Calories, Starvation, and Bygone Gurus
As I am spending more time working on my upcoming book, Calorie Clarity: Entropic Thoughts on a Hot Topic, I have had a bit less time for blogging of late. I don't know what it is about this calorie debate, but just when you think the latest scheme to convince you that calories don't count has been beaten back, another huckster comes flying down the poop slide regurgitating the crap they swallowed on the way down. Apologies to those who have eaten recently. I use the term huckster because my name was used in vain in an exchange with one of the best hucksters in the low carb sphere, Dr. Mike Eades.
Who? If you're asking that question, congratulations, you've either forgotten everything you've ever read on his blog or never read it at all. Either of which would be a good thing. Eades imagines himself a scientist in a doctor's coat and apparently still tweets his pearls of critical thinking wisdom. Yeah, I'm being snarky because, well, it's a goose gander thing ... or is there a black swan needing some love somewhere? Now a little while ago now, Tim Noakes gave leave of his own critical thinking skills and jumped on the LC "science" wagon. A couple of days ago, Noakes tweeted a link to a 2007 post by Dr. Eades hailing it as an example of "supreme logic" in the (for some reason ongoing) debate over calories.
Warning: This post is a compilation and linkfest of sorts. I don't expect anyone to necessarily follow all of the links, etc., but this is a bit of an indication into how deeply this topic has been delved into, and thus the doggedness of the low carb shills that keep trying to repackage their message for profit. It also gives me the opportunity to collect things in one place.
So ... Anthony Colpo. His favorite troll pal Razwell is off his meds again and busy spamming my YouTube channel at the moment, but AC hasn't been making all that many waves of late. One could almost forget his monumental smackdown of Dr. Eades back in 2010 occurred! But ... Clearly Eades still thinks he won that debate, which is laughable. There is no freakin metabolic advantage for low carb diets. There just isn't, and if Eades is holding his breath for NuSI to find one, he won't be around for much longer!
You see, in the end, the so-called metabolic advantage Eades imagines turned out to be a few grams of insensible water loss and an advantage so non-advantageous that you can't measure it with your bathroom scale. Whatta joke folks.
But let's look at the 2007 post Noakes is resurrecting as "supreme wisdom" as regards calories: Is a calorie always a calorie? First of all, at this point I'm going to call intellectual dishonesty on anyone who argues carbs vs. fat calories when it is protein content in the diet that is responsible for differences, if any, observed. For the umpteenth time, everyone who knows even the most basic concepts of nutrition and metabolism recognizes that a certain amount of protein goes to repair and maintenance functions and are not used for energy. Further, different amino acids that are used for energy have different fates. Yet, still, within a fairly wide range of normal intakes, even protein doesn't produce magical metabolic miracles in studies where intake is tightly monitored and verified. But I digress ...
Eades first erects a strawman:
The entirety of mainstream medicine and nutrition believe that calories are the only thing that counts and that a low-carb diet is nothing more than a clever way to get people to cut calories. Weight loss on low-carb diets, so they say, occurs only because subjects following low-carb diets reduce their caloric intake. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie they say. But is it?
Because even back in 2007 the mainstream was very cognizant of the role of protein in reducing diets. And this was before Colpo wrote his Fat Loss Bible, but most of the studies cited in that book long predated Eades' post. No the supreme wisdom of this post was Eades misrepresenting the Minnesota Starvation Experiment and comparing it to a LC weight loss study in the obese conducted by Yudkin. His "supreme wisdom" includes gross errors in his analysis which he repeated in a print interview with Tim Ferris. I blogged on that in: Dr. Eades on Starvation Diets. In summary: Keys took initially lean men and starved them to considerably below normal weight over the course of six months on a diet that contained so little meat that Eades' own quote had the men claiming it contained none. Yudkin took overweight individuals and put them on a low carb diet. Eades misrepresents both the absolute protein content of the Keys diet and the macronutrient compositions percentage-wise. He then makes the understatement of the year with:
I know that I’m not truly comparing apples to apples with the Keys and the Yudkin studies.
You don't say. Ahhh tripping down memory lane we can officially add Tim Ferris to the calorie denial hack list with the opening of his interview:
Yeah right. No, it is based on science.Calorie counting can work, but it’s often based on pseudo-science.
If anyone has time on their hands, please debunk that garbage for me.I’ve examined before how people can lose 20+ lbs. of bodyfat — or gain 34 lbs. of lean mass — within four weeks, replete with measurements and photographs, but there is still a chorus: “That’s impossible! You’d need to have a 4,000-calorie daily deficit” or “That’s impossible! You’d need to consume 20,000 calories per day!”
Nonsense. Thermodynamics isn’t so simple, and you can accelerate your body optimization results by understanding the real science…
Cue Dr. Eades for "real science" ... laughable. Sorry but at this point if I don't laugh at the lengths these hacks will go to make a buck off of people in the name of science, I'd get depressed.
