THE ENEMY WITHIN. THE GLOBAL
OBESITY EPIDEMIC .
Dr. René Menguy
PART 8. WHAT IS ARE CALORIES AND HOW TO COUNT THEM
It’s been my experience that most people are reluctant to learn to use calorie counting for weight control. They prefer to follow precise diet instructions. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. For many, the only solution is eating commercially prepared meals with specified caloric contents.
I believe that most people are quite capable of understanding this most fundamental aspect of health maintenance.
Begin by looking upon your body as an engine, just like a car’s; an engine designed to fulfill multiple functions: it can walk on two legs, lift objects, speak and above all, think. Like your car, its energy comes from burning fuel. The engine burns gasoline; food is the fuel we burn. Both gasoline and food are hydrocarbons and derive their energy from the sun. Engines and bodies use basically identical processes to draw energy from gasoline or food. In humans and animals, this process is called metabolism.
The word metabolism encompasses all the chemical reactions our bodies use to draw energy from food, store it and, as needed, use that energy to drive the multiple processes making up life. Metabolism is essential to life. Sans it, there is no life.
A Calorie is a unit of ENERGY. To understand the concept of Calories, one must understand ENERGY; a word often bandied about, often without much thought given to its true meaning.
Energy is present throughout the Universe, and is governed by immutable laws created 13.7 billion years ago at the time of the “big bang”. It can be defined as a FORCE with the CAPACITY to do work or produce change.
The FORCE called energy is never created or lost but always transformed into one or more other forms of energy without any of the original energy being lost. Beyond this, it gets very, very complicated and well beyond my pay grade. Energy takes many forms:
Radiant energy. In the rays of the Sun or radiant heat coming from your fireplace.
Nuclear energy. Nuclear fusion taking place in our Sun has provided the planet Earth with its energy needs since its creation.
Potential energy. The capacity for doing work conferred upon something by its position or composition. For example, an object dropped from a cliff, falls as a result of gravitational energy. As it falls, it acquires kinetic energy, which can be measured as the ½ of the product of the mass m (weight) of the object by the square of its velocity V.
If the object is water falling onto the blades of a turbine connected to a generator its kinetic energy, by producing work, is transformed into electrical energy.
Chemical energy, another form of potential energy, results from the formation of chemical bonds. These are the links joining atoms to form molecules. The glucose molecule is composed of atoms of Hydrogen- H-, Oxygen- O- and Carbon-C- linked by chemical bonds. One may compare a molecule of glucose to a train with each car being an atom and each coupling a chemical bond.
Where did the energy contained in those chemical bonds originate? Green-leafed plants contain a pigment-chlorophyll-that harnesses the Sun’s radiant energy, and uses it to synthesize carbohydrates from atmospheric carbon dioxide and H2O (absorbed by the roots) through a process called photosynthesis. The main carbohydrate thus synthesized is glucose, the building block of complex carbohydrates such as cellulose and starch. Many animals can digest cellulose but man can only digest starch by freeing its glucose molecules in the intestine. The energy in the spoonful of sugar in your morning coffee came from the Sun, between 91 and 152 million miles away.
Metabolic chemical reactions require oxygen. Oxygen’s involvement in these reactions is called oxidation and is similar to what takes place in a wood fire. The burning wood releases its potential energy in the form of light, heat and CO2 and H2O.
Why don’t we see smoke and flames coming from someone eating?
For wood to burn that way, it must first be heated to its ignition temperature of 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Once ignited, the burning is self sustained. But living cells contain enzymes that along with oxygen break down glucose and other food molecules. Their energy becomes available to the cell, CO2 and H2O are released, and heat to keep our bodies warm is generated.
In the next posting, Calories and normal Caloric needs will be discussed.
To be continued.