We all use scientific theories to predict and describe the world around us. Without them we would not be able to communicate what we are seeing and doing at any point in time or space. Scientific theories have been used to describe our world for hundreds of years; from gravitational laws by Newton to quantum concepts of light particles and waves by Planck.
Stephen Hawking defines a “simple-minded” view of a scientific theory as;
‘a model of the universe, or a restricted part of it, and a set of rules that relate quantities in the model to observations that we make.’
Throughout human existence our knowledge has grown and our ability to predict the future based on what we are observing today has become incredibly reliable. From thinking the world is flat until the 1800’s to being able to prove the universe is expanding outwards with the red shift theory. As we continually learn more about the world and the physical bodies we live in, theories need to adapt, grow or change so that they continually and accurately predict what we are observing and experiencing. So a theory can only hold if it predicts that which we actually observed in the real world.
Today, the human race is growing, not just in number but in individual physical size. We are currently experiencing the highest levels of obesity known in history. This comes at a time when we believe we know the most about nutrition, calories and weight loss. At present, calories are used to define the energy availability in the food we are eating. They are used on all packaging and we are told to watch and restrict how many calories we are eating. However, if we are observing a society increasing in physical size, to the point that the Government Office for Science predict half the population to be clinically obese by 2050, surely we must ask the question; are calories a true representation of what value food holds to the human body? If they were a true representation surely we would be experiencing a time with the slimmest and healthiest population.
In this paper, I am going to attempt to show you why the calorie concept needs to be addressed as it does not accurately predict what the human body needs. To do this we must firstly asking the question, what is one calorie? Following this, it is imperative we understand where we have come from and why the human body needs fuel. This will lead to where I believe we are presently going wrong and in doing so answer the question; are calories a true representation of what value food holds to the human body? I will then propose a different scientific theory to take into account what the body needs and how society needs to view food from this day on.
What is a calorie?
A calorie is a unit of measurement used to define an amount of energy. It was first defined by Nicolas Clément in 1824 as a unit of heat, entering French and English dictionaries between 1841 and 1867. In most fields its use is archaic, having been replaced by the joule. However, in many countries it remains in common use as a unit of food energy.
The Calorie you see on a food package is actually a kilocalorie, or 1,000 calories. A Calorie (kcal) is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1oC.
The original method used to determine the number of kcals in a given food directly measured the energy it produced. The food was placed in a sealed container surrounded by water, an apparatus known as a bomb calorimeter. The food was completely burned and the resulting rise in water temperature was measured. This method is not frequently used today. Instead they use indirect calorie estimations using the Atwater system. Rather than burning every food they instead calculate total calories by adding up the calories provided by the energy containing nutrients: protein, carbohydrate, fat and alcohol.
The Atwater system uses the average values of 4 Kcal/g for protein, 4 Kcal/g for carbohydrate, and 9 Kcal/g for fat. Alcohol is calculated at 7 Kcal/g. (These numbers were originally determined by burning and then averaging.) Thus the label on an energy bar that contains 10 g of protein, 20 g of carbohydrate and 9 g of fat would read 201 kcals or Calories.
The scientific theory of calories fit with Stephen Hawking view of what a scientific model is, in that it is a set of rules that relate quantities in the model to observations that we make for energy. However, it only relates it to the way an object is burnt. It does not predict what will happen in the human body with food materials and their energy availability. Therefore calories, as a scientific theory, must be challenged so that as humans we get foods that will support and nourish us.
Where have we come from?
The first Homo sapiens emerged on this planet some 200,000 years ago. From then until approximately 10,000 years ago our ancestors used the land they lived on to survive, evolve and adapt. They lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering plants and shell fish.
Change started to occur for the human race approximately 10,000 years ago with cereal farming, cattle being domesticated and people settling for the first time, ‘civilisation began’. This changed our diets, lifestyles and made us more sedentary.
Then in Britain, the Industrial Revolution began about 200 years ago, with transport and storage methods improving and supporting large cities which further lead to commercialised foods, chemicals (both added to foods and pharmaceutical) sedentary lifestyles and new psychological stress.