OK ... now here is where it just gets comical, because Dr. Eades claims to practice what he preaches ... most of the time. And yet, in 2009 he and his wife wrote the absurd 6 Week Cure for the Middle Aged Middle. In that book you basically "detoxify" your liver in the first two weeks thinking that's your visceral belly fat. Then it is suggested you unload a pint of your liver-toxin infused blood off on unsuspecting transfusion recipients. I kid you not. But the disaster that is the book is not as important as it's entire reason for being. You see, why was it that doctors who claimed to enjoy lasting weight loss and management using their own magical diet, NEEDED this diet? Yes, 6WC was a crash diet plan hatched by the Eades after Dr. Mike was stuffed into a neoprene sausage casing to hide his belly while shooting a cooking show pilot. Newer readers of this blog, I kid you not! Hey Dr. Mike, Men's lingerie is on the second floor (just ask Wheat Belly).
Why is this relevant? Well, Eades is a diet weight loss guru and he unequivocally promotes his diet as superior. It would help if it worked for him, no? Last we heard in January 2012, the Drs. Eades had resolved to diet yet again. This should simply not be the case if what they claim was true... or their own "doctor developed" Metabosol actually worked! So ...
Supreme wisdom? Low carb diets work for other magical reasons, not because you are eating fewer calories.
Supreme irony: Eades was so fascinated by his Keys/Yudkin analysis that he had to look at how many calories he himself consumes in a day on his magic diet. On this "typical day" he ate 3 fried eggs, 3 sausage patties, some berries and coffee for breakfast, a bite of hard Italian sausage and an ounce of nuts for snacks, several cups of espresso throughout the day (because you know how energetic being a keto-adapted fat burner can be), a steak with some veggies for dinner, and berries with cream and a glass of wine to round out the day. You can click to enlarge his image of the details if you like. Sounds luxurious! Well, to his surprise (?) :
... all that food [... was] only 1749 Calories, which is not quite 200 Calories more than the subjects on both the Keys and the Yudkin studies ate. I’ve followed this diet for a lot longer than the 24 weeks the Keys subjects followed their ‘semi-starvation’ diet, and I can assure you that I don’t look like the guy in the bottom picture. [I don't see a picture in his post, presumably it's like one at right] The kind of calories one eats – not simply the number – makes an enormous difference.
Perhaps blinded by all the wisdom, Eades doesn't get the supreme irony here. That is, that he is, however inadvertantly, consuming a rather low calorie diet for a man, and yet he is moderately overweight. For the record, I would never call him fat as some do, but rather he's pretty average for a man his age/build. Indeed I don't think anyone would find his physique notable one way or the other were it not for his grandiose claims regarding his low carb diet. It remains laugh-worthy that a diet guru has to resort to wearing girdles and hiding behind kitchen appliances and under a doctor's coat he hasn't worn for its purpose in many years. What the doctor has inadvertently shared here is a metabolic disadvantage of long term low carb dieting. You see:
... according to the USDA, I’m 727 Calories below what is required to maintain my weight as it is. If you believe the old calories in/calories out theory that tells us that 3500 calories equals a pound of fat, I should be losing a pound of fat every 4.8 days (727/3500), which, again, I am not. My weight is holding pretty steady despite this caloric deficit.
No. If Eades' weight was holding steady, it was not "despite" a caloric deficit, it was because he was in energy balance. Another way of putting this is that Eades is yet another example of a long term low carber with a depressed metabolic rate. How big is this metabolic disadvantage? Well, 727 calories is about 3.5 cups of rice, or a Big Mac & small Coke, or 1.5 cups Haagen-Daz vanilla ice cream. Or ... almost half of what the subjects in Keys' starvation diet are eating, or ... Eades himself. That's some caloric "depression"!! Which would only be a little sad for Dr. Eades were he not still out there spreading lies about how the human metabolism works in the name of science and health.
Put even more succinctly, put normal weight men on Eades-level calories for six months and they become skeletal. Put Eades on his diet for far, far longer, and he needs a girdle to go on TV. So finally, in his post he writes:
What’s interesting, though, is that if an obese person goes on this same diet, that person will lose weight like crazy. Why does the obese person lose while I don’t on the same caloric deficit? Because the obese person has a deranged metabolism, which is what makes that person obese in the first place. This diet fixes the problem, which allows the fat to be burned off instead of stored.
No, Dr. Eades, all those mainstream idiots are just not so blinded by their own dogma that they realize that the obese person loses weight (usually!) on that level of calories because they ARE in caloric deficit, while you are not because you are in caloric balance. What is truly sad is that there are so many long-term low carbers who must eat even less than that and are nowhere near a normal weight (which is what happens to me on sustained LC ... my metabolism tanks big time). This was the point of the Fast or Feltham posts here , here and here -- especially that last one featuring a woman who low carbed for three years without much weight loss success, and then had to reduce intake to under 1000 cal/day to lose 60 lbs. All of this is quite counter to Eades' claims in 2008 when he was already dealing with the nemesis from down under. The first comment in that post caught my eye. You might recognize the author.
