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"Consider the Fork" or is 1 calorie = to 1 calorie?


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#1 rotuts

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 10:07 AM

in today's NY Ties book review there is a review of the book; "Consider the Folk" by Bee Wilson:

http://www.nytimes.c....html?ref=books

there is this statement about the book:

" That über-utensil, the food processor, has gone far beyond replacing the mortar and pestle to play a huge role in our diets, almost certainly contributing to the current obesity epidemic. Studies cited by Wilson show that by reducing the need to chew our food, processors eliminate some of the work it takes our body to digest it. Although the calories on paper may be identical, the body receives more energy (translating into pounds) from 100 calories of processed food than from 100 calories of whole food. "

my addition to Bold. this doesnt make any sense to me and I have the book on reserve from the library and look forward to reading it.

#2 thock

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 10:48 AM

Doesn't make much sense to me, either. The energy required to digest ones food is minimal, in terms of the total energy expended in life.
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#3 IndyRob

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 01:17 PM

It could be plausible. Another similar claim is made in http://en.wikipedia....g_Made_Us_Human. Here the claim is made that cooking our food allowed it to be digested more completely and therefore made more energy available for running larger brains. But I guess a follow-on question might be "Why didn't it just make us fat?"

#4 Chris Hennes

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 03:26 PM

I've always sort of wondered this myself: there's no reason to believe that our bodies are capable of actually extracting every single calorie out of a given food. How broad is the range of hardest-to-digest to easiest-to-digest in terms of actually extracting calories?

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#5 Mjx

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 05:31 PM

It could be plausible. Another similar claim is made in http://en.wikipedia....g_Made_Us_Human. Here the claim is made that cooking our food allowed it to be digested more completely and therefore made more energy available for running larger brains. But I guess a follow-on question might be "Why didn't it just make us fat?"


Some foods are actually more poorly digested when they're cooked.

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#6 radtek

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 09:41 PM

I think the advent of processed and fast food has made us fat. Even though corn syrup is considered low glycemic in very small amounts it happens to be in a lot of processed foods. Terrible for a person. I don't think the home food processor has much to do with the obesity problem but easily available high calorie foods certainly does.

We didn't seem to have an obesity problem in the US until the mid 80's when high fructose corn syrup became the commercial sweetener of choice.

#7 HungryC

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 05:30 AM

Whole foods have more indigestible fiber. Ergo, an equally caloric hunk of whole wheat will deliver fewer digested calories to the eaterthan an equally caloric highly processed white bread...because calorie counts are lab generated measurements using incineration, not a measure of how many calories a human gut can get out of a food.

Edited by HungryC, 19 November 2012 - 05:31 AM.


#8 Junkbot

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 08:35 AM

the body receives more energy (translating into pounds) from 100 calories of processed food than from 100 calories of whole food.

Unless the author is talking about carbs inducing more of a fat storage hormone mechanism compared to protein/fats, this doesn't make any sense. 100 calories is the same amount of energy, no matter the source. If they're talking about how whole foods generally have more fiber (and thus their calorie calculation is a bit high), then they should have just said fiber rather than having a processed vs whole food comment.

I think the advent of processed and fast food has made us fat. Even though corn syrup is considered low glycemic in very small amounts it happens to be in a lot of processed foods. Terrible for a person. I don't think the home food processor has much to do with the obesity problem but easily available high calorie foods certainly does.

We didn't seem to have an obesity problem in the US until the mid 80's when high fructose corn syrup became the commercial sweetener of choice.

There's a lot of research on the role of sucrose and fructose on the body, You're absolutely correct in that fructose is pretty terrible for you.

#9 slkinsey

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 08:50 AM

One has to consider the bioavailabilty of the calories (not to mention other nutrients). For example, you might have portions of cooked potato and uncooked potato containing an equal number of calories, but the bioavailability of the calories in the cooked potato is much higher. This means that if you 3,000 calories of cooked potato every day you are likely to get fat, whereas if you eat 3,000 calories of uncooked potato every day you are likely to starve.

