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Author Topic: What are empty calories?  (Read 4141 times)

Variola

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What are empty calories?
« on: 24/03/2009 11:46:51 »
Hello all,

Amidst various dieting claims, is the "empty" calorie one, usually used when speaking about high fat foods or alcohol. "It contains empty calories and is of no use to your body, therefore its just stored as fat", is the general gist of the claim.
Now I know the basics of metabolism and energy production, but I am baffled as to why a calorie ( which is just a unit of measurement anyway) would be empty? I also understand the different between lipid and carb metabolism.(ish)  Is glucose or other readily metabolised products ( maltose, fructose etc) of a different structure in high fat foods or alcohol so as that is can't be metabolised as ATP by cells? But then if it can't be metabolised how is it then stored as fat??
Or is it all just codswallop??

Any ideas or answers appreciated, but if you speak in chemistry language please speak slowly as my brain doesn't work well on that level  ;D

Baffled of Sussex.
« Last Edit: 27/03/2009 09:04:04 by chris »


 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: What are empty calories?
« Reply #1 on: 24/03/2009 19:41:22 »
There's nothing wrong with empty calories as such.
However, in any sensible diet you need enough calories and also things like fats, proteins, vitamins etc.
If you eat lots of sweets (candy for those across the pond) you get a lot of calories and, if you don't get enough exercise those calories are stored as fat (they would be, no matter whether they were eaten as fat protein or sugar because that's what the body does with spare energy; it hoards it for later).
The problem is that, having eaten the sweets, you still need to eat other things to ensure that you get the vitamins and such and those other things also have calories in them.
This is likely to lead to eating more calories than you actually use and, therfore, to weight gain.
Of course, if you are doing lots of exercise the problem is somewhat reduced.
 

Variola

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Re: What are empty calories?
« Reply #2 on: 24/03/2009 19:58:34 »
There's nothing wrong with empty calories as such.
However, in any sensible diet you need enough calories and also things like fats, proteins, vitamins etc.
If you eat lots of sweets (candy for those across the pond) you get a lot of calories and, if you don't get enough exercise those calories are stored as fat (they would be, no matter whether they were eaten as fat protein or sugar because that's what the body does with spare energy; it hoards it for later).
The problem is that, having eaten the sweets, you still need to eat other things to ensure that you get the vitamins and such and those other things also have calories in them.
This is likely to lead to eating more calories than you actually use and, therfore, to weight gain.
Of course, if you are doing lots of exercise the problem is somewhat reduced.

Thanks for the reply :o)

What is an 'empty" calorie though? Is it that the glucose structure that differs meaning it cant be metabolised into ATP??
How does an #empty' calorie differ from one in a fruit/veg or protein??
 

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Offline Phil1907

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Re: What are empty calories?
« Reply #3 on: 24/03/2009 22:35:43 »
Shrunk
It's just a typical non-scientifc comment of the heath police.
 

Offline DrN

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Re: What are empty calories?
« Reply #4 on: 24/03/2009 23:51:39 »
Yep, if you were on a diet, you could eat 1500 calories worth of jelly sweets a day and stick to your 'maximum calorie intake', but it wouldn't do you any good!
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: What are empty calories?
« Reply #5 on: 25/03/2009 20:30:01 »
Glucose is just glucose. But if it happens to be part of an orange you get the aded benefit of some fibre and  vitamin C etc.
Without those "added extras" it's described as empty. The calorie count is exactly the same from a gram of glucose as a pure white powder or as part of an orange.
 

Variola

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Re: What are empty calories?
« Reply #6 on: 25/03/2009 20:38:02 »
Quote
Glucose is just glucose. But if it happens to be part of an orange you get the aded benefit of some fibre and  vitamin C etc.
Without those "added extras" it's described as empty. The calorie count is exactly the same from a gram of glucose as a pure white powder or as part of an orange.

Gotya! Thanks Bored Chem.  :)I did suspect that it might be more to do with nutritional value than anything else, but its surprising just how many different versions of the empty calorie concept  had heard, but with chemistry not being my best subject I had wondered whether I had missed something regarding glucose structure.
 

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Re: What are empty calories?
« Reply #6 on: 25/03/2009 20:38:02 »

 

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