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Macro-splits are not the answer

What we can learn about energy balance from the animal world.

The term ‘macro-splits’ is a pop-diet term commonly used by fitness trainers when recommending a particular style of diet in which the proportion of macronutrients is controlled (such as the 40-30-40; 40% carbohydrate-30%fat-40% protein). In most cases this is not followed through with any practical advice as to how to achieve this because of a lack of dietetic skill and knowledge in this group, but it sounds impressive. A BLOG from the University of Sydney with Professor David Raubenheimer throws yet more cold water onto the idea that control of macronutrients has any benefit at all. He says he has been trying to convince the world there are no clear-cut dietary villains, such as fat or sugar. It’s more complicated than that because human nutrition is not a linear system, but an ecology and all factors must be considered.  Professor Raubenheimer is a proponent of an emerging discipline called nutritional ecology and he’s been looking into how it could explain our ongoing challenges of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

“We’ve been treating this like an engineering problem,” says Raubenheimer. “Tell people to eat less fat and problem solved. But we’re not dealing with a linear system here. Animal nutrition, human nutrition, is an ecology. You have to factor in all the players.”

One of the central hypotheses of this discipline is that protein is a major driver for eating. The ‘protein leverage hypothesis’ posits that we overeat if we don’t get enough protein, and this is encouraged by our food ecology that presents highly processed, nutrient-poor foods that dilute the protein in our diet. You can read more about nutritional ecology in a new book written by Professor Raubenheimer and his University of Sydney colleague professor Stephen Simpson called Eat like the animals – What nature teaches us about the science of healthy eating (published by Harper Collins).

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