At the end of the 19th century, the American chemist and physiologist Wilbur Atwater calculated the number of calories in various foods and derived the formula 4-4-9. According to it, the energy value of carbohydrates and proteins is 4 kcal / g, and of fats - 9 kcal / g. With this system, Atwater wanted to determine how many calories a person needs daily to provide the body with energy. The simple formula is still popular with nutritionists, but its accuracy and relevance raise questions among modern scientists.
What manufacturers indicate on the packaging
Manufacturers indicate on the packages the calorie information obtained in the laboratory, where the food is literally burned. Experts place food in a special chamber - a calorimeter - and measure how much heat (energy) is released during combustion. This is how the energy value of each product is established. In the laboratory, this process takes seconds. The human body spends 8 to 80 hours on "burning" food and assimilates calories in different ways. As a result, laboratory data and real figures do not match.
Susan Roberts, a nutritionist at Tufts University in Boston, found that the number of calories on American food labels was on average 8% untrue.
What changes the energy value
When we cut food into small pieces, cellular structures are torn. This way we do some of the body’s digestion work in advance, and the body spends less energy on digesting soft foods. Even parts of vegetables and fruits that differ in density are not the same in terms of energy value.
Jeffrey Livesey, an independent British nutritionist and UN nutrition expert, notes that the number of calories also depends on fiber, which makes up 5% of the energy value of the product. In an interview with The Independent, Livesey emphasizes that the existing formula does not take into account fiber, so foods containing it are actually higher in calories than manufacturers indicate.
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How calories are spent
Atwater's System miscalculates the amount of calories we burn.
Three quarters of the daily energy expenditure of the average person is spent on daily activities, organ nutrition, digestion and maintaining a constant body temperature, not sports. Therefore, the statement that it is easy to burn excess calories through exercise is true mainly for professional athletes.
Attempts to measure the energy value of various products using the same criteria also lead to erroneous results. Lollipop and orange may have the same number of calories, but they are absorbed differently by the body and cannot be counted in the same way.
In addition, there are foods with “negative” calories. Iced water does not provide energy, but forces the body to burn calories to maintain the desired temperature.
Why delicious food is healthier than low-calorie food
Mexican nutritionist Salvador Camacho and his supporters argue that low-calorie convenience foods and sugars devastate the hormonal system. High insulin levels cause energy to be converted to fat rather than supplying the body. Because of this, a person constantly feels hungry and begins to overeat.
Camacho noted that by counting calories, we eat less than the body needs, and we limit ourselves in food choices. Fresh natural products are more effective in helping to avoid weight problems than low-calorie convenience foods, especially since information about the energy value of frozen and reheated convenience foods can differ from real figures by 70%. The nutritionist advises not to give up tasty, albeit high-calorie food - you just do not need to turn it into a daily habit.
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Who needs change
Weight Watchers, a British diet company, introduced a scoring system in 2001 that shifted the focus from calorie counting to classifying foods by sugar and saturated fat content and impact on appetite. Chris Stirk, CEO of Weight Watchers in the UK, noted that the idea of relying on calorie counting for weight loss is "outdated": "Science evolves daily, monthly, annually, let alone in the 1800s." But so far it is the only large corporation that has begun to change the existing system.
Experts from the World Health Organization and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 2002 agreed with the position of "Weight Watchers", but over the past 17 years have not taken any practical steps to support the initiative of the company.
Richard Wrangham, professor of biology and anthropology at Harvard University, in an interview with The Independent, stressed that “scientists have known for several decades that Atwater's research is unreliable, but this issue was not considered important enough. As a result, consumers are still receiving erroneous information.”>