Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Power Science

Why the Calorie Is Broken (arstechnica.com) 108

New submitter ami.one writes: Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley explain how we are still using a century old method for measuring the calories in our food and the calories spent in different human activities. Essentially, there is a very big difference between burning stuff in a bomb calorie-meter and the extremely complex ways our body extracts energy from food. In fact, the exact process of digestion is yet to be understood sufficiently at a micro level, and years from being replicated to any close degree. Plus, the way our bodies spend calories for a given activity is hugely different from the way a car consumer gasoline and dependent on a number of parameters — some of which are not even known currently. Therefore, balancing calories in to Calories out is not so stupidly simple as it seems to the underweight layperson . Update: 01/28 22:09 GMT by T : Sorry for the duplicate post; it was a long night.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Why the Calorie Is Broken

Comments Filter:
  • by kkoo ( 4352157 ) on Thursday January 28, 2016 @10:49AM (#51387899)
    But we know why. Useless staff.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Timothy is broken, but that's hardly news.

      • Timothy is a genius. When there's nothing in the queue he just reposts the worst article from yesterday, and it's good for ten kilopageviews from people complaining about it. Printing money.

        • by unrtst ( 777550 )

          Fuck. You are right. I didn't even read the thread yesterday cause it seemed like it should be on one of those "10 things you didn't know about something that will kill you" pages. This time I came here cause it's a dupe - that's the only reason. Ugh.

    • by mrvan ( 973822 )

      Well, I for one was glad to see that after all these corporate restructurings slashdot is back at its old level :)

      But it is funny how they can post a dupe with exactly the same name, while the original article is even in the "most discussed" list. That's a level of incompetence for which you normally need to hire special staff to achieve :)

    • Ah, Slashdot. Never change :)
    • That is all.

      Actually, no. This summary is, I think, better than the one posted yesterday for this identical topic. However, the answer to "I'm not quite happy with this summary" is to do it right the first time and fix it before posting it. Not to repost it the next day with different wording.

      This isn't an update of breaking news, like yesterday we discovered the calorie was broken (ZOMG NOES!!1), and today President Obama held an emergency press conference to calm panic in the global markets about
  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://science.slashdot.org/story/16/01/27/0443210/why-the-calorie-is-broken
    http://science.slashdot.org/story/16/01/28/1446244/why-the-calorie-is-broken

    Pack your shit.

  • by CajunArson ( 465943 ) on Thursday January 28, 2016 @10:51AM (#51387919) Journal

    Then again, dupes of stupid stories have been with Slashdot since the beginning. It kind of makes you wonder what (if anything) the so-called "editors" of this site do other than take kickbacks from the likes of Hassleton and that d-bag over at Forbes.

    Then again, there's an important social policy angle to the Slashdot editing "quality": It's a powerful argument that they should be paid less than minimum wage.

  • "Therefore, balancing calories in to Calories out is not so stupidly simple as it seems to the underweight layperson "

    Using my impressive array of mental superpowers, I predict that fatties will use this as an excuse for not exercising.

    "Slashdot"

    Using my impressive powers again, I predict hilarious fat jokes will be forthcoming in this very thread.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The article has a point: the reason I am 400 lbs is because calories are counted wrong. I eat 10,000 calories a day. Due to the calorie being inaccurate I probably actually eat 13,400 calories or more. No wonder I am fat. I feel a lawsuit coming on!

      • I eat closer to 10,000 Calories per week. I'm still fat, but not as fat as you.

        • That's almost a starvation diet, you've got a seriously screwed thyroid if you still have weight issues.

          • 1. I'm shooting for 1800cal/day = 12,600 ~10,000 cal/week
            2. I'm 240, and only starting to count calories, so I got a ways to go.

    • If you balance "calories in to Calories out" you're going to have a huge problem as 1 Calorie == 1000 calories.

