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  • 3500 calories per pound to lose weight is not true for people with less than 55 lbs of fat

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Wednesday, June 11, 2008 6:32 am Email this article
    The rule of thumb for weight loss is that to lose one pound you need to reduce your calorie intake or increase the calories you burn by 3500 calories.

    This is approximately true for people who are obese, but people who have less body fat to start with will lose more than one pound when reducing calorie intake by 3500 calories according to a paper by Dr. Kevin D. Hall from the US's National Institutes of Health.

    For example, a person with 44 pounds of body fat only needs to reduce calorie intake by an estimated 2685 calories to lose one pound of weight according to Hall.

    "These data indicate that... in people with less than [ 55 pounds ] of initial body fat [ the number of calories to lose one pound of weight ] is indeed significantly lower than the [ 3500 calories per pound ] rule of thumb," Hall notes. Does Not Account For Decreased Metabolism

    3500 calories per pound does not account for decrease metabolism that occurs with weight loss

    Hall also notes that the classic Forbes equation that is used to predict weight loss does not account for the decrease in metabolism that occurs with weight loss.


    Other Factors

    Other factors play a role, for example high-protein diets or weight lifting

    “While the present study illustrates that the initial body fat as well as the magnitude of weight loss may influence the applicability of the simple [ 3500 calories per pound of weight loss ] rule of thumb, it is likely that other factors play a role in the energy density of weight loss beyond what is accounted for by the modified Forbes model,” Hall concludes.

    “For example, resistance exercise or high protein diets may modify the proportion of weight loss resulting from body fat versus lean tissue.”


    Hall K. What is the required energy deficit per unit weight loss? Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Mar, 32(3):573-76.


    Dr. Kevin D. Hall
    Laboratory of Biological Modeling
    National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases
    National Institutes of Health
    12A South Drive, Room 4007
    Bethesda, MD 20892-5621, USA
    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Articles on the same subject can be found here:


    On Jun 11, 2008 at 5:39 pm caddie wrote:

    . . . . .

    That's an amazing spin on the age old wisdom. Did Dr. Hall give any other examples than a person with 44 pounds of body fat? For instance, how many calories "equal" a pound for someone with 22 pounds of fat?

    On Jun 11, 2008 at 7:30 pm Larry Hobbs wrote:

    . . . . .


    He showed a couple of graphs, but the units on the graph are not in calories.

    I had to do the calculations.

    I could post the graphs, but I don't think they would be helpful because they are scientific and confusing.

    I could try to reproduce the graphs, but they were curves and not straight lines, so it would be very difficult to try and reproduce them and put them in terms of calories instead.

    To me, the point of the article is that simple equations may not be as simple as we have been told.

    Another example of this is that we have been told forever that protein contains 4 calories per gram, but this is not correct.

    Protein actually only contains 3.2 calories per gram as noted in this article:


    I also think that the calorie content of food is overly simplified.

    The more processed a food is, the less work the body has to do to absorb and use the calories.

    Therefore, I imagine that eating whole, unprocessed foods -- even raw foods -- is less fattening that eating highly processed foods that contain the same number of calories supposedly.

    Please feel free to share your comments about this article.




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