Research on healthy diet programs needs to be reexamined. Traditionally research on nutrition has focused on micronutrients, studying the effects of inadequate amounts of certain vitamins, or on macronutrients, such as the appropriate amounts and types of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
Many overweight people who want to lose weight get very fixated on either eliminating or drastically increasing their intake of certain nutrients. Oftentimes, this diet strategy results in demonizing sugar or fat but not getting to the real cause of the weight gain.
It’s time to reconsider this immersion in the relative amounts of certain nutrients, both micro and macro, and to start focusing on healthy diet programs that help us control our weight and lead healthy lives.
In the latest edition of Annual Review of Nutrition, two of the world’s leading nutritional scientists, Professors David Raubenheimer and Stephen Simpson of the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Center, make the argument that “existing models for measuring health impacts of the human diet are limiting our capacity to solve obesity and its related health problems.”
Healthy Diet Programs Require a New Approach
They advocate a “radical rethinking” of nutrition science through a new framework they call “nutritional geometry.”
This new approach recognizes that modern nutrition-related diseases “are driven by an overabundance of food, an evolved fondness for foods containing particular blends of nutrients, and savvy marketing by the packaged food industry which exploits these preferences.”
“Our new approach provides a unique method to unify observations from many fields and better understand how nutrients, foods and diets interact to affect health and disease in humans,” said Professor David Raubenheimer.
This new framework for healthy diet programs “enables us to plot foods, meals, diets and dietary patterns together based on their nutrient composition, and this helps researchers to observe otherwise overlooked patterns in the links between certain diets, health and disease.”
The result is that complex problems like obesity can to be viewed from a variety of different perspectives, from the impacts of nutrients on metabolism and the health of individuals, through to the sustainability of global food systems.
An Example of Nutritional Geometry
To illustrate the potential of this integrated approach to nutritional analysis, the professors analyzed data regarding the composition of 116 diets, compiled from previous published studies examining ratios of carbohydrate, fats and protein and energy intake in humans.
Applying their holistic model revealed that protein was the strongest driver influencing diet, regulating the intake of fat and carbohydrate. This finding is consistent with the previously observed ‘protein leverage’ phenomenon, in which the strong human appetite for protein leverages the intake of fats, carbohydrates and total energy.
More research along these lines, which takes a broader nutritional point of view may help us better understand how to maintain a healthy diet and take some of the guesswork out of losing weight.
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