Heat, Entropy & Thermogenesis

A summary post of ideas here, that I've likely stated elsewhere on the blog but wanted to gather in one place.  

Last week on Facebook, to the detriment of his credentials and credibility, Jason Boehm posted and deleted a post about calories and the Second Law of Thermo.  I queried what it had to do with the original point which was more of a 500 cals spinach vs. 500 cals Coke type nonsense, so he did address that in a second FB post that stands (minus lots of relevant input from people he deleted, labeled hateful and pretty much had a kitten over ... nobody called him a moron BTW, that's a clever tactic of those that can't hold up their end of an intellectual debate on the science ... can't leave the self-incriminating evidence).   But I digress.

Well, in the post on the Second Law of Thermo, Jason referenced a 2007 blog post on that topic by Dr. Eades. It is one I had not seen before:  Thermodynamics and weight loss.   Eades writes:
The second law of thermodynamics says that the entropy of the universe increases during any spontaneous process.
Warning ... bullsheet about to follow because while this is considered true of the entire universe, it is not applicable to the chemical reactions he's talking about.  A spontaneous reaction requires only a net negative change in free energy (-∆G).  Entropy can increase (+∆S) so long as the combined changes in enthalpy (∆H) and entropy result in a negative change in free energy according to the relationship:  ∆G = ∆H - T∆S.  Eades goes on ad nauseum, quoting scientists that go by "Sir", all of which makes him sound knowledgeable.  But he's really not, at least about this subject.   Eades writes The First Law to include a Second Law term:  
calories in = calories out + entropy
He goes on to do a little calculation where 100 calories in = 70 calories out + entropy, thus entropy is 30 calories. It is evident that Eades is equating entropy with heat generated ... and "lost" ... when he cites Postprandial Thermogenesis Is Increased 100% on a High-Protein, Low-Fat Diet versus a High-Carbohydrate, Low-Fat Diet in Healthy, Young Women in the context of weight loss.  This is the same argument put forth in the abominable Feinman-Fine paper.  TSLOT doesn't violate TFLOT!   They are saying that the TEF term on the right side of the energy balance equation (cue Lyle) is entropy.  They are wrong.  The equation above should perhaps read:  calories in = calories out doing mechanical and chemical work + heat calories out.    

To reiterate once again:  Heat evolved in a chemical reaction is a perfectly appropriate "calories out" First Law term.  Period. 

Thermal Energy 
- aka Heat - 
Is NOT Entropy

Now, Eric Jequier and others have established thermogenic factors for the macronutrients ... used in the Double-F paper ... the averages being 2.5%, 7% and 27.5% for fats, carbs and protein respectively.  Every time I address this, I feel the need to point out the dishonesty of the LC community for their "low fat makes you fat" nonsense, because carbs are MORE thermogenic, by a factor of almost 3X, than fat!  You need to alter protein to come out ahead.  Still, that 27.5% sounds awfully magical, doesn't it?  I do believe that early on in a switch to a high protein diet, there is somewhat of a First Law wasting effect that goes on.  I also think that like other metabolic "shocks" to the system, this is fleeting and the body adapts.

But ... but ... thermogenesis!  We can see "calories out" go up after a meal, and they go up moreso with a high protein meal.  True!  But ....

I have a relatively small kitchen in this old home I inhabit these days.  I heat it, when I do, with a small, thermostat controlled, electric unit in the colder months.  If it's around 30 degrees outside, and I have the thermostat set at 65 degrees, that heater is on for long periods consuming a fair amount of electricity.  If I'm in the kitchen boiling up a couple of pots of paleo bone broth whilst roasting wild boar jowls and chitterlings in my oven, the heater only comes on for short periods.  Why?  Because all of the hot steam or heat that escapes the oven -- especially when I do my gut check, grin -- is "waste" to my stove/oven, but it contributes to the heat in the room, thus lessening the burden on my heater.  While the heat from the stove/oven represents inefficiency of the electrical energy that I pump into the burners to warm, denature, melt and char my food ... aka ... cook, it is not all that inefficient in the overall picture.  The "waste" keeps my kitchen warmer so the heater doesn't have to.   In other words,  the thermogenic "waste" from my stove reduces the need for thermogenesis from my heater.   The portion of my electric bill that goes towards heating doesn't change, it just came from different appliances.

