Sources of Calories and Diet-Industry Ethics

This is interesting, and confirms my non-scientist’s suspicion. It turns out that (at least according to this one study) calories count, but not where they come from. The basic finding is that if you’re trying to lose weight, what matters is your total caloric intake (and output), rather than whether your calories come mostly from carbs, protein, fats, etc.

And if the exact source doesn’t matter much, then it doesn’t make much sense to force yourself not to eat things you enjoy just because they contain whichever nutrient (carbs, protein, fats, etc.) some supposed diet guru tells you is evil.

Of course, this study doesn’t prove that certain sources of calories don’t have a biological tendency to promote fat storage, etc. That might still be true. What the study does support is that in the lives of real people trying to lose weight, the source of calories doesn’t matter nearly as much as the total calorie count does. And surely that’s what really matters.

This finding raises interesting ethical questions, naturally, for those who promote particular diets, especially ones that have as their foundation an attempt to demonize particular sources of calories. If you’re promoting a low-carb diet, for example, this new evidence should give you pause.

About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
This entry was posted in calories, diets, ethics, health, nutrition. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Sources of Calories and Diet-Industry Ethics

  1. wartica says:

    I totally agree; there was that finding – about a year ago – about a doctor who ate 1700 calories of Twinkies for a month. He lost a lot of weight and it proves the point of your blog post. Great post and I look forward to sharing more with you:))

  2. herbjamie1 says:

    There are several researchers which categorically state that nutrient dense foods with few calories and also low glycemic foods and also foods with increased vitality make the subject lose weight and are much healthier and lead to great longevity? Unfortunately I do not think twinkles qualify as any of these food categories (nutirent dense, calorie restricted, low glycemic and food of vitality?

  3. herbjamie1 says:

    …and you admit to that?

  4. If the research you’re talking about actually contradicts the research cited above, and is methodologically rigorous, I would be interested to know it.

    But keep in mind that the study cited above refers to a very specific set of measures and outcomes.

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