The human genome (the entirety of an organism’s hereditary information) has taken millions of years to evolve yet in the last 100-200 years our lifestyles and eating habits have drastically changed. The change has been that fast that the human genome has not had the chance to evolve. The disparity between the lifestyle and foods of today and our genetics has lead to the epidemics we face; obesity, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.
Through the natural selection process of evolution we have evolved as omnivores, we are designed to eat vegetables and animal tissue. We are not designed to eat highly processed, fast farmed, chemically enhanced and generally damaged ‘food’. We no longer eat a diet similar to the one with which we evolved. We have only changed one tenth of one percent since caveman days.
Why does the human body need fuel/food?
The human body needs fuel for two reasons; to have energy to move, from the heart beating to running a marathon, and to provide the body with the all the building blocks it needs to grow and survive.
The human body is made up of approximately one hundred thousand million cells. These cells are the building block of the human body and are constantly regenerating. The body can make up to 3 million cells per second. In an average lifetime, a person sheds 18-22kg of dead skin alone.
Human cells act as the chemical factory of the body, processing raw materials, in the form of amino acids, sugars and fats, into energy and useful materials to sustain and grow life.
To function and move, from our heart beating to lifting a glass, we require energy. This energy is produced in your body from oxidising food which is an exothermic reaction (releases energy in the form of heat). The body transports glucose and fats (predominately, although amino acids are also utilised under certain circumstances) to the cells in tissue and here they react with oxygen and enzymes to release energy, through a complex biochemical pathway.
It is important to note, at NO point in this process is direct heat (a flame) applied to the raw material to cause energy to be released. This only occurs in the laboratory when calculating calories. It is not heat that caused the reaction in the human body, heat is simply the by product of a chemical structure being oxidised, changed and utilised as Mother Nature intended it to be with the use of natural enzymes and transporters.
Our bodies require many different chemical compounds, vitamins, minerals and trace elements to survive. We are unable to make all these, therefore we need to put them in our body in the form of food. Like with energy creation, the raw materials, mostly amino acids, are taken to the cells and undergo complex biochemical processes allowing the body to create and take what it needs to repair the body and build new cells. So the very foods we are eating are used to create the next living cells.
Processed and packaged foods have been stripped of many if not all of their nutrients through the mechanical and heat processes they have been put through. These foods do not provide the body with the building blocks it needs leaving the body with insufficient vitamins, minerals and trace elements. This leaves us wanting more food and over eating more no nourishing foods.
So, as humans we need to consume foods that allow the body, through complex biochemical pathways, to repair and grow its self and create energy as it is required.
Answer the question; are calories a true representation of what value food holds for the human body.
Calories are NOT a true representation of what value food holds for the human body.
1. We are observing the greatest obesity epidemic at a time when we have the most information on calories and how many we should be eating.
The human body is clever but even it cannot count. The body does not say ‘2000 calories, thank you I am now full for the day’. The body does not care how many calories it eats, all food contains energy in the form of chemical bonds, what the body wants is nourishment to make the next ‘x’ million cells. Not all foods contain nourishment.
2. Wood contains calories, should we eat it?
The quantifiable concept of calories came from physics. It was used to calculate energy in material. For this reason we can calculate the calories in your dining room table. Does that mean we should eat it? Almost, everything (water does not) has a calorific content because we can set fire to it. This does not mean the item is good for us as humans to eat. Fast food burgers contain around 280 Calories. However, if you leave them on the side for a month they do not break down. No enzymes or bacteria attack it or try to feed on it. We rely on enzymes (along with other processes) as a human to break down food in the gut, surely we want to see the foods we are going to eat be broken down by natural bacteria and enzymes. If we left a banana out it would go black and break down. Is a fast food burger a better table than a food and is a table (wood) more nourishing than a fast food burger?
