Meet MET, a method of measuring energy you use


April 06, 1993|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,Contributing WriterUnited Feature Syndicate

To help you determine how many calories you use during various activities, scientists recommend a common measure called a MET, the amount of energy you use when you sleep. It comes out to around one kilocalorie per kilogram of body weight or about half a calorie per pound. For example, a 130-pound person burns 60 calories per hour during sleep. A 155-pounder uses 70 calories per hour.

When you ride a bicycle at 12mph, you are exercising at 10 METS -- or 10 times the amount of energy that you use during sleep. That's the same as running a 10-minute mile, playing racquetball competitively, jumping rope at a moderate pace or playing competitive soccer.

To show you how much you increase your metabolism during exercise, consider that the 10 METS described above are equal to five times as much energy as when you wash dishes, shop and push a cart, cook, iron or walk slowly. All of these activities take as much energy as playing the flute, cello or horn, but playing the drums takes twice as much energy. For those of you who think that you exercise when you make love, a 150-pound man would use only 2 METS for the average time of 15 minutes. That's only two times the amount of energy you use sleeping.

What are monoglycerides and diglycerides, and should I avoid them?

Monoglycerides and diglycerides are fats that usually occur in foods in such small amounts that you don't have to be concerned about them. If your blood cholesterol level is high and you want to lower it, you should reduce your intake of fat. Almost all of the fat that you eat is in the form of triglycerides, and these fats occur in both animal and plant foods.

Triglycerides means three-fats. They have a chemical structure shaped like an E formed by a straight vertical line and three horizontal lines, each comprising a fatty acid. Monoglycerides have the same single vertical line of the E, but they have only one horizontal fatty acid, and diglycerides have two horizontal fatty acids.

All three glycerides affect your body in the same way. They have 9 calories per gram and are broken down in the same way to form the same building blocks that are absorbed from your intestines into your bloodstream. If monoglycerides and diglycerides are listed no higher than fourth on the label, they usually are added in such small amounts that they contribute an insignificant amount of fat to your diet. In that case, they are not a reason to avoid that food.

Is it possible to have a cholesterol that's too low?

Lowering your cholesterol reduces your chances of developing a heart attack. Several recent reports claim that low cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer, stroke, alcoholism, depression and suicide. None of the studies shows that low cholesterol actually causes these conditions.

Lowering your cholesterol may thin your blood and possibly increase your chances of suffering a stroke, but the data does not show that lowering cholesterol causes any of the other problems. The risk of stroke is increased from one in 10,000 to two in 10,000. That's insignificant compared to the fact that people with high cholesterol have more than three times the chance of developing heart attacks as those with low cholesterol.

tTC Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.

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