I think it's probably true that the above applies to processed foods to some limited extent, but primarily because processed foods contain many "hidden calories" in the form of fats, sugars and other added ingredients we may not know are in there. But this doesn't seem to be the point the author in the quoted excerpt is making. Rather, he seems to be making the argument that the calories spent in chewing up a whole cooked carrot versus one that has been cut into small pieces is large enough accumulated over time to result in a significant difference in the net balance of calories absorbed, and that this is a significant contributor to obesity. This seems like quite a stretch to me, to say the least. If he is making the argument that a person is likely to absorb more calories from carrot puree compared to big pieces of carrot, I would agree with that. It's clear that mastication won't reduce the big pieces of carrot anywhere near as finely as a blender, and as a result some of the big pieces of carrot will pass through the system without having been digested. But it's not like we all live on a diet of baby food. It still seems like a big reach to suggest that this has been a meaningful contributor to obesity in the modern world.
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#10 slkinsey

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 09:02 AM


I think the advent of processed and fast food has made us fat. Even though corn syrup is considered low glycemic in very small amounts it happens to be in a lot of processed foods. Terrible for a person. I don't think the home food processor has much to do with the obesity problem but easily available high calorie foods certainly does.

We didn't seem to have an obesity problem in the US until the mid 80's when high fructose corn syrup became the commercial sweetener of choice.

There's a lot of research on the role of sucrose and fructose on the body, You're absolutely correct in that fructose is pretty terrible for you.


The amount of HFCS that has made its way into processed and pre-prepared foods, and the extent to which these foods are eaten nowadays, certainly have been major contributors to obesity. However, people keep on missing the point with HFCS in their demonization of fructose. High fructose corn syrup is not actually particularly high in fructose. The formulation of HFCS used in soft drinks is 55% fructose, and the kind of HFCS used in pretty much everything else is only 42% fructose. Consumption of caloric sweeteners has gone up since the 80s. But it's not like we have any reason to believe that things would be any different if we had used sucrose instead of HFCS during this period. Meanwhile, honey has a higher fructose content than HFCS but everyone seems to think it's great.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#11 radtek

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 09:19 AM

Another thing to consider in addition to the aforementioned points: Digestion begins in the mouth and is both chemical and mechanical. This process continues in the stomach. The stomach's contents are broken down until they are able to pass through the pyloric sphincter which can range from 2-7mm in diameter depending on the individual. Basically the contents of the stomach become a slurry (chyme) and will not pass through the sphincter until the particles are of a size that can pass. One can easily see how cooked potato or carrots would exit the stomach sooner than chunks of meat or raw vegetables. In fact food does not move through the digestive tract in the order that it went in.

I guess this is the premise behind raw foods movement etc.. Retaining the contents of the stomach longer slows absorption of nutrients and may make a person less hungry over the course of the day. In the meantime, the stomach itself is grinding away at the contents and this does burn calories.

#12 Junkbot

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 09:40 AM

The amount of HFCS that has made its way into processed and pre-prepared foods, and the extent to which these foods are eaten nowadays, certainly have been major contributors to obesity. However, people keep on missing the point with HFCS in their demonization of fructose. High fructose corn syrup is not actually particularly high in fructose. The formulation of HFCS used in soft drinks is 55% fructose, and the kind of HFCS used in pretty much everything else is only 42% fructose. Consumption of caloric sweeteners has gone up since the 80s. But it's not like we have any reason to believe that things would be any different if we had used sucrose instead of HFCS during this period. Meanwhile, honey has a higher fructose content than HFCS but everyone seems to think it's great.


The problem with comparing HFCS vs honey is that honey is not just fructose and glucose; it contains many other compounds and nutrients that affect how the body processes the sugars. According to this study (http://jn.nutrition....32/11/3379.full), the rats eating honey did not have as high of an inflammatory response as rats who ate a glucose/fructose mixture similar to that of honey. Also, the composition of HFCS in soft drinks is misleading. This study (http://goranlab.com/...y beverages.pdf) found that the percentage of fructose in HFCS used in the drinks is typically higher than the standard 55%.

