Diet Mystery Is Solved

After the lady from Philadelphia left, I really gave thought to the strange paradox that a person eating two and one-half to three pounds of food per day on our L. C. diet lost more weight, and lost it more consistently, than the person who was starved-the person on a fast.

I had my secretary cull out, from treatment records of the past twelve months, the histories of patients who had been on a fast (they numbered 152) and on the L. C. diet (206). Yes, the rule held.

Some questions still remained in my mind, so I detailed our junior dietitian to correlate, catalogue, and summarize for me the weight charts from January 1921 to the time of my study. Although the house physicians were supposed to keep detailed and exact progress records, quite a few cases had to be discarded in our survey because of careless entries. Nevertheless, this fact stuck out like the Empire State building: the L. C. diet was more “reducing” than a fast!

Naturally, we compared patients of approximately the same weight. It became apparent that the greater the accumulation of body fat, the greater weight loss ratio an the L. C. group.

Please note that our fasts were not complete starvation. Diluted fruit juices staved off starvation toxemia. (Besides withdrawal of food, the actual sickness-toxemia or mild fever-produced by starvation causes some weight loss.)

A fasting patient somewhat active and free from starvation toxemia lost about three-fourths of a pound a day (2500 calories). The average weight loss on the Lindlahr seven-day reducing diet, all cases combined, has been over a pound day. Heavyweights lose a pound and one-half or so daily. The same heavyweights starving (without toxemia) would probably lose only three-fourths to one pound a day (actual energy expenditure).

Now the study had become deeply interesting. Established assumptions in dietetic practice were being given a rude jolt. Fond dietetic beliefs were shattered, and established nutritional principles branded mistakes. I had to look for explanations.

The story of my subsequent search would likely be of great interest to a nutritionist, but to the lay reader it would be a dull maze of mystifying words and phrases.. Here was a problem not to be solved with test tubes and guinea pigs; here was a principle to be ferreted out.

The trail led through a wilderness of what we don’t know about food metabolism. I had to back-track to the study of how foods behave when burned in calorimeters. I had to seek every last morsel of knowledge about the behavior of nitrogen and the mineral elements in foods during metabolism.

The complex problems of what is called the respiratory quotient in food chemistry gave a light. The intricate workings of the water metabolism of the body gave more clues. Strangely enough, the best clue came from follow, ing the steps by which a cow makes cream out of grass.

I had to reclassify foods. Standard textbooks still apply the term carbohydrate (starch) to lettuce, mushrooms, and half a hundred other foods which have more water content than milk, and very little starch and sugar. The fact that some chapters in our established works on food chemistry should be rewritten may not seem of moment to lay readers. However, it is important, for the L. C. diet destroys fat, and the how and why is an open sesame to combating overweight.

Read carefully now-for to control body fat as easily and pleasantly as I do, you will have to take a little dip into food chemistry. The high points follow:

Lavoisier, remember, taught us that food produces heat in the body. What he could not discover with his head cut off, other men did.

A contemporary of Lavoisier’s, swashbuckling Count Rumford (born Ben Thomson near Woburn, Massachusetts, in 1753), had invented an instrument to measure heat-the calorimeter.

To estimate heat values accurately, a specified unit of heat was devised and called a calorie, just as you call a certain amount of water a pint, or a definite unit of flour or rice an ounce.

Therefore, since Rumford’s time, scientists have been busy measuring the heat-giving value of foods, and expressing it as so many calories. With this knowledge, we can reckon that a strip of bacon may give you enough body heat to work up a fine fervor in a political argument -two stalks of celery, enough coolness to snub a banker.

Many years after Rumford, a precocious and fussy Englishman, James Prescot Joule, demonstrated (in 1843, when he was 25 years old) that mechanical force has its exact equivalent in heat. Thus, a calorie of heat is also a definite measurement of energy, and we can surmise that the heat which fevers a lover’s brow can also propel his legs-if an irate parent shouts “Get out!”

Two years after Joule’s amazing contribution to science, a stiff-necked Prussian out of Potsdam, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz, proved that any form of energy can be transformed into another-and that the sum total of all energy in the universe is constant.

We find, then, by applying this law, that some curves of a double chin may be just a locked-up ten-mile walk. Thus, if you are in the mood to dispense with a fold or two, you can do so by undertaking a vigorous hike. The energy you use is provided by burning up body fat. (Let’s hope it comes from the chin deposits).

