A Calorie Is Not Just A Calorie, Study Shows

A Calorie Is Not Just A Calorie, Study Shows

There are plenty of arguments over whether all calories are equal, thanks to a singular experiment where one man lost 12kg on a diet of cream-filled sponge cakes. In a more comprehensive look at the effects of diets and types of calories, the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center examined three common types. The results were highly varied, suggesting that not all calories are created equal.

Photo by lamantin.

Of the three diets — standard low fat, ultra low carb and low glycemic — the amount of calories

The results were impressive. Those on the “Atkins” diet burned 350 calories more per day — the equivalent of an hour of moderate exercise — than those on the standard low-fat diet. Those on the low-glycemic diet burned 150 calories more, roughly equivalent to an hour of light exercise.

While the ultra low carb Atkins-like diet had the greatest initial effect, it also had the lowest, long-term retention rate. On top of that, it increased the risk of heart problems. Although the low glycemic index diet didn’t offer the same calorie-burning advantages, there were no adverse effects and it was easier to maintain over time. The key point of interest here, however, is that despite the same calorie intake, more calories were burnt by altering the types of foods those calories came from. Reducing carbohydrates — especially of the processed variety — had a distinct effect on fat retention, metabolism and overall health. While no single study is definitive proof of the inequality of calories, it suggests some good advice when considering your next diet: avoid processed foods, eat healthy and be patient.

For more details, be sure to read the entire article over at the New York Times.

Which Diet Works? [New York Times]


  • I thought this was widely accepted at this point?

    High-GI Carbohydrates and Alcohols end up as unwanted body fat much easier than Proteins and Fats do. That KFC Double-Down doesn’t look quite as bad now does it?

    • Really? Of all the macro-nutrients, fat is the most readily stored as body fat. The conversion of carbohydrate or protein to fat is a very rare occurrence in humans. In fact it would take to consumption of a ridiculous amount of carbohydrates in a day for the body to convert them to fat.

        • Completely incorrect. Carbs are converted to glucose pretty fast. Excess glucose leads to excessive insulin production which in turns lead to more fat storage. Reduce both your simple and complex carb intake and reduce your insulin production. Gluconeogenesis is only a very rare occurrence in inactive individuals who eat diet primarily composed of carbs.

      • Actually yes it does look bad. It’s not just about eating fat, it’s about eating the right kind of fat. The oils used by KFC are rancid heavily processed cheap vegetable oils that are very bad for your health. Also, the batter is made of wheat which makes things even worse. The sauce is full of sugar equally bad oils and the cheese is also heavily processed. The only part that isn’t too bad is the chicken but I don’t think it comes from organic sources.

    • The Double Down was never bad because it was unhealthy. It was bad because it’s two pieces of KFC’s disgusting excuse for chicken, stuck together with a piece of plastic they call cheese, a piece of leather they call bacon, and that disgusting goop they call a “secret sauce”. It could be the healthiest meal in the world, but it still tastes like a goopy, plastic-y, leather-y lump of shit.

  • I am not a classical biochemist (although I am a lab tutor for second year biochem courses at uni and do alot of essay and exam marking), but I am pretty sure carbohydrates are the main input for glyconeogenesis and the citric acid cycle (also known as TCA or Krebs cycle) which converts it into glucose, which is then used to make ATP (the main energy molecule of the body). Any unused or unnecessary glucose gets converted into triacyglycerides which form a major component of the fat storage molecule: very low density lipoproteins (VLDLs), which is stored in adipose tissue i.e. fat cells.
    Carbohydrates in excess are very readily converted into “fat” although not in one step.
    Hope that helps.

  • /troll on
    Ah, so 1 kilocalorie = 4184 joules equation still holds.
    You’re comparing the energy spent on digesting different types of food.
    /troll off

  • “processed carbohydrate” is always kind of glossed over, but it contains a very poingant fact: when a business makes food, it wants to make it as appealing as possible for the lowest price. High fructose corn syrup is amazingly sweet and ridiculously cheap, so it’s used a LOT in commercial cooking. One problem: fructose is a toxin biochemically similar to alcohol.

    Instead of veging out in front of “Operation Repo” or “Hoarders: Buried Alive!” (or whatever junk TV) tonight, PLEASE watch Dr Robert H. Lustig’s lecture “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

    For me it transformed soft drink and fast food forever.

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