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Calorie counting leads to bad science and worse gadgets

Calorie counting leads to bad science and worse gadgets The Verge


"As the co-author of a book called Why Calories Count, I might be expected to favor calorie counting but I most definitely do not. It cannot be done accurately or even close to accurately," noted NYU nutritionist Marion Nestle tells The Verge. In November 2010, then-president and CEO of Weight Watchers David Kirchhoff conceded that point and admitted that "calorie-counting has become unhelpful" for people trying to lose weight. Citing the myriad variables that go into working out how much energy is in your food and how much of it you can actually digest, his company completely reworked its program.

In spite of a widespread professional unease about getting too specific with calories, that’s exactly what new technology is doing. The problem is that standards for accuracy and reliability of consumer health gadgets are not as strict as those for professional use because, well, they don’t exist. 


A system that consistently miscalculates energy use risks being falsely reassuring or forcing the user into an unnecessarily restrictive diet. You’re better off, argues Nestle, buying a scale to weigh yourself and judging whether to eat more or less by looking at whether you’re gaining or losing weight. It’s a breathtakingly basic approach, but until the technology to achieve true "scientific eating" matures, it’s the best option on the table.

Stashed in: Quantified Self, Nutrition!

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Thanks to the items in my nutrition stash, I have learned that a calorie is not a calorie.

Calories from sugar and processed foods are much worse for the body and much more likely to lead to chronic metabolic disorder than calories from unprocessed vegetables and meats.

Therefore it's more important to watch which calories rather than count calories.

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