Thermodenialgate ~ Response to my last post

The name of Adam Kosloff's website -- Caloriegate -- implies some criminal conspiracy to, I guess, spread a lie about calories.  If he had his way, anyone who speaks the plain truth about the biochemistry that goes on in our human bodies would just STFU already (his words) and count "something else".  Kosloff is a true leech in the IHC.  The guy studied geology at Yale and if his writings are any indication, knows pretty much nothing about human physiology or biochemistry.  He's a ghost-writer, which is an honest profession, but in his own words:

If his writing on his own websites is any indication, I'd say that it's evidence that sounding like an expert and actually being one are clearly very different things.  The problem I have with ghost-writing is with those who contract it and don't disclose that info to the reader.  I shudder to think what other disinformation Adam is disseminating anonymously.  I call Kosloff a leech because the work he has done on his own behalf has mostly been co-opted from others, foremost among those others being Gary Taubes.    If anyone believes that the purpose of this is to solve the obesity epidemic or even help individuals, I have some wonderful swamp land available ....  Adam has quickly become a useful barometer by which to judge the seriousness of others.    

Just felt like getting that out there.   On to the responses by Feinman and Lane.

Richard Feinman does not appear to like Robert Lustig very much as Lustig plays fast and loose with the biochemistry of fructose metabolism.  He once oddly informed his blog readers that Lustig in German means "merry" or "amusing" (I've also seen "silly" in various online translators).  So I guess it shouldn't surprise me that Feinman's response to my post was one in poor taste.  

Ethnic jokes? Really Dr. Feinman?? 

What is there not to understand about the part of my post pertaining to you?  Not all that long ago Feinman posted a link to a 2010 video on social media stating that he didn't remember making the video, nor why he had made it.   I'm beginning to get concerned for him.   Calories in -- that is the chemical potential energy in the food molecules -- is not altered by what the body does with those calories.  This energy, expressed in kilocalories or Calories was determined by Atwater and represents "metabolizable energy" for a human.  

The only way the mass gets back out is through full metabolism of the macros.  I don't know how much more straight forward an analogy can get than the gas tank analogy.  Provided we are talking about combustion engines, and presuming full combustion, then unused fuel, and the potential energy it contains, remains in the gas tank.  
Scooter with empty gas tank = 250 lbs
Fill 2.5 gallon tank = 250 + 15 = 265 lbs
Potential energy in ~325 MJoulesDrive 100 miles, use 1 gallon of gas = 265 - 6 = 259 lbs
Potential energy remaining in tank ~195 MJoules
Human fasted = 150 lbs
Eat 4 oz each protein and fat, 8 oz carb = 150 + 1 = 151 lbs
Potential energy in ~2400 calories
Go about your day expending 2000 calories (4 oz protein, 8 oz carb, 2.5 oz fat)
Weight at end of day = 150.1 lbs (1.5 oz = approx 0.1 lbs)
Potential energy stored in fat cells ~400 calories

Taken over the course of weeks and years, weight will change and may differ depending on the mass of which macros were incorporated into which tissues in the body.  But it's not much more complicated than this.

The bigger issue with Richard Feinman's version of thermodynamics is that he treats thermogenesis as an entropy term when it is not.  Heat evolved is part of "calories out".  It is more than disturbing to see this error repeated over and over.

Ian Lane, what to make of him.  Well, here was his response on Twitter.

Yes it would appear that he changed several things (as of this morning, the original was still in Google cache), but his changes do not actually address my main point.  The part about all matter having specific heat and that this is related to heat of combustion and calories is simply wrong.  One of the first things we learn in science is the concept of units, and at least back in my day if you didn't put the units on your answer to a problem a deduction was taken.  
  • Calories are one type of unit of ENERGY.  Other units of energy are Joules, ergs, BTUs, killowatt hours, electron volts, foot pounds, etc.  
  • Specific heat is a physical material property.  Units vary and are some combination of  Energy/mass·°T.  
So Ian cleaned up some nonsense about E = mc2 but he left the following in:
Recall that, in the first post I put up on calories, I stated that “all compounds in the observable universe have a certain amount of energy in their chemical bonds.” There are plenty of substances we haven’t been able to glean this information from, yet, but, in the case of all that we have, we’ve always found a certain amount of energy present. Why? Because everything has energy.
In first semester General Chem he should have learned that the above is also not true.  And I know to the non-scientists in the audience this will seem like a nit pick, but nomenclature is very important in these matters.   First of all, we can describe "stuff" as matter or substances.  

