In nutrition science, the blind lead the blind

(versión en español: pinchar aquí)

Obesity is generally caused by eating too much and moving too little

If you want to lose weight, don’t eat. This is not medicine, it’s thermodynamics. If you take in more than you use, you store it.

The law of conservation of energy states that energy can’t disappear. What we eat, has to be transformed in other forms of energy. In simple terms, a person’s energy intake must be transformed into bigger muscles, more fat or will be spent as heat/work.

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First mistake

The first mistake some “experts” make is to pretend that the above equation gives an explanation or the keys to understand how a system works. What do I mean? It’s very simple: in the above equation, do the terms on the left side of the equality sign depend on the terms on the right side of the sign? Do muscle development, fat accumulation and dissipated heat determine how much I eat? Mathematically, yes, they do, but this approach is stupid, as is obvious when we think about how every term of the equation behaves in the real world.

If you rearrange the terms of the equation, you will clearly see the origin of the first mistake “experts” make, to think that mathematics tell us what to do to control the accumulation of fat:

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Does the equation above say that energy intake, energy expenditure and created muscle determine the amount of fat we store? Even if you think it makes sense, I remind you this is the same interpretation we talked about before, and it made absolutely no sense. From the formula of the conservation of energy it can’t be inferred that energy intake, energy expenditure and created muscle determine the accumulation of body fat. Whether the idea is correct or false, is a question to be answered from our knowledge of the how our body works, never inferred from the laws of thermodynamics.

Second mistake

The second mistake some “experts” make is omitting muscle building.

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As I will discuss soon, some “experts” tell us that an excessive intake (“eating too much”) and a reduced energy expenditure (“moving too little”) make us store fat. They say that it follows from the laws of thermodynamics. Ok. In that case, I ask why eating too much and moving too little doesn’t lead us to an increase in our muscle mass, instead of increasing our body fat. What part of the above equation says gluttony and sedentarism lead to obesity but not to muscle building? Why is it that all the positive energy balance goes to one of the terms in the left side of the equality sing and not to the other term?

In order to blame the obese of being gluttonous and sedentary, the “experts” make “muscle building” disappear from the equation:

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Third mistake

The third mistake the “experts” make is to ignore reality. The theory they think unquestionable is that energy intake is controllable, because it depends on how much we eat, and that energy expenditure is manageable, because they tell us that it basically depends on how much we move:

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And the mistake of this theory is that it ignores all the scientific evidence that what we eat and how much we exercise, both of them influence energy expenditure and fat accumulation. In addition, exercise probably is going to make us hungry, and also losing/gaining weight will modulate our tendency to exercise. The theory “eat less and move more” is not consistent with our knowledge about how our body works:

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(I’ve reverted again the order of terms in the equality, in order not to encourage the first mistake I pointed out, i.e. thinking that the terms on the right side of the equality sign determine the terms on the left side)

It is perfectly possible to increase the caloric intake, without more physical activity, and lose weight (see, see, see) or gain fat (see). And decreasing the caloric intake has never worked for losing weight (see) because our body reduces its energy expenditure making impossible to lose weight (see). And we can’t take for granted that after a intense physical activity, our body will spend the same energy as if we hadn’t done that physical activity (see). Neither can we assume that the total energy expenditure is independent of what we eat (see). None of the above are effects that can be ignored. Therefore, the third mistake is essentially assuming as true the following hypothesis:

  • What I eat only affects the caloric intake, and not the fat accumulation nor the total energy expenditure. That goes against the scientific evidence. E.g., if I decrease the intake, energy expenditure will be reduced much more than what the “experts” admit.
  • Energy expenditure is a term that only depends on exercise. That is contrary to the scientific evidence. E.g. our body can compensate in the following few hours the energy expenditure created through the physical activity. Another example is that the the specific content of the diet affects energy expenditure. It is different when the diet is based on carbohydrates and when it is based on fat.

Fourth mistake

The fourth mistake is in part the result of mistakes I exposed before, and it is to close the door to other possible causes of obesity. This one is the refusal to listen to other ideas, and later accept or discard them rationally. A not-too-smart “expert” can make all those three previous mistakes, but to rule out, just because, other points of view, is a new mistake. There are other approaches perfectly “consistent” with the laws of thermodynamics (see,see), but they are discarded arguing that anything apart from “eat less and move more” is stupid. A clear sign that the economic interest for continuing without listening is strong.

“Excessive intake” or “lack of exercise”. Those are the only options considered by some “experts” on the grounds that it they derive from the laws of thermodynamics. But, as we have seen, that way of thinking is the result of several thinking mistakes.

It is ridiculous to observe that when an experiment says “it is not an excessive intake,” then they conclude then “it must be lack of exercise.” And when the evidence says that “it is not a lack of exercise,” then they conclude that “the intake must have been excessive.”

Rewinding

Some “experts” in the nutrition field think a physical principle can be deduced from mathematics:

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It is not true. Just as a causality can’t be inferred from a correlation, the above formula doesn’t tell us why we store fat and how to avoid that process. It is only a mathematical equality, something that must be fulfilled, nothing more than that. Change the order of the terms, so nobody would imagine that the accumulation of fat depends on what is on the right side of the equation. Add the term of muscle building. And do not confuse energy expenditure with exercise, and neither ignore that what you eat and your physical activity affect all the terms of the equation. Look at the equation again:

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Do you see in that mathematical expression any reason to blame the obese for having earned it all by themselves, because they are lazy and gluttonous? That accusation is not based on the laws of thermodynamics, but rather on the ideology of those “experts”. It’s a sign of arrogance. Since it is an idea that is not derived from the laws of thermodynamics, the question is, what evidence do these “experts” have that gluttony and sloth are the causes of obesity, and not, conversely, a consequence of a diet based on the consumption of grains, flours and sugars? That is, what evidence do they have that proves that those “experts” and their absurd dietary recommendations haven’t caused the obesity epidemic? I don’t think they are in a position to blame others for anything. A diet based on flour (grains), sugars and seed oils, or exposure to certain toxics (see), could change our metabolism, leading it to a fat storage mode. That dietary change would end up making us eat more than we spend. If anyone thinks that this hypothesis is not consistent with thermodynamics’ laws, he/she is committing several thinking errors.

Let’s think about gluttony and sloth. If for every two obese men there are three obese women, are the “experts” saying that women are lazier and more gluttonous than men? Seriously? And poor people are lazier and more gluttonous than wealthier people?

Just one more thing: do you think that children grow up because they ingest more calories than they spend? Do you think they stop growing up when their parents decide that they have grown up enough and stop overfeeding their children? Do you think that that idea derives from the laws of thermodynamics?

Further reading:

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