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We are a worldwide social network of freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and secular humanists.

We people in the wealthier countries are getting fatter. In the USA, about two-thirds of the population are overweight, and about one-fifth are obese. This has been happening despite an enormous increase in weight-loss diets.

The latest research seems to show two main results.

First, the actual diet doesn't matter so long as you actually reduce your calorie intake and do more exercise. And second, while reducing calorie intake is an important part of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, a calorie that you eat may not add up to a calorie available to your body.

A lot of diets tend to focus on the constituents of our food: fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It turns out that you can write a book demonising any two of these constituents — say the carbohydrates and the fats — and then claiming that only the remaining constituent — say the protein — is worth eating. Or they may claim that carbohydrates and protein are evil, but you can eat all the fats you like.

However, research did find that the differing proportions of carbohydrate, protein and fat didn't really matter in terms of weight loss. All you had to do was to reduce overall calorie intake in a way that was healthy to your heart. That is, low levels of saturated fats and cholesterol, and high levels of dietary fibre. The individual macro nutrient choice — fat, protein, carbohydrate — didn't matter; just the reduced calories with a bit of exercise.

Now for the second, and rather confusing, claim that "a calorie is not a calorie". Now, in the land of dietetics, a calorie is the amount of energy needed to heat up a kilogram of water by 1°C. (Strictly speaking I know we should talk in kilojoules where one calorie is about 4.2 kilojoules, but calories are so well-known.)

The number of calories assigned to each food is based on a system set up by Wilbur Olin Atwater around the year 1900. He simply 'burnt' each food type — fat, protein and carbohydrate -— in a machine called a bomb calorimeter and measured how much energy it generated. From that, he worked out how much energy was in each foodstuff depending upon its relative proportions of fat, protein or carbohydrate. And this is the overly simple system that we still use today.

Of course, the real energy calculation is much more complicated.

For one thing, it costs your body different amounts of energy to digest different foods. So fats need only two or three per cent of their inherent energy to digest them; while carbohydrates need five to 10 per cent; and proteins need a massive 25 per cent to unravel the tightly wound amino acids that make them up.

So if you eat 100 calories of fat or 100 calories of protein, your body will have access to 98 calories for the fat, but only 75 calories for the proteins.

Second, the Atwater method deals with the total potential amount of energy in the food. But, for example, in the case of almonds, a significant amount of energy — about one-third — does not get extracted but goes straight through your gut into your faeces.

Food preparation is the third factor in the 'calorie is not a calorie' story. Depending on the food, you will make a lot more energy available to your body if you first process it by grinding or pounding it to increase its surface area; or by cooking it (boiling it, baking, grilling, sautéing etc); or fermenting it. For example, mice lose weight when they only eat raw sweet potato, but gain weight eating cooked sweet potato. And they gain a little weight when eating raw meat, but gain more weight with eating cooked meat.

A fourth factor is that people differ from one another. Consider the length of the gut. Back in the early 1900s some European scientists decided to measure the length of the intestine. They found that some specific Russian populations had an extra half metre of bowels as compared to some Polish populations. The longer gut meant that the Russians could extract more energy from their diet than could the Poles.

And of course, we all have different populations of bacteria (and the like) in our digestive tracts that can both extract more energy from our food, and then leave for us greater or lesser amounts of energy.

And finally, it costs us more energy to process whole foods than processed foods.

So the weighty question is: how do we make a simple message about eating fewer calories easier to digest …?

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There are other variables. People have different metabolisms, different numbers of fat cells formed during childhood, different levels of stomach acid strength. The truth is that humans are not all the same, we do not all absorb calories the same.  Having said that there are enough similarities that certain foods do lead us to over consume like high fructose corn syrup, aspartame and fats.  Soda pops are purposely engineered to cause the consumer to consume vast quantities.

