Are People Eating Empty Calories In Their Effort to Get Enough Protein?

A published paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society hints that the recent hike in the unmet consumption of protein among people may be causing overeating and weight gain. The concept was put forth by some scientists who hypothesized that the “protein leverage hypothesis,” presents more evidence that our built-in protein appetite, unsatisfied by our modern-day diet of highly processed foods, is an important driver of obesity.”

According to a professor of nutritional ecology; David Raubenheimer, protein is a nutrient that regulates human appetites and people normally don’t feel full until they have eaten a requirement of it. However, he says the difficulty in meeting such requirements could force people to eat more proteins which may even come as diluted diets. These diluted diets, he says ensure that people continue to eat unnecessary calories until they reach their protein target.

The modern diet contains diluted protein

In the new paper, Raubenheimer and coauthor Stephen Simpson, PhD, outlined that in almost every intervention study, they saw instances where macronutrients are manipulated. This therefore suggests people tend to choose foods that provide them with that same amount of protein, regardless of how much fat and carbs they are eating.

Can Eating More Protein Help You Manage Your Weight?

Although the study does not prescribe eating more protein as the solution to the obesity epidemic, eating more protein could help. Since the invention of disparity theories regarding what to eat and what not to, Dr. Gardner; professor of medicine at Stanford University, recommends that you eat the required amount of protein that supports your body’s anatomy. However, he suggests you do so by not eating protein that has been diluted by processed fats and carbs.

Most of our daily calories come from highly processed foods

Evidence suggests that foods like crackers, chips, cookies, and frozen pizza on the average, contain alarming levels of added sugar, fat, salt, or a woeful combination of all three. These highly processed foods according to Dr Gardner, make up a prominent percentage of the items in the modern food system that serve as major contributors of calories to the body.

For example, an 18-year study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in October 2021 found that ultra-processed food consumption in Americans grew from 53.5 percent of calories in 2001–2002 to 57 percent by the study’s end in 2017–2018.

How Much Protein Should You Eat?

You could follow these daily recommendations for protein intake, regardless of it coming from animals or plants

  • Adults: 0.8 grams (g)/kilogram (kg) body weight, or about 50 g/day
  • Athletes: 1.0 g/kg body weight or about 73–122 g/day depending upon weight
  • Older adults (65 and older): 1–1.2 g/kg

In addition, you can diagnose protein deficiency by noting characteristics like brittle hair and nails, feeling weak or hungry, and getting sick due to weak immune system.

Lack of fiber and regular exercise Are Also Factors in Obesity

It is a known fact that the lack of fiber in diets is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. Fibers are next to protein as the most satiating dietary component, although it happens to be very low in processed food diets.

Also, it has been established that eating highly processed, calorically dense, and nutrient deficient foods like fast food and convenience foods has contributed to the obesity crisis, and a worthy fact to note is that most of these foods lack fibers.

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