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Are All Calories Equally Fattening?

Saturday, November 09, 2019


This video interview with Toronto nephrologist Dr. Jason Fung presents his research indicating that no, they're not. Calories aren't equally fattening: WHEN we eat has a big impact on how fattening calories will be.

He's one of the intermittent fasting gurus: and yes, most days I practice gentle IF (along with the IE, intuitive eating) by creating at least a 14-15 hour window between my last meal of the day and my first meal of the next day. At previous points in my life I've fasted for up to 7 days: but this moderate IF routine is working well for me at the moment.

Fung came to IF from his kidney specialty. Many of his patients in kidney failure are diabetics. And many diabetics are obese. And, he reasons, widespread (no pun intended) obesity is really associated with the low fat craze of the 70s through 90s. There was a scientific misconception that eating fat makes us fat and increases blood cholesterol too.

When people didn't eat enough fat, they got hungrier faster: fat, so often associated with protein, is a partnership key to satiety. So instead of eating 3 meals a day which included fat, they responded to hunger with continuous grazing . . . typically, 3 meals and 3 snacks (or more) a day.

That meant the body was always relying upon incoming fuel and never depleting stored fuel: fat. And without depletion of stored fuel, obesity and diabetes and kidney failure exploded. Fung found that treating kidney failure with dialysis didn't deal with the underlying causes of the kidney failure, the diabetes and the obesity. And of course seeking to control obesity with traditional dieting (calorie counting, calorie restriction) is notoriously unsuccessful in the long run.

Fung believes that we don't eat too much necessarily but that we eat too continuously. Human beings evolved to fast: "breakfast" meant something. Human beings throughout most of our evolutionary history seldom ate oftener than once a day Our hunter ancestors quite frequently experienced days with no meals at all.

And so 800 or 1,000 calories twice a day over an 8-10 hour period has a very different impact on the body than the same 1,600 or 2,000 calories a day on pretty much continuous intake over a 16-18 hour period.

Interesting stuff.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • MARTHA324

    I was always of the "a calorie is a calorie is a calorie" until I started to eat more real foods and lots of plants. Seemed that the weight just started dropping off. sure, I upped my exercise but really think it was the quality of the food.

    In many ways as long as I'm eating real food and lots of plants I don't eat too much and my weight stays right where I want it.
    136 days ago
    Just wanted to share Byron Richards's thoughts regarding those with an inability to extend time between meals beyond 3 hours. Richards describes this inability as an indication that the body lacks metabolic fitness. Just like strengthening ones physical fitness, metabolic fitness (which involves both when & what one eats) needs to be restored to avert the BS/energy crashes between meals. Adequate and appropriate fat & protein intake goes a long way toward improving metabolic fitness!

    And, although protein powders are not an ideal protein source, my body does not tolerate grains & legumes. So, protein supplementation has assisted in supporting my metabolic system. Ideal? No. Necessary for me at this point? Yes.

    139 days ago
    What Dr. Fung shares aligns with both my experience and what I've read by Byron Richards and leptin hormonal cycles. When we eat matters!
    139 days ago

    Comment edited on: 11/10/2019 2:05:35 PM
  • NANCY-
    I have heard of Dr. Fung. I'll be checking out more of his work.
    Thank you for sharing this info.
    139 days ago
    Always interesting here! Blog and comments included. Thanks for sharing!
    I fell really hard for the low fat craze of the eighties. It worked for a bit then didn’t!
    It’s scares me to think how “wrong and yet widely spread and accepted” the concept/science was. Or maybe it was just disillusioned me. That’s why all new concepts scare me now. I do not want to be so gullible or misinformed by the media, including Spark and the general consensus, even of medical professionals.
    I believe the basis for all programs depending on what the goal may be - losing weight, maintaining, managing blood sugar, eating disorders, etc...
    takes me back to finding what works for you, in this point in time, for what reason...life is ever changing and so is my eating routine.
    I’ve shared my various trials, errors, and great successes here on Spark for years now. I’m still finding my way.
    IF evolved for me over time. I never set out to try it, I actually rebelled and said absolutely not for me. But over time I eliminated snacking and eventually breakfast. I had to deny my cravings/desires to reach that point, but that’s when I intuitively realized I wasn’t really hungry. And I must admit, IE is still only a dream for me.
    IF and IE don’t necessarily mean weight loss or maintenance for me. I have to fully implement multiple programs daily for weight management, but some have finally become basic habits.

