Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Negative Calories: Is There Really Such A Thing?

Dieters looking for a quick fix may turn to the promise of negative-calorie foods. Foods that are claimed to be negative in calories are mostly low-calorie fruits and vegetables such as celery, grapefruit, lemon, lime, apple, lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage. These foods are not negative-calorie foods and there is no scientific evidence to show that any of these foods low in calories have a negative calorific impact. 

"A negative-calorie food would by definition consume more calories, for the body to handle it and process that is contained in the nutrient content in the food.

"Theoretically that's possible," says Dr. Tim Garvey, chair of the department of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. "In actuality, there are no negative-calorie foods", cites Dr. Garvey.  

Or, as registered dietician Dr. Marion Nestle puts it "Total myth. Nothing else to be said." Consider celery, often proposed as a negative-calorie food because of its low-calorie count, high water density, and impressive fibre content. While all that chewing and digesting of the fibrous food does burn calories, it doesn't really burn a lot. "

There may be just 10 calories in a larger stick, but the body takes only one-fifth that much," to process, says Dr Garvey. "It's still calorie plus." But, never mind that humans cannot live on celery alone, and few people eat raw celery. We want to eat a variety of foods. 

"It's more of a gateway to cream cheese or peanut butter," says David Grotto, a registered dietitian and author of the book The Best Things You Can Eat.

That's not to say that celery sticks - along with other high fibre, water-heavy fruits and vegetables - have no value as weight-loss aids. 

"These foods do fill up the stomach and increase satiety," says Dr. Garvey, keeping you from ingesting more calories later - but not burning off the calories you've already consumed.

There are other things you can eat or drink that are supposed to work in a different way, by making the body work harder. One is cold water, which the body has to warm up to 37C (98.6F). But Grotto is not particularly impressed "There's no research to say that cold water drinkers burn more calories". This would be a great study to determine this. 

"Any amount of metabolic hit is not a significant amount - maybe five calories."
Other foods have different ways of increasing the rate at which we burn calories (otherwise known as the metabolic rate). Caffeine, guanine, taurine and green tea extracts all have these properties, says Dr. Ron Mendel, who conducts research on diet beverages and its effects on metabolism. In one of his studies with only 20 participants, he found that those who consumed a diet drink burned more calories than when they drank diet cola. "The big picture here is, this is certainly not adding up to hundreds of calories a day by any stretch," says Mendel. "There's no magic bullet," he says.

Still, he speculates the small gains could result in a loss of 10lb (4.5kg) over a year.
"I wouldn't say it was going to replace me exercising and make up for me from eating 4-5 donuts a day," he says. "But if you just make that one change, over a significant amount of time, it could add up to something."

Furthermore, like myself, Dr. Garvey is very skeptical that the change in metabolism could lead to real weight loss and maintains that the only real way to lose weight is the boring, old-fashioned, unsatisfying and ultimately successful method: eat fewer calories than you burn through exercise - not digestion.