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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is, partially, a response to the thread currently in the "Vegetarian Discussion" section about soy affecting testosterone levels. I started writing a response, but ended up deciding on a completely new topic, because this really goes way beyond soy. I even considered putting it in the "Compost Heap," because the same faulty logic that is used by omnivores against is is also used by veg*ns against omnivores, and may therefore lead to debate.

To put it simply, both sides of the debate are, largely, full of crap, and here's why. Feel free to disagree if you wish.

If Isaac Newton had dropped an apple 100,000,000 times in an effort to demonstrate the theory of gravity, and even one of those times the apple had fallen up instead of down, it would have completely destroyed the theory and sent him back to the drawing board. The theory is sound, however, because that simply didn't happen. Yet when it comes to nutrition, even a 50/50 ratio seems to be enough for people on both sides to cling to whichever results happen to back up whatever they want to believe.

My personal opinion is that many of the most well known scientists and the most highly published researchers never should have made it past Intro to Science 101 because they are so focused on proving what they want to believe that they completely forget to just stand back and make an objective analysis. They are, to put it simply, human and flawed. Humans are, as Neil Tyson put it, poor data taking devices.

So... to get back to the soy thing (and others), there were some legitimate hypothesis as to why soy could conceivably decrease testosterone levels, but the tests provided ample results to back up both sides. Results that back up both sides, or conflicting research, are another way of saying "no correlation." The hypothesis is, in other words, not sound. The results that seem to demonstrate what someone wants to believe are quoted, while those that are in conflict with it are ignored. This is fairly standard practice for most people, not just those doing research.

This same fallacy forms the backbone of more accepted beliefs as well, however.

Here are a short list of beliefs in which no correlation has been definitively established that many people believe as fact nonetheless:
• Calories in calories out. -Every skinny person who can eat whatever they want or obese person who remains so despite being on a near starvation diet proves this concept to be flawed.
• Veg*ns don't get enough protein. -There are those of us who are out of shape, and there are those of us who are not. This is true whether you eat meat or not.
• Saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. -The studies are all over the place, i.e. no correlation. Some are more reported than others.
• Cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. -See above.
• Carbohydrates cause of obesity. -There is reason to believe that our not so distant ancestors did not have many carbohydrates besides whatever berries they could dig up. The last 10,000 years of civilization, however, has had at its backbone grains of some type.
• Meat is necessary for good health. -I'm a vegetarian. I'm in good health. I know many like me.
• Fruit and vegetables are necessary for good health. -I've been to parts of the world where people live almost exclusively off meat, dairy, and blood products for the simple reason that vegetables do not grow where they live. Their cultures have survived in these places for a long, long time

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. If you don't, I'll summarize. Many of the ideas that we have come to accept as fact are little more than the scientific equivalent of religious dogma formulated by biased scientists over the last half century. For every study showing a correlation that supports one side of any given debate, there is one that supports the other side of the debate. As I said before, this basically means no correlation. Such flawed science would be laughed at in any other scientific field of study, yet because we really know so little about nutrition, in an effort to avoid admitting "I don't know," I guess we just have a tendency to latch on to whatever happens to support whatever is convenient for us to believe.

That said, here are my beliefs. And I call them beliefs, because I refuse to call them facts. Anyone who refers to any hypothesis or theory as a fact does not understand the nature of the scientific process, and should leave it to people who do.

• I believe a diet high in fat, both saturated and unsaturated, is perfectly healthy. I switched to vegetarianism in spite of it's low fat nature, not because of it. My caloric intake goes back and forth between 40% to 70% fat calories depending on my goals at the time, such as whether I'm trying to gain or cut, whether I'm training or competing, etc.

• I believe trans fats (i.e. hydrogenated) are very, very, very, very bad for many reasons, but have little to do with weight gain.

• I am not anti-carb in the ketogenic diet sense of the term, but I do believe that sugar and refined flours are more responsible for many of the health complications we face today than are saturated fats and cholesterol.