    • It's already fat people rage. That last comment says, "I'm fat and you skinny dicks don't know what it's like!"
    • Exercise doesn't do much for losing weight. It's great for building muscle. Have to interrupt hunger signals. A ketogenic diet worked for me, it might for you. Starving all the time is not a viable life strategy. Low calorie intake because all you eat are proteins that sate and fats that keep you full is plausible. Isn't sustainable for everyone, but if you're fat and haven't tried it, give it a shot.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nutrition is a subject for which everybody should understand the basics. Unfortunately, this is hard. Not only is there a ton of conflicting research about how to properly fuel your body, there's a multi-billion-dollar industry with financial incentive to muddy the waters. Further, one of the most basic concepts for how we evaluate food — the calorie — is incredibly imprecise. "Wilbur Atwater, a Department of Agriculture scientist, began by measuring the calories contained in more than 4,000 foo

    • Nutrition is a subject for which everybody should understand the basics. Unfortunately, this is hard. Not only is there a ton of conflicting research about how to properly fuel your body, there's a multi-billion-dollar industry with financial incentive to muddy the waters. Further, one of the most basic concepts for how we evaluate food — the calorie — is incredibly imprecise. "Wilbur Atwater, a Department of Agriculture scientist, began by measuring the calories contained in more than 4,000 foods. Then he fed those foods to volunteers and collected their faeces, which he incinerated in a bomb calorimeter. After subtracting the energy measured in the faeces from that in the food, he arrived at the Atwater values, numbers that represent the available energy in each gram of protein, carbohydrate and fat. These century-old figures remain the basis for today's standards."

      In addition to the measuring system being outdated, the amount of calories taken from a meal can vary from person to person. Differences in metabolism and digestive efficiency add sizable error bars. Then there are issues with serving sizes and preparation methods. Research is now underway to find a better measure of food intake than the calorie. One possibility for the future is mapping your internal chemistry and having it analyzed with a massive database to see what foods work best for you. Another may involve tweaking your gut microbiome to change how you extract energy from certain foods.

      Oh and my captcha is pinhead which obviously refers to the editors.

      What I'm curious about is how did he determine that said fecal matter was from the specific food he set out test? It's not like you can fully predict when any one persons (or test subject) will produce fecal matter based on the input foods.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... I read an article about that very topic not so long ago

    http://science.slashdot.org/story/16/01/27/0443210/why-the-calorie-is-broken

  • Repost.
  • by turp182 ( 1020263 ) on Thursday January 28, 2016 @10:53AM (#51387945) Journal

    That is it. Dupe!

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday January 28, 2016 @10:53AM (#51387949) Homepage

    This story was on the front-page yesterday [slashdot.org], do you guys not even TRY to keep track of this shit?

    • This story was on the front-page yesterday [slashdot.org], do you guys not even TRY to keep track of this shit?

      I was thinking maybe we should get pornhub to at least run the /. headlines on their front page - maybe then they would be noticed by the editors here.

    • by Longjmp ( 632577 ) on Thursday January 28, 2016 @11:13AM (#51388099)

      This story was on the front-page yesterday, do you guys not even TRY to keep track of this shit?

      No, they don't.
      Here's a typical working day of slashdot "editors":

      Browsing the submissions: 3 hours.
      Clicking on links provided with the submissions: 2 hours.
      Trying to find the most misleading headlines for a story: 2 hours
      Finding the most misleading quote in one of the related articles: 3 hours
      Thinking of a clever remark to add to the quotes and fail: 5 hours

      Hey, and even slashdot editors need to eat, drink and sleep, so there's no time to check what was posted yesterday.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      I for one welcome the return of regular dupes. I have fond memories of the time when there were typically two or three a day, back in the Taco era. The era of Slashdot Radio and Scientology attacks, when big sites were regularly Slashdotted because CDNs hadn't been invented.

      Timothy is just feeling nostalgic. Netcraft confirms it.

    • This story was on the front-page yesterday [slashdot.org], do you guys not even TRY to keep track of this shit?

      Its also at the very top of the mobile site which keeps the story with the most number of comments at the top of the page.
      It's literally the top of the front page right now for many devices.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Why do I always get the mobile site when I have asked for the desktop site on Android? I wish they would fix that.

