Eating Low Carb Burns More Calories

Eating a diet rich in protein and lean on carbs may burn more calories according to a  study published in the Nutrition Journal. It’s all about the laws of thermodynamics, you know, those silly little equations that claim energy is never lost, except when it comes to exchanging heat. Researchers Richard Feinman and Eugene Fine claim that “a calorie is a calorie” actually violates the second law of thermodynamics, which predicts that various sources of energy will lose more heat when burned. So what does this mean when it comes to dieting?

Plenty. Protein and carbohydrates are processed differently in the body. Protein has the thermodynamic edge, because more energy is released as heat than is converted into chemical energy or glucose. So although a chunk of steak and a bowl of noodles carry equal calories, the amount of energy the body scours from them to fuel movement or store as fat is quite different.

This would explain, according to Feinman, why two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine found that those on a low carb, high protein diet shed three times as much weight as those on a low fat diet after six months. Further evidence for this argument can be found in a study done by Dr. Astrup in Denmark, Copenhagen. He studied 12 men in a room and measured scientifically how much energy each man burned when fed a diet high in protein or carbs. Men who ate lean protein, such as pork, put out 4% more heat than those on a high carbohydrate diet, not to mention they lost more weight.

All this is good news for people enjoying a low carb lifestyle, but don=t expect the diet world to embrace Feinman=s opinion with open arms. Experts still claim the main reason people lose weight on a low-carb diet is because they eat fewer calories. But could there be another reason?

Unlike high carbohydrate diets, protein triggers a response in the stomach that affects motility and stimulates the release of glucagon, a hormone that helps us to burn previously stored fat. In normal people, within thirty minutes of eating a small amount of protein, glucagon starts to rise, peaking at two hours. In fact, glucagon can stay elevated in blood for several hours after a protein rich meal. This gives your body plenty of time to use the fat stored around your waist and hips for fuel. Combine this with Feinman’s argument regarding the second law of thermodynamics and high protein/low-carb eating should have the metabolic advantage over low fat and calorically restricted diets when it comes to losing weight.

Diet choices are like hats – not all fit or look good on everyone. But if you suffer from heart disease or diabetes, choosing a lifestyle that emphasizes a diet rich in lean protein, moderate amounts of fats and low glycemic carbohydrates can go a long way towards cheating the Grim Reaper.


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About Larrian
Larrian Gillespie is a gynecologic urologist who received her medical degree from the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine and practiced Urology and Urogynecology in Beverly Hills for 15 years before retiring.With an ability to translate “doctor speak” into terms anyone can understand, Larrian has been featured in over 75 magazine stories and numerous television shows, including Good Morning America, CBS Woman to Woman News, and CNN. She has served on the medical advisory board of SHAPE Magazine, Prevention Books, Readers Digest Books,Oxmoor Books, Low Carb Energy and been a frequent source for numerous other publications, including WebMD.

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