Given the sad state of nutrition science, here is my advice:
Do your research, go with your gut feeling, and make a guess based on what you feel is right, realizing that science is not going to back it up either way. There isn't a single idea in any nutrition book I've ever read that is proven to the point that I would accept it as anything near fact, except for the following:

You need to eat food or you will die.
Some of that food needs to contain fatty acids and amino acids (macronutrients).
Some of that food needs to contain vitamins and minerals (micronutrients).

Everything else is easily debatable.

So to answer the original question that caused my tangent, if you want to eat soy and eat it. There is no reason to believe that soy will negatively affect your testosterone.

Oh, and read this: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/in...2144534AAlcSHF
 

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Originally Posted by nomad888 View Post

Calories in calories out. -Every skinny person who can eat whatever they want or obese person who remains so despite being on a near starvation diet proves this concept to be flawed.
I don't think I've ever heard anyone claim that it isn't perfect.

But if we have to talk anecdotal evidence, then I've seen more people succeed rather than fail with that concept.
 

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I think part of the problem is that the life sciences (such as nutritional science) deal with extremely complicated processes. To answer seemingly simple questions adequately require a complete understanding of countless processes that are connected in all manners of ways. Our bodies are organic machines of almost unimaginable complexity. And obviously, no two bodies are identical, which makes experiments even more difficult to conduct and interpret. Still, progress is being made every day because of increasingly powerful computers, new techniques, new discoveries, improved equipment and so on.
 

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Originally Posted by Indian Summer View Post

I think part of the problem is that the life sciences (such as nutritional science) deal with extremely complicated processes.
Yes. Biochemisty and metabolic pathways in humans/higher mammals is extremely intricate. Hell, metabolic pathways in plants are intricate.

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Originally Posted by Indian Summer View Post

To answer seemingly simple questions adequately require a complete understanding of countless processes that are connected in all manners of ways. Our bodies are organic machines of almost unimaginable complexity. And obviously, no two bodies are identical, which makes experiments even more difficult to conduct and interpret. Still, progress is being made every day because of increasingly powerful computers, new techniques, new discoveries, improved equipment and so on.
I agree with IS very much here.
I think the reason why there is a "50/50 ratio" of anecdotal evidences against soy/pro-soy/anti-trans fat/pro-cholesterol/pro-Omega-3's/Insert-anything-here is because our bodies are so complex and DIFFERENT from person to person. This may be why "nutritional science" may contain lots of confusing, sometimes contradictory, ans misleading information to the average Joe. Disciplines like computer science, mechanical engineering, physics do not run into these problems as often because: 1) their studies generally produce predictable results and 2) Not everyone is interested in building bridges or power plants. Everyone has to consume food to live.

I would advise anyone who is struggling (or just confused) with their diet to see a licensed Registered Dietitian (that's the term in the U.S., not sure what the counterpart is in other countries). These individuals have studied Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, Human Physiology and will most likely have more sound nutritional advice to offer you than any blog or book could.
 

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I agree with you that nutrition science (?) is in a sad state, but only in the 'netsphere', which is artificial and infested with crackpots and fools.

I think you're wrong about saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease. Your view is consistent with low-carb and Paleo diet propaganda. The evidence, overall, despite a minefield of blatant biased advocacy and cherry picking of scientific studies, is reasonably clear. If you're suggesting that this group of eminent nutritional scientists below are either incompetent or biased, then I think you need to reconsider.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Apr;93(4):684-8. The role of reducing intakes of saturated fat in the prevention of cardiovascular disease: where does the evidence stand in 2010? Astrup A, Dyerberg J, Elwood P, Hermansen K, Hu FB, Jakobsen MU, Kok FJ, Krauss RM, Lecerf JM, LeGrand P, Nestel P, Risérus U, Sanders T, Sinclair A, Stender S, Tholstrup T, Willett WC.

". . . This expert panel reviewed the evidence and reached the following conclusions: the evidence from epidemiologic, clinical, and mechanistic studies is consistent in finding that the risk of CHD is reduced when SFAs are replaced with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). In populations who consume a Western diet, the replacement of 1% of energy from SFAs with PUFAs lowers LDL cholesterol and is likely to produce a reduction in CHD incidence of ≥2-3%. No clear benefit of substituting carbohydrates for SFAs has been shown, although there might be a benefit if the carbohydrate is unrefined and has a low glycemic index. Insufficient evidence exists to judge the effect on CHD risk of replacing SFAs with MUFAs. No clear association between SFA intake relative to refined carbohydrates and the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes has been shown. The effect of diet on a single biomarker is insufficient evidence to assess CHD risk. The combination of multiple biomarkers and the use of clinical endpoints could help substantiate the effects on CHD. Furthermore, the effect of particular foods on CHD cannot be predicted solely by their content of total SFAs because individual SFAs may have different cardiovascular effects and major SFA food sources contain other constituents that could influence CHD risk. Research
is needed to clarify the role of SFAs compared with specific forms of carbohydrates in CHD risk and to compare specific foods with appropriate alternatives."
 

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Originally Posted by LeeRogers View Post

I agree with you that nutrition science (?) is in a sad state, but only in the 'netsphere', which is artificial and infested with crackpots and fools...
Yes, I agree with your entire post, but this especially. I can't say I've ever found the study of nutrition confusing or contradictory. Nor has the bulk of the information I have studied for most of my life been produced by vegans. Everything I have learned, that I have found necessary to apply, has yielded the exact results expected, so I have no complaints at all about how confusing nutritional science is, as I have never found it to be so.
 

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Originally Posted by SomebodyElse View Post

Yes, I agree with your entire post, but this especially. I can't say I've ever found the study of nutrition confusing or contradictory. Nor has the bulk of the information I have studied for most of my life been produced by vegans. Everything I have learned, that I have found necessary to apply, has yielded the exact results expected, so I have no complaints at all about how confusing nutritional science is, as I have never found it to be so.
Same here.
 

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Originally Posted by LeeRogers View Post

If you're suggesting that this group of eminent nutritional scientists below are either incompetent or biased, then I think you need to reconsider.
Incompetent, no. Biased, absolutely. I haven't met a single person that isn't, ever, myself included.

As for the whole anti-carb thing. Yes, I have researched a lot of it. Atkins I wasn't too impressed with. Gary Taubes brings up a lot of interesting points and research, and like other researchers and writers, he too is extremely biased.

I am not anti-carb, nor am I anti-fat. The bias of every one of these sides seems to be one of favor towards the idea that there is some perfect diet. My bias is quite the opposite. I believe the human body is vastly more adaptable than either give it credit for. I do consume a diet very high in saturated fat and, though I tend to avoid excessive sweets and refined flours, I get a moderate amount of carbs from coarse grains like oats and barley. Way more than is recommended by keto diet enthusiasts, but much less than most people, and I have been eating in this manner for quite some time, both before and after becoming vegetarian. I am in much better condition than most of the people telling me it will kill me, and my cholesterol is tested every time I donate blood, which I do frequently.

I believe that putting too much faith into either side of this carb vs. keto debate requires a good amount of double think, and taking a solid stance in either case requires one to ignore a large amount of conflicting evidence.
 

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I would also suggest that the animal industries are very powerful and we would be naive to think that they do not place resources in support of low-carb and Paleo blogs and other net sources. I've seen evidence of this support.

There's a lot to lose for them. Scheming and distorting evidence and appealing to the naive seem to be standard practices, in my view.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The same could be said for Monsanto, Kellog's, or any of the countless other companies who are just as powerful. Propaganda and bias is not limited to the meat industry, and organizations like the FDA and the American Heart Association are financially and politically tied to all of them.
 

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Originally Posted by LeeRogers View Post

I would also suggest that the animal industries are very powerful and we would be naive to think that they do not place resources in support of low-carb and Paleo blogs and other net sources. I've seen evidence of this support.

