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An article at gnolls.org claims that there is no such thing as a calorie to our body, and our stomachs aren't steam engines and therefore the concept of calories and our way of measuring them is unhelpful.

The concept of the “calorie”, as applied to nutrition, is an oversimplification so extreme as to be untrue in practice.

Another article at The Healthy Omnivore claims that CICO (calories in, calories out) is a myth, because of biochemical individuality. Quoting the article:

  • Genetics: What is your ancestry? Are you from a cold climate or warm climate? How does your body handle starchy carbohydrates? How does your body handle fatty proteins? How do you do with the sun? Etc. Etc. Etc. Secondly, physiologically, how have we handled our environment and time.
  • Sleep (Are you allowing your body to recover?)
  • Toxins (Tobacco, Alcohol, Sugar, Artificial Sweeteners)
  • Food Sensitivities (Gluten, Soy, Dairy, etc.)
  • Medications (Over The Counter, Prescription)
  • Stress (Chronic and Acute)
  • Quality of Health (Recent Illnesses, Immune System Health, Degenerative Disease, etc.)
  • Hormonal Health (Insulin, Cortisol, Glucagon, Leptin, etc.)
  • Age (Menopause, Andropause, Accelerated Aging)
  • Past Caloric Restriction History (Dieting, Bulimia, Anorexia, etc.)

Common sense would tell me that all the above factors do play a role, but that this role has limits.

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    That gnolls article is carefully calibrated to contain just enough gibberish to make my eyes start to glaze over and ignore the details, but not quite enough to dismiss it out of hand. The claim they attempt to refute is that dietary calories are largely fungible, and thus the total count is the most important metric. Arguing that the energy is going to different destinations is not a refutation of that claim. – Oddthinking Mar 24 '13 at 12:09
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    The headline question is different from the content here. Physics tells us if energy in is greater than energy out then something is being stored (i.e. fat and other tissues) so is this question really about terminology and semantics? – Rory Alsop Mar 24 '13 at 12:56
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    There are several conflicting claims here and as Alsop points out the headline does not match the body of the question. Is it "useful"? Yes, it is used by researchers, physicians, food labels, and people who eat food. Is it "true"? A meaningless question. Do other factors play a role? Of course. – denten Mar 25 '13 at 1:31
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    Is it useful for what? Marketing food? Weight loss? Overall health? – Flimzy Mar 25 '13 at 5:08
  • @Rory Alsop: I'm happy to rephrase the headline question, but how? The guys at gnolls and THO say that calories (and calories in, calories out) is a myth. I always thought of it as of a useful concept, so that's how I asked the question. Any suggestions? Flimzy: Useful for managing your diet I guess, weight loss included. denten: That it "is used" doesn't mean it is useful, if that makes sense. Homeopathy "is used", but it's not useful, is it? – automatthias Mar 25 '13 at 9:13

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