Low calorie diet, weight loss, thermodynamics and family budget

By Sergey Skudaev


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Many people believe that low calorie food is healthier than regular food. They believe that when you eat low calories food you can consume more food and still be thin.

Let us look at that believ from physics point of view. All living things as well as not living things obey the same laws of physics. If your car consumes 1 gallon of gas for each 20 miles you cannot make it consume less gas. You may buy different car or change car engine to spend less for gas, but you cannot change gas consumption for the same car with the same engine.

Let us starts from the beginning. What is calorie? Calorie is the amount of energy that is required to increase the temperature of one milliliter of water by one degree of Celsius. If we assume that human body in 80% is water then we can calculate how much energy required increasing body temperature from 22 C which is a room temperature to 36.5 C which is normal temperature of the body. Let say the man weights is 70 kg or 70,000 g. (Approximately, 140 LB)

36.5 - 22 = 14 * 70,000 = 980000 cal or 980 kilocalories. 1 kcal =1000 cal

Only to rise our temperature to 36.5 we need 980 kcal. If we stop producing heat our body temperature will drop back to room temperature and to produce heat we need constantly consume energy.

Energy that we need while doing nothing is called basic metabolic rate. The basic metabolic rate depends on body mass and body surface. Also, it depends on some hormones. For example, thyroid gland hormone thyroxin increases production of heat and as a result increases basic metabolic rate. If you lived in Florida for a long time and then moved to Michigan, it will take few months to get used to a new climate. Your thyroid gland will produce more thyroxin and you will feel much better, but your basic metabolic rate will be increased and you will consume more calories than you did in Florida.

Our body use energy not only to keep body temperature, but also for different biochemical reactions and mechanical actions. It is said that active person needs 3000 kcal of energy per day.

It is known that 1 gram of carbohydrates or proteins produce 4 kcal of energy and one gram of fat produces 9 kcal.

Let us imagine that we have two persons: one buys regular food and one buys food with 50% less calories. They both consume 2000 kcal per day.

Let us imagine that the regular food cost $4.00 / LB and low calorie food cost $8.00/LB For simplicity sake, let us assume that one gram of food produce 3 kcal of energy. Let us calculate how many calories are produced from one pound of regular food. 1 pound = 453.59237 grams. Let us round it to 454g.

The first person, to consume 2000 kcal, will consume 2000/3 kcal/g =666.6 g of food. Let us convert 666.6 g to pound and it will be 666.6g/454g=1.468 or 1.5 LB. Let us calculate cost of food for the first person.

1.5 LB * $4.00 = $6.00

Now, let us calculate how much one kcal cost for the person who eats regular food. 3.00 / 2000 = 0.30 cents

Let us perform the same calculation for the second person Her food contains 50% calories. It means one gram of her food produce only 1.5 kcal. To consume 2000 kcal she will consume 2000 kcal /1.5 kcal/g = 1333 g of food. Let us convert it to pounds. 1333 g /454 g = 2.9 LB

Since food with low calories is more expensive, let us calculate how much she will pay for her daily food. 2.9 LB * $8.00 = $23.48 Now, let us calculate how much one kcal cost for the person who eats food with low calories. $23.48/ 2000 = 1.17

Now let us compare. Person who eats regular food spends $6.00 per day, while person who eats food with low calories spends $24 per day. Each kcal cost 0.3 cents for the first person and 1.2 cents for the second.

Some one may argue that health is more important than money. It is true, but food with low calories not necessary is healthier than regular food. Remember, that to make food less caloric they should process it. Do you know how they produce low calorie food? How they do that? Are you sure they do not add some chemicals in a process. To eat healthy we have care not about limiting calories. We should care mostly about receiving all necessary nutrients and food with low calories may lack some of them.

Besides, if you live in a family that do not have unlimited budget you should realize that if you will spend on your "healthy" food too much money, the other family members will be forced to spend less on their food and eat unhealthy only because you, following your irrational believes, are spending more than necessary.

If you can control yourself you may eat regular food and not eat more than necessary. If you cannot control yourself then you may overeat even if you buy low calories food.

High fat and sugar diet is very bad for you. It means you have to eat food that is naturally low in fat or sugar and not because fat and sugar was removed/extracted from it by some technological process.

Do not consume artificial sweeteners. Even if they are harmless it is bad because you deceive your nervous and endocrine system. When we eat sweet food, that contains sugar our mouth precepts sweet taste and informs our nervous system that sugar is coming in our body. It stimulates endocrine system and pancreas produces insulin. If you eat sweetener that does not contain sugar it still stimulates our mouth taste receptors, misinforming our nervous system that sugar is coming. Insulin may be produced when no sugar is consumed.

We all hear a lot how bad is high blood sugar, but rarely do we hear how bad low sugar is. The low sugar can cause brain damage, because sugar is only one source of energy for our brain. When our brain experiences lack of sugar, it initiates gluconeogenesis, a process, when our muscle proteins are broken down to amino acids which are converted to glucose to feed the brain. That is why anorexia produces muscles' dystrophy, brain damage and osteoporosis due to lack of calcium. Starving is not better for our health than overeating.