Now, to recapitulate: Body energy and heat are supplied by foods. Heat and energy not used are stored as fat. It follows that if we lipophilics eat more fat-forming food than we can use, the surplus will be stored as fat, perhaps jowls, or an extra bulge in the abdomen.

All of this does not explain why my patients, eating three pounds of food a day on the L. C. diet, lost more weight than those who were fasting.

Here is the answer to the puzzle, as simply as I can state it.

It costs body heat and energy to digest food. When you eat a piece of steak, your teeth must grind it. Esophageal muscles carry the chewed morsels to your stomach, where they are rocked to and fro for a few hours, while little glands provide ferments which partly digest them.

Later, thirty-three feet of intestines will mold and enfold what was once a steak, and a few other digestive juices will change the material into more simple chemical forms.

Finally, tiny suction pumps will carry some of the digested steak to lymph glands in your body for further use. Blood cells will patiently load a microscopic bit into their hollows, and carry it to hungry cells throughout the body.

The liver, the spleen and the pancreas will play a part in this process. The heart will beat harder for it. Even the lungs will take in more air because you have eaten a steak. All told, you use a considerable amount of body heat and energy (calories) in this complicated process of chewing and digesting a piece of steak, and assimilating its ultimate fractions for body use.

There is no way to calculate, in exact calorie value, the amount of heat and energy a given person will use in metabolizing a piece of steak. The calorie cost will vary with the individual, for we all behave just a little bit differently.

We do know, however, that it does not require nearly as much body energy to digest the steak as the steak itself will provide. We make an energy (calorie) profit out of the transaction

To illustrate: A four-ounce piece of steak may supply about 200 calories. If we assume, for the sake of simplicity, that the average person uses about twenty-five calories of body energy preparing this steak for body use, he will make a net profit of 175 calories. If these are used up in exercise, work, sleep or play, good enough. If not, they may be stored as an ounce of fat.

Now let us consider the metabolic fate of four ounces of spinach. All those processes involved in the digestion of a piece of steak must also take place to digest a portion of spinach. The same whirling and twirling of the digestive system, the same physical and chemical commotion-there is not much difference. The metabolic heat cost and body energy expense in digesting four ounces of spinach is as great as in digesting four ounces of steak.

In fact, the calorie cost in spinach digestion may be greater, owing to its relatively high mineral value and roughage content. (There is practically no metabolic cost in digesting sugar and alcohol-remember that.)

Four ounces of cooked spinach will yield seventeen calories of energy value. If we use the same arbitrary figure that we did with steak, and allow twenty-five calories of energy and heat to digest the spinach, we find that the spinach eater would lose heat and energy, in the transaction, to the extent of eight calories.

Where are these extra calories of energy to come from? The body cannot find them in the spinach, so they must come eventually from stored fat in the body.

That is why eating spinach alone would cause an actual weight (calorie) loss to the body. There are many foods of the same nature. Obviously, they come in very handy for reducing diets.

After I arrived at this fundamental fact in the metabolic behavior of certain foods, a convenient term to designate them as a class was needed. I chose “catabolic foods” as a logical name.

Body metabolism is composed of two separate divisions of activity: one is the breaking down of tissues, called catabolism; the other is the building up of tissues, called anabolism. In youth the body grows and develops; anabolism is then greater than catabolism.

When foods create a deficit in the body fat, they may, properly be called catabolic foods because the process of losing weight is a catabolic process. Adding fat to the body is an anabolic process and foods which will perform this function may be called the anabolic foods.

After growth has been completed, anabolism and catabolism remain equal; the body tissues retain a status quo as far as growth is concerned. In the later years of life, the catabolic processes increase, the tissues shrink, and the weight grows less.

Generally speaking, the person who puts on extra fat is receiving too generous treatment from the anabolic processes. If anabolism could be tamed down some and remain equal to catabolism, body weight would stay at a normal level. This is just what happens with many fortunate people.

It is desirable for the overweight person to have an increase in catabolism until the weight becomes normal. When we found that some foods were definitely catabolic, we found excellent weapons to regulate metabolism. Our next step was to study foods and class them as anabolic and catabolic, as the case might be. At first glance, it might seem strange that some foods really take weight from the body, but when the facts are appreciated, it is understandable, for some foods have a very specific purpose in nutrition. They supply rare but vitally needed minerals perhaps, or extraordinary quantities of some particular vitamin. Nature seems to have been concerned only with this purpose.

