Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Astonishing breakthrough!

>MGH investigators confirm fundamental laws of physics, conservation of mass is shown to apply to the human metabolism!

Yes folks, it turns out that your body works the same way as my garage. I put in firewood, and I take firewood out and burn it. If the amount of firewood I put in is more than the amount I burn, there is more and more firewood in the garage. If the amount of firewood I burn is more than the amount I put in, there is less and less firewood.

Nineteen people with doctoral degrees have collaborated to prove that if your caloric intake is more than the calories you burn, you will get fatter, and if the amount of calories you burn is more than your caloric intake, you will get thinner. It does not matter whether the calories are in the form of carbohydrates, protein or fat, just as it does not matter whether my firewood is oak, maple or birch.

Well duhhh. The problem is, very few people are able to stick to a weight loss program. Only about 15% of the people in this study had real success, and they tended to gain weight back after a year or so. People found it easier to stick to diets that consisted of food they like to eat, but it's also a good idea to eat a healthy diet.

So that's all there is to it folks. That's all there ever was to it. That's all there ever will be. Eat what you like, just don't eat too much of it. But if you have a weight problem, it won't be easy.

Now can we stop spending money to prove stupid stuff that we already know?


kathy a. said...

next thing you know, you're gonna start ranting about how wasteful volcano monitoring is [on accounta, they don't have volcanos in louisiana], and how boy-scout skills are better than fema.

just kidding! wonder-diets are really terrible, though, because they nearly always fail and make the dieters feel like failures -- because they are all designed for fast short-term losses, and they do not take individual tastes into account, nor overall happiness. and formal diets are solitary ventures, mostly, whereas eating together is a satisfying social event.

it's not by accident that breaking bread together is in the bible; nor that having snacks at a meeting ups the chances of people being friendly, even if they begin with opposing positions.

a happy person who can find affordable healthy and tasty food, share it with friends, and have moderate exercise in ways that are fun to them personally, and indulge in a few treats without feeling like a failure -- that is someone likely to get to a good weight for themselves and stay there.

Cervantes said...

Yes, I'm probably too flippant about this. While this was not actually a scientific question, we probably needed to go through the exercise to get people to stop all this nonsense with the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Scarsdale Diet, the Zone, the Grapefruit Diet, the Lutefisk Diet, the Moldy Brussels Sprouts Diet, and the Ramalamadingdong diet. Just stop eating as much, okay?

robin andrea said...

We have a term for this type of study: Discovering The Obvious.

roger said...

"Now can we stop spending money to prove stupid stuff that we already know?"

fat chance.

Anonymous said...

just to point out - the different woods you in your example burn differently (at different rates, produce different amounts of smoke, etc). The point being that if pine burns faster than maple, in order to keep warm you will need to burn more pine (bring in wood from the woodpile more often). If maple burns longer than pine, you will not go through the wood in the woodpile (and will have excess wood left over even if you bring in the same amount of maple as you would pine). If you burn cheaper wood, you will need to have your chimney swept more often.

Yes, yes, you need to burn more calories than you intake, but spending money on nutrition studies isn't a complete waste. And yes, carbs affect your body differently than protein (just ask some diabetic about this). This doesn't mean that there is some magic protein diet you can use to lose weight but that being educated about what you put in your mouth (not just how much) is a good thing.

Just think that this was a little too knee jerk and the analogy wasn't compelling. - EB

Anonymous said...

Also, just to point out, I wouldn't put my woodpile in the garage. Too many nasties tend to take up residence in woodpiles and at the end of winter you have one heck of a mess to sweep out.



Cervantes said...

It is true, EB, that there are many reasons why you might want to be concerned with the mix of macronutrients in your diet, most importantly the glycemic index. And of course you need adequate protein. But that is separate from the issue of weight loss.

Anonymous said...

The researchers didn't actually study how many calories anyone was burning so your original comment seems a little misleading. The ways people burn calories are complex. The control of energy intake is similarly complex. And the research basically showed yet again that somehow all this dieting doesn't actually end up getting people thinner for very long, for physiological reasons that we know very little about.