When he became determined to lose weight, Dr. Brian Weiner decided to change his eating and exercise regimes. "One of the first changes I made," explains Weiner, a gastroenterologist in New Jersey and assistant professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, "was to give up my beloved ice cream."
Aiming for something lighter, Weiner replaced it with Italian ices. The cups at his supermarket listed their calorie content as 100—calculated by multiplying 25 grams of carbohydrate by four calories per gram. "One evening, in a burst of insight," Weiner writes, "I realized that this calculation was incorrect. The manufacturer of the ices did not calculate the energy required to melt the ice, and did not deduct this from the calorie calculation." By Weiner's math, he was actually only consuming 72 calories, or "icals," his term for the net caloric content of ice-containing foods after considering the calories that the body burns to produce the thermal energy that melts the ice.
Weiner reviewed the medical literature. "I found that no one has clearly identified this oversight," he writes. "I could not locate references to considerations of the implications of the energy content of ice as food."
After discussing the issue in detail with his son, an engineering student at Rutgers who vetted his father's calculations, Weiner submitted his story as a letter to editors of the widely-read medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine. They published it. In the article, Weiner said the idea could be of real importance to people trying to lose weight. It's meant as a supplement to overall diet and lifestyle that go into maintaing a healthy physical form. "While eating ice, you are serving two purposes," Weiner explains, "you are burning calories and not eating positive-calorie foods."