Calories or calories??

There are millions of people for whom it is almost impossible to arrange two square meals for the families. So they don’t have any choice of what they eat. On the other hand, there are affluent people for whom what to eat or what not to eat is a big problem. They are grappling with obesity problems which are the precursor of so many lethal ailments like heart attack, blood pressure, backache and diabetes. They are always conscious of the calorific value of the foods they consume.

Any student of science or health conscious person is aware that calorie is unit of energy. Our bodies continuously require energy to properly perform normal functions of the body. Even while doing nothing, our body consumes energy called basal metabolic rate.

Calorie and calorie are slightly different. In nutrition science, Calorie with capital C is equal to 1000 calories. Sometimes, Calorie is also called kilo calorie. 1 Calorie is the amount of energy it takes to raise 1 kilogram of water 1 degree centigrade at sea level.

The calorie content of foods consumed  by a human being was determined in the late 1800s by Wilbur O. Atwater, an agricultural chemist. He built a device called a “Respiration Calorimeter” to make direct measurements of heat released by humans from the food they consumed. At 4 feet by 8 feet, Atwater’s calorimeter was big enough to allow a person to step into it. The device measured the amount of heat released by that person, along with the amount of oxygen consumed and carbon dioxide given off.

Wilbur Olin Atwater
Wilbur Olin Atwater (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Using this device, Atwater was able to measure the precise amount of energy contained in thousands of food items. He found that carbohydrates and proteins are worth 4 Calories per gram and fats about 9 Calories per gram. This 4-9-4 system is how labels are determined today. In some cases, dietary fiber is subtracted from the total carbohydrate count because it is assumed that it provides no nutritional calories. Also, alcohol, if present, is accounted for as 7 Calories per gram.

Basal metabolism reactions occurring inside our bodies consume 70% of the calories. Rest 30% if not consumed shall be deposited in the body mostly in the form of fat.

Thinking Brain hogs more Energy

Though human brain accounts for less than 2% by weight, it is a energy hog. About 20% of all the energy used by our body is consumed by our brain. This is because brain cells are always at work. Even while you sleep, much of your brain is busy managing your body’s physiological and biochemical operations. Brain uses neurotransmitters for sending and receiving the commands and messages to the organs of the body. Like the head honcho of a company, it is always thinking to run the body trouble free and thus constantly consumes more energy. Not only that, the energy requirements of different parts of the brain may differ depending on the nature of work they do.

So it logical to assume that the activities which require more thinking may require the brain to consume more energy. Researcher Tim Forrester, from Cannyminds website, explained: “‘Our brains require 0.1 calories every minute simply to survive. ‘When we do something challenging such as a puzzle or a quiz we can burn through 1.5 calories every minute”.  The brain extracts sugar three-quarters of sugar glucose, available calories and a fifth of oxygen from the blood to create neurotransmitters.So doing difficult crosswords or challenging Sudokus means your brain will crave more glucose and more calories too, added Mr Forrester. This means that if you spent two hours doing puzzles, you would have used 180 calories – which is more than are contained in a creme egg (173) or a bag of Hula Hoops (175), and only slightly less than in a pint of beer (182). Brain extracts energy from glucose only because it is easy to burn unlike the fats which take much longer to breakdown and provide the energy. So although doing puzzles and solving Soduko can burn carbohydrate energy but still you require exercise and work to melt away the extra fat.