The Physicians Committee

The Negative Calorie Effect

  February 8, 2016    

Are there “negative-calorie” foods—foods that burn more calories than they provide? Some Web sites would like you to believe that celery, carrots, or beets fit that bill. But the fact is, none of these foods actually burns more calories than it provides.

And you don’t need them. Scientific studies show that there is actually something better: foods that give you the energy and nutrition you need, while helping you trim away excess weight.


Let me describe a study conducted by our research team that showed the remarkable power certain foods have. Our participants were women who had been wrestling with weight problems for years. Many reported that their metabolisms seemed very slow. One said, “When I was young I could eat anything, but nowadays I gain weight just by looking at food!”

And it’s true: for many people, metabolism does slow over time. We know that because we can measure it. Arriving at our laboratory early in the morning, we fitted each participant with a special device that sampled the air she inhaled and exhaled. With some simple calculations that told us her calorie-burning speed.

Once her metabolism was measured, each participant then ate breakfast. Immediately, her metabolism picked up. As she absorbed the nutrients from the foods she ate, her metabolism rose and stayed higher than it had been for several hours. That’s normal.

But then, each participant began a low-fat plant-based diet. No meat, no dairy, no eggs, and keeping oils to a minimum. Fourteen weeks later, the participants came back to the laboratory and had their metabolisms measured again. And we found that the average after-meal metabolism was now 16 percent higher than before. That might not sound like much. But if you get that extra boost three times a day, the calorie burning adds up. In other words, a low-fat plant-based gives you a weight-control edge.

You can think of this as a “negative-calorie effect.” It does not mean that foods have no calories, or less than zero calories. Rather, it is a “calorie-subtracting” effect. The foods you eat have calories and healthful nutrients, and some of those calories power your body, while others are simply lost as body heat.

Watch Dr. Barnard discuss the link between diet and metabolism on The Dr. Oz Show:


For extra credit, tweet photos of your favorite plant-based meals to @PCRM with #PlantBasedRx and let us know what you think.  



Dr Barnard's Message

I have never publicly acknowledged the debt I owe to Dr Barnard. Some 3 and 1 half years ago I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and on the evening of the day I was diagnosed I happened to catch a PBS airing of Dr Barnard's presentation on Reversing Diabetes. I was so impressed with the presentation that I bought his book and started on the life style regime he outlined. Within 3 months I was off my diabetes medication and my A1c results have been normal since then. I had also been diagnosed with AFib and a recent heart scan surprised my doctor with the results.
I just wanted to say how grateful I am to a doctor like Mr Barnard who has the courage to speak out for common sense and to tell the truth about the connection between nutrition and health.


I too am incredibly grateful to Dr. Barnard and his team for transforming my retired years into the golden years of my life. At the age of 60 I was doggedly headed down the typical path of over consumption of food and alcohol, lack of regular exercise, and poor health. The 21 Day Kickstart change everything for my wife and I and we are now slim, active and happier than ever before. Lifestyle addictions can be hard to break, but good solid information and self education can break the chain.
From the bottom of my heart, Thankyou Dr. Neil Barnard.

I am grateful also

I am very grateful to Dr. Barnard also..... I was newly diagnosed with prediabetes and headed down a bad road. I read many of Dr. Barnards book and started the 21 day kickstart and taking classes offered by PCRM and my A1C went from 6.0 to 5.5. Cholesterol and weight went down also. Thank you for saving my life.

Pre-diabetes reversed

I was surprisingly diagnosed with pre-diabetes at age 61 despite being physically fit with a normal BMI and following a low cholesterol type diet. Altering my diet after reading Dr. Barnard's book, Reversing Diabetes, my A1C is normal, cholesterol dropped 20 points and I lost about 7 pounds. My energy level is great, I sleep better and get colds rarely. As a nurse, I am a believer in the whole foods, plant-based diet. We are what we eat! Thanks Dr Barnard.


How about eating just the whites of eggs-- any problem with that, or is there cholesteral in the whites as well as the yolks?

Diet and Disease prevention

Kudos for your efforts Dr Neal. with diet Diabetes can be prevented. This statement needs to be certified as soon as possible and let the world know this.


log on to EurekAlert American Academy of Science Website An article written in March 2014 titled "Meat Cheese" Univ of Southern California found 100 grams of animal protein quadruples your chance of dying of cancer. Egg Whites are all protein. A much earlier article found egg whites contributed to pancreatic cancer.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Connect with Dr. Barnard



Stay Connected

Receive action alerts, breaking medical news, e-newsletters, and special offers via e-mail. Sign up >