Should You Stop Counting Calories?

o better fight obesity and its related diseases, people should stop counting calories and instead focus on eating nutritious foods, several researchers argue in a new editorial.

Similar to quitting smoking, people who change their diet can see rapid improvements in their heart disease risk, the researchers wrote. For example, in a study of 2,000 heart attack survivors, those who were advised to eat fish were less likely to die during the study period than those who were not advised to eat fish, with improvements starting within a few months of the diet change, the editorial says.

In contrast, eating trans fat, an unhealthy ingredient that used to be common in fast food, can increase the levels of inflammatory markers in a person’s blood within weeks, according to the editorial, by Dr. Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist at Frimley Park Hospital in the United Kingdom, and colleagues.

What’s more, research suggests that not all calories are created equal. The editorial notes that drinking one can of soda, which has 150 calories, every day, is linked with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, eating a handful of nuts daily or consuming four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, each with 500 calories, is linked with a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke.