LESSONS FROM CHINA 101
is entirely impractical. It is impossible to keep track of daily calorie in-
take with such precision. Think about eating a meal at a restaurant. Do
you know how many calories each meal has? What about the casserole
you might fix? What about the steak you might buy? Do you know the
number of calories they contain? Of course not.
The truth is this: despite any short-term caloric restriction regimes
we may follow, our body, through many mechanisms, will ultimately
choose how many calories to take in and what to do with them. Our at-
tempts to limit calorie intake is short-lived and imprecise, whether we
do it by limiting carbohydrates or fat.
The body employs a delicate balancing act and some very intricate
mechanisms in deciding how to use the calories being consumed.
When we treat our body well by eating the right foods, it knows how
to partition the calories away from body fat and into the more desirable
functions like keeping the body warm, running the body metabolism,
supporting and encouraging physical activity or just disposing of any
excess. The body is using multiple intricate mechanisms to decide how
calories get used, stored or "burned off."
Consuming diets high in protein and fat transfers calories away from
their conversion into body heat to their storage form-as body fat
(unless severe calorie restriction is causing weight loss). In contrast,
diets low in protein and fat cause calories to be "lost" as body heat. In
research, we say that storing more calories as fat and losing less as heat
means being more efficient. I bet that you would rather be a little more
inefficient and convert it into body heat rather than body fat, right?
Well, simply consuming a diet lower in fat and protein can do this.
This is what our China Study data show. Chinese consume more
calories both because they are more physically active and because their
consumption of low-fat, low-protein diets shifts conversion of these
calories away from body fat to body heat. This is true even for the least
phYSically active Chinese. Remember, it takes very little, only fifty calo-
ries a day, to change our storage of body fat and thus change our body
We saw the same phenomenon in our experimental animals fed the
low-protein diets. They routinely consumed slightly more calories,
gained less weight, disposed of the extra calories as body heat^59 and vol-
untarily exercised more,60 while still having far less cancer than animals
on standard diets. We found that calories were "burned" at a faster rate
and transformed into body heat as more oxygen was consumed. 59