Overeating != Weightgain?

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SeaBeecb
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Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby SeaBeecb » Sat May 19, 2012 9:01 am UTC

I came across this article awhile back, which argued that the link between overeating and weight gain is socially constructed and is based on limited scientific evidence. It's a blog, so I question the source and I was wondering if anyone here had found any other information on this topic? Here is the link to the article: http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2008/02/how-weve-came-to-believe-that.html

I was interested in it, because I spent high school living on protein shakes and consuming about 1,5000 calories a day and I only went from overweight to obese. When I got to college I decided that I was not going to have the time or energy to deal with weight loss and I just decided to eat a healthy balanced diet, which would probably be in the 2,000 calorie range. Strangely once I was eating more (and also walking to classes, across campus and generally more energetic and more active) I started loosing weight. Now I'm in an average range for my height and build and I'm only concerned, with maintaining. Has anyone else had this kind of experience, where they started eating more and actually lost weight?

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby Nath » Sat May 19, 2012 9:21 am UTC

If you define 'overeating' as 'eating a caloric excess', this argument makes no sense. If you eat a caloric excess, you gain weight. You know, thermodynamics and all that.

What makes reality a little more complicated is that your metabolic rate is not constant. It's not impossible to lose weight from a lifestyle change involving increased food intake, if some part of the lifestyle change also caused a metabolic speedup. Exercise, for instance. 1500 calories might have been a caloric excess if you were completely sedentary before, and 2000 might have been a caloric deficit if you became more active in college.

One other possibility is that you underestimated the number of calories you were consuming before. Calorie counting is error-prone, and nutritional labels are inaccurate.

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby SlyReaper » Sat May 19, 2012 2:52 pm UTC

It could be that the very act of increasing your caloric intake increases your metabolic base rate by a proportional amount. Speaking only for myself, I find the only thing that causes me to gain weight is alcohol - presumably because it does odd things to a metabolism. If I spend a few weeks abstaining from drinking alcohol, then it doesn't matter what I eat - I will lose a lot of weight. If I increase what I eat, the result is I get all fidgety and restless and can't bear sitting still, like a child on a sugar rush.

Of course, I realise that not everybody's metabolism works that way, but that could be what's going on with you. I'm assuming you meant your previous calorie intake was 1500, not 15000.
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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby waltwhitmanheadedbat » Sun May 20, 2012 2:46 pm UTC

Nath wrote:If you define 'overeating' as 'eating a caloric excess', this argument makes no sense. If you eat a caloric excess, you gain weight. You know, thermodynamics and all that.


You don't necessarily, actually. Your ability to store or access energy is mediated by the secretion of hormones like glucagon and insulin. If insulin secretions are awfully high, you might not lose weight even with a caloric deficit. If insulin secretions are very low, you may not gain weight

Not all eating results in the same levels of insulin secretion, which strongly suggests that not all food is created equal: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Insulin_index

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby Nath » Sun May 20, 2012 9:17 pm UTC

waltwhitmanheadedbat wrote:
Nath wrote:If you define 'overeating' as 'eating a caloric excess', this argument makes no sense. If you eat a caloric excess, you gain weight. You know, thermodynamics and all that.


You don't necessarily, actually. Your ability to store or access energy is mediated by the secretion of hormones like glucagon and insulin. If insulin secretions are awfully high, you might not lose weight even with a caloric deficit. If insulin secretions are very low, you may not gain weight

If the body absorbs more calories than it burns, where does the leftover energy go? If the body burns more calories than it absorbs, where does the leftover energy come from?

I know that insulin regulates some metabolic process, potentially making it easier or harder to gain or lose fat or muscle, but I assume it does so in a manner consistent with the laws of thermodynamics.

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby TheKrikkitWars » Mon May 21, 2012 1:32 pm UTC

Nath wrote:
waltwhitmanheadedbat wrote:
Nath wrote:If you define 'overeating' as 'eating a caloric excess', this argument makes no sense. If you eat a caloric excess, you gain weight. You know, thermodynamics and all that.


You don't necessarily, actually. Your ability to store or access energy is mediated by the secretion of hormones like glucagon and insulin. If insulin secretions are awfully high, you might not lose weight even with a caloric deficit. If insulin secretions are very low, you may not gain weight

If the body absorbs more calories than it burns, where does the leftover energy go? If the body burns more calories than it absorbs, where does the leftover energy come from?

I know that insulin regulates some metabolic process, potentially making it easier or harder to gain or lose fat or muscle, but I assume it does so in a manner consistent with the laws of thermodynamics.


Crucially, you won't neccessarily absorb all you consume though, the effect of insulin (and other hormones) will mediate absorbtion, so some of that energy could be excreted unused...
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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby philsov » Mon May 21, 2012 1:43 pm UTC

I was interested in it, because I spent high school living on protein shakes and consuming about 1,5000 calories a day and I only went from overweight to obese.


Were/Are you a 5 foot tall female? Perhaps recovering from an eating disorder? Those are pretty much the only two factors that can cause an increase in body fat on 1500 calories a day as a teenager, assuming you were counting correctly, of course.

Has anyone else had this kind of experience, where they started eating more and actually lost weight?


A little, yeah. During the summers in college I was a summer camp counselor, and so I was on my feet walking/hiking/standing/running/rowing/swimming for about 80 hours a week. I ate like a dumptruck and still lost a few pounds. Ultimately it still fell under the umbrella of "calories in vs calories out", wherein the "in" increased a little and the "out" increased A LOT.

~

Edit: Regarding the article -- it makes a very classic blunder. It strawmans that the path out of obesity is borderline starvation. When your body thinks food is very scarce, it will prevent the loss of fat (mostly at the expense of lean body mass - muscle) in order than it can continually have fat months down the road to keep you alive. And then once food is reintroduced, it goes into fat stores initially because, once again, you're still in survivor mode.

However, when one's caloric deficit is mild (that is, ~500 cals less than maintenance), this effect does not occur and the fat is shed at about 0.75 - 1 lb a week, with some LBM loss pending protein intake and exercise regime or lack thereof.

Obesity is excessive body fat. Excess caloric intake causes a rise in body fat. Excessive caloric intake over a prolonged period of time causes obesity. It's a bit oversimplified but what's incorrect about this statement?
Last edited by philsov on Mon May 21, 2012 2:42 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby JudeMorrigan » Mon May 21, 2012 2:20 pm UTC

"Lisa, in this house we OBEY the laws of thermodynamics!"

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby Роберт » Mon May 21, 2012 2:41 pm UTC

SeaBeecb wrote:I came across this article awhile back, which argued that the link between overeating and weight gain is socially constructed and is based on limited scientific evidence. It's a blog, so I question the source and I was wondering if anyone here had found any other information on this topic? Here is the link to the article: http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2008/02/how-weve-came-to-believe-that.html

I was interested in it, because I spent high school living on protein shakes and consuming about 1,5000 calories a day and I only went from overweight to obese. When I got to college I decided that I was not going to have the time or energy to deal with weight loss and I just decided to eat a healthy balanced diet, which would probably be in the 2,000 calorie range. Strangely once I was eating more (and also walking to classes, across campus and generally more energetic and more active) I started loosing weight. Now I'm in an average range for my height and build and I'm only concerned, with maintaining. Has anyone else had this kind of experience, where they started eating more and actually lost weight?

Wait, you're telling me you went to a much healthier diet, and got more energy?
And you're telling me now that your lifestyle changed to a healthier diet and more exercise, you gotten down to a healthier weight? I'm shocked. SHOCKED I tell you!
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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby Nath » Mon May 21, 2012 9:48 pm UTC

TheKrikkitWars wrote:Crucially, you won't neccessarily absorb all you consume though, the effect of insulin (and other hormones) will mediate absorbtion, so some of that energy could be excreted unused...

Fair point; this makes it theoretically possible to lose weight while eating a caloric excess, if you are only absorbing so few calories that you are actually in a deficit.

But what about the other direction? It is not possible to gain weight while in a caloric deficit. A drastic enough caloric deficit can cause various nutritional deficiencies, but you'll certainly lose weight.

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby Роберт » Mon May 21, 2012 10:34 pm UTC

Nath wrote:
TheKrikkitWars wrote:Crucially, you won't neccessarily absorb all you consume though, the effect of insulin (and other hormones) will mediate absorbtion, so some of that energy could be excreted unused...

Fair point; this makes it theoretically possible to lose weight while eating a caloric excess, if you are only absorbing so few calories that you are actually in a deficit.

But what about the other direction? It is not possible to gain weight while in a caloric deficit. A drastic enough caloric deficit can cause various nutritional deficiencies, but you'll certainly lose weight.

Water retention could be a short-term way of weight gain while at a caloric deficit. Not sure how long that would last, but surely a few days at least.
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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby Nath » Mon May 21, 2012 10:58 pm UTC

I don't think water weight is what people care about when they talk about weight gain and weight loss. But yes, technically you can gain a bunch of weight while starving by drinking water.

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby Роберт » Tue May 22, 2012 1:52 pm UTC

Anyway, overeating == unhealthy.
Although TBH a lot of the U.S. weight issues have more to do with what people drink than what they eat. (I've known quite a few people who dropped to a healthier weight just by giving up soda.)
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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby weasel@xkcd » Wed May 23, 2012 2:28 pm UTC

Frankly I find that article to be wilfully and negligently deceptive to an extent that puts the lives of people suffering from weight-related health issues at clear risk.

Energy in < energy out = weight loss, bro

Here's a meta-study compiling the results of 15 scientific studies.
http://www.benthamscience.com/open/tosm ... 7TOSMJ.pdf

Oh look, here's another one and this one analyses the results of 493 seperate, scientifically valid studies. 493 studies, if that doesn't convince you, nothing will.
http://www.indiana.edu/~k562/articles/o ... 201997.pdf

Yet another showing "significant decreases in baseline weight and percentage overweight"
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/ar ... 7685805060

What's that? You want more? Well here you go
http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/conten ... t/164/1/31
http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/ccp/65/2/269/
http://ukpmc.ac.uk/abstract/MED/1174031 ... dvBezF8B.8
http://ukpmc.ac.uk/abstract/MED/8963358

All this "weight is predetermined" and "health at every size" is just unscientific hogwash designed to make the obese feel better by absolving them of any responsibility to change their weight while at the same time sending them spiralling into and early grave. As a medical practitioner patient autonomy is supposed to be paramount but damn it makes me angry when I see patients throwing their lives and the lives of their children because some bullshit website told them their fat because of what? Magic?

As to that article. The people involved clearly lost weight under caloric restriction. They lost 25% of their bodyweight in fact. There's the idea that low calorie diets don't cause weight loss out the window. THEN during the rehabilitation period they ate unrestricted diets and big surprise ... they gained weight.
Eat less = lose weight ... eat more = gain weight
You don't diet for three months to lose weight then stuff your face with 4000cal and not expect to gain even more weight than you lost. A diet will be effective as long as you follow it ... you stop following the diet then stop following weight. That's all the study shows and so far I've never heard it denied.

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby waltwhitmanheadedbat » Sat May 26, 2012 2:17 am UTC

weasel@xkcd wrote:
Energy in < energy out = weight loss, bro


One issue being that energy out appears to be a function of energy in, so we cannot categorically say "you will lose weight if you stay below your BMR and if you fail it's because you don't have willpower." I don't believe that weight is predetermined, I just happen to think that people need a bit more guidance as to what to eat. What we have now is a poor way to approach the problem.

The meta-analysis you link includes dietary interventions that incorporated calorie reduction, and while I have no doubt that it can work, I strongly suspect that simply telling people that they just have to eat fewer potato chips is not going to work. As part of our continually evolving understanding, I hope that we can get past this in the same way we've gotten past low fat.

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby Nath » Sat May 26, 2012 2:26 am UTC

waltwhitmanheadedbat wrote:The meta-analysis you link includes dietary interventions that incorporated calorie reduction, and while I have no doubt that it can work, I strongly suspect that simply telling people that they just have to eat fewer potato chips is not going to work. As part of our continually evolving understanding, I hope that we can get past this in the same way we've gotten past low fat.

It's true that just telling people what to do generally doesn't work. This is because people already know what to do. It's just the doing it part that's hard.

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby waltwhitmanheadedbat » Sat May 26, 2012 2:57 am UTC

Nath wrote:
waltwhitmanheadedbat wrote:The meta-analysis you link includes dietary interventions that incorporated calorie reduction, and while I have no doubt that it can work, I strongly suspect that simply telling people that they just have to eat fewer potato chips is not going to work. As part of our continually evolving understanding, I hope that we can get past this in the same way we've gotten past low fat.

It's true that just telling people what to do generally doesn't work. This is because people already know what to do. It's just the doing it part that's hard.


My understanding is that it is uncontroversial that insulin drives appetite. "Don't eat so much" seems not to work. "Eat fewer grams of sugar and other effective carbohydrate" does seem to work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eREuZEdMAVo

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby Nath » Sat May 26, 2012 6:04 am UTC

waltwhitmanheadedbat wrote:
Nath wrote:It's true that just telling people what to do generally doesn't work. This is because people already know what to do. It's just the doing it part that's hard.


My understanding is that it is uncontroversial that insulin drives appetite. "Don't eat so much" seems not to work. "Eat fewer grams of sugar and other effective carbohydrate" does seem to work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eREuZEdMAVo

Interesting talk. Notice that all four diets involved caloric deficits, and people in all four groups lost weight. If anything, this is evidence that eating less does, in fact, cause you to lose weight, no matter how your calories are partitioned. That said, the low-carb group does a little better, particularly for insulin-resistant people; this isn't surprising. Also, adherence is hard.

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby webzter_again » Tue May 29, 2012 2:09 am UTC

SeaBeecb wrote:I spent high school living on protein shakes and consuming about 1,5000 calories a day and I only went from overweight to obese.


If it was a pure protein shake, your container probably says "this should not be consumed as a meal substitute" somewhere on the packaging. My guess is that protein shakes lack several macro nutrients that your body needs. If you weren't supplementing those shakes with vitamins then my guess is that your body felt malnourished and went into conservation mode. Ditto this is your BMR is, say, 2,000+ calories a day.

Also, if you weren't consciously counting calories, you may have been substantially off without realizing it.

SeaBeecb wrote:I just decided to eat a healthy balanced diet, which would probably be in the 2,000 calorie range. Strangely once I was eating more (and also walking to classes, across campus and generally more energetic and more active) I started loosing weight.


If your body now feels nourished then your lower brain isn't dealing with a famine and your body is free to more efficiently use what it has available. Again, if your BMR is actually around 2,000 calories a day, then you're consuming an appropriate amount of food to maintain. And, you're burning a deficit with the walking but at a small enough gap that your body isn't conserving.

While it doesn't seem like much, being more active does help, a lot. Standing burns more calories than sitting. Walking burns more calories than standing. etc. For most people, diet accounts for the majority of weight loss, but exercise certainly helps.

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby lesley_h » Tue May 29, 2012 6:22 am UTC

:cry: :cry: my weight is increase.
What can I do

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby waltwhitmanheadedbat » Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:06 am UTC

It occurs to me that the way we measure food calories might be poor. As I understand it, the calorie content of food is determined by burning it in a bomb calorimeter.

If you burn cellulose in a bomb calorimeter, you get a reading. If you burn a gram of protein, you get a measurement of about four food calories. If you burn a gram of carbohydrate, you get a measurement of about four food calories. If you burn a gram of fat, about nine. If you're counting calories as given on labels, it assumes that a gram of carbohydrate is processed for roughly the same amount of energy as a gram of protein and contributes the same to weight gain; and that a gram of fat is 2.25 times the value of a gram of carbohydrate where weight gain is concerned.

I find it difficult to accept that different macronutrients produce the same numbers in the body as they do on the calorimeter, given that they aren't metabolized through the same pathways. I find it especially difficult to accept that each macronutrient gave precisely the same impact on weight gain. Have studies been done in humans where people are fed precisely 1500 calories of diets with dramatically different macronutrient profiles? I suspect that, if we put people in metabolic wards and fed them different diets entirely (say, 200 calories of carbohydrate per day, 1300 in protein and fat in one group; USDA recommended macronutrient ratios in the other) we would find that a calorie is not a calorie as far as weight gain and loss is concerned.

It isn't that I do not acknowledge that energy deficits produce weight loss, or that the process is driven by thermodynamics. It's that I have difficulty with the notion that "a calorie is a calorie" and that we use each nutrient in precisely the same way. I haven't been given enough evidence to assuage my doubts. Eating a calorie deficit or surplus as it is measured on labels might not even be the largest driver of change in weight, practically speaking, and it is certainly not the only driver.

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby Nath » Fri Jun 01, 2012 7:38 am UTC

waltwhitmanheadedbat wrote:I find it difficult to accept that different macronutrients produce the same numbers in the body as they do on the calorimeter, given that they aren't metabolized through the same pathways. I find it especially difficult to accept that each macronutrient gave precisely the same impact on weight gain. Have studies been done in humans where people are fed precisely 1500 calories of diets with dramatically different macronutrient profiles? I suspect that, if we put people in metabolic wards and fed them different diets entirely (say, 200 calories of carbohydrate per day, 1300 in protein and fat in one group; USDA recommended macronutrient ratios in the other) we would find that a calorie is not a calorie as far as weight gain and loss is concerned.

This is essentially the point of low-fat vs low-carb comparison studies, such as the ones in the video. Plenty of these studies have been done, although generally with small sample sizes and less than ideal methodology. The consensus seems to be that caloric deficits cause weight loss, regardless of macronutrient ratios, but low-carb diets do a little better for certain sections of the population.

From what I remember, we are slightly less efficient at absorbing energy from proteins than carbs and fats. But generally most these studies just fiddle with the carb:fat ratio, since these make up most of the energy in most realistic diets.

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby waltwhitmanheadedbat » Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:47 am UTC

Less than ideal is right. They've been done in metabolic wards?

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby caje » Sat Jun 02, 2012 3:02 am UTC

The issue is people's metabolisms will change depending on many factors (what you eat plays a large role in this) And how much of the calories you eat that you can actually use as energy also changes for different reasons.

At the end of the day If you eat and digest more calories then you burn you will gain and the vice versa. The issue is that both those two factors can and do change a lot (especially for people playing around with diet and exercise) so it seems like you aren't gaining weight while eating more (which could easily be true) it just means your metabolism went up or your not converting your new food into calories as easy.

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby ImagingGeek » Mon Jun 04, 2012 3:16 pm UTC

The issue of diet and weight gain/loss is unfortunately an area of poor scientific rigour, and a lot of self-interested groups trying to find data to support their beliefs. weasel@xkcd really hit the nail on the head - the medical literature clearly shows that decreasing calorie intake below your caloric need equals weight loss.

As others have noted, our bodies obey the laws of thermodynamics - calories don't magically appear, or disappear. Moreover, we've evolved to be very conservative with our calories - we don't loose excess energy (i.e. secrete glucose in urine or faeces), but instead store it as glycogen & fat. As you would expoect, given that fact, we have no metabolic process to rid ourselves of excess calories - we simply store them as fat. To make matters worse, our bodies have evolved to deal with a "feast or famine" environment, meaning that during times of plenty we store energy like there is no tomorrow; at times of loss our bodies will do everything it can to preserve calories; including an apparent reduction in its basal metabolic rate. This later factor is why diets generally fail unless combined with exercise.

Just to address a few other points in the thread:

waltwhitmanheadedbat wrote:It occurs to me that the way we measure food calories might be poor. As I understand it, the calorie content of food is determined by burning it in a bomb calorimeter.

Generally, this is no longer the case. These days the Atwater system is used - essentially, adding up the average values of energy-providing nutrients (carbs, proteins, fats & alcohols) based on their weight/serving of food. This is a little more accurate then a straight bomb-calorimeter, as some items we cannot get energy from will burn (and thus produce a 'calorie reading) in a calorimeter (i.e. fibre).

These numbers are not overly accurate - our bodies metabolic processes do not convert food into ATP with 100% efficiency (meaning 100 calories of food != 100 calories worth of ATP), and depending on the current metabolic needs of the person, various foods can be shuttled into non-caloric/fat building metabolic processes. Nor are these measurements good indicators of how "bad" a food is in terms of its obesity-generating potential. For example, fats can be stored with minimal/no processing, and carbs can be turned into fats with only a minimal energy expenditure (in an overly simple sense, fats are linearised sugars that have been dehydroxylated). Proteins, in comparison, require a great deal of processing to be turned into fat - even though on a per-mass basis, they have the same energy as carbs (converting a protein into fat is a complex process that can consume upto 1/3rd the caloric content of the protein itself. Meaning if you exceed your daily caloric needs by 500 calories, you'll get fatter faster if that 500 calories is in the form of fat or carbs than you will if that excess is in protein. But, in either case, you'll get fatter.

waltwhitmanheadedbat wrote:My understanding is that it is uncontroversial that insulin drives appetite. "Don't eat so much" seems not to work. "Eat fewer grams of sugar and other effective carbohydrate" does seem to work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eREuZEdMAVo

This is not correct. Insulin is a weak regulator of apatite; satiety is controled by a combination of several hormones, with GLP-1 doing much of the heavy lifting. And both tend to do a poor job of preventing over-eating, as they take too long to increase to apatite-suppressing levels to stop one from over-eating (over-eating takes a few minutes; satiety signals take 20-30min to appear). Likewise, as clearly shown by weasle@xkcd, the preponderance of scientific evidence comes down quite strongly on the "less food consumption = less weight gain/more weight loss" side of the argument. The current fad towards low-carb diets is just that - a fad. Studies following people on low-carb diets have found, in general, that 1) low-carb diets produce no more weightloss than more balanced diets, 2) that compliance with the diet tends to be poor (as is common with most diets), and 3) there appears to be an elevated risk of kidney & heart disease, especially in diets which replace carbs with animal-based protein sources.

The consensus, outside of the various fringe groups, is that a balanced diet (i.e. US food guide, mediterranean diet, etc) + exercise is sufficient to maintain a healthy weight and to minimize the risk of obesity-related diseases like metabolic disorder, diabetes, etc. We've yet to see any diet that deviates significantly from these recommendations that doesn't create other risks (i.e. nutrient deficits, increased risk of atherosclerosis & other metabolic disorders, etc).

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Re: Overeating != Weightgain?

Postby Nath » Mon Jun 04, 2012 8:47 pm UTC

ImagingGeek wrote:there appears to be an elevated risk of kidney & heart disease, especially in diets which replace carbs with animal-based protein sources.


Can you point to some sources on this? I don't follow a low-carb diet, but from what I've been able to find, the evidence connecting protein intake and kidney disease is quite weak. Ditto for the evidence connecting low-carb diets with heart disease.

Also, here's a paper that contradicts your point number 1:
http://phdres.caregate.net/curriculum/p ... 3-2074.pdf
Of course, you can't read too much into one study, but there are others that say the same thing.


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