A study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes that reducing calories results in the same weight loss regardless of how the caloric reduction is realized. In other words a calorie lost from reducing fat, or carbohydrate, or protein has the same effect. “Reduced-calorie diets result in clinically meaningful weight loss regardless of which macronutrients they emphasize,” is the study’s conclusion.

This study gets the tautology of the century award. How could these investigators have found otherwise without rewriting the law of conservation of energy and matter? The NY Times is duly impressed by the study’s importance. It’s featured in its Fitness and Health section. Lavoisier would have been delighted if he hadn’t already lost his head over something else.

Apparently, the state of science education has fallen so far that some further explanation is needed. If you burn 2400 calories a day (actually kilocalories) and eat a diet containing 2490 calories you’ll be 90 calories positive. It doesn’t matter what form these calories originally assumed; a calorie is a calorie. The extra 90 calories will be converted to fat and stored as flab. One gram of fat yields nine calories. Thus the 90 extra calories will result in 10 grams of fat. If this caloric excess keeps up for 45 days you’ll have an extra 450 grams of fat – about one pound. If you want to lose that pound you’ll have to burn 450 grams of fat to heat. This means that you’ll have to burn 4050 calories more than you consume. That’s a lot of calories just to lose one pound which is why weight loss is so hard.

Notice that no where does the source of the calories forsaken enter into this equation. If you want to lose a pound of fat you have to take in 4050 less calories than you metabolize. Thus the NEJM study which is getting a lot of press could not posssibly have been other than it is. No study was needed to discover this starling fact unless your initial premise was that the first law of thermodynamics was in question.