the binge-eating files » Calories

Calories and binge eating, cravings, diet, weight, fat, obesity

US adults eat a meal’s worth of calories of snacks in a day. Study finds noshing provides little nutritional value   ScienceDaily (Dec 15, 2023) — Snacks constitute almost a quarter of a day’s calories in U.S. adults and account for about one-third of daily added sugar, a new study suggests. Researchers analyzing data from surveys of over 20,000 people found that Americans averaged about 400 to 500 calories in snacks a day — often more than what they consumed at breakfast — that offered little nutritional value. … more

Are all calories created equal? Your gut microbes don’t think so  Washington Post (June 13, 2023) by Anahad O’Connor – For weight loss, whether you feed your gut microbiome high- or low-quality calories makes a difference, a new study suggests. For years scientists have believed that when it comes to weight gain, all calories are created equal. But an intriguing new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, suggests that’s not true. The body appears to react differently to calories ingested from high-fiber whole foods vs. ultra-processed junk foods. … more

After years of torture, I broke free of the tyranny of calorie counting   The Guardian (Aug 22, 2022) by Amelia Tait — Focusing on the calories in your diet is antiquated and destructive. I wish I could have told my anorexic teenage self. When science fiction writers imagine great, grandiose methods of social control – matrixes! Microchips! Really big bros! – they ignore one powerful form that already exists: the humble calorie. … more

What if the focus on calories and energy balance is simply wrong?  Washington Post (July 28, 2002) by David S. Ludwig — The usual way of understanding obesity is simple: If you consume more calories than you need to fuel yourself, the surplus is deposited into body fat, and you gain weight. Because, according to this approach, all calories are alike to the body, the only way to lose weight is to eat fewer of them or burn more off with exercise. For a century, this “energy balance” notion has dominated obesity prevention and treatment … If this theory is correct, though, it’s hard to square with the facts. … more

Time-restricted eating no better than counting calories, study finds  CNN Health (Apr 21, 2022) by Sandee LaMotte — In a blow to believers in time-restricted eating — a form of intermittent fasting where people only eat during a restricted window during the day — researchers in China have found the method has no significant benefits compared with simple calorie restriction in battling obesity. … more

Calories on menus ‘may not be helpful’ in drive against obesity   The Guardian (Jan 23, 2022) by James Tapper — Campaigners say compulsory menu labelling could put too much emphasis on calorie counting. From April, all cafes and restaurants run by companies with more than 250 staff will be obliged to include calorie counts for each item on their menus. … Stuart Flint, an associate professor of the psychology of obesity at Leeds University and a director of Obesity UK, which supports overweight people, said it was unclear who the new rules would help. … more

Gary Taubes: ‘Obesity isn’t a calorie problem, it’s a hormone problem’  The Guardian (Jan 21, 2021) by David Cox – The author of The Case for Keto argues that conventional approaches to tackling obesity and diabetes aren’t working, and that low-carbohydrate diets could be the way forward. Over the past two decades, the UK’s rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes have spiralled, something that has invariably been blamed on our intake of saturated fat. Conventional nutrition science argues this leads to elevated cholesterol levels and a greater risk of heart disease, but journalist Gary Taubes believes we need to rethink this idea. … more

Calories by the clock? Squeezing most of your calories in early doesn’t impact weight loss   ScienceDaily (Nov 9, 2020) – Time-restricted eating, which restricts eating to specific hours of the day, did not impact weight among overweight adults with prediabetes or diabetes. Adults in the 12-week study ate the same healthy, pre-prepared foods, however, one group ate the bulk of their calories before 1 p.m. each day, versus the other group that ate 50% of their calories after 5 p.m. … more

Britain’s obesity strategy ignores the science: dieting doesn’t work  The Guardian (July 28, 2020) by Susie Orbach – Rather than counting calories and stigmatising fat, we need to take on the food and weight-loss industries. Being overweight has never just been about the amount of calories you consume. The government’s new obesity strategy, which includes mandating calorie displays on menus, banning junk food adverts before 9pm, offering Weight Watchers discounts and ending discount deals on “unhealthy” foods, reflects the widely held misconception that weight loss can be achieved by restricting calories and fat. The reality is that tackling obesity requires a far greater rethink of our fraught relationship with eating – starting with the food and diet industry. … more