Finally, I think people think honey is great because they generally use it in a different way compared to HFCS. I don't think anyone is advocating replacing the HFCS in coke with honey; it would be bad for you either way. But for typical use (sweetener in coffee/tea, spreads on bread, etc), I think it would be better than using HFCS.

#13 rotuts

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 12:11 PM

'processed' here is specifically food that hit the 'food processor'

all other comments may or may not be true, but 'food processor food' is what got to me.

you cant absorb cellulose food processor or not.

#14 slkinsey

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 12:50 PM

'processed' here is specifically food that hit the 'food processor'

all other comments may or may not be true, but 'food processor food' is what got to me.

you cant absorb cellulose food processor or not.


Right. Part of the reason we chew food is so that we can (a) break apart the things like cellulose, etc. to expose the human-compatible nutrients to the digestive process; and (b) to reduce the pieces of food to a size that the body is able to more fully digest while it is in the system.

The author's thesis seems to be that cutting things up into tiny pieces with a food processor is so prevalent, has so far reduced the number calories that would have been engaged in the work of mastication, and has so increased the bioavailability of the calories in these foods that it's making us fat. Although I hope I am misinterpreting the author here, because otherwise this seems like a ridiculous thing to assert.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#15 rotuts

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 01:09 PM

Ill report back when I get the book. the review is worth a look. The Chinese got an over-bite long before the West as they cut up their food to save fuel, and the west used to rip it off the roast and cut the piece in the incisors with a knife away from the larger mass ( the only eating tool they carried around )

:huh:

#16 radtek

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 01:29 PM

Ill report back when I get the book. the review is worth a look. The Chinese got an over-bite long before the West as they cut up their food to save fuel, and the west used to rip it off the roast and cut the piece in the incisors with a knife away from the larger mass ( the only eating tool they carried around )

:huh:


Now wait a minute. You mean to say that the "Chinese" have a genetic disposition towards an overbite? Not saying it isn't so just have never heard this assertion. :biggrin:

#17 rotuts

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 01:50 PM

just read the review. its pretty interesting. I cant say if any of its true, but interesting.

#18 radtek

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 02:30 PM

I'm gonna try and get this book at the library. I still think the food processor angle is weak but the subjects covered are intriguing. Sporks suck BTW. Can't stand them- I carry a metal knife, fork and spoon to work.

#19 pbear

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 10:07 PM

FWIW, as I read it, the argument is based on bioavailability, not the energy used in chewing. Hard to evaluate the claim without seeing the studies cited. In particular, it would be important to know by how much pureeing increases calorie uptake. A statistically significant result (i.e., not due to chance) could actually be quite small as regards the number of extra calories extracted. And, as others have suggested, to go further and argue the food processor has significantly increased obesity would require an analysis of how much it has increased consumption of pureed foods. Those certainly existed long before the food processor became a common kitchen tool.

#20 HungryC

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 08:35 AM

I checked it out from the library as an e-book....not exactly what I expected. Lots of "lite" science, author's musings, and stuff that has been better covered elsewhere. Many regular posters on this site can write a better/more authoritative book on the same topics.

#21 jrshaul

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 10:30 PM

I think that the "processed food" argument is crap, at least as applied to industrial vs. traditional preparation techniques. 100g of sugar is 100g of sugar, regardless of whether it's toffee or in a pear.

However, there is some merit to it. Some carbohydrates flat-out cannot be digested. The best example is corn - in order to get a valuable percentage of its' caloric value, it must first be treated with lime. Without nixtamalization, the empires of south america would have been nonexistent.

Kale, in any form, is not very calorically dense. Raw kale (which I've started eating in an attempt to preemptively jumpstart the new years' diet) is nutritionally similar to cardboard.

Memo to self: Eat more kale.