    Wow! This got me going this morning! Thanks for another thought provoking blog!
    Gotta love the Spark!
    139 days ago
    Yep - been listening to the talk among other members of Spark who practice intermittent fasting. I remember the endocrinologist telling my DH in 2005 that his practice of eating only once a day was seriously exacerbating his blood sugar issues. He needed to graze and keep his sugar at a constant level. Things change.
    139 days ago
    I emoticon Dr. Fung!

    139 days ago
    I agree, its a good thing to do!
    139 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    140 days ago
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    140 days ago
  • GABY1948
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    140 days ago
    I'm rarely hungry in the morning - so in retirement, I've started to delay my first meal of the day. Just feels better to wait until hunger actually appears, rather than eating because I'm awake.
    140 days ago
    So glad you have found interesting things to try and methods that work for you. I have tried IF and not sure it serves me as well as the 6 small meals a day that I lost my 80 pounds on. I guess they both can work.
    140 days ago
    Very interesting blog - thank you emoticon
    140 days ago
    When I think about it, I see it. Also goes back to being mindful of your inner cues.

    140 days ago
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    140 days ago
  • ALICIA363
    Thank you for this food for thought.
    I've noticed I do better when I do not eat between dinner and breakfast, or between breakfast and lunch. Hmmm.
    140 days ago
    I had a bit of a wake-up call when I watched a History channel show called "Alone" that involved competition between survival experts for who could last the longest in the wild (different spots in different seasons). What was interesting about this was how long the competitors went between eating, as hunter/gatherers in the wild. It was indeed DAYS. When they caught a fish, trapped a rabbit, or in one extreme case, brought down a moose, they both celebrated the catch and preserved what they could to eke out their subsistence.

    Their bodies and ours are not all that different. A few of them were unable to sustain themselves, and in periodic medical checks some got pulled from the competition because their health was at risk (lost too much weight).

    This gentle form of IF you describe is more what the agrarian society might have. I don't know where I'll end up with my eating cycles, but this is a phase of the experiment I definitely am pursuing: peace between my body, my mind, my emotions, and food, which is needed for life.

    I look to you as a shining beacon, leading the charge toward this El Dorado! emoticon emoticon
    140 days ago
    Interesting stuff … indeed.

    Fung believes that we don't eat too much necessarily but that we eat too … continuously.

    WOW emoticon

    I noticed a big difference when I STOPPED eating 5-6 times a day in the name of keeping my blood sugar balanced. I now eat 2-3 meals a day.

    I often debate with BFF the giant step backwards that Weight Watchers took when developing the point system vs food groups … in my opinion.

    BFF often ate her daily points in … chocolate kisses. Now what???
    140 days ago
    Yep, read two of his books. Very interesting.
    140 days ago
    Interesting indeed! What of those who need to eat a bit more often, such as every 3-4 hours, or they get dizzy, low sugar, etc.? Interesting stuff!
    140 days ago
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    140 days ago
  • YMWONG22
    140 days ago
    The other fact about fat is that it is necessary for carbohydrate metabolism. So if we nix fats, even healthy fats, from our nutrition plan, the carbs just are not metabolized and used properly. So . . . I'm all for things like avocado (in moderation), canola or olive oil and other healthy fats.

    Thanks for the link.
    140 days ago
    Totally agree with Dr Fung!
    140 days ago
    Eating like ancient persons. Brings out the hunter-gatherer in me!
    140 days ago
    Yes, interesting. Thanks!
    140 days ago
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