How neurons reshape inside body fat to boost its calorie-burning capacity   ScienceDaily (July 22, 2020) – There’s no doubt that you can lose fat by eating less or moving more — yet after decades of research, the biology underlying this equation remains mysterious. What really ignites the breakdown of stored fat molecules are nerves embedded in the fat tissue, and a new study now reveals that these fat-burning neurons have previously unrecognized powers. If they receive the right signal, they have an astonishing capacity to grow. … more

Calorie counting apps ‘can exacerbate eating disorders’  BBC News (July 4, 2019) — Calorie counting app creators have been criticised for allowing the platforms to be misused by people with eating disorders. The BBC found content logging self-harm and punishments for over-eating on MyFitnessPal, Lose It! and Lifesum. Eating disorder charity Beat said the mobile apps could exacerbate unhealthy behaviours and make recovery harder. … more

People Often Underestimate Calorie Intake   Medscape (Mar 2, 2018) by Peter Russell – A survey of 4,452 adults asked men and women to log their calorie consumption. On average, men said they consumed 2,065 calories but were actually taking on board 3,119 calories. Women estimated their calorie consumption at a modest 1,570 when the actual figure was 2,393. Recommendations say that a typical man need around 2,500 calories a day to maintain his weight. For a woman, that figure is around 2,000 calories. … more

Calorie counts on menus make a difference  ScienceDaily (Nov 6, 2017) – One of the most comprehensive pieces of research into the impact of displaying calories on menus reveals it not only influences consumers to make lower calorie choices but also encourages retailers to provide lower calorie options. … more

Fat, fructose and calories: 5 nutrition ‘facts’ we used to believe  Washington Post (Aug 29, 2017) by Cara Rosenbloom – The A friend of mine is trying to lose weight and wanted to check whether her strategies were sound. She said she counts every calorie, avoids nuts because of the high fat content and snacks only on sugary (but fat-free!) foods. Was she on track? If that conversation took place in 1993, she’d get kudos for her nutrition knowledge. But those bits of wisdom are badly outdated. Nutritional science changes quickly, and knowledge that was gleaned from a 25-year-old nutrition textbook needs to be refreshed. Here’s how nutrition information has changed over the years and why it’s important to keep up. … more

Low-calorie sweeteners increase fat formation, study finds  MNT Medical News Today (Apr 4, 2017) by Honor Whiteman – Many people opt for low-calorie sweeteners as a “healthful” alternative to sugar, but a new study suggests that they may not be so beneficial after all. Researchers have found that consuming high amounts of low-calorie sweeteners may promote fat formation, particularly for individuals who are already obese. … more

Good news! You’re likely burning more calories than you thought when you’re walkingScienceDaily (Mar 15, 2016) – Leading standardized equations that predict the number of calories burned under level walking conditions are relatively inaccurate — counting too few calories in 97 percent of cases, say researchers. The standards — in place for close to half a century and based on data from limited people — assume one size fits all. Researchers have now developed a new standardized equation that data indicates is up to four times more accurate. … more

Some people ‘hardwired’ to prefer high-calorie foods, study finds   MNT – Medical News Today (Nov 5, 2015) by Honor Whiteman – While some individuals are able to dismiss that chocolate bar in favor of a healthier snack, others are unlikely to be so composed. But according to a new study, this may be because the brains of some people are “hardwired” to crave foods high in fat and sugar. … more

Diet beverage drinkers make up the calories by snacking on unhealthy foods  MNT – Medical News Today (Sept 14, 2015) — People who think they are doing the right thing by choosing a diet beverage then do the wrong thing by snacking on sodium, sugar and high-carbohydrate goodies like cookies, ice cream, fries and pastries, new research finds. … more

Always Hungry? Here’s Why     New York Times (May 16, 2014) by David S. Ludwig and Mark I. Friedman – For most of the last century, our understanding of the cause of obesity has been based on immutable physical law. Specifically, it’s the first law of thermodynamics, which dictates that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. When it comes to body weight, this means that calorie intake minus calorie expenditure equals calories stored … The simple solution is to exert willpower and eat less. The problem is that this advice doesn’t work, at least not for most people over the long term … But what if we’ve confused cause and effect? What if it’s not overeating that causes us to get fat, but the process of getting fatter that causes us to overeat? more …

