The Calculus of Calories: Quantitative Obesity Research

Presented by Kevin Hall, PhD. (NIH)

In this talk, Dr. Hall describes a mathematical approach to understanding the causes and treatment of obesity. Along the way, he debunks many weight loss myths and introduces useful tools to better understand the relationships between diet, physical activity, and body weight.

Dr. Kevin Hall is a Senior Investigator at the NIH where he studies body weight regulation. His laboratory develops mathematical models to help design, predict, and interpret the results of clinical research studies. Dr. Hall has been the recipient of the NIH Director’s Award, the NIDDK Director’s Award, the Lilly Scientific Achievement Award from The Obesity Society, the Guyton Award for Excellence in Integrative Physiology from the American Society of Physiology, and his award-winning Body Weight Simulator ( has been used by more than a million people to help predict how diet and physical activity dynamically interact to affect human body weight.

The views expressed in this video are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Capital Area Skeptics.

10 thoughts on “The Calculus of Calories: Quantitative Obesity Research

  1. Richard Feinman

    Very nice talk but I think you made a mathematical error in the fourth equation at 10:27 (just kidding). I understand that I will have to read the papers but what is missing for some of us, is the implication that calories are independent of macronutrient source. I like the car analogy and I have a hybrid and I always keep on the  display showing the gas flow and the battery flow but I doubt that the fuels are equally efficient and some of the gas flow is used to charge the battery. By analogy with you reference to hormonal changes that is the non-linearity that many of us are concerned about. In comparisons of diets of different macronutrient composition, you don't need a metabolic chamber because, whatever the error in the food report, the differences in the output variables are so large that you get a good picture of what's going on. I hope this is built into your model.

  2. Raymond McDonald

    Thank you for your outstanding research presented in a straightforward way. It replaces longstanding myths with data-based information that is essential to know and easy to apply to my health regimen. There is so much noise out there. I am glad it led me to search NIH results. I am glad those results led me here and that you shared your work in this medium. All of this seems consistent with the changes I have experienced in different levels of diet and exercise. One question: can you recommend any research or insights related to sleep and metabolism?

  3. Elizabeth Anastaspoulos

    Amazing presentation! MORE!!!!! Dr. Hall, do you think the NIH will ever fund a study on reverse dieting? It seems clear here, through your presentation, that it is a very viable hypothesis!

  4. Safar De Bon

    Hall has made a blunder in the main equations – there is no differential equation that considers the effect of lipotoxicity. This is main cause of obesity – too much fat in the diet or too much fat already in the body. And this results in sugar getting into cells – insulin resistance. Perhaps due to this error, Hall is still overweight

  5. Greynerd

    The use of calories to guage obesity is outmoded and 'debunked' by Dr. Zoe Harcombe who has demonstrated that. No mention of whole food or blood results.


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