Monday, May 30, 2011

Energy expenditure in obese vs slim non dieters

Just before I get back to the prolonged fasting and weight loss post I thought I'd put this picture up.

It's slightly modified for clarity and taken from Fig 1 of this paper.

None of the 10 people in either column are being dieted, the graphs would be different under caloric restriction. I would, all things being equal (ie a linear relationship from thin through obese to a BMI of 50), expect the obese subjects to use/lose more adipose calories per day in proportion to their obesity if you suddenly withdrew all food.

They don't.

There's more on the study here, which has all of Fig 1 and has not been subjected to my activity with a rubber (OK, an eraser if that's less risque).



Ned Kock said...

Nice Peter. One thing to bear in mind is the wild variation in NEAT among individuals, which makes a means comparison a little difficult and yet may explain a lot why some people are better at losing body fat than others:

The TEF part makes me wonder if it leads to some type of inertia. Bodybuilders seem to be very effective at losing body fat by eating many small meals per day, typically low calorie meals.

Not optimal in my mind in terms of overall health, but perhaps an effective short-term strategy for losing body fat.

Ned Kock said...

Better link on NEAT:

karl said...

So why do obese people not lose faster? Do they move even less if feeling hungry?

My hunch is there is some thyroid action going on. T4 =>T3 conversion can be blocked by several things. I once made a picture trying to figure it out - just to many variables.


But there is more that needs to be added to that schematic - amylin is missing and I think something with leptin and interleukins.

(I think we need a schematic for adipose tissue regulation, insulin, leptin - or perhaps the whole thing should be expanded into one large schematic. )

I do know that when I was attempting to lose weight on a low-fat diet I would get cold - even if TSH was normal. Not so on a low carb diet. Why?

And why does a low carb diet reduce appetite when a low fat fails to? It would seem that amylin (a leptin cofactor) is secreted with insulin (in what amounts I don't know - or how regulated?) would tend to have the opposite effect!

There is more we need to learn..

Emily Deans, M.D. said...

Hmmm. We are going to have to rethink that whole gluttony and sloth thing. I wonder if our government recommendations for losing fat are misguided?

Chris said...

First thing I wondered about the chart was why people spent so much energy telling lies. Then I thought it must be an attempt to explain all the assertions about fat people having deficient personalities that affect their results in diet studies.

The preceding was a joke. Feel free to laugh now.

Ellen said...

Peter, found this just release study today, saying that insulin sensitivity has no effect on weight gain..

Now I'm really confused.

ett094 said...

I just looked (briefly) at the study, and the conclusion is based on some regression of weight gain on insulin sensitivity (among other variables). This is used to conclude causation which is clearly problematic. Why not do the regression the other way with regressing insulin sensitivity on weight gain...

Chris said...

Ellen, it's even weirder because it's "no effect on weight changes," either up or down, that were more prevalent in people with a BMI over 26. Even though up was about half again as likely as down.

But of course it's an observational study, not a controlled trial and it doesn't necessarily account for people's consumption of insulin-releasing materials.

It also suggests a behavioral explanation. Skinnier people will tend not to change the behavior that kept them skinny, but fat people who are getting fatter will either continue the behavior that's making them fatter or change their behavior to one that makes them skinnier.

Of course this is just ad hoc handwaving.

Makro said...

Good to see you on a posting spree again! Fun times as always.

OT - answer if ya feel like it:

What´s your take on Stephan Guyenet´s thinking about the food reward system, and Seth Robert´s ideas? Was listening to Kressers podcast and found the discussion interesting.

(I.e. this one

blogblog said...
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blogblog said...

Thermogenesis is the key to weight loss.

Physical (muscular) work only accounts for 20% of energy consumption. Heat accounts for the other 80%.

WW2 US Army experiments showed that soldiers used only 1500Cal in the tropics vs 6000Cal in the Arctic for identical workloads. This is equivalent to burning nearly 200kg more fat each year in a cold climate.

Obese people are better insulated and have lower surface/volume ratio.

The real key to weight loss is wearing far less clothing and having much cooler houses and work places (18C rather than 25C) not calorie restriction and more exercise. We should feel cool bordering on cold at all times.

The Ethiopian Highlands where humans evolved are only around 20C during the day and frequently very cold at at night. Yet naked hominids lived there for millions of years.

Poisonguy said...

Good point, blogblog. It makes intuitive sense (and I've been known to sleep without covers for this exact reason), however, I wonder if this theory is like exercise with its compensatory increase in appetite? For example, does daytime BMR compensate for this nighttime increase?

I think unless lowering temperature alters something at the cellular level to correct for the insulin resistance, or whatever is causing the obesity, then you probably just have another factor that has a compensatory mechanism elsewhere to keep the "setpoint" stuck where it was in the first point. Just a thought.

gunther gatherer said...

Blogblog, I know you don't care for Doug McGuff, but incidentally he recommends drinking 2 litres of ice cold water a day for fat loss because the body's caloric expense in bringing it up to 37ÂșC burns something like 200 kcals a day. While according to Taubes, having 5 lbs more muscle only burns 25 extra kcals a day.

I hope it's true. I'll take ice water over weights any day.

Makro said...

"I hope it's true. I'll take ice water over weights any day."

Well, weights make you feel good, unlike ice water. Oh, and they make you look better too... ;)

As for the temperature and weight regulation thing, I reckon we would have seen a general slimming down as air conditioning was introduced in hot areas, provided the theory was correct.

Now, in practice...

CarbSane said...

Agunther: It's more like at most 74 cal/day. A calorie = amount of energy to raise 1g H2O 1 degree C. Food calories are actually kilocalories. So 2L ice water = 2kg ice water. If the water is brought up to body temp before being excreted that's 2kcal per degree x 37 = 74 kcals.

The cold shower, plunge or doing something to induce shivering is probably a more effective strategy. Your body would need to expend energy to keep a far greater mass at 37 than 2kg.

@karl: Reduction in NEAT is documented with calorie restriction. The greater the restriction, the greater (on average) the reduction in NEAT.

@all: This assumes RMR remains constant. It goes down in response to caloric restriction.

blogblog said...

Northern European peasants spent as much as 3-5 months a year resting in bed to save energy. This only ended during the Industrial Revolution when the risk of starvation disappeared.

If you look at global obesity levels vs climate you will see quite a strong correlation (roughly 0.7). Hot humid climates are by far the hardest to lose body heat in.

Living in a hot humid climate drastically reduces appetite (if you don't have air conditioning).

I'm sure the consumption of sugary drinks rather than plain water in hot weather is a major factor in modern obesity. Two litres of Coke is an extra 860 calories.

The lowest obesity levels are in Korea and Japan which have cold climates. The highest obesity levels are in Melanesia and Mexico.

The highest obesity levels in the US are in the Deeps South. The lowest levels are in the Northeast

In Europe obesity is highest in the Mediterranean and lowest in Finland.

Unfortunately people tend to wear more clothing in air-conditioned buildings which negates the cooling effect. It also overcomes the loss of appetite caused by high body temperature.

I'm always amazed how people try to sleep in hot rooms covered with quilts. We need to be really cool (but not cold) to sleep properly.

As well as accepting a bit of cold we should also learn to cope with moderate hunger. Both do us a lot of good.

Chewing or sucking ice is an exceptionally effective way to cool the body. Eating frozen snow to rehydrate can cause fatal hypothermia. Polar explorers always ate their food and drinks as hot as possible to maximise energy intake.

Poisonguy said...

Hey, Carbsane, that 74 kcal is likely pretty reproducible in a bomb calorimeter, but humans are not bomb calorimeters. We do not process energy in the same way. Heat/cold is not conducted across membranes with the same conductance as it is across metal surfaces. Enzyme efficiency might also be affected by a change in temperature, etc. I don't know if the 200 kcal estimate is accurate, but given that we aren't bomb calorimeters, it's reasonable to assume it might be plausible. I'd think.

Poisonguy said...

Those are all correlations, blogblog. The cofounders are numerous. Do you know what's going on at the cellular level?

blogblog said...
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blogblog said...

What happens at the cellular level is utterly irrelevant to us as humans. All that counts is what happens at the level of the complete organism.

In the real world it often doesn't really matter why something works except as an intellectual curiosity.

blogblog said...


It's more like at most 74 cal/day. A calorie = amount of energy to raise 1g H2O 1 degree C. Food calories are actually kilocalories. So 2L ice water = 2kg ice water. If the water is brought up to body temp before being excreted that's 2kcal per degree x 37 = 74 kcals.

That isn't correct. There are two separate processes - melting the ice and heating the water.

333.55 J/g (heat of fusion of ice) = 333.55 kJ/kg
= 667.1 kJ for 2kg of ice to melt


4.18 J/(g·K) = 4.18 kJ/(kg·K)
= 4.18*2*37
= 309.32

Total = 976.42KJ
= 233.2Cal

So Doug McGuff is correct.

Chris said...


He is not correct. The process in question is drinking 2l of ice water, not eating 2kg of ice chips. The vast majority of the ice will melt in the glass--i.e. outside the body--to keep the water cool. You might net another 2 or 3 kcals melting microscopic ice crystals and the occasional swallowed chunk of ice.

Also, if you're eating straight ice, it's rather rare in practice to find ice as a stable solid at precisely the transition temperature. So you would need to bring the ice up to temp from, say, -13C (my freezer temp) as well as melt it and heat the water, which nets another 55 kJ or 13 kcal since the specific heat of ice is 2.108 kJ/kg*K.

gunther gatherer said...

This is interesting. I wonder how many cold drinks Peter is necking during the day to burn through 3000 kcals?

To add more gasoline to this fire, McGuff also says that staying hydrated has an overall net fat-loss effect because it signals that the environment is abundant with food. In his reasoning, dehydration is perceived by the body as drought, which is usually followed by famine. This tells the body to store fat (whether through higher insulin, higher appetite, or some other factor I don't know of) because game/vegetation will soon be scarce.

The body's perception of the abundance/scarcity in its surroundings is a field we haven't discussed much of yet here. Sounds like Stephan's territory.

CarbSane said...

@blogblog: iceWATER is liquid. Now if someone is chewing and swallowing 2 liters worth of ice*, then your calculation would be correct. Good luck with that one. A dentist friend of mine really frowns on chomping ice cubes.

*and that would have to be more volume of ice since ice is less dense than water to be equivalent to 2kg H2O

@Poisonguy: C'mon man. Are you suggesting that it takes a different amount of energy to heat 2kg of water up 37 degrees in a human body than, say, for the sun to heat it in a bucket? We do not "metabolize" water to warm it up!

David Isaak said...

I take BCAAs after weight training. The nicest way to take them is to dump them into a Vitamix blender and whip them together with ice cubes.

The net effect is something like a frozen Daquiri, and it is VERY cold (enough for a classic ice-cream headache if you drink too fast).

Drinking large volumes of ice water has a number of other effects apart from requiring the warming of the fluid to body temperature. It also stops the digestive system in its tracks, slows the rate of absorption of the water through the intestines, and probably has many other effects of which we are unaware.

Speaking as someone whose academic background is in thermodynamics, I don't feel that any of the heat capacity calculations here are all that relevant. Be it ice or be it cold water, we don't accomplish heat transfer with percect reversibility nor do we generate heat with perfect efficiency--and changing local body temperature also alters enzyme activity (and probably does a thousand other things as well).

That said, I have to agree with CarbSane that you probably get a stronger effect on calorie burn through cold-water immersion than by drinking it.

Poisonguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Poisonguy said...

Oh, and what David says (he understands).

blogblog said...

Many ears ago I was at a very hot nightclub. I started drinking ice water (mostly ice). After about 6-8 glasses I began shivering. It was a really bizarre experience to be shivering in a hot place.

In practice ice standing in a glass is always at OC. As soon as it is taken out of the freezer some of it melts and forms a eutectic mixture. The temperature of the ice/water mix remains constantly at 0C until the ice has completely melted. Ice water baths are often used in laboratories as a simple way to maintain a constant temperature of exactly 0C.

JohnN said...

Blogblog at 12:44PM:
It is indeed highly relevant what happens at the cellular level. Search mitochondrial respiration and uncoupling as the source of thermogenesis or proton leak across the mitochondrial membrane. From there it's a short jump to ROS management and health. Hints: expression of uncoupling protein does not come from carb consumption and ability to rapidly switch from heat generation to ATP production is a feature of health.
Nick Lane's Sex, Power and Suicide is a good source.

blogblog said...


I will repeat myself. Knowing the underlying cellular mechanisms is absolutely irrelevant to human health.

Humans were far healthier (except for trauma and infections) before they had any formal understanding whatsoever of medicine or physiology.

The increase in longevity in the past 100 years is almost entirely due to increased hygiene (clean drinking water, sewerage and refigeration) not medicine.

The wild birds in my backyard "know" far more about nutrition and a healthy lifestyle than any human experts. It was demonstrated as early as the 1920s that chickens given a choice of natural foods could easily achieve a far more balanced diet and better weight control than a diet formulated by the leading animal nutrition experts.[Wild chickens eat mostly small invertebrates and leafy greens not seeds].

The very idea that we can fully understand and control cellular processes is a mixture of complete arrogance and utter delusion. It is many orders of magnitude more complex than controlled nuclear fusion. It won't happen in 10 years, 100 years or probably even in 1000 years.

In 2002 Professor Peter Doherty, a Nobel Laureate in immunology, gave a speech on the 50th anniversary of the publication of the structure of DNA. He said that no major medical breakthrough had been achieved via genetics in the previous 50 years. He added that it was quite possible that any major breakthroughs would take another 50 years. The US national Institutes of Health gave a similar bleak opinion of the almost futile 25 year "War on Cancer".

[It should be noted than none of the co-discovers of DNA had any prior training in medicine or genetics (Maurice Wilkins- chemist, James Watson - ornithologist, Francis Crick - physicist].

karl said...

That paper at Body Weight, Not Insulin Sensitivity or Secretion, May Predict Spontaneous Weight Changes in Nondiabetic and Prediabetic Subjects: The RISC Study

is troubling - I know that insulin plays a roll - I've seen the fat deposits at injection sites of people taking insulin.

Could be that the role of leptin, lectins, triglyceride induced leptin resistance is dominates? Like to see a controlled study.

karl said...

I'm not sold on NEAT helping with weight loss - my hunch is it will turn out the same as exercise - good for health, but doesn't help one lose weight - due to increased appetite.

My hunch is that T4 => T3 conversion rates are controlled to limit metabolism by the brain and endocrine system..

The set point contrl points to Leptin/lectins/trygly/fructose..

Jenna said...

Mirrorball said...

Just about everyone who has even been on a diet knows that the heavier you are, the faster you lose, and that the infamous "last 10 lb" are by far the hardest and slowest to go. Seriously, just ask anyone who has been on a diet for more than a few months. Initial water loss or small samples might obscure the difference, but it exists.

cavenewt said...

"Thermogenesis is the key to weight loss."

When hot flashes came into my life, I thought it might lead to weight loss (though I'm not overweight). Doesn't seem to have done so.