June 20, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Dairy/Weight Loss/Body Temperature

I went to an acupuncturist who told me that my metabolism is partially slowed down because my liver temperature is too high.

He also suggested I cut out all dairy from my diet to lose weight.
Is any of this true?

-- Name Withheld
New York, NY

The question you just read was left on my voicemail by a dear friend of mine, whose name I am not revealing. I did ask her permission to post her question on here, though.

When she called me, she was at the supermarket buying soymilk, following her acupunturist's instructions.

Now, look, I do not have any issues with acupuncture. I respect it and am not quick to dismiss it as "quackery."

What I have a real problem with, though, is people without any sort of nutrition background freely -- and irresponsibly -- doling out advice that is rooted in absolute fantasy.

Also, since acupuncture is not regulated in the United States, anyone can call themselves an "acupuncturist," (in the same way that anyone can call themselves a "nutritionist") thereby discrediting what is an Eastern practice with tens of thousands of years behind it.

In any case -- internal body temperature is the same throughout the body. If your body temperature is 98.6 degrees, then so is your liver.

If any organ is at, say, 102 degrees, then so will the rest of your body.

In that case, you would know it -- and feel it: it's called having a fever.

Metabolism and weight loss has nothing to do with "cooling down" heated internal organs. Maybe your acupuncturist should dedicate himself to writing science-fiction novels.

Onto the dairy question.

Some people believe dairy products promote weight gain, others think they are helpful weight-loss tools.

I say -- it all simply depends on how many calories you are consuming from dairy.

If someone who eats 2 slices of cheesecake a day is asked to remove dairy from their diet, it is very likely they will lose weight because they are no longer having that rich, calorically dense dessert.

Any time you remove foods from your diet and either replace them with something lower in calories (or don't replace them with anything), you will obviously lose weight.

There is absolutely no evidence that removing dairy from the diet is beneficial for weight-loss purposes.

You could go the rest of your life without a sip or morsel of dairy products and still consume excessive calories, thereby gaining weight.

Note: My friend has three more sessions with this particular acupuncturist. I have asked her to keep me in the loop of any future nutrition "advice" she is given.


shane said...

The best evidence I have for acupuncture's benefits is purely anecdotal personal experience, but who the heck knows how it works scientifically? I presume it has to do with nerve stimulation and blood flow (the answer to a lot of things!).

Anyway, that aside, I did want to inquire about the claim that the entire body is at a uniform temperature. I don't see any reason to "believe" this at face value. Is there any evidence to support this?

Don't get me wrong; that doesn't change the baselessness of the acupuncturist's claims, but it was a point of curiosity.

Perhaps the dairy cut out has to do with lowering cholesterol and fat from animal products, but once again I don't "believe" that there's anything inherently and particularly evil about dairy. Aside from the fact that I happen to be lactose intolerant!

Andy Bellatti said...


It is a well-established fact that although not everyone's internal temperature is 98.6 degrees (there are some variations), whatever a person's body temperature, it is uniform throughout the body.

You would never have your heart be 5 degrees colder than your liver.

Thermoregulation of the human body is crucial, as a certain temperature is needed in order for all processes to work properly.

As far as the "eliminating dairy" suggestion -- cholesterol and fat from dairy in and of themselves have nothing to do with weight loss.

Sure, since fat is more calorically dense than carbohydrates or protein, it only takes a small amount of fat-rich foods to take in substantial calories.

However, this is what you have to remember regarding weight management:

Excessive caloric intake results in weight gain, whether those calories come from animal products, dairy, soy, or whatever it may be.

If you need 2,000 calories to maintain your weight but are eating 4,000 on a daily basis, you will gain weight (whether you ate 4,000 calories of ice cream or strawberries.)

It just so happens, though, that while a cup of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby puts you back 700 calories, it would take THIRTEEN cups of strawberries to reach that same caloric value.

shane said...

Five degrees is a huge difference internally, but I'd still like to see evidence (measurements, for instance) that the body's temperature in various parts is really uniform to, say, tenths of degrees, which could or could not be meaningful.

Regarding calories from fat versus other sources, I was under the impression that one wanted to balance the caloric intake. No one would reasonably say you can get all of your daily caloric needs from french fries and be healthy, as you pointed out in your McDonald's story. So I'm merely speculating that perhaps dairy was one area in which the person could cut back on their cholesterol and fat intake, though there are definitely health cholesterol/fats that are not as evil as often portrayed. There is an idea of balance that I try to maintain in my diet that I find very difficult to achieve!

Andy Bellatti said...


Of course caloric intake should be balanced.

The point I was trying to make, though, is that blaming one nutrient or food group is futile. People who spend their entire life blaming fat/carbs/dairy/meats/oils for weight gain overlook the most important factor -- calories!

The point can certainly be made that a diet high in refined carbohydrates has a higher chance of causing weight gain because such foods are low in fiber and protein, thereby providing satiety after a much higher caloric amount than foods with higher amounts of fat, fiber, and protein (ie: 150 calories of nuts is more filling than 150 calories of pretzels).

As far as cholesterol -- it is completely irrelevant as far as weight gain/loss is concerned.

Someone could consume very little cholesterol and still gain plenty of weight, and someone getting 500 milligrams of cholesterol a day could actually LOSE weight.

Someone could subsist on 3 eggs a day and have a very high intake of cholesterol, all while consuming less than 300 calories a day...

La Diva Laura said...

Without any "evidence" to support the fact that the body retains the same teperature through-out, doesn't logic dictate that to be true? How WOULD a liver get warmer than the rest of the organs? And wouldn't a liver higher in temperature start to make neighboring organs warmer too? (and thus perhaps raising the temperature of the body as a whole eventually?) The whole concept is ridiculous!

I hope the treatment is helping your friend sans the "nutritional advice!"