The term compound refers to a substance with unique physical and chemical properties that is composed of 2 or more different atoms in fixed proportions.  Compounds can be ionic or covalent.  (We tend not to refer to metallic "compounds" as alloys, and there are various types as well, but magnesium ... still not a compound!)   Covalent compounds are composed of distinct particles made up of non-metal atoms (on the periodic table) covalently bonded.   Ionic compounds, by contrast, are crystalline in nature.   See my screenshot (with URL for more info)

There is no Na-Cl molecule, only a crystalline arrangement of billions of sodium and chloride ions in a 1:1 ratio.  In ionic compounds, electrical neutrality dictates these ratios.  It's difficult to make out, but each Na+ is surrounded by 6 Cl- and vice versa but we do not concern ourselves so much with the numbers and energies of these "bonds" as we do in distinct covalent molecules.   

We also don't talk about the combustion of ionic compounds, certainly not in a biological sense, and few if any exist in our bodies.  Salt, for example, exists as dissolved sodium and chloride ions.  When we eat salt, it dissolves and this releases less than 2/100ths of a Calorie per gram in the process.  The energy associated with ions in the human body is electrochemical in nature (separation and/or movement thereof) and this is the stuff of nerve impulses and ATP production in the electron transport chain.

Metals are another story yet again as we have "metallic bonding" in crystalline structures.  A lot of energy is stored in bulk metals in the form of defects in the crystal structures, impurities and grain boundaries.  Absolutely none of which is relevant to human biochemistry as metals are again present in dissolved ionic form.   Iron is the only metal I can think of where changes in its oxidation state are relevant in the human body (hemoglobin binding oxygen).

Sorry for the apparent tangent there, but it is simply not correct to say that all matter has a heat of combustion type energy within its chemical bonds.  Our bodies have electrochemical "combustion" engines that are "designed" to "burn" specific biological molecules and not much more.  For example while ethanol is not immediately toxic at moderate levels, methanol (remove one carbon and two hydrogens) is, and we don't go around drinking nail polish remover (acetone) or rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) for fuel.  

Lane and Kosloff like to throw around the word moron a lot.  Well look in the mirror guys because it is moronic to even waste the mental energy to contemplate why we don't bother counting the "calories" that may or may not be in various other substances we ingest.  None of these unscientific smoke and mirror games get anyone anywhere, nor do they debunk a thing about CICO and the First Law of Thermo.  Calories absolutely count and an excess of them is the cause of increases in stored fat because that's where we store the bulk of energy.  In my car analogy, if the fuel tank were an expandable bladder and you kept adding gas without driving the car around, it would get "fat" too.

We are able to absorb and break down the following compounds for energy:  various carbohydrates, proteins, fats and ethanol.  We are also able to make use of organic acids largely produced by gut flora.  That's pretty much it.  Once "in", the only way out (absent serious disease) is for these molecules to be broken down, and they are broken down when the energy that can be extracted in the process is needed.  That which is not needed is stored.  Yes, this is repetitive.

Bottom line here, Ian has a long way to go to bring his "Science of Fat Loss" up to snuff with regards to basic principles that have long since been established.   But there's something else troubling going on here.  How many of you read either version of Ian's article and came away with the impression that these were indeed just gedankenexperiments (thought experiments)??  I sure didn't.  No, he is writing in a manner as if to relate facts and teach the reader.  True, at various times he interjects his "feelings" and "thoughts" into the mix, but his statements about the energy of matter and such are not presented in this manner.   Sorry, but his errors constitute more than "minor slipups".  Everyone, expert or otherwise, is entitled to the honest mistake, minor slip or brain fart if you will.  Nobody should speak with a voice of authority about matters they themselves are not well versed in.  

So we learn that Ian is "obsessed" and pursuing a PhD.  Apparently at this point this remains an aspiration., but from the sounds of things we can presume that he has an undergraduate degree.  Where from?  What in?  He doesn't need to divulge this, but if you're going to call your blog "The Science of Fat Loss", perhaps this is relevant?  In the apparently recently deleted, but as of now still cached Who Am I?, Ian writes of how he abhors appeals to authority which is why he doesn't list his own qualifications, but for the curious he follows this with his background.  Lane owns a "boutique personal training, nutrition and life coaching business in Los Angeles" and he's done some nutritional writing including a book (we'll get to that).  He aspires to enter an MD/PhD program soon.  He again reminds us that this doesn't really mean anything as he's known semi-retarded doctors (his words) and insightful handymen.   I don't want to quote too much from a deleted post, but he wrote that he has "spent half [his] life learning via autodidacticism" so basically he knows more than most doctors he's met.  He is obsessed with biochemistry and has what he likes to think is an "unmatched passion for the nitty gritty details, and a hardcore background in the physical sciences."   Which contrasts starkly with his direction, when push comes to shove, for the reader to just open up any old biochemistry text to find evidence that glucose will kill you.  

