The silliness of low fat foods

The world, scientists and governments included, is full of people trying to make humans less fat. One solution which everyone seems to promote is to develop low calorie foods. This is a false solution to this problem of humans "getting fat". Why?

George is eating more of those low fat cookies!

By making a cookie which is 50% less calories, you are not controlling the actual intake of calories of your human (or animal). How do you ensure that they will not eat DOUBLE the amount of cookies??? The assumption these guys are making is that you eat with your eyes---that you will eat the same volume. Clearly if you were to eat the same volume of cookies, and one set of cookies were 50% less less calories than the other, you will actually take in less calories. But my point is that you will double the volume (or number) of cookies you eat!!!
In fact even if a cookie is only 2% the calories or the original cookie, I can always argue that your test animal or human will eat 50 times the amount of these low calorie cookies. In practice however, our test subject finds calories in other ways, and doesn't need to eat 50 times the lousy tasteless low calorie cookies.

I have mentioned in a previous post that I have enough data to believe that weight of a human is not controllable for extended periods of time (more than a few weeks) and bodies tend to revert to their natural weight. If that weight is obese or overweight, not much can be done by feeding them low calorie diets, of sham and scam programs like Herbalife, Dr. Atkins. etc.

I say no to low calorie foods! People will eat double the quantity of a 50% calorie food and get their calories anyway-and how do you stop that!

In general, all attempts to control weight seem to be go nowhere. Look at the amount of fat doctors out there! And it is not a question of will power either-there are plenty of fat military people in the world. Doctors are intelligent people who know that eating more makes you fat, but they can't control how much they eat everyday. Military people are intelligent and have LOTS of Self control and will power, and they seem to fail miserably at trying to become thin.

Your weight is determined primarily by your genes.

Fat is your emergency calorie reserve

What I have seen from observing people of all ages around me is that the fat ones don't eat significantly more than the ones who are not fat. I myself have gained a bunch of kilos as I have aged, but don't find myself eating more than before. What is true is that I move less, I do less physical activity. I think the reserve, the fat in the body stored for emergency purposes, is the real constant; if you ingest less food (less calories), you will do less physical activity, to maintain that level of fat or reserve which you genetic makeup is comfortable with.

The reserve of fat has  a huge use for animals. It is your emergency food; and the reserve required by people to go on around doing their normal life is highly variable because of inherent genetic differences between them. It has a tendency to be hereditary-we all expect that thin parents will give birth to thin children; and obese parents to obese children. This is also true for animals-it is always good to check you theories about humans against animals; most should hold water for all animals (and humans are an animal).

Fattening of cows in meat eating countries like Chile, Argentina or USA is done all the time-and may make you think that there is a causality there. You give these cows more food; and they seem to get fatter. But you must consider that you actively select for cows which get fat, and remove the strains of cows which don't get fat, so over time we have genetically selected cows which have a propensity to get fat when offered enough food. Also, most calves are thin and do not accumulate fat. The reserve fat tendency kicks in as the body gets older, generally speaking.

We eat to get calories (Energy)

Looking at it in another manner-why do we eat? Why do all animals eat? We eat not to satisfy our eyes or feelings-we eat because we want calories. An organism needs food, calories-to keep itself going. It is a simple machine, physics model of life-you need energy to produce work.

Furthermore, a part of the energy you intake is stored as fat. This is your reserve-when you can't find food easily, you will live off this fat on your body. It makes sense that this reserve increases as you grow older-your ability to find food goes down with age. It is the reserve, the fat in your body, which is the constant; your activity and calorie-burn is balanced with the intake to always retain a certain reserve, which seems to go up as you age. If you eat less, by dieting for example, you will just burn less-always to maintain the same amount of fat in and around your body. See some more explanation of this here

If you see this, you can see the absurdity of low-fat foods and why I doubt that you can lose weight. The real reason why you eat is because you are looking for calories. So if you feed me something which looks like it has calories, but doesn't, or looks like it has X calories, but only has X/2, it doesn't matter. I will keep eating or looking for food until my calorie intake requirement (hunger) is satisfied.

In losing weight, I do not count the few cases where by force, or some necessity, you are able to lose weight (e.g. your work demanding extra fitness, etc) but those are not fun situations to be in. What I mean is that for normal individuals, who have food abundantly available, it is difficult to lose weight just because you like to become thin. It is not in your hands.

If you accept my theory that your weight is determined primarily by your genes, that you can't do much about it by eating x or y or exercising, that the fat in your body is the reserve you carry because it is the body's way of ensuring you have some calories in case you don't get food, and that your weight is an increasing function of age (the reserve you carry around is higher as your get older), you can explain some things quite easily (a good theory should explain observed things).

a) When I was in my early twenties, I used to eat more more than I eat today (in my forties). But I was thinner in my twenties than I am in my forties. Well it is because my reserve requirement is higher in my forties, and even if I eat less than I would in my twenties, I am fatter. It follows that if I eat less, I spend even less energy (walk around less, sleep more etc) to maintain my body fat.

b) Even when people get liposuction, they find that the fat grows back in the same part or other parts of the body! This is a remarkable thing, giving a lot of credence to my proposition that the body is trying to maintain a reserve in the form of fat, so much so that even a surgical removal of the fat will cause a regrowing of it as the same place, or another place. Link to NYT article here.

c) Children are always eating, while adults eat less than children; however, on an average, children are thinner than adults. The number of thin children who grow up into fat adults (in their forties!) is much higher than the number of fat children who grow up into thin adults. The reserve requirement of an adult are much higher than children (body's ability to forage and find food goes down with age). This effect is also seen in animals-a look at some Discovery channel items about gorillas, chimps, and other animals in the wild will show you clearly that on an average, children are thinner (have less fat) than adults. For me, as I have pointed out in other posts, when the same stuff is observed in humans and animals, it gives a lot of credence to any assertion from a purely biological point of view, when we are treated as just another animal.
---
Here's a scientific which is a step the right direction for "proving" what I have been able to observe empirically...

We've found the gene that makes you fat, claim scientists studying obesity

Obesity doesn't cause diseases, it maybe correlated to some diseases, that's all

With this, it should be obvious how wrong theories of obesity being the cause of illness is.

Obesity is said to cause diabetes, high or low blood pressure (depending on the doc who examines you), back problems, etc. etc. These illnesses are caused by other things-genetic and internal factors most probably, and obesity can be another effect, they can be correlated, but obesity is not causing these diseases. And therefore, making someone less fat forcibly will not reduce their chances of getting diabetes, high blood pressure or back pain.

Obesity is also said to increase risk of heart attacks. Bad science about cholesterol is thrown in to make this look more scientific. Lots of fat people do not get heart attacks. Lots of thin people do get heart attacks. Even the correlation there is questionable.

Similarly, high cholesterol is said to increase risk of heart attacks. Once again, lots of high cholesterol people do not get heart attacks, and lots of people who have low cholesterol do get heart attacks. So firstly, even the correlation (that high heart attacks and high cholesterol go together, positive correlation) is questionable. WORSE STILL, even if the correlation is fine, the causality is not established. Same goes for obesity increasing risk of heart attacks.

The genetic factors are CAUSING two things-people becoming fat and people getting diabetes. The correlation exists-but removing one effect forcibly will not reduce the incidence of the other effect. Confusing correlation with causality is a regular theme of this blog (similar to Taleb's Fooled by Randomness argument), and attributing obesity to cause diseases like diabetes and heart attack is another example of where this is being done.

Sanjay