A warm blooded organism, like us humans, is sort-of like my kitchen only our thermostats must be set in a narrow range centered just shy of 99 °F.  Fall below 95 or rise above around 104 and it becomes life threatening, normal is 98-100, exist just outside those bounds and your metabolism is likely not functioning optimally.  If you consume a more thermogenic fuel, more obligate heat is produced.  For protein, let's use an Eades'-inspired high end estimate for protein, 30%:   Consume 100 calories of protein and 30 calories of heat are produced.  This adds to the heat from a variety of sources and other reactions in the body to keep your temperature in the 98-100 range.  But ultimately your thermostat is hooked to UCP's and/or so-called "futile cycles" (see for example my post on DNL in skeletal muscle to waste excess carbs).  These are our bio-electrochemical heaters.  These heaters are simply used less when the body is kept warm by heat generated in the course of "cooking" going on elsewhere ... like protein thermogenesis (and all TEF).  The thermogenic "waste" from TEF reduces the need for thermogenesis from my mitochondria and futile cycles.


markgillespie said…
Would love someone to chain Zoe Harcombe into a chair and make her read this post over and over until she finally gets it!
carbsane said…
I think she's steeped too deeply in the dogma for it to sink in.
Sanjeev Sharma said…
WOW ... the anti CICO brigade didn't show up.

has the mighty metabolism mouse gone? ... scurried under the floorboards under the harsh light of day (of having to provide proof)?

the endless unsupported assertions ...

drained them of blood (postural hypotension)

and motivation
or maybe they feel too cold to get out of their electric blankets.

(this isn't my offer to reply to any that show up; disqus doesn't have an ignore list but I can ignore folks who outright lie about what others write).
carbsane said…
They're probably too busy pulling their hair out over two bad reviews of Jimmy's book. ;-)
Sanjeev Sharma said…
Aside from ours? link to the second, please?

or both others, if yous isn't the first ..
charles grashow said…


Dorothy Brewster - See all my reviews

This review is from: Cholesterol Clarity: What The HDL Is Wrong With My Numbers? (Hardcover)

The advice from this man would be considered dangerous at best. Jimmy tells untruths in this book. He claims that "I've always have extremely high cholesterol levels, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to writethis book. I wanted to find out what was wrong with my numbers for myself..." Which isn't true. When he first lost weight his LDL got downto 119 when he was exercising regularly and eating 1o0 grams of carbs per day. This information is available in his blog. Until he deletes it to cover up the evidence. He doesn't even tell truths about his own cholesterol numbers, but is presenting a very lopsided and non-scientific view of the science on lipids and expecting you to follow them. No thanks.
Adam said…
I do think this dispels certain renditions of calories don't count but there are more nuanced criticisms that will take more effort to dispel. (And it will be those renditions that emerge inevitably as the less nuanced versions are swatted down)

The key question in regards to obesity is what causes satiety mechanisms to fail in those who are prone to obesity. Why is it that once someone is obese it is much more difficult for them to return to a non-obese state? CICO is associated with satiety mechanisms as satiety determines caloric intake if surplus food is available. If surplus food isn't available... well... can't eat what's not there ;).

I'm sure a few people in the anti CICO brigade would agree (if pressed) that calories count but would add saying that calories count is pretty much pointless. They would argue satiety mechanisms alone determine caloric intake. This inevitably leads to fruitless arguments as of course, by their definition, satiety mechanisms solely determined caloric intake because they defined it that way.

Of course, it is often argued, all satiety mechanisms are beyond our ability to influence (We can argue semantics here too. It's an exciting game! Want to debate free will, determinism and consciousness?) except through their favorite behavioral modification. (So wait you can influence things! Except I just told you that you can't! Shut up. This is a diet book! Don't ask questions). I may have straw-manned their position a little. (The correct definition would be all satiety mechanisms are beyond our control except the ones outlined in our diet book)

Of course all of these arguments ignore your central position of why you are a critic of the anti CICO brigade. Does counting calories work? Sometimes. It probably fails more often then not. Then why argue about whether calories count? Because otherwise alternative health gurus and what not will make arguments along the lines of what you are arguing against above. They will argue about peeing out fat, carbohydrate turn into fat, fat turning us into balloons or protein activating an internal death clock that will kill you in 5 years.
carbsane said…
Here was the 1-star written before mine: http://www.amazon.com/review/R1C4SJLEBPOWDL/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1936608383&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=
Of course Fat Head and the Harknesses showed up with a couple more to accuse me of posting under a pseudonym
carbsane said…
Beat me to it. Link in my comment.