3. At no point does the human body set fire to the food it has eaten!
In the human body, the only time heat is present is as a by-product of the breakdown of materials in the cells. Rarely does the body rise above 37oC, it is not heat that causes the bonds to break, heat is merely a consequence of the biochemical process. The fast food burger would break down in the flame but would not change in a room that was 37oC. Only enzymes, bacteria and microbes would cause a food to break down at 37oC. On the flip side, enzymes, bacteria and microbes would die, just like you or I would, if subjected to high levels of heat. We must recognize we are getting something incredibly wrong.
Burning foods to calculate calories only allows us to see what energy is available in a food when subjected to high heats. It does not allow us to see what energy is available when broken down my oxidation, enzymes, bacteria and microbes. If it was important to know energy availability of food we would have to know what energy was released with each biochemical process at 37oC. However, we know that all foods contain energy, what the body needs is nourishment, surely looking at what nourishment any food contains would give us a greater understanding of what the body truly needs and receives from the food we are eating.
Proposed Nourishment Theory
Knowing that a human body makes up to 3 million cells a second, throughout life and that our genome has not significantly changed in the last 10,000 years, we can create a model of what we need to eat to nourish and provide the body with all that it needs for a healthy existence.
The foods we eat need to nourish the body based on its genetic makeup. As hunter gathers we need to eat foods that our ancestors ate that still contain life and vitality. Today’s mechanical and fast food processes damage and kill much of the raw materials our bodies need.
The Nourishment Theory provides a simple approach to understanding which foods nourish the body and which don’t. The theory is based on the logical concept that the less manipulated, processed and chemically enhanced food provides more vitality, life and health for the human body.
All foods are given a rating of 10, with 10 being foods that are closest to Mother Nature and as far as possible unprocessed, tampered with and manipulated. As foods are subjected to processes their nourishment score decreases based on a set of Nourishment Scale rules.
The Nourishment Theory allows us to predict how natural any given food source is and therefore allows us to pick foods that are more suited to our genotype and how we should be as a hunter gather. This theory therefore fits Stephen Hawkins view of what a scientific theory is. Furthermore, it will allow the population as a whole to know what foods to eat to nourish their bodies so they may live a healthy and long life.
Limitations to the theory
The Nourishment Theory is in its raw state (maybe the best state in can be in) and I recognise that with this comes limitations and possible questions. The limitations and questions to this theory are:
- Its simplicity.
- How do we scientifically categorise how damaging a mechanical process is based on the nourishment of food?
- How do we define which chemical is more damaging than another when we are unable to test the legally added 5,000 additives and preservatives in isolation?
- How can we know if manmade chemicals can be effectively absorbed and utilised in the cells biochemical processes? When we only think we know 10% about the human body this may not be something we can ever answer at this time.
- Is the soil we grow our food supply on sufficiently nutrient rich to provide us with all that we need?
Whilst it may appear that we consumers have won the battle of the supersized portions, I can report that we have not. All that has happened is that the very clever marketing people in the food manufacturing industry changed their language and span us a number of different lines with the same meaning. “Bigger Bag” crisps, “Multipack” chocolate bars and “Buy 2 get one free” on Mars, Twix and Snickers are all just new ways to sell us more products, new ways to say “Supersize”.
Kate Walker from BeNiceToYou.com said “Supersized portions are again on the rise and just because the marketing people call it something else, like “The Kid’s Challenge” (named as such because it weighs as much as a child at 9lb of food” doesn’t make it okay.” In this evening’s TV programme “The men who made us fat” (BBC2 at 9:00pm), the presenter takes on the “challenge”, an emotive word that makes eating the meal sound like a victory and the eater a potential hero. Man Vs Food is another popular TV show depicting the overconsumption of massive portions of food as some kind of conquering of Everest event.