There's a lot to lose for them. Scheming and distorting evidence and appealing to the naive seem to be standard practices, in my view.
i think it runs a bit more deeply than that... those industries exist because people want meat and animal products. they have been culturally accepted for so long, the average person doesn't even think once, let alone twice, about the suffering of food animals. so why not eat away, gorging yourself, limited only by your appetite? this is exactly what the public has done. hell, in my life, i've done it. haven't most of us?

the people in the beef industry don't think of themselves as evil people. they see themselves as clever marketers. and they see nothing at all wrong or evil about killing cows. nor would the public see anything wrong with what they're doing. people are far more concerned with getting their next fix of animal fat.

i'm really hoping for food independence on my little farm in the coming years.
 

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Originally Posted by nomad888 View Post

Incompetent, no. Biased, absolutely. I haven't met a single person that isn't, ever, myself included.
Calories in calories out. -Every skinny person who can eat whatever they want or obese person who remains so despite being on a near starvation diet proves this concept to be flawed.
Yes, but you're clearly not understanding the scientific method. Re the saturated fat study, this is a large team of nutritional scientists whose job is to review the evidence and present a collective summary of the published evidence. When I said 'eminent' scientists in my previous post, this was not a casual comment: people like Walter Willett, Frank Hu, Nestel and Jacobsen are extremely experienced and respected -- and it's fair to say that Willett (Harvard School of Public Health) in particular has been a vociferous critic of the standard USDA food pyramid and a campaigner against junk, refined carbohydrates and sugars.

Further, papers in scientific journals also go to peer review, so ultimately many, many relevant people are involved in the publication of a paper like this. You are suggesting that's not good enough and that some outlier like Atkins or Taubes or some low-carb blogger or other (I am familiar with most of them), says differently. (This is the paradigm of global warming skeptics as well.)

Saturated fat, and plasma cholesterol levels are factors in heart disease. Dietary cholesterol is more complicated but it is also a factor. The evidence for this is powerful, akin to smoking and lung cancer, and anyone saying anything else is either selling something, naive, or not sufficiently familiar with the literature.

Second, regarding 'calories in, calories out', unless you believe that the First Law of Thermodynamics is flawed, then that's the rule. In practise, that's the rule as well. (1) There is no evidence that carbohydrates make us hungry and we eat more, even high-GI (a colleague has recently reviewed this), and (2) the thermic effect of food accounts for vary little increase in metabolic costs. You can work it out for protein versus carbs, and it's a few tens of calories/day for high-protein diets. This sort of stuff, pushed by the low-carb and Paleo community, is trivia and distraction and not relevant to the main game of losing weight.

Except for a very few people who might have a genetic tendency for abnormal metabolic output, fat people are fat because they eat too much and move too little, and the reverse for skinny people. Anything else is diet-book propaganda.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I've got nothing against any of these researchers. Heck I even have Willett's "Eat, Drink, and be Healthy" right next to my copy of "Good Calories, Bad Calories," and I consider both to be good books with a few things in common. Lots of good research references and plenty of things I simply don't agree with. Yes, I know many of these people are Ivy League Graduates, while I'm merely an uneducated soldier prone to skepticism. But considering that George Bush was a Harvard Graduate as well, as far as I'm concerned they can put any degree or title next to their names they want, and it won't impress me in the slightest. I just want to hear what they have to say and draw my own conclusions. That said, for every piece of evidence which suggests that saturated fat and cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease, there is another piece of evidence that suggests that it doesn't. I can't say who is right and who is wrong, but obviously a piece of the puzzle is missing and I see no point in stating anything on the topic as fact.

I am far from anti-carb. I believe there is a select group of people who can benefit from ketogenic diets when a traditional weight loss diet proves to have no effect, and the hypothesis that this may be because their bodies are unable to handle carbohydrates properly due to insulin resistance caused by a lifetime of crappy eating makes sense to me. I still consume a moderate amount of carbohydrates, because I am not a part of that group. Not as many as most people, and certainly not as many as most vegetarians, but way above what is recommended by Atkins, Taubes, and other keto proponents. I haven't come to any solid conclusions on exactly how carbohydrates as a whole affect the body, though I am convinced that concentrated fructose, i.e. sweeteners, can mess you up in a variety of ways.