Well ...  Credentials certainly aren't everything, but when you don't have them, it is even more important that you bring the goods or you will be dismissed as a reliable source.  Rebel without a clue "scientists" are a dime a dozen on the internet, and Ian has provided little in the way of evidence that distinguishes him from that pack.  That one post is so riddled with errors in basic science as to dismiss him entirely.  Sorry.  He has not a clue what he's talking about and if he comes from a hardcore physical sciences background there's something seriously wrong with the education he received.    Enough with the whole formal education is meaningless crap as well.  It is not about intelligence per se, it is about knowledge and there's something about a formal education with its problem solving, and being taught by another human being rather than reading a textbook, and hopefully applying that knowledge that is far, FAR superior to an hour lecture from a non-scientist taught by another non-scientist from a textbook written by yet another non-scientist at an NMS meeting.

It is not the same.  It is not the same.  It is not the same.  

So Ian did back track and make some minor corrections to his post after which he wrote the following:  
I just wanted to take a moment to apologize for the minor mistakes I made when writing this post, originally, which I’ve since been called out on by a few insightful readers. I’m grateful for this, since I am still learning and trying to further develop my own understanding of all of this stuff. I don’t claim to be an “expert,” and I am not responsible for others perceiving me as such. I just like to provide information and food for thoughts to those who may never have considered what I’m suggesting. Anyway, It’s been a while since my last physical chemistry course, and I rushed to get through this post, because I’ve got other things going on in my life, so I’m sorry for the random errors. I have since taken responsibility for this and tried to correct the error(s) to the best of my ability. No one’s perfect. And I appreciate the feedback! Keep me on my toes!
Firstly, there is no need to apologize really, but the problem lies in the fact that he still views his mistakes as minor.  They are glaring, irrecoverable errors in fact.    He claims to be grateful for being called out by "insightful readers".  Insight is something that is way overused to imply intelligence in his internet clique.  The people who called him out were more knowledgeable.   

I find it impossible to reconcile "hardcore background in physical sciences" with that post, and rushing or being distracted by other matters in life does not explain the incredible lack of understanding of basic principals the post revealed.  "It's been a while since my last physical chemistry course"?  What??  From the look of Ian, I'm guessing the 88 in his Twitter handle is his birth year which puts him at 25-6 years old.  My last course of the P-chem variety would have been in 1991 so I'm not buying that excuse!  If it is indeed true that his knowledge retention is so poor, then perhaps he shouldn't be "teaching" or he needs to make it abundantly clear that his blogging is merely thought experiments.  Still, concepts such as the basic energetics of chemical reactions, types of energy and physical properties are not really open to thought experimenting. 
Which brings us to the book:   Fat Free: The Science of Shredding Body Fat.  

"The only guide to fat loss that delivers rapid and sustained results, and is based on the most rigorous science available"

If that rigorous science includes anything like the thought experimentation on his blog, Ian is wading into treacherous waters with his promo language.
"Part II contains the most up-to-date nutrition information in the industry, distilled in a simplified manner that is intended to be readable and easy to understand. The main focus is on how food effects our physiology. "
I'm going to have to presume here that some of Ian's ideas on the blog are already included in this book.   
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:   Ian Lane is a nutrition and exercise specialist, in Los Angeles, California. As an aspiring Ph.D. in biochemistry, he is fascinated by the intricacies of the human body and takes pride in educating other people.
He says specialist, others say expert.  You say po·tay·to, I say po·tah·to.  That designation is not "some guy doing thought experiments on the internet".   The "aspiring" will get you out of any allegations of false claims, but it certainly implies a level of education in excess of what Lane has.  And then there's this "educating other people" thing which is the nail in the coffin of any claims Ian might make to the contrary that he's just "sharing" his thoughts.  

Random Errors?

I'm going to leave you with this.  Ian made several changes to his post in response to whatever criticisms he took to heart.  Seems someone was at least able to convince him E=mc^2) was not relevant.  Unfortunately he failed to address the most crucial errors while attempting to scoff off criticism by ignoring it.  

I don't know what Wooo had to say here, but if Ian aspires to be a serious scientist he'd do better to take criticism from those like myself more seriously.   I understand the concept of thought experiments, it is Lane who fails to distinguish when his writing veers into this territory.  A lot of his thought experiments (e.g. macronutrient metabolism hierarchy) have pretty much been established and are really in no dire need for further "feelings".   It's too bad Ian didn't bother untangling the obvious because the new post stands as an even greater embarrassment than the first, there's no delicate way to say this.  

