Fair warning: Tyler Cowen is even more highly represented this week than usual, which for some reason I feel the need to apologise for. ----- 3 stars ----- Death of the Calorie / The Economist (1843 Magazine) The guidance that Camacho’s doctors gave him, along with a string of nutritionists and his own online research, was unanimous. It would be familiar to the millions of people who have ever tried to diet. “Everybody tells you that to lose weight you have to eat less and move more,” he says, “and the way to do that is to count your calories.” [...] “I filled in Excel spreadsheets every night, every week and every month listing everything I ate. It became a real obsession for me,” says Camacho. [...] “I was always tired and hungry and I would get really moody and distracted,” he says. “I was thinking about food all the time.” He was constantly told that if he got the maths right – consuming fewer calories than he burned each day – the results would soon show. “I really did everything you are supposed to do,” he insists with the tone of a schoolboy who completed his homework yet still failed a big test. He bought a battery of exercise monitoring devices to measure how many calories he was expending on his runs. “I was told to exercise for at least 45 minutes at least four or five times a week. I actually ran for more than an hour every day.” He kept to low-fat, low-calorie food for three years. It simply didn’t work. At one point he lost about 10kg but his weight rebounded, though he still restricted his calories. Dieters the world over will be familiar with Camacho’s frustrations. Most studies show that more than 80% of people regain any lost weight in the long term. And like him, when we fail, most of us assume that we are too lazy or greedy – that we are at fault. [...] The calorie as a scientific measurement is not in dispute. But calculating the exact calorific content of food is far harder than the confidently precise numbers displayed on food packets suggest. Two items of food with identical calorific values may be digested in very different ways. Each body processes calories differently. Even for a single individual, the time of day that you eat matters. The more we probe, the more we realise that tallying calories will do little to help us control our weight or even maintain a healthy diet: the beguiling simplicity of counting calories in and calories out is dangerously flawed. [...] He went back to items that he’d long banned himself from eating. He had his first rasher of bacon in three years and enjoyed cheese, whole-fat milk and steaks. He immediately felt less hungry and happier. More surprising, he quickly began to lose his extra fat. [...] Today Camacho could be described as a calorie dissident, one of a small but growing number of academics and scientists who say that the persistence of calorie-counting compounds the obesity epidemic, rather than remedying it. Counting calories has disrupted our ability to eat the right amount of food, he says, and has steered us towards poor choices. In 2017 he wrote an academic paper that was one of the most savage attacks on the calorie system published in a peer-reviewed journal.