Beyond that, I really don't have anything to debate. If you want to believe in the lipid hypothesis and the typical calories in calories out standard, I have no evidence to present which would conclusively prove any of these to be false, just like I have not seen anything that can conclusively prove any of these to be true. I do have my own experiences though, from which I have learned that I can maintain a diet that exceeds 2,000 fat calories per day and another 1,000 or so calories of coarse grains, fruits, and proteins, and still manage to avoid the obesity problems that plague many others, even as they spend half their lives dieting on less than 1,500 calories per day. I can't say exactly what role the laws of thermodynamics play in regards to nutrition, only again that something is missing.
 

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Originally Posted by nomad888 View Post

I just want to hear what they have to say and draw my own conclusions. That said, for every piece of evidence which suggests that saturated fat and cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease, there is another piece of evidence that suggests that it doesn't. I can't say who is right and who is wrong, but obviously a piece of the puzzle is missing and I see no point in stating anything on the topic as fact.
Okay . . . (1) But you are drawing conclusions, while pretending you're not. You did that in your original post, re saturated fat, cholesterol, etc. (2) Unless you have trawled through hundreds, perhaps thousands of research papers there is no way you can say that for every piece of evidence there is contradictory evidence because you don't have the data to compare. This is just unsubstantiated speculation, and the study I quoted suggests that this is not the case. (3) It seems that your tendency is to believe the contrarians who oppose the logical basis of science. Let them publish their own studies by all means, but blogs and popular books are not the core upon which the philosophy of science, knowledge and understanding are based.

And the 'uneducated soldier' bit doesn't mean much - either way. Many great scientists were not formally educated. Off the cuff I can think of Einstein, Franklin and Jane Goodall. And I agree that there are many PhDs and MDs out there who seem to lack logical analytical ability. That's why we have peer reviews and multiple authors on review papers. That's a part of the checks and balances of science. It doesn't always work, but in this case the evidence is very strong across experimental, intervention, and long-term epidemiological studies. Of course, Brown and Goldstein won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for the lipid (cholesterol) hypothesis in 1985.
 

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okay, what about the conversion of complex carb to human body fat. how efficient is the body at this, vs doing the same thing with consumed fats? i've read there is a 30% loss of energy during carbohydrate conversion to body fat. can someone point out a reliable source regarding the conversion of consumed carbs to bodyfat?

is a calorie always a calorie?
 

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Originally Posted by papayamon View Post

is a calorie always a calorie?
I think that question is too deeply philosophical for any of us to answer.
 

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Originally Posted by papayamon View Post

okay, what about the conversion of complex carb to human body fat. how efficient is the body at this, vs doing the same thing with consumed fats? i've read there is a 30% loss of energy during carbohydrate conversion to body fat. can someone point out a reliable source regarding the conversion of consumed carbs to bodyfat? is a calorie always a calorie?
Good point. The conversion of carbs to fat is called de novo lipogenesis (DNL). I've not seen that 30% number but there is always a metabolic energy cost in such a conversion. Similarly, protein has a higher thermic cost, compared to carbs compared to fat, roughly in this order --> 30%, 20%, 5%. This is the energy cost of metabolising these macronutrients for absorption and use. The low-carb, high-protein mob like to point out the higher metabolic cost of protein, but what they don't say is that low-carb diets have to be higher in fat because you cannot replace all the carbs with protein. In the end there's little difference. More propaganda from the low carbers.

So, no, a calorie is not a calorie, but the differences are not significant in the scheme of things for weight loss. Total energy in, energy out is the main game. The other claim is that protein is more satiating, therefore high-protein diets make you less hungry and this facilitates weight loss. There is scant evidence for this, and in any case, it needs to be tested against a 'high-fibre' carbohydrate diet. We know that high fibre consumption is very satiating, that's why athletes are cautioned against eating too much fibre. In their case it can prevent them from reaching the energy intakes some require.

Regarding carbs to fat, this only really occurs when glucose stores are full. This applies to fructose as well. And even then, the fat is not permanently locked away, it can be used for energy like any other fat consumed and stored. Low-carb propaganda likes to suggest to people that carbohydrates are automatically converted to fat, and then this is locked away and makes you fat. It's dishonest, a myth, and serves only to sell crappy diet books and to fuel a few fanatical blogs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I feel like I'm trying to discuss evolution in a church. I don't even want to take sides really, I simply don't understand why this is such an emotional, triggering issue for some people.