For example, spinach gives us relatively tremendous quantities of Vitamin A, iron, and other minerals, considering its high water content and minute percentage of solids.

Nature is apparently willing that the body be forced to expend extra energy and work to dig out these precious properties. Hence a catabolic food, while costing us a little fat and extra body energy, really gives a valuable return in the form of minerals and vitamins. Nature makes us work for the good things in food.

Study and consideration of the catabolic foods showed them to consist, chiefly, of those with a very high water content (such as cucumbers, 96 per cent water; cabbage, 94 per cent). The seventy-five really excellent catabolic foods are in the class called protective foods-those exceedingly rich in mineral and vitamin values, “healthful” foods.

Here was a stroke of luck. Imagine it: the very foods that contribute valuable vitamins and food minerals to the body turned out to be reducing foods.

A person twenty pounds overweight has 70,000 calories of stored fat. He could live for thirty-five days without any food-just water-and still do moderate work. Hence, it would seem decidedly beneficial for such a per son to starve and use some of his burdening fat. But even a grossly overweight person must eat because food provides other necessary factors to life-vitamins, minerals, proteins, water, and so on. We must eat, even when reducing!

Additional inquiry into the catabolic foods showed not only mineral and vitamin values. Many of them were foods that provide an alkaline ash, very useful in offsetting the acid residue of fat destruction in the body. Furthermore, some of the catabolic foods were very rich in the food factors that have a favorable influence on the internal secretory glands.

The catabolic foods, as might be expected, were all very low in calorie value. When we figured up the daily calorie value of our L. C. diet, or its modification which became the reducing diet, the three pounds of food totalled only 600 calories on the average.

Here was another revolutionary turn. Many a dietitian vowed then that it was impossible to support life in an adult with only 600 calories per day. We knew that it was possible. For twenty years patients had lived for weeks and months on the L. C. diet and thrived. Patients had been cured of grievous disease by the L. C. diet, not withstanding its low calorie value. A 600 calorie per day reducing diet! That’s what the lady from Philadelphia led us to.

Just take a general view of the connotations of this discovery. First and foremost, here is a therapeutic diet which has made sick people well. Secondly, to lose fat efficiently on this diet, you have to eat, not starve yourself as some think. Furthermore, you have to consume large quantities of catabolic foods in order to lose weight rapidly. Eating large quantities of food to lose weight is something new for the fatty. But it is correct.

If the word catabolic is unwieldly or strange to you, call the catabolic foods “reducing” foods if you please. That is what they are. Or call them the “minus” foods, and weight-adding foods, the “plus” foods. In my daily tilting with Debble Fat, I keep a rummy score. I use points instead of calories, and I know that I have about 1800 points as my bank for the day.

A man of my size and activity needs about 1800 calories a day to live. If I, a lipophilic, eat more than 1800 calories’ worth a day, I will store more fat. As I grow older and my metabolism rate diminishes, even 1800 calories will be too much.

Now if I should eat 1800 points of plus (fattening, anabolic) foods, I would be even-steven. Every time I eat a minus (thinning, catabolic) food, I am just that much ahead of Debble Fat for the day. Not only have I failed to add calories to my score, but I have actually trimmed some off.

See what a good game it is? Understand now why I don’t have any worries about fat-why I have fun controlling my weight? It is far more interesting than bridge-and the stakes are higher.

Some days I eat six minus foods and only two plus ones. At other table sessions, I can’t get out of eating too many plus foods. The next day I make up for it.

If I want a luscious, appealing plus food with plenty of calories as a main dish, I confound Debbie Fat by compensating for my choice, somewhat, with minus foods in all the other menu roles. He is a puzzled foe, Debbie Fat, with this system.

You do have to know your foods with this system of weight control. You have to know something about any game you play-to win.

Let me tell you about some of these foods.

Note to readers versed in physiological chemistry: The heat and energy cost incurred in the metabolism of the catabolic foods must be considered distinct from the phenomena of specific dynamic action ( S.D.A. ) .

The 6 per cent allowance made for increased metabolism due to food itself, as calculated in many standard diets, is excellent as far as it goes, but obviously the energy costs must vary with the type of food.