As a consequence, we are losing our perspective on what a normal portion looks like. I can remember when a cheeseburger (300kcal) with small fries (230kcal) was considered the normal thing to order at MacDonald’s, with the Big Mac being something of a challenge to be attempted only rarely, and whilst the nutritional value of Cheeseburger and Fries may be questionable, it was certainly enough food to stave off hunger till your next meal. Now the burger of choice seems to be the Big Mac (540kcal) and this has been supplanted as the challenge in the consciousness by the Angus DeLuxe at (750kcal). So the marketers are still doing an excellent job of moving the goalposts and getting us to buy more and more food. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking that by choosing the Cheeseburger you are selecting the “Lighter” option. So next time you fancy the Angus Deluxe with large fries and a triple thick shake, remember that the 1810kcal it contains is almost your entire recommended calorie intake for the whole day in just one meal.
In the past, our ancient ancestors only ever encountered sugar in it’s natural forms and in some of those forms only ever seasonally. Fruit, for example was only available to ancient humans in the autumn when our ancestors would eat it while it was available because it helped them to put on weight, building up stores of fat for the winter. Honey is only made by bees in the summer, so way before any form of preservation of fruit and long term storage of honey was discovered or became possible, seasonal access to high sugar foods was all that there was.
Today, sugar in its natural and processed forms is available all year round. Fruit is shipped in from other continents when it’s not available here. Refined sugar is abundant, relentlessly added to processed foods and is made into what we call cereals. Sugar is found in massive quantities in places you would never expect it. One 1.5 ltr bottle of Volvic flavoured water, when tested, contained, amongst other things, no less than the equivalent of 16 cubes of sugar. It’s this year round availability and hidden sugar that is the problem.
In the 1930’s the average person consumed the equivalent of 2 bags of sugar per year. In 2009 this figure had risen to 72 bags, that’s a 36 fold increase in sugar consumption in just a generation or two.
Kate Walker from BeNiceToYou.com said “Is it really any surprise that we have rampant diabetes and obesity problems? It’s not just the 2 cubes of sugar you put in your tea that’s the problem, that’s sugar that you choose to eat. It’s the sugar that you don’t know about that’s the problem, it’s the 10½ cubes in the 500ml bottle of Coke you had with the 28 cubes in the 500ml tub of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food Ice Cream, it’s the 16 cubes in the McDonalds milkshake or the 9½ cubes in the Starbucks hot chocolate, all of which are sweet and we know they contain sugar, but not how much. Sugar is everywhere, even in things that aren’t that sweet, what about the 6½ cubes in the Dolmio Bolognese sauce you serve up to your family on top of spaghetti, which is made from flour and acts exactly like sugar in the body. And swapping sugar for sweeteners is not a great move either. Sweeteners create a false feeling of satiety that fools the body into thinking it has had sugar by triggering physiological responses, but doesn’t fool the brain, which says, that wasn’t sugar, give me sugar now and creates an endless cycle of craving for more sugar.”
The food manufacturing industry is all about adding “perceived value” to the cheapest ingredients, that provide little to no nourishment, to make a profit at the expense of your health. Sugar is one way they do this, the Volvic flavoured water is a perfect example, water is cheap and so is sugar, mix them together, bottle it and sell it for £1 or more. People on diets who are told to drink plenty of water, but don’t like plain water, may take a bottle of Volvic touch of fruit lemon and lime to work get through it at their desks during the day. Parents send their children to school with a small 50cl bottle in their lunchbox. Would they do this if they knew it contained 5½ cubes of sugar?
90% of the food we purchase is processed food, while processed foods account for most of the sugar in our diets (hidden sugar) and a cocktail of over 3000 different chemicals that are legally added during manufacturing, of which 400-800 of these chemicals are stored in the fat cells of each of us, fat cells which are created by the overconsumption of sugar.
There exists a thing called the GRAS list, which is a list of chemicals Generally Recognised as Safe and the interesting word in that name is “generally”, because who really knows what can happen when you mix together up to 3000 chemicals and put them into a human? What you can expect is damage, disease and mutation. The really worrying thing about the GRAS list is that if it’s on the list, the food manufacturer doesn’t have to mention it on the label. The logical extension of this is that the only things that the food manufacturer is putting on the label is the things they want you to know about, because it helps them to sell the product, and things that are NOT on the GRAS list, i.e., not generally recognised as safe.