It is no accident that they are full of caffeine a diuretic, and sodium. The diuretic to dehydrate you and the sodium to leave you even thirstier.  Of course it takes lots of sweetener to hide the bitter taste of the caffeine and salty taste of the sodium.  We have all seen those who have fallen into this trap of carrying a large container of soda pop around all day drinking their way to obesity, and diabetes, while making huge profits for the soda pop industry.

Perhaps the true answer to solving these problems is charging the corporations appropriately for the harms their products cause to the health of society and our environment.    Then this money could be directly put into health care to cover the costs of eating these sugary, fattening, dangerous foods.  At the same time pull all the government subsidies off these dangerous fast foods, and let the corporations pass the true health and environmental costs off onto consumers.  If every big gulp cost $25.00 and every quarter pound hamburger cost $250.00 we would soon see free enterprise at work. Healthier food and drink choices that cost less would soon replace these unhealthy choices.   Makes too much sense, I know.

I like your idea!

What to eat and in what quantities is a really tough question. 

We aren't eating diets based on ancestry - for example bone broth soups.

It's common to find what's called broth in the supermarket - That's way different than stock that contains the marrow in broth.

That is why I make my own stock. Also allows a great range for flavours of the stock.

I guess it's more profitable for big cattle to grind up the bones as bone meal to grow corn to feed the cows.  It's a sick devolution.

Well from what I have been told that about fedlot cattle is that part of the feed they are fed comes from poultry sheds as it contains urea which is a form of nitrogen which is needed to make protein. 

But it may be false but when you think about it chicken shit is high in nitrogen so with suitable preparation could be used to feed cattle. ???????

Producing blood and bone for fertiliser goes some way back as they needed a way to dispose of the bones, the hoofs, horns and other waste products from butchering cattle and sheep.

The gelatine you buy is made from the hooves and other waste parts that can produce gelatine.

also by converting their wastes to something that someone else could use helped with the abattoir's bottom line.

I Know some things about shit and know that these abattoirs are piling up cattle - same with pig and chicken (Ranchers) into one place and destroying the surrounding community.

I guess as long as we want to have nice mowed grass in our front yard the stench of what we eat doesn't matter.

The geletan is pulled out and sold as a separate product rather than being used in soups that are commercially produced making the soup less nutritious.

I don't think you would argue that the cows raised on a feedlots fed on corn (which they haven't evolved to eat) and standing below their knees in shit therefore given antibiotics results in less nutritious meat that was raised on a pasture.

After moving from the country to the Northen San Francisco Bay Area I see a two tiered food system. 

GMO's sold so they can be grown with the goal of selling and using huge amounts of poison is a good example of how big Ag is destroying our planet and nutrition.

And finally, it costs us more energy to process whole foods than processed foods.

If your body can't digest gluten then try gluten free whole grains easy to digest, a metabolism booster, helps you lose weight.

So the weighty question is: how do we make a simple message about eating fewer calories easier to digest …?

Yeah, I believe that eating foods that are easy to digest promote better digestive health but, chose foods that are less in calories and easy to digest at the same time like green leafy vegetables, yogurt, bananas..
but not that when it comes to losing then, it's tricky, some people don't pay attention to how to boost their metabolism when they decide to lose weight..
workouts, eating small meals every 3 hours, add fish to your diet, orange juice all these can boost your metabolism.

The uncooked food movement is a good example of getting less nutrition from the same food. I'm mainly talking about veggies like carrots, beans and starches here. Cooked food is what distinguishes us as humans. Since we don't have 4 stomachs we need our food cooked to maximize the nutritional value.

I'm learning that whole wheat bread available in the supermarket is way less beneficial than breads that were made ancestrally where the grain was aged, fermented and soured then ground fresh before being made into bread in a process of further fermentation (through rising) with the yeast to make good bread. Store bough bread doesn't have time for the yeast to work properly. This results in high concentrations of pyhtic acid, which in my case is causing demineralization of my teeth. I'm reading that unbleached white flour sourdough bread is more nutritious than whole wheat bread. I'm also reading that semonole flour is better than whole wheat flour for the same reason - the bran and germ aren't good for you because of the phytic acid they contain.

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