Who cares about calories? Restaurant menu labels don’t work, study shows  (July 18, 2013) by Melissa Dahl – When confronted with the reality that your favorite blueberry scone, the one you buy for breakfast every day, comes packed with 400-plus calories, do you still go for the pastry? Yes, you probably will.   No matter how much calorie information is on the menu list, people still choose the food they like, not what’s supposed to be healthier, researchers from Carnegie Mellon reported Thursday.     Link

Consumers largely underestimating calorie content of fast food   ScienceDaily (May 23, 2013) — People eating at fast food restaurants largely underestimate the calorie content of meals, especially large ones, according to a new article.  From 2006 to 2010 many American states and cities passed laws requiring chain restaurants to print calorie content on menus. The US Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 included a provision that will require all restaurant chains with more than 20 US sites to print calorie content on menus.  Link

When a calorie isn’t a calorie: Parsing the raw vs. cooked food debate and the curious case of almonds   National Post (Mar. 19, 2013) by Jennifer Sygo – When is a calorie not equal to a calorie? Well, one of the basic differences in energy content in food takes place when a raw food is cooked. Cooked foods tend to have more calories available for human bodies to absorb than they do when raw — along with higher quantities of nutrients and vitamins, too.     Link

US obesity mystery: We’re eating fewer calories, getting fatter (Mar. 06, 2013) by Reuters – U.S. adults have been eating steadily fewer calories for almost a decade, despite the continued increase in obesity rates, according to survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).    Link

People seek high-calorie foods in tough times   ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2013) — Bad news about the economy could cause you to pack on the pounds, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.  The study shows that when there is a perception of tough times, people tend to seek higher-calorie foods that will keep them satisfied longer. When subconsciously primed with such messages, a “live for today” impulse is triggered causing people to consume nearly 40 percent more food than when compared to a control group primed with neutral words.   Link

Gut microbes help the body extract more calories from food     ScienceDaily (Sep. 12, 2012) — You may think you have your food all to yourself, but you’re actually sharing it with a vast community of microbes waiting within your digestive tract. A new study from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine reveals some gut microbes increase the absorption of dietary fats, allowing the host organism to extract more calories from the same amount of food.   Link

Will starving yourself help you live longer? Maybe not   Reuters (Aug 29, 2012) by Sharon Begley – The longevity diet’s premise is seductively simple: cutting your calorie intake well below your usual diet will add years to your life.   New research published on Wednesday, however, shows the extreme, emaciating diet doesn’t increase lifespan in rhesus monkeys, the closest human relatives to try it in a rigorous, long-running study. While caveats remain, outside experts regarded the findings as definitive, particularly when combined with those from a similar study.   Link

Softer fast food restaurant lighting and music can cut calorie intake 18 percent   ScienceDaily (Aug. 28, 2012) — Your mood for food can be changed by a restaurant’s choice of music and lighting, leading to increased satisfaction and reduced calorie intake, according to a new study.  Link

In dieting, magic isn’t a substitute for science   The New York Times: Fitness & Nutrition (July 9, 2012) by Gina Kolata –  Is a calorie really just a calorie? Do calories from a soda have the same effect on your waistline as an equivalent number from an apple or a piece of chicken? … We asked Dr. Jules Hirsch, emeritus professor and emeritus physician in chief at Rockefeller University, who has been researching obesity for nearly 60 years, about the state of the research. Dr. Hirsch, who receives no money from pharmaceutical companies or the diet industry, wrote some of the classic papers describing why it is so hard to lose weight and why it usually comes back.   Link

What really makes us fat  The New York Times:  Opinion (Jun. 30, 2012) by Gary Taubes – A calorie is a calorie. This truism has been the foundation of nutritional wisdom and our beliefs about obesity since the 1960s.   What it means is that a calorie of protein will generate the same energy when metabolized in a living organism as a calorie of fat or carbohydrate. When talking about obesity or why we get fat, evoking the phrase “a calorie is a calorie” is almost invariably used to imply that what we eat is relatively unimportant.   Link

