and stores what it can use only with some effort.

        Good grief, if this isn't a fantastic example of missing the forest for the trees....you have it almost exactly wrong.

        Fat metabolism IS supposed to be the primary metabolic pathway. It is ideal for fueling the basal metabolic processes and low-level everyday activity. Why on earth would all mammals evolve the ability to store excess energy as saturated fat if the body wasn't fully prepared to run itself on that stored energy? Carrying around that excess weight is a hindrance, and if you have to have carbs present to make use of it I just don't see how it would confer the type of survival advantage that would bake it into the basic structure of our metabolism.
          Taken a step further - what fuels mammals during hibernation?
          If you look at the 'calorie requirement' calculators, the basal processes + everyday activity will always be the overwhelming majority of the calorie expenditure for a person during the day. Calories burned through exercise is substantially lower in all but the most extreme endurance athletes. this should be a pretty clear indication as to what is the more important metabolic process.

        Your example of 'hitting the wall' during glycolytic exercise is also backwards. High-intensity glycolytic exercise is the EXCEPTION, not the rule. It is an activity that ISN"T supposed to happen frequently, and when it does happen it isn't supposed to be of a long duration. There is a very good reason we have only evolved the ability to store a fairly limited amount of glycogen - because historically, any more simply wasn't needed.

        Taken together, IMHO these clearly illustrate why the low-carb/HIIT regimen is actually very successful as a strategy. Fat fuels your daily activity, with carbs 'topping up' the fairly minimal depletion of glycogen that occurs during the high-intensity activity. No one approach is ideal for everyone due to personal history etc, but there is a lot of science behind the low-carb/HIIT approach that very easily explains why it works well.

        • Why on earth would all mammals evolve the ability to store excess energy as saturated fat if the body wasn't fully prepared to run itself on that stored energy?

          Because otherwise they would starve if they cannot get a meal in time.

          Taken a step further - what fuels mammals during hibernation?

          Humans don't hibernate. And the closest human relatives eat mostly fruits, which are carbohydrates. Besides, what is so difficult in understanding "emergency ration", which the fat storage is? To make an easier to underst

  • by rishistar (662278) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:32AM (#40015371) Homepage

    Chow, an MIT-trained mathematician and physicist

    The fact it's written by Chow is making me hungry.

  • by Eraesr (1629799) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @10:02AM (#40016275) Homepage
    His name is Chow? How apt.
  • by hsthompson69 (1674722) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @10:29AM (#40016631)

    First off, standard "correlation is not causality" caveat.

    Second, obesity is a disease driven by the hormone insulin. Insulin (in insulin resistant people) is what causes fat cells to accumulate fat. Chronic insulin levels are driven by chronically elevated blood sugar levels. Chronically elevated blood sugar levels are caused by carbohydrate intake, the only food type that causes significant blood sugar rises.

    So, go back to 1970 and promote say, nothing but beef or pork production, and you can have a glut of food, without obesity. Promote "healthy" whole wheat, or sugary fruits, or starchy corn, that raises blood sugar levels, and you'll get obesity.

    Stop eating carbohydrates. It's simple.

  • by 0111 1110 (518466) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @11:53AM (#40017735)

    It's amazing to me how irrational people become as soon as the subject of food comes up. Science? Evidence? What's that? People convince themselves of all kinds of ridiculous ideas about food and nutrition, none of which have even the slightest shred of evidence to back them up. Probably because people don't want it to be simply a matter of calories. It's another example of intellectual hedonism. People don't want to believe that the quantity of food they are eating is just too much. So they simply choose not to believe it. Instead they invent some simple rule that does not rely on calorie counting or ever being hungry. Fat doesn't make you fat. Sugar doesn't make you fat. Preservatives and MSG don't make you fat. "Refined" foods don't make you fat. Fast food doesn't make you fat. Burgers and donuts don't make you fat. Even insulin doesn't make you fat. If you are overweight (as I am) the only thing you can blame is your own lack of self-control. It's calories that make you fat. Fat people simply eat too much for the amount of physical activity they engage in. You could live on pure fat or pure sugar and huge amounts of preservatives and lots of MSG and as long as you didn't exceed 1000 calories per day you wouldn't gain weight. In fact you would probably lose it.

    It is true that some restriction diets are effective, but not for the reasons usually given. If all you eat is low calorie vegetables you are very unlikely to gain weight and quite likely to lose it. That's because most people cannot manage to eat enough low calorie vegetables to gain weight. Some vegetables are so low in calories that you would pretty much have to eat them continuously the whole day. Carbohydrate restricted diets are popular these days. They don't work because 'carbohydrates make you fat'. They work because people seem to more easily be able to eat fewer calories on those diets. They are probably the most effective diets if you can stay on them because protein makes you feel full faster and keeps you feeling full longer. I've tried this but I feel truly awful for the first couple of days. I get really depressed without any carbohydrates. So I haven't been able to stay on it for long. I also find that I can quite easily overeat on all protein diets. So I'm back to counting calories again anyway.

    I've had better luck with calorie restricted vegetable diets, but the problem with those is that I have to constantly eat throughout the day to not feel hungry. I can eat a huge bowl of Romaine lettuce and within an hour I am hungry again. Not only is it a huge amount of work to keep filling my stomach with low calorie vegetables, but it's very expensive and tiring to constantly be preparing food.

    I've lived in several countries besides the US and none of those countries have as many overweight people as the US. The only other country I have visited which seems to be able to compete with the US in terms of obesity is Italy. In most countries people eat high calorie foods. The reason they do not get fat is simply because they don't overeat. It really is that simple. Just stop eating before you feel full. You should still feel at least a little bit hungry. One of my most successful diets was achieved just by eating my meals with a thin friend of mine. I ate exactly the same things he did in exactly the same amounts at every meal. He wasn't on any kind of special diet. He just didn't eat all that much food. I lost a lot of weight and I was left only slightly hungry.

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