David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
from the world's big
Start Learning

Are all calories created equal?

It's that time of year again.  My gym is chock full of New Year's resolutioners--hogging treadmills and filling up space in already tight Zumba classes, desperate to lose a few pounds in 2013.  

We know that most of these people won't keep to their weight loss resolutions.  In a few weeks, the gym will be back to the regulars, the vision of all those January crowds just an annoying memory.  But why won't most people keep up their quest for fitness?  Because they can't figure out why, even after working out and trying to diet, they aren't losing weight.

Think about it.  For years, we've heard the same line about weight loss:  Eat less, exercise more.  We've been told that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie--and we simply need to burn more calories than we take in if we want to lose weight.  Simple, right? But as anyone who has fought the battle of the bulge can tell you, it rarely feels that simple.  And a new imaging study from the Yale University School of Medicine may offer us one clue as to why.  Maybe our brains don't see all calories as "equal."

Kathleen A. Page, M.D., and colleagues scanned the brains of 20 healthy adults after ingesting a sugary drink.  Each participant was scanned twice--once after a fructose drink and the other time after a glucose drink.  The group then looked at relative changes in cerebral blood flow in the hypothalamic regions of the brain, an area involved with feeding and appetite behaviors.  They also queried the group on their feelings of fullness.

They found something very interesting.  The glucose drink decreased activity in the hypothalamus, insula and striatum, the brain regions that affect appetite, reward and motivation--and increased self-reported ratings of satiety.  The glucose also increased functional connections between the hypothalamus and the striatum.  The findings were published in the January 2 issue of JAMA.  

What does this mean exactly?  Well, even though we've been told that a calorie is a calorie, the calories from fructose may affect the brain differently.  They may not signal the brain that we're full, that we no longer need to seek out food and eat.  It may actually spur us to overeat. This has certainly been observed in animal studies. And while this is a small (and not uncontroversial study), it probably makes a lot of sense to those resolutioners who will give up the gym come February.

What do you think?

Photo credit:  Kzenon/

LIVE EVENT | Radical innovation: Unlocking the future of human invention

Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

Bubonic plague case reported in China

Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.

Vials Of Bacteria That May Cause Plague Missing From TX University

(Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)
  • The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
  • Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
  • Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Keep reading Show less

The dangers of the chemical imbalance theory of depression

A new Harvard study finds that the language you use affects patient outcome.

Image: solarseven / Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • A study at Harvard's McLean Hospital claims that using the language of chemical imbalances worsens patient outcomes.
  • Though psychiatry has largely abandoned DSM categories, professor Joseph E Davis writes that the field continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system."
  • Chemical explanations of mental health appear to benefit pharmaceutical companies far more than patients.
Keep reading Show less

Navy SEALs: How to build a warrior mindset

SEAL training is the ultimate test of both mental and physical strength.

  • The fact that U.S. Navy SEALs endure very rigorous training before entering the field is common knowledge, but just what happens at those facilities is less often discussed. In this video, former SEALs Brent Gleeson, David Goggins, and Eric Greitens (as well as authors Jesse Itzler and Jamie Wheal) talk about how the 18-month program is designed to build elite, disciplined operatives with immense mental toughness and resilience.
  • Wheal dives into the cutting-edge technology and science that the navy uses to prepare these individuals. Itzler shares his experience meeting and briefly living with Goggins (who was also an Army Ranger) and the things he learned about pushing past perceived limits.
  • Goggins dives into why you should leave your comfort zone, introduces the 40 percent rule, and explains why the biggest battle we all face is the one in our own minds. "Usually whatever's in front of you isn't as big as you make it out to be," says the SEAL turned motivational speaker. "We start to make these very small things enormous because we allow our minds to take control and go away from us. We have to regain control of our mind."
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…