Viewing images of high-calorie foods brings on high-calorie cravings, research finds   ScienceDaily (June 25, 2012) — You’re minding your own business when a food craving suddenly hits, and if you just saw an image of a cupcake, or consumed a sugary soda, that may be no accident.  Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC)  … [found] that viewing pictures of high-fat foods and drinking sweetened beverages while viewing the pictures stimulate appetite and reward centers in the brain.  Link

Fewer food choices don’t help weight loss: study    Reuters (May 31, 2012) – Reducing people’s options for junk foods helps them to cut back on the amount of calories they take in, but it doesn’t reduce their overall calorie load or help them lose weight, according to a U.S. study.  Link

‘Obesity genes’ may influence food choices, eating patterns   ScienceDaily (May 23, 2012) — Blame it on your genes? Researchers … say individuals with variations in certain “obesity genes” tend to eat more meals and snacks, consume more calories per day and often choose the same types of high fat, sugary foods.  Their study, published online by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and appearing in the June issue, reveals certain variations within the FTO and BDNF genes — which have been previously linked to obesity — may play a role in eating habits that can cause obesity.  The findings suggest it may be possible to minimize genetic risk by changing one’s eating patterns and being vigilant about food choices, in addition to adopting other healthy lifestyle habits, like regular physical activity.  Link

Why exercise may not lead to weight loss    Globe and Mail (May 13, 2012) by Alex Hutchinson  – There’s no doubt that exercise burns calories. So why has study after study found such modest average weight loss even after subjects follow relatively vigorous, well-designed exercise programs? … Break down the study results, and you find that exercise is highly effective at melting off pounds for some people, and ineffective for others. Scientists are now teasing out the factors that explain these different responses – and poking holes in weight-loss plans that promise one-size-fits-all success.  Link

Scientists identify protein that stimulates brown fat to burn calories   ScienceDaily (May 10, 2012) — Scientists have identified a protein which regulates the activation of brown fat in both the brain and the body’s tissues. Their research, which was conducted in mice, was published May 11, in the journal Cell.   Link

Calories are everywhere, yet hard to track  New York Times: Health (Mar. 19, 2012) by Jane E. Brody – Americans are having a passionate love affair with something they cannot see, hear, feel, touch or taste. That something is calories, billions upon billions of which are consumed every day, often unwittingly, at and between meals…a new book, Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics, to be published April 1…explains what calories are, where they come from, how different sources affect the body, and why it is so easy to consume more of them than most people need to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.  Link

A daily walk can reduce the power of weight-gaining genes. Why walking works: It not only burns calories, but it also counteracts the effects of your fattening genes Healthland (Mar. 15, 2012) by Alice Park – Body weight, like so many of our individual characteristics, is the combined result of the genes we’re born with and the way we live our lives — how much and what we eat, and whether we exercise. The question is, how much does one influence the other?  In a new study…researchers offer evidence that lifestyle can actually change the effect our genes have on the number on the scale…walking for about an hour a day can reduce the weight-promoting effect of certain genes by 50%…[and] sedentary activities like watching TV can trigger the weight-gaining effect of the same genes.  Link

Teaching fat cells to burn calories: new target against obesity involves brown fat   ScienceDaily (Mar. 7, 2012) — In the war against obesity, one’s own fat cells may seem an unlikely ally, but new research from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) suggests ordinary fat cells can be reengineered to burn calories.  Link

Is fructose being blamed unfairly for obesity epidemic?  ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2012) — Is fructose being unfairly blamed for the obesity epidemic? Or do we just eat and drink too many calories?  Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital reviewed more than 40 published studies on whether the fructose molecule itself causes weight gain…”Fructose may not be to blame for obesity…It may just be calories from any food source. Over consumption is the issue.”  Link

Overweight people eat less often. True or false?  Reuters (Nov. 21, 2011) – Overweight adults eat less often than people in the normal body weight range, but still take in more calories and are less active over the course of the day, according to a U.S. study. Link

Why even resolute dieters often fail   New York Times (Sept. 19, 2011) by Jane E. Brody – If you’ve been trying for years to lose unwanted pounds and keep them off, unrealistic goals may be the reason you’ve failed. It turns out that a long-used rule of weight loss — reduce 3,500 calories (or burn an extra 3,500) to lose one pound of body fat — is incorrect and can ultimately doom determined dieters. Link

