Chapter 5 – What is one pound of fat?

Introduction The first part of the calorie formula is the assertion that one pound of fat contains 3,500 calories. You will struggle to find anyone who can demonstrate the precise calculation behind this, so I have sourced the following to get as close as possible to 3,500 calories: 1) One pound equals 454 grams (decimal places aside, this is a fact); 2) Fat has nine calories per gram (this is the universally accepted conversion, but it is an estimate and materially rounded down from even the original estimate); 3) Human fat tissue is approximately 87% lipid (this is a widely accepted conversion, but it is also an estimate). Putting these together, we can derive the sum that 454 grams of body fat tissue has approximately the calorific energy of 395 grams of pure fat (454 grams x 87%), that is 3,555 calories (395 grams x 9). 3,555 is close enough to 3,500 you may think, until you see the absurdity of how precisely the formula is applied. According to those who believe this formula, this difference of 55 calories (in this case from the calculation being approximate) would make five to six pounds difference a year. The National Obesity Forum web site states “one less (sic) 50 calorie plain biscuit per day could help you lose 5lbs (2.3kg) in a year – and one extra biscuit means you could gain that in a year!”[78] No it won’t. I can’t even get an estimate of the formula to closer than 55 calories ‘out’. Even if the 3,555 were correct (and it isn’t), this would mean we all need a 55 calorie biscuit, no fewer, every day or we will be five pounds lighter in a year anyway. Every person who didn’t have that biscuit every day should have lost 141 pounds over the past 25 years. The only part of the calculation, which is not subject to question, is one pound equals 454 grams. The decimal places on the pound to gram conversion would make a difference over time, if the rest had any validity. The other two components, being estimates within wide ranges, negate the entire calculation. This variability has also been known all along – it is not something that has been discovered since, or questioned since (with the Livesey exception noted below).


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