Less time tweeting with the selfie queen, and more time "obsessing" over the biochemistry you'll find in actual textbooks and peer review journals seems like sound advice.

Two postscripts ...

1.  I still found Ian's arguments about alcohol not being fattening -- because alcohol is unlikely to be converted to body fat -- intriguing.  As he cited a paper bearing Marc Hellerstein's name, the parallels to carbohydrates are compelling.  And yet Ian will use terms like "moron" to describe folks who might consider alcohol calories as a factor in fat gain because "we've concluded" they are not.   Meanwhile such a designation of moron is not extended to the numerous "experts" in the LC-IHC who claim carbs turn to fat and even that all body fat is made from glucose!    The arguments closely parallel one another such that you cannot have it both ways here.  So expect a post ... and it might even bump others I've promised down a ways ... but not sure on that.

2.  I've got several posts on the back burner and life is super busy lately.  This is not to mention some pretty intense stress with a seriously ill father in law.  When stuff like this hits I like to get it out there.  This is a topic I feel strongly about and addressing these arguments is helping to flesh out my book on Calories that I'm still hopeful to finish by summer's end.  Blogging is a tension reliever for me whereas book writing is a stressor.  So just a heads up for anyone curious.


Awful Will said…
What is the direct link to Feinman's anti-Polish slur?
carbsane said…
Awful Will said…
Thank you. It's a sign of a true bigot and shows a pronounced lack of character and integrity. Heaven knows what he says in private. But I'm sure the double-standard is all very acceptable in the circles he crawls around in.
carbsane said…
I agree.
Nigel Kinbrum said…
Is Feinman of Polish origin?

If so, he can make Polish jokes.

I am, so here's a good 'un! It's based on true facts (I used to regularly drive along the A40, when I lived in Wembley and worked in Bracknell).

I was driving along the A40, when I saw a sign at Northolt that said:-
"Polish War Memorial". So I stopped the car, got out and did!
Jane Karlsson said…
Northolt? Polish War Memorial? My father was Officer in Command at Northolt during the Battle of Britain and flew with the Polish squadrons. No, I'm not joking this time.
Nigel Kinbrum said…
Why would I disbelieve you? You didn't wink.

If I'm not sure about the veracity of someone's comment, I err on the side of belief. If I'm wrong, no harm done.

If I err on the side of disbelief and I'm wrong, that tends to escalate quickly.

What a small world it is! You also know that I'm telling the truth.
Jane Karlsson said…
Yes, I do.
carbsane said…
I do not believe he's Polish, but in this context I don't think that out counts either. Still baffled that he'd think to respond in this manner.
Karin said…
"One of the first things we learn in science is the concept of units, and at least back in my day if you didn't put the units on your answer to a problem a deduction was taken. "

Yes! Go Units! Units will really save your butt in doing these kinds of calculations. If the units don't work out, you did something wrong. Go back and fix it! But Ian isn't even starting out with the right units if he's using specific heat. I'm wondering what kind of convoluted equation he would have to come up with to convert specific heat into energy, and also still make it relevant to human metabolism. Well, equations seem a little too "high level" for this guy, so I'm guessing there probably weren't any, but I haven't actually looked at his post.
StellaBarbone said…
My mother, the chemist, always had a thing about significant figures, too. In the last comment section there was an argument about whether metabolism of a gram of carbohydrate resulted in the production of 29 or 30 ATPs. As a dumb, primary care doc, I can't understand the argument. Weight Watchers, for instance, uses a slightly weighted formula to assign point values to foods. Each point represents roughly 38-40 kCal. Then they attempt to use these points to create a daily deficit of 250-1000 kCal using food measured by volume or on a cheap kitchen scale. The low carbers seem to be arguing that this won't work because the energy estimate of macronutrients may be off by 3%. Really? If all I had to do was tweak diets by 3% or so, weight loss wouldn't be very challenging at all.
Nigel Kinbrum said…
I think the principle is that, if you're a member of a particular group, you can make jokes at the expense of that group. If you're not, you can't.
carbsane said…
While I generally agree, the public internet is not the place to push that envelope unless, perhaps, it is obvious because you go by @ProudPolishPontificator or something like that!

I am still betting he's not Polish.
Nigel Kinbrum said…
Good point.

I'm not a gambling man!
I consider it a poor principle and another form of pseudo-intellectual exclusionary tactic. This is why we can't have nice things.

Frankly, you're all human vermin so I despise you all--with respect--the same.
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