Does food act physiologically like a ‘drug of choice’ for some?  ScienceDaily (July 20, 2011) — Variety is considered the “spice of life,” but does today’s unprecedented level of dietary variety help explain skyrocketing rates of obesity? Some researchers think it might…  “We’ve known for years that foods- even eating, itself- can trigger release of various brain chemicals, some of which are also involved in what happens with drug addiction and withdrawal. And, as can happen with substance abusers, tolerance or “habituation” can occur, meaning that repeated use (in this case, exposure to a food) is sometimes accompanied by a lack of response (in this case, disinterest in the food). The results of the study … provides a very interesting new piece to the obesity puzzle by suggesting that meal monotony may actually lead to reduced calorie consumption. The trick will be balancing this concept with the importance of variety to good nutrition.”  Link

Ghrelin likely involved in why we choose ‘comfort foods’ when stressed  ScienceDaily (June 29, 2011) — We are one step closer to deciphering why some stressed people indulge in chocolate, mashed potatoes, ice cream and other high-calorie, high-fat comfort foods. UT Southwestern Medical Center-led findings, in a mouse study, suggest that ghrelin — the so-called “hunger hormone” — is involved in triggering this reaction to high stress situations.  Link

Junk food addiction may be clue to obesity: High-calorie bingeing as addictive as cocaine, rat study shows (Mar. 29, 2010) by JoAnne Allen, Reuters – Bingeing on high-calorie foods may be as addictive as cocaine or nicotine, and could cause compulsive eating and obesity, according to a study.  The findings in a study of animals cannot be directly applied to human obesity, but may help in understanding the condition and in developing therapies to treat it, researchers wrote Sunday in the journal Nature NeuroscienceLink

Don’t blame fast food for making you fat:  Fat epidemic linked to chemicals run amok  (Mar. 8, 2010) – by Stephen Perrine with Heather Hurlock.   It’s not just about calories in versus calories out.  If that were all it took to lose weight — eating a little less and exercising a little more — then weight loss would be as simple as grade-school math: Subtract Y from Z and end up with X.  But if you’ve ever followed a diet program and achieved less than your desired result, you probably came away feeling frustrated, depressed, and maybe a bit guilty. What did I do wrong?   Link

Reduced diet thwarts aging, disease in monkeys  ScienceDaily (July 10, 2009) — The bottom-line message from a decades-long study of monkeys on a restricted diet is simple: Consuming fewer calories leads to a longer, healthier life. Link

New sweetener not so sweet for your diet (Apr. 17, 2009) — Stevia, an extract nearly 300 times more potent than sugar, the no-fat, no-calorie sweetener that soda and juice lovers have been thirsting for? No, say nutritionists.  Link

Adults have brown fat too, studies find   New York Times: Health (Apr. 09, 2009) by Gina Kolata — Originally believed to be lost after infancy, calorie-burning brown fat has been discovered in adults.  Link

Not so sweet: Over-consumption of sugar linked to aging  ScienceDaily (Mar. 9, 2009) — We know that lifespan can be extended in animals by restricting calories such as sugar intake. Now, according to a study published in the journal PLoS Genetics, Université de Montréal scientists have discovered that it’s not sugar itself that is important in this process but the ability of cells to sense its presence.  Link

Is your diet making you fat?  Why some slimming strategies backfire — and fixes to help reach your goal  Prevention (Feb. 8, 2009) — If you’re trying to slim down, you’ve probably amassed a menu full of calorie-cutting tips and tricks. So it may come as a shock to learn that many of the ones you’ve sworn by are actually keeping you fat.  Link

Another reason to avoid high-fat diet: it can disrupt our biological clock, say researchers  ScienceDaily (Dec. 31, 2008) — Indulgence in a high-fat diet can not only lead to overweight because of excessive calorie intake, but also can affect the balance of circadian rhythms – everyone’s 24-hour biological clock, Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers have shown. Link

Gene may explain why some go for fatty foods (Dec 10, 2008) – A study of children found those with a common gene variation tends to overeat high-calorie foods. They ate 100 extra calories per meal, which over the long term can put on weight.  Link

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