"A Unified Theory of Nutrition"
By Will Brink, author of: Muscle Building Nutrition
and Diet Supplements Revealed
When people hear the term Unified Theory,
some times called the Grand Unified Theory, or even "Theory of
Everything," they probably think of it in terms of physics, where a
Unified Theory, or single theory capable of defining the nature of the
interrelationships among nuclear, electromagnetic, and gravitational
forces, would reconcile seemingly incompatible aspects of various field
theories to create a single comprehensive set of equations.
Such a theory could potentially unlock
all the secrets of nature and the universe itself, or as theoretical
physicist Michio Katu, puts it "an equation an inch long that would
allow us to read the mind of God." That's how important unified
theories can be. However, unified theories don't have to deal with such
heady topics as physics or the nature of the universe itself, but can be
applied to far more mundane topics, in this case nutrition.
Regardless of the topic, a unified
theory, as stated above, seeks to explain seemingly incompatible aspects
of various theories. In this article I
attempt to unify seemingly incompatible or opposing views regarding
nutrition, namely, what is probably the longest running debate in the
nutritional sciences: calories vs. macro nutrients.
One school, I would say the 'old school'
of nutrition, maintains weight loss or weight gain is all about
calories, and "a calorie is a calorie," no matter the source
(e.g., carbs, fats, or proteins). They base their position on various
lines of evidence to come to that conclusion.
The other school, I would call more the
'new school' of thought on the issue, would state that gaining or losing
weight is really about where the calories come from (e.g., carbs, fats,
and proteins), and that dictates weight loss or weight gain. Meaning,
they feel, the "calorie is a calorie" mantra of the old school
is wrong. They too come to this conclusion using various lines of
This has been an ongoing debate between
people in the field of nutrition, biology, physiology, and many other
disciplines, for decades. The result of which has led to conflicting
advice and a great deal of confusion by the general public, not to
mention many medical professionals and other groups.
Before I go any further, two key points
that are essential to understand about any unified theory:
|A good unified theory is simple,
concise, and understandable even to lay people. However, underneath,
or behind that theory, is often a great deal of information that can
take up many volumes of books. So, for me to outline all the
information I have used to come to these conclusions, would take a
large book, if not several and is far beyond the scope of this
|A unified theory is often proposed by
some theorist before it can even be proven or fully supported by
physical evidence. Over time, different lines of evidence, whether
it be mathematical, physical, etc., supports the theory and thus
solidifies that theory as being correct, or continued lines of
evidence shows the theory needs to be revised or is simply
incorrect. I feel there is now more than enough evidence at this
point to give a unified theory of nutrition and continuing lines of
evidence will continue (with some possible revisions) to solidify
the theory as fact.|
"A calorie is a calorie"
The old school of nutrition, which often includes most nutritionists, is
a calorie is a calorie when it comes to gaining or losing weight. That
weight loss or weight gain is strictly a matter of "calories in,
calories out." Translated, if you "burn" more calories
than you take in, you will lose weight regardless of the calorie source
and if you eat more calories than you burn off each day, you will gain
weight, regardless of the calorie source.
This long held and accepted view of
nutrition is based on the fact that protein and carbs contain approx 4
calories per gram and fat approximately 7 calories per gram and the
source of those calories matters not. They base this on the many studies
that finds if one reduces calories by X number each day, weight loss is
the result and so it goes if you add X number of calories above what you
use each day for gaining weight.
However, the "calories in calories
out" mantra fails to take into account modern research that finds
that fats, carbs, and proteins have very different effects on the
metabolism via countless pathways, such as their effects on hormones
(e.g., insulin, leptin, glucagon, etc), effects on hunger and appetite,
thermic effects (heat production), effects on uncoupling proteins (UCPs),
and 1000 other effects that could be mentioned.
Even worse, this school of thought fails
to take into account the fact that even within a macro nutrient, they
too can have different effects on metabolism. This school of thought
ignores the ever mounting volume of studies that have found diets with
different macro nutrient ratios with identical calorie intakes have
different effects on body composition, cholesterol levels, oxidative
Translated, not only is the mantra
"a calorie us a calorie" proven to be false, "all fats
are created equal" or "protein is protein" is also
incorrect. For example, we no know different fats (e.g. fish oils vs.
saturated fats) have vastly different effects on metabolism and health
in general, as we now know different carbohydrates have their own
effects (e.g. high GI vs. low GI), as we know different proteins can
have unique effects.
The "calories don't
matter" school of thought
This school of thought will typically tell you that if you eat large
amounts of some particular macro nutrient in their magic ratios,
calories don't matter. For example, followers of ketogenic style diets
that consist of high fat intakes and very low carbohydrate intakes
(i.e., Atkins, etc.) often maintain calories don't matter in such a
Others maintain if you eat very high
protein intakes with very low fat and carbohydrate intakes, calories
don't matter. Like the old school, this school fails to take into
account the effects such diets have on various pathways and ignore the
simple realities of human physiology, not to mention the laws of
The reality is, although it's clear
different macro nutrients in different amounts and ratios have different
effects on weight loss, fat loss, and other metabolic effects, calories
do matter. They always have and they always will. The data, and real
world experience of millions of dieters, is quite clear on that reality.
The truth behind such diets is that they
are often quite good at suppressing appetite and thus the person simply
ends up eating fewer calories and losing weight. Also, the weight loss
from such diets is often from water vs. fat, at least in the first few
weeks. That's not to say people can't experience meaningful weight loss
with some of these diets, but the effect comes from a reduction in
calories vs. any magical effects often claimed by proponents of such
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