I pretty much agree in regards to protein though. I would not suggest anyone try to get a substantial amount of calories from protein, and I think the fact that this was not emphasized is indeed a major weakness of the current anti-carb trends. There is compelling (though not conclusive) evidence that this can cause a whole other range of problems beyond and more serious than the obesity issue. Protein is for building tissues, and is not meant to be used as energy. Though it can be as a backup, this role is best left to either carbohydrates or fats. I've seen more than a few fitness fanatics seriously screw up their kidneys by regularly consuming ridiculous amounts of protein. One day they're in seemingly fantastic condition, the next day they're in the hospital being told they'll be on dialysis for the rest of their life. Not good for someone who likes to be constantly active.

As for the carb vs. fat debate, this is starting to play out the same way it always does, and I'm not going to get involved any further, at least not in the debate aspect of it. You've obviously seen much of the same research as I have and, for whatever reason, we each choose to believe or not believe the opposite as the other, and have thus come to completely different conclusions. I think you underestimate the impact of this so called unsubstantiated propaganda, however. It is more than just a few nutcases who don't agree with you, and plenty of reputable people are starting to catch on. I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing because, pointless debates aside, it works and I am in very good health despite (or because of) having consumed relatively high amounts of fats for years and more years. Tell you what, if I die of a heart attack, I invite you to say "I told you so."
 

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Originally Posted by LeeRogers View Post

Good point. The conversion of carbs to fat is called de novo lipogenesis (DNL). I've not seen that 30% number but there is always a metabolic energy cost in such a conversion. Similarly, protein has a higher thermic cost, compared to carbs compared to fat, roughly in this order --> 30%, 20%, 5%. This is the energy cost of metabolising these macronutrients for absorption and use. The low-carb, high-protein mob like to point out the higher metabolic cost of protein, but what they don't say is that low-carb diets have to be higher in fat because you cannot replace all the carbs with protein. In the end there's little difference. More propaganda from the low carbers.

So, no, a calorie is not a calorie, but the differences are not significant in the scheme of things for weight loss. Total energy in, energy out is the main game. The other claim is that protein is more satiating, therefore high-protein diets make you less hungry and this facilitates weight loss. There is scant evidence for this, and in any case, it needs to be tested against a 'high-fibre' carbohydrate diet. We know that high fibre consumption is very satiating, that's why athletes are cautioned against eating too much fibre. In their case it can prevent them from reaching the energy intakes some require.

Regarding carbs to fat, this only really occurs when glucose stores are full. This applies to fructose as well. And even then, the fat is not permanently locked away, it can be used for energy like any other fat consumed and stored. Low-carb propaganda likes to suggest to people that carbohydrates are automatically converted to fat, and then this is locked away and makes you fat. It's dishonest, a myth, and serves only to sell crappy diet books and to fuel a few fanatical blogs.
what about the case where you are consuming very little fat? wouldn't that force the body down this more metabolically expensive pathway to manufacture fat, if the body is to store it?

so couldn't you eat more calories with less available to be stored as fat after the conversion loss?

you are correct about the high protein crowd. you can't eat high protein without eating high fat, as a practical matter. however, the diet based on complex carbs can allow you to limit fats.

in addition, if you are eating a plant based, no oils/fats diet - wouldn't you be eating so much fiber that you'd be less efficiently digesting all the calories? again, i've heard a figure of approximately 20% of the calories not being absorbed.

the point is, wouldn't the complex carb based diet allow you to eat a significant amount more food without causing fat stores? so that each 1000 calories you consume, there would only be 1000 (1-.2) = 800 (200 calories lost from non absorption), 800(1-0.3) = 560 (240 calories lost from conversion of carbs to body fat). the figures are, of course, both aggressive and a crude oversimplification... but if you could eat even 30% more calories without gaining weight, wouldn't that be significant for most people?
 
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