  • by mr_mischief ( 456295 ) on Thursday January 28, 2016 @11:01AM (#51387993) Journal

    If you're going to complain about misunderstandings among laypeople, let's start with the proper name for the unit used pretty much everywhere: you're talking about kilocalories when you talk to a layperson in the US about the "calorie".

    Second, even if in a typical case we could perfectly balance energy intake to activities, it's been shown that many bodies are atypical. We are not feeding spherical cows of uniform density in a vacuum. These are people with more or less muscle mass, different things going on in their endocrine systems, different overall body mass, different drug intakes, different vitamin and protein levels and sources, and different genetics.

    The real-world test for a dietary plan is whether it helps you maintain your health and desired weight. There is enough research to recommend some alternatives as definitely better than others, but there's been no definitive perfect diet. Ultimately the perfect diet is one that allows you to be both healthy and satisfied, and that it can't do on its own. The dietary plan can contribute, but it also takes other lifestyle factors.

    • you're talking about kilocalories when you talk to a layperson in the US about the "calorie".

      No, no, no. 1 kilocalorie == 1 Calorie, not one calorie. You mean you can't hear the all important distinction between the "calorie" and the "Calorie", runners up in the "stupidest tradition unit" prize with the ton and gallon.

    • We are not feeding spherical cows of uniform density in a vacuum.

      Maybe not in outer space, but in America?

    • We are not feeding spherical cows of uniform density in a vacuum.

      You must be new here; you never, ever mention the word 'cows'!

      • You must be new here; you never, ever mention the word 'cows'!

        You are all spherical cows of uniform density in a vacuum ... moo you damned spherical cows of uniform density in a vacuum. MOO!!

        Hey, you're right!!

      • You must be new here; -- (1460303)

        • I used to have a four-digit ID but lost access to the email account associated with it so when I forgot the password I couldn't recover the account. :-(
          • Sounds like a bunch of bull to me. Moo, bull, moo. ;-)

            Actually, I know a quite a few people who for a fact have the same issue. That's one of the biggest reasons for the success of email providers independent of ISPs, schools, and employers early on I think. The account portability is a big deal.

            To bring this somewhat closer to topic, it takes a lot of energy to update all those sites when your non-portable email address changes. It's more calorie-efficient to have something like a Gmail or Yahoo mail acco

  • Do you even read you own site from time to time?

  • Didn't we just do this?
  • by LateArthurDent ( 1403947 ) on Thursday January 28, 2016 @11:09AM (#51388059)

    Therefore, balancing calories in to Calories out is not so stupidly simple as it seems to the underweight layperson.

    What about the previously slightly obese person and currently healthy weight person (by BMI measurement)? Because that's me. And even during the obese period, I never had any delusions about it not being as simple as balancing calories in and out. It was a matter of changing my mindset so that I was actually serious about the work involved.

    Are they right that the number of calories you take in isn't exact? Of course. It's even harder to measure the number of calories out. Does this matter? Not in the least. They're good enough rough approximations. If you're trying to match your calories in to your calories out to a net -5 calories, you're doing it wrong. Aim for at least -500. Even if you're wrong by, say, 400 calories, you're still negative -100 and in the long term will lose weight. Sometimes you'll be wrong in the other direction and will be negative even more that 500 calories for that day. Chances are, in fact, that the long-term average will approximate what you're aiming for.

    • >Are they right that the number of calories you take in isn't exact? Of course. It's even harder to measure the number of calories out. Does this matter? Not in the >least. They're good enough rough approximations. If you're trying to match your calories in to your calories out to a net -5 calories, you're doing it wrong. Aim for >at least -500. Even if you're wrong by, say, 400 calories, you're still negative -100 and in the long term will lose weight. Sometimes you'll be wrong in the other >di
    • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

      So, what you're saying is to do 100 pushups 100 situps and 100 squats followed by a 10km run every single day?

      • Ride your bike at a decent pace (18+ mph, 29 kph) for an hour. Eat 2000-2500 calories per day. Weight problem solved. I'm living proof.

        • anecdote, meet data. Yeah, I know, you two having nothing in common.

