The conventional wisdom of our health professionals is that a calorie is a calorie. “From a purely thermodynamic point of view, this is clear because the human body or, indeed, any living organism cannot create or destroy energy but can only convert energy from one form to another.”
That’s what Andrea C. Buchholz and Dale A. Schoeller from the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison wrote and the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published three years ago.
But it’s not true. It depends on what you eat.
Most of us with type 2 diabetes want to lose weight. On a typical high-carbohydrate diet the establishment tells us that we should eat even less fat. That seemed to make sense because each gram of fat has 9 calories, more than twice as much as the four calories that each gram of carbohydrate or protein has.
As we all know, that’s a tough path to descend.
On the other hand, our body’s chemistry is radically different on a low-carb diet. A calorie from one source doesn’t act like one from another source.
Dr. Richard K. Bernstein learned this experimentally. The leading exponent of a low-carb diet for people with diabetes and the author of Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution (third edition, 2007), Dr. Bernstein answered 50 questions in his telecast last week.
This was the question and answer that interested me the most:
Q. What’s the best way to prevent weight loss without increasing the carbo, increasing the fat or protein or both?
A. This reminds me of an experiment that I did many years ago when I had patients on a low carbo diet, all of whom were taking insulin and they all wanted to gain weight. So I gave them extra fat in the form of olive oil to the tune of a shot glass in the morning and a shot glass in the afternoon. This was 3 ounces of extra calories, which boiled down to 900 extra calories a day. Over the course of 6 months not one of four patients gained a pound. So giving fat on a low carbo diet will not make you fat. You will metabolize it. It’s been proven subsequently. On a low carbo diet you metabolize your fat, rather than store it.
Unlike Dr. Bernstein’s questioner and the four patients in his experiment, I would like to lose a few more pounds, not prevent weight loss or gain weight. But I am now following a low-carb diet. Since I don’t have all those carbs in my diet like I used to have, can I really eat a lot more fat and still lose weight?
So far, it looks like I can. I have liberalized my fat intake with no weight gain and possibly some weight loss.
Then I wrote Dr. Bernstein. The way it works, he suggested, was through “insulin sensitive lipase.” Googling that term, I found his explanation online:
The beta oxidation (or “burning”) of fat by the body requires the action of an enzyme called insulin-sensitive lipase. This enzyme is turned off by insulin. Eating carbohydrate obliges the body of a nondiabetic to make insulin in proportion to the amount consumed and obliges many diabetics to inject insulin to prevent blood sugar elevation. When insulin levels go up, fat oxidation therefore goes down, and since insulin is also the fat-storage hormone, dietary fat is stored. Furthermore, insulin signals the liver to convert the carbon backbone of carbohydrates (glucose) to saturated fat, which then appears in the blood as triglycerides, which are subsequently stored. So calories of fat are handled much differently on a low-carbohydrate diet than on a high-carbohydrate diet. Recent studies on humans eating equivalent amounts of fat show that those eating more carbs store more fat.