Is It All About Processing?

July 15th, 2011 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

Did you hear about the guy who lost 27 pounds in 8 weeks by eating the majority of his calories in the form of Ho Hos, Little Debbie cakes, and Twinkies?

Holy cow.

Somewhat reminiscent of the guy from SuperSize Me, this researcher wanted to prove that a calorie is a calorie, no matter what form it takes.

In fact he was correct: he lost the weight by cutting his normal 2,600 calories per day down to 1,800 calories per day.

It should seem like he lost some good health in there along the way!

Bless the researchers; someone else was trying to figure out what else mattered when it comes to processed food versus whole food.  THEY found some interesting things happening after each type of meal.

The study was conducted with the attention focused on the biological processes that occur in our bodies after we eat: the postprandial thermogenic response.  (My dad taught thermodynamics so I know that thermogenic has to do with the production of heat.  I tried Symlin for a few months so I know that postprandial means after eating.)

A calorie is in our world today a measurement we most commonly use to apply to food and exercise, but it comes from science and means, in thermodynamic terms, an amount of heat equal to 4.1840 joules.  (I have no recollection what that is or why it matters.  My last chemistry class was 18 years ago and I wasn’t very good at it at the time.)

ANYWAY, sorry for that tangent, but it matters for this study.  The researchers discovered that, 5-6 hours after the participants ate their cheese and bread sandwiches, the amount of heat/energy
produced was very different if the sandwiches were made of whole food or of processed food.

Fifty percent kind of different.

The average energy expenditure after the whole food meal was nearly 20% of the calories in the sandwich; the average for the processed food was 10.7%.

The wise researchers concluded that: “this reduction in daily energy expenditure has potential implications for diets comprised heavily of processed foods and their associations with obesity.”  I would say that potential implication is none other than that bugger Obesity.

It seems to me (an entirely unscientific person) that no matter what, food needs to be processed before our bodies can use it.  The potential outcome of that usage is calculated in terms of heat: the calorie.

I think we have outsourced those required processes to manufacturers instead of getting our food from farmers and processing it ourselves.

And look what has happened: rising obesity rates.

Think how fast that guy could have lost his 27 pounds if he had been
processing longer after he ate by eating whole food instead of processed snack cakes.


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