Mass balance rather than energy balance?

Edited 6.6.2023: It's mass balance rather than energy balance? Or how many angels can dance on the tip of a pin? This article argues that obesity is the result of a mass imbalance rather than an energy imbalance.

I think this is the "carbon diet" argument. Food is organic (consists of carbon) and those carbons are stored, breathed out, or pooped out of our body. Just like energy can't be created or destroyed, just exchanged, so it is with mass.

It's a bit pedantic, but saying it is mass rather than energy gets around the "human bodies are an open system" issue that anti-energy balance theory (EBT) like to toss out as though they win the argument, QED.

In an open system mass and energy can be exchanged, in a closed system, only energy is exchanged, mass is constant. But how do you get rid of more mass? by increasing your energy or limiting the amount of mass you ingest (ie eat fewer calories).

Food isn't just carbon, there's oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and other atoms as well obviously. Nitrogen gets used to repair or build muscles, otherwise is urinated out of the body. Protein is the macronutrient containing nitrogen. But the bulk of food is carbon, so tracking carbon and what happens to it is a good proxy.

And here is where it becomes a bit of a pedantic argument for me: to break down food into carbon and water requires energy, so really it works out to be the same thing… doesn't it? I have no problem with the idea that in order to lose weight you have to expend more carbon (breathe more by moving more), but that still mean expending more energy.

Basically the author wants it to be MIMO not CICO… mass in vs mass out rather than calories in vs calories out. And although the auhtor is plainly a low carb diet fan, he also slags Taubes's ridiculous insulin model. Energy can't create mass, but neither does insulin.

The biggest flaw in this argument is that the author vastly oversimplifies the range of reactions that occur in the body. Kevin Hall's EBT tries to encompass the range of reactions, which is why his model is so complicated. The body is not as simple as this paper makes it seem. The author also puts too much credence in free-living self-reported data. I admit that I skipped those sections because I simply don't believe self-reported data. Having tracked calories (or macronutrients, which works out the the same thing…) I know how difficult it is.

The end of the paper is a bunch of whining about how people don't want to adopt his paradigm. I doubt that's the case with Hall, but it's certainly the case with Taubes. I'd be interested in Hall's take on mass balance vs energy balance, though I doubt he'd waste his time on this type of paper.

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