        • Or eat 1500-2000 calories per day (often toward the lower end) and exercise a little less vigorously. Yeah I'm not quite as healthy but between work, teaching a night class and wife I don't have as much time as I'd like. I can still ride an exercise bike for a half an hour with my heart rate at 160 and not out of breath, step off the bike and my heart rate is under 120 in 2 minutes just from walking and my weight is low. I don't spend a lot of time studying health but I think I'm passably alright.
    • and when you are too short of calories your body adjusts by lowering metabolism. For how long? That depends on:

      1) how great of a shortfall
      2) how often there are shortfalls
      3) variables with your body that have not been identified

      In other words, it *does* matter if you have too little, and it isn't as simple as "averaging out in the long term".

      And, speaking in generalizations, when your metabolism is lowered by shortfalls and then you get more what normally happens is the body will stockpile fat like crazy be

  • Calories are the units of measurement we have, and they work well enough. It even says so in the article. We've always know everyone's body is different. That has nothing to do with the calorie.
  • ...a story got repeated. Guess it must be seriously rough to be seriously bored on your job, huh, scraping around for any possible distractions? It's no wonder the US economy and industry is going down the tubes. Sheesh!
  • This is literally a dupe.

    Know what I hate about stories like this one? It gives people who desperately need to accept reality and lose weight another excuse to say 'Oh well, I guess it's hopeless!' and just keep eating whatever they want, stay obese, and never even try. It's not even true; our understanding of food, calories, and digestion isn't so utterly 'broken' as apparently a vocal minority might have you believe, otherwise how could anyone ever control their weight, or not be malnourished, etc. This
    • Stories are submitted, read: "please look at this!", or "wouldn't this be a nice subject to discuss?"

      Of course it's always possible there are multiple submitters, or submitters (part of the public, after all) that missed a previous story. THAT IS OKAY.

      But with those submissions in hand, it would be the editor's job to check for previously posted stories, non-working links, spelling errors (well... at least obvious ones :-), etc. In this case, that would have been Timothy's job. Exce

      • ..it would be the editor's job to check for previously posted stories..

        Fair enough. We didn't need two of essentially the same story in the same week, and you're right, the /. staff should have caught that and not posted it on the front page.

  • I thought this was going to be a scientific article about how the unit called a calorie is screwed up. I was hoping for a treatise on thermodynamics and standards and some new measurement technology. So sad to find out it was just about losing weight. Is it too much to expect a news site for nerds to geek out on units of measurement, without fretting about real-world applications?

    Besides, if you're looking at real-world applications, how about looking at a nerdy version of it? Weight loss is just a mass bal [ucsd.edu]

  • Our life together is so precious together,
    We have grown - we have grown,
    Although our love is still special,
    Let's take our chance and fly away somewhere alone,

    It's been so long since we took the time,
    No-one's to blame,
    I know time flies so quickly,
    But when I see you darling,
    It's like we both are falling in love again,
    It'll be just like starting over - starting over,

    Everyday we used to make it love,
    Why can't we be making love nice and easy,
    It's time to spread our wing's and fly,
    Don't let another day go by my l

  • The science is well established and the numbers are well known. Outside very narrow set of outliers it is well understood how many calories "go in" from which foods and how many "go out" through what activities.

    As someone who was able to lose 65lbs of extra weight (from 200 to 135 lbs) using just those calorie counts, I can tell you that not only did the counts make sense in general, but they did correspond quite closely to the predicted weight loss per every unit of time (down to a single week).

    The "calori

  • This story was also on the front of /. yesterday. WTF?
  • activity is hugely different from the way a car consumer gasoline and dependent on a number of parameters

    What does this even mean?!

  • Sugar spikes your insulin, fat takes more energy to break down per unit. People who claim that "A calorie is just a calorie, from any source is true because of the first law law of thermodynamics." are wrong, it doesn't violate the first rule.

    A "a calorie is just a calorie" violates THE SECOND law of thermodynamics. Entropy in the body is actually not as complex as OP makes it out, but it is a huge factor that makes all the difference in the world

You're at Witt's End.

Working...