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Online PR News – 15-August-2014 – Clinton – People who meticulously check the calorie counts on nutrition labels and restaurant menus are in for some bad news: the tallies may be wrong, specialists say.Recent studies show that the amount of pounding, slicing, mashing and maybe even chewing that goes into preparing and eating food affects the number of calories individuals get. For some foods, a proportion of the calories in them remains "locked up" during digestion, and isn't used by the body. None of those variables are accounted for in our present system for computing calories, which dates back more than 100 years. how many calories in an apple In a study a year ago, Baer and colleagues showed that almonds have 20 percent fewer calories than previously estimated . Now, the researchers are considering retesting other foods, including some types of whole grains and legumes.Scientists have always understood that calorie counts are just approximations. And over the years, some scientists have called for changes to the system. Now, researchers are again shining a spotlight on the problem, saying an overhaul of the calorie count system is needed so consumers have a much better idea of just how many calories they get from your food they eat.For the most part, the inaccuracies are little, but some foods may have genuine caloric values that differ in the estimated values by as much as 50 percent, experts say. [See 9 Snack Foods: Healthy or Not? ]Counting caloriesOne of the ways to quantify a food's energy, or caloric content, is by burning it in a device called a bomb calorimeter. But this method doesn't take into account the fact that people lose some calories through urine and feces and as heat. Over time, researchers have tried to figure out means to account for these decreases.In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a man named Wilbur Atwater ran experiments in which he calculated how many calories in various diets, and collected people's feces to discover how many calories were wasted. Depending on these experiments, Atwater concluded that proteins and carbohydrates have about 4 calories per gram, fats have 9 calories per gram, and alcohol has 7 calories per gram.These values continue to be used today. Their existence means food manufacturers and restaurants may use a straightforward formula to calculate the calories in their foods.Nonetheless, these values are rough estimates. Particular foods, like those high in fiber , aren't digested too, meaning the calories we get from them would be lower than those computed using the rule. In the 1970s, researchers introduced changed Atwater values that were intended for specific foods, such as fruits, vegetables and beans.More changes neededWhile these changes are a great start, some experts say we should do more.Research by Rachel Carmody, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University's FAS Center for Systems Biology in Cambridge, Mass., and colleagues, demonstrates that food processing --- eating a carrot that is pureed rather than entire, for example --- alters the calories we get from it.Food processing requires some of the work from digestion , Carmody said, meaning that normally, a processed food will have more calories than an unprocessed food.Calories in processed foods are likely close to the values that the Atwater system approximations. For instance , if you eat a mashed potato that's been calculated by the Atwater system to contain 300 calories, you're probably getting most of those calories, Carmody said. But if you eat a whole, unprocessed potato of the same size, you will take in around 200 calories, she said. (The calories from unprocessed versus processed meats just differ by 5 to 10 percent, she said.)The Atwater system also neglects to account for structural differences in food that make some calories inaccessible to our bodies. For instance , the almond study, which also accounted for calories lost in feces, implied that some of the fat in whole almonds is locked away in a construction our bodies can not digest. While the Atwater system says a serving of whole almonds has about 170 calories, the almond study found it actually has about 130."Given that the Atwater system is treating basically all foods the same, we aren't getting a great perspective when it come times to make dietary choices," Carmody said.When we digest food, we also give off energy as heat. The level of heat we radiate depends upon the precise components of the food. For proteins, it's about 20 to 30 percent of the food's calories --- so if we eat 100 calories worth of protein, we get about 80 calories from it, Carmody said. For fats, it is considerably less, about 0 to 3 percent, she said. (So if we eat 100 calories worth of fat, we'd get 97 of those calories.)Does it actually matter for waistlines?Some researchers say that, generally, the inaccuracies in calorie estimates do not make a significant difference. "For most uses, I believe they're good enough," said Malden Nesheim, professor of nutrition emeritus at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., and co author of the publication "Why Calories Count" (University of California Press, 2012).A change to the calorie system wouldn't be simple, Carmody said. And because of differences between people, it'd be impossible to create a method that would work for everyone.But researchers might be able to fill in some of the system's largest gaps, for example the effects of food processing and heat loss, Carmody said."We can begin to think of easy methods to enhance [the system] which is going to be better for the typical consumer," Carmody said.People often eat many different foods, not just almonds or starches. So overestimating or underestimating the calories in a particular food will likely not have an enormous impact on a person's daily calorie consumption, Nesheim said.And generally, the omissions in the Atwater system have a tendency to result in overestimates, meaning they probably wouldn't interfere with weight loss .But other researchers say the aim of a revision would be to give people as much accurate information as possible to help them make educated choices about food, Carmody said. Such a process could lead to comprehensive changes, like new amounts for the complete calories folks want per day."By getting a better understating of the effective calories in food, we will obtain a better awareness of human energy requirement," Carmody said.Pass it on: An overhaul of the system we use to compute calories is needed so individuals can better estimate how many calories they get from food.