I have seen Wooo claim she has a supremely slow metabolism and eats a lot ... crediting, as she did above, LC with the ability to do so. Well, in 2008 her RMR was measured at 1000-1200 cal/day which is exceedingly normal (if perhaps on the low side of normal) for a woman of her size and age. This would translate into 1333-1846 cal/day TDEE if one uses a RMR/TDEE factor of 0.75 (sedentary) on the low end or 0.65 (normally active) on the high end RMR. See? Nothing spectacular. Nothing miraculous about maintaining her weight at around 1650 cal/day. Interestingly she has gained a bit of weight since (10 lbs? not a bad thing at all in her case) and she did that by ... drumroll ... not engaging in as much restriction as she has blogged about on multiple occasions. She now claims to be eating around 1800 cal/day (and I don't want to track down cites or do what she so often does to me, which is to misrepresent things, so if I'm wrong, please correct me in comments). Miracles? Magic? No. CICO. That her metabolic rate hasn't gone in the tank like so many others is likely due to other factors and you can read her blog if you're interested in what those might be.
All of the sensationalistic "success stories" aside, the long term record of the low carb diet is no better and likely worse than the so-called CICO based "bad science". Only CICO is *the* science, good or bad, it is what it is! And yet these hacks keep on keeping on re-inventing the same metabolic wheel and denying that the laws of thermodynamics do indeed still apply to living beings after all.
Interspersed with his formally titled "AC Fat Bible critiques", Eades penned: Thermodynamics and the metabolic advantage (3/6/10). This is an amazing display of hubris on the parts of both Eades and Dr. Richard Feinman -- he of the 2nd law violates the 1st law fame. At the end of some response Feinman made to Colpo's dismantling of his bad science (you can go to the link to read the rest), we have this:
11. Relevant ideas to ponder: I once challenged Colpo to give me a definition of the nutritional calorie (because this makes clear what the issue is), that is, not the definition of the physical calorie (raises a gram of water 1 degree C ) but what we mean when we say carbohydrate has 4 kcal/g. His answer suggested that he had undergone spontaneous combustion but anybody else can answer the question. The other question is that in bioenergetics we talk about calories as the free energy, G, which is a potential, analogous to gravitational potential. When you throw the boulder off the cliff its potential energy is converted to kinetic energy and then goes to zero when it hits the bottom. Where does the energy go? The delta G (energy of reaction) for hydrolysis of a peptide bond is about 2 kcal. When it reaches equilibrium (amino acids) the energy is zero. In other words, thermodynamics talks about dissipation of energy, not conservation. How is that possible? Where does the energy go? Hope this helps.
Richard David Feinman
Professor of Cell BiologyTher
SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Whoa. The energy doesn't go to zero. If the boulder doesn't bounce or physically break apart and scatter about, then that kinetic energy is absorbed by the ground and the boulder in the form of deformation and cracks in both (a little crater or at least a dent) and some heat evolved due to friction that is "lost" to the surroundings. If you don't believe me, go have a chat with Dale Earnhardt's widow and the engineers working for NASCAR designing the safer barriers and vehicle bumpers. And don't even get me started on his description of breaking a protein down to amino acids as a system going to equilibrium and the energy going poof! It's just too bizarre for words that someone of his stature should write this. So yeah, maybe a calorie is not a calorie and carbohydrates are essential in the diet after all... I just can't think of any other reason for this ... [ I've addressed this here before: Of Thermodynamics, Chemistry, Biology and Biochemistry (7/3/10) , Of Thermodynamics, Chemistry, Biology and Biochemistry ~ Feinman Reply(7/7/10) , A Fein(man), Fine Mess of Thermodynamics (7/29/12) ]
And then along came Nikoley to remind Dr. Mike of his previous lies to explain the metabolic advantage. Futile cycles and uncoupling. There is no evidence that either of these energy "wasting" processes are upregulated by the LCHF diet. None. But that doesn't stop Eades from stating that they are with nary a "might" or "can" interspersed.
And STILL, Eades wasn't done with Colpo: More on the thermodynamics of weight loss (3/13/10) but that mostly works off the writings of another blogger here, that I blogged on in: Of Thermodynamics, Complexity, Closed Systems & Equilibrium. Like I said, this has been a linkfest, but that last one might be worth a read.
So Eades is questioning @KateinAustin's scientific credentials because she isn't buying his schtick. For the record, I question credentials when people in positions of so-called authority don't have any credentials or espouse junk science like Eades does. I don't recall if he's ever mentioned what his undergraduate scientific credentials are, but Dr. Eades is in agreement that medical school isn't the place to hone one's critical thinking skills in this area.
It is too bad medical school stunts the critical thinking processes of future doctors and diet doctors turned book authors as well. Perhaps had he not had his mind turned to rote and repetitious mush he wouldn't have turned acritical thinking into a spectator sport. As these "alternative" enlightened doctors look down their noses as their peers, they might just want to glance in the mirror from time to time and realize that their thoughts apply to the guy/gal staring back at them.