Overeating may not be the biggest culprit of obesity, study finds

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What we’re eating can be just as important as portion sizes

A new paper written by researchers from the American Society for Nutrition explored some of the factors that contribute to consumers developing obesity

They explained that overeating isn’t entirely to blame. Instead, we need to think about obesity in terms of a carbohydrate-insulin model (CIM), which means that the foods we eat are just as important as how much of them we’re eating. 

“According to a commonly held view, the obesity pandemic is caused by overconsumption of modern, highly palatable, energy-dense processed foods, exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle,” the researchers wrote. “However, obesity rates remain at historic highs, despite a persistent focus on eating less and moving more, as guided by the energy balance model (EBM). An alternative paradigm, the carbohydrate-insulin model (CIM), proposes a reversