Do Calories Even Matter?
By Kevin Cann
Do Calories Even Matter?
The great calorie debate is and has been quite a controversial topic for some time. I am not going to lie, I have changed my stance on this topic probably more than once. To quickly answer the question “Do calories matter?” the answer is yes. However, I want to take this topic a bit deeper and help everyone gain an understanding for how our body should be controlling our caloric intake. We have survived for millions of years as a species without having to weigh and measure our food.
The most popular calorie counting equation is the Harris-Benedict equation. This equation has quite a few downfalls. First, it was established in 1918 which makes it almost 100 years old. This study also used a small sample size. This study looked at 136 men, 106 women, and 94 newborns. To summarize, our most popular equation for calculating intake is 100 years old and looked at a sample size of a little more than 300 people to establish guidelines for the entire population. I think it is safe to say that there is a good chance that these researchers missed the mark a bit.
I am not saying that I have all the answers. If I did I would not be writing this article right now, but laying on the beach of an island that I own because I would be the richest man alive. We are still trying to figure out what causes people to be obese and how to correct it for the long term. We have consistently tried the eat less and exercise more mantra with very limited success. If looking at the climbing obesity rates of the American population is not enough here is a conclusion on a literature review of low calorie dieting:
“Dietetic literature on weight management fails to meet the standards of evidence based medicine. Research in the field is characterized by speculative claims that fail to accurately represent the available data. There is a corresponding lack of debate on the ethical implications of continuing to promote ineffective treatment regimes and little research into alternative non-weight centered approaches. An alternative health at every size approach is recommended (1).”
Now, I am not saying that we do not need to decrease caloric intake to lose weight. We definitely need to decrease calories in order to lose weight. However, the research is stating that these methods have been largely unsuccessful. To solve this puzzle we need to answer a different question. Why do obese people get hungry? If someone is 50lbs overweight why are they constantly hungry? If 3500 calories equals 1lb of fat, that obese person would have 175,000 calories of stored energy. If hunger is our body letting us know we need more energy, there is something off here.