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Do Calories Really Count?

Last year, I wrote about the numerous studies that showed how lowering the caloric intake in animals, fish and other lifeforms may slow down aging, reduce age-related chronic diseases and extend lifespan. Although it's uncertain whether long-term calorie restriction has the same effect in humans, preliminary evidence suggests that it does.

A Penn State professor recently told a group of experts studying the worldwide obesity epidemic, "Calories count, no matter what you read in the press."

The calories you consume must be used or they will be stored as body fat. The body does not waste energy, no matter what its source. When people are placed on carefully controlled calorie-restricted diets, the amount of fat in the diet, whether it's 25 or 45 percent of total calories, has little effect on weight loss.

In other words, those who say they can eat as much as they want (of protein and fat, for example) and lose weight as long as they avoid certain kinds of foods (carbohydrates, for example) are really eating less (that is, fewer calories) than they did before.

The key, this expert says, is satiety and the many characteristics of foods that affect it:

  • The look, taste and feel in your mouth
  • The amount of chewing required
  • The nutrients they contain
  • How densely packed the calories are
  • The volume of food consumed

I've found the secret to satiety lies in listening to your body and recognizing your nutritional type. At the heart of nutritional typing is the idea that we each have unique systems that are designed to thrive on unique combinations of protein, fat and carbohydrates.

New York Times October 5, 2004

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