If you think that this is scaremongering, I urge you to seek out the GRAS list and take a look at the sort of things that are being added to processed foods and sold to us by the food manufacturing industry as healthy. A 1.5 ltr bottle of flavoured water from a major manufacturer, when tested, contained no less than the equivalent of 16 cubes of sugar, 2 preservatives, a half a teaspoon of salt and the words “Contains a source of Phenylalanine” on the label, which is a recognised neurotoxin in quantities exceeding your ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake), like you can even monitor your ADI of a brain poison so liberally used in food manufacturing.
The food manufacturing industry is all about adding “perceived value” to the cheapest ingredients, that provide little to no nourishment, to make a profit at the expense of your health. If anyone needs proof that this is true, then they need look no further than any number of time lapse videos available on YouTube that show how little decay there is to a McDonalds burger and fries over an entire month of being exposed to the elements. We can assure you that these videos are not spoofs because we have undertaken the experiment ourselves with precisely the same results. This links to a good example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMgsoAsLVWw 180 days old and still looking like it did on day 1.
So it lasts for ages without decaying, why does this matter, you may ask? Why this matters is because it is the perfect example of how highly processed foods contain so little nourishment that even bacteria and enzymes, which will usually eat anything perishable, won’t touch a McDonald’s meal. It may well be made from 100% beef, but it’s beef that has been processed beyond all recognition. If you left a steak out for a month it would be mush, turned green and black by fungus and listeria. This doesn’t happen to the Mac, why? Because it contains so many preservatives that it simply cannot be digested by the things that would normally break down food in the environment. Unfortunately for us, we also break down food with bacteria and enzymes in our stomachs, which means eating the Mac meal is a valueless, pointless exercise devoid of any nourishment your body can access. A Mac meal is nothing more than a plateful of empty calories and more chemical preservatives than you can shake a stick at.
Kate Walker from BeNiceToYou.com, the inventors of VitalTrack® says “The food manufacturing industry wants us to count calories because it leaves you so focussed on the energy in the food that you lose sight of what else of value, if anything, is in there. It’s the nourishment, vitamins, minerals and amino-acids in food that become the building blocks of new cells. The chemicals added to processed foods interfere with the body’s ability to access whatever little nourishment the processing hasn’t removed and so the body creates fat cells to store the chemicals that have been added to the food. It’s important to ensure that your food contains nourishment and nourishment is found in un-processed foods.” VitalTrack® allows you to see how little nourishment there is in the processed food you eat and you can access the VitalTrack® at BeNiceToYou.com
It was controversially reported yesterday that ’A diet high in red meat can shorten life expectancy, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School. The study of more than 120,000 people suggested red meat increased the risk of death from cancer and heart problems.’
How is it that in Argentina they eat more red meat than any other country yet have lower rates of colon cancer than the US? You can find statistics to back up any argument. It is not the meat that is the problem it is the chemicals and processing of the meat that is killing us. We are designed to eat meat, we are not designed to eat manmade chemicals.
All of this is at a cost to our health. It is not possible to say any one chemical is bad for you but if we take the 5,800 chemicals and additives legally allowed and put them all into a human cocktail shaker, YOU, what would be the effect? If we look at the incidence of ill health, from cancer to obesity, I feel it is self evident.
In addition to this, the body does not know what to do with many of the chemicals and toxins as it does not recognise what they are. So, it has to create a fat cell to store them in. This is why we are advised not to eat animal fat that are not organic. Animals, like us, store their toxins (the ones we are feeding them) in their fat cells. So, if we eat lots of chemicals then the body will have to make more fat cells, causing weight gain.
Chemicals appear everywhere from breakfast cereals to prepared vegetables and tinned goods, this is why we are constantly seeing news that another food is bad for us, it is full of chemicals. We cannot escape from them but we can definitely minimise the amount we eat. Cooking foods from scratch will cut out many of the preservatives and stabilises that are found in pre-packed foods. Using organic produce will cut back on the intake of fertilisers and hormones that non organic products are treated with.
In another study, by The National Cancer Institute of american, the Japanese-Hawaiian study showed that green beans, macaroni and peas have a greater chance of increased risk of colon cancer associated with those products than beef and lamb. As I say, you can find statistics to back any argument.
The diet industry, medical professionals and food manufacturers have all got us so fixated on the calories in our food that we have all lost sight of the only thing that truly matters, which is the nourishment.
I’m not talking nutrition labels, which often disguise the fact that the item inside the packet contains very little except the few calories the food manufacturer hasn’t been able to remove through processing, along with all the goodness. I’m talking about nourishment, the vitamins, minerals and amino acids that the body needs to replace the 300 million cells in our bodies that die every second. Calories don’t build new cells, they are just fuel.
In the modern world of fast food and processed meals, it is all too easy to eat 2500 calories and get almost no nourishment from that food. The bodies reaction to not getting what it needs is to crave more. So if we are obsessed with the calories, we overlook the goodness and it’s the goodness that really matters. The fact is that all foods contain calories, but not all foods contain nourishment.
The food manufacturing industry, at first resistant to food labelling, has now embraced the concept whole heartedly and incorporated it fully into it’s marketing of the food, using it as a method of selling you more of what is light, low fat, low calorie and, as a result, low in nourishment. If a cereal bar contains just 60 calories, but those calories are all sugar, then they are empty calories that you may as well not have eaten, in fact you would have probably got more nourishment from eating the label.
By counting calories we are not counting the nourishment. Nourishment is the building material of new cells and calories are the fuel we use to turn those building material into new cells. If we don’t have the nourishment to make new cells, we have an over supply of energy which then gets stored as fat. If we raise the nourishment levels in our food we give the body something to do with the energy, which is to repair our bodies.
Being fixated on the calories is killing us because it takes our eyes off the nourishment and, once you lose sight of the nourishment, it is then all too easy to fill our diets with empty calories that our bodies can do nothing with, except store it as fat.
NHS guidelines that advise a man to eat 2500 calories a day and a woman to eat 2000 to maintain weight, are seriously flawed and may be partly responsible for the obesity epidemic say researchers.
Kate Walker from Diabetes and You, which studies Obesity and it’s medical consequences in order to deliver programs to diabetics, found that following the NHS advice was damaging to most people because they are based on Mr/Mrs average, the problem being that only a tiny proportion of people are anywhere near “average”. Kate insists that the idea that a 4ft 10 Jockey should eat the same food as the heavyweight champion of the world is farcical, the guidelines fail to take account of the fact that everyone is different.
“the whole concept of calories as a measure of food value is flawed. “
Calories are meaningless because the way in which the calorific values of foods are determined bears absolutely no relation to the way our bodies process them. Humans break down food with enzymes and bacteria in a chemical process that releases the energy in food and, more importantly, the nourishment. To determine the calorific value of food, the product is incinerated at high temperatures using electricity in a Bomb Calorimeter. Our bodies simply don’t work like that.
Steve Moylan from the web site BeNiceToYou.com said “Calories are nothing more than an unreliable measure of the energy potential in our food and bear absolutely no relation at all to how nourishing the food is. All foods contain calories to one degree or another, but not all foods contain nourishment. The wood that the desk in front of me is made from contains calories, but does that mean we should eat it? No! Forget calories, think nourishment. Nourishment is the minerals, vitamins and trace elements the body needs to build and replace the 3 million cells in the body that die every second. Calories don’t build cells.”
He continued “Junk food is called junk because it contains nothing of value to the body. There are many very high calorie foods that contain little or no nourishment and these tend to be manufactured foods. However, there are just as many low and high calorie foods that are packed with nourishment and these tend to be the more natural products”.
It doesn’t matter how many calories there are in the food we eat, the important thing is how much nourishment we are able to extract from the food. If we want to slim down as a nation and reverse the diabetes trend, we need to see our food differently. Food manufacturers like us to count calories because, when we do, that tends to be all we see. But counting calories doesn’t work because calories don’t matter. We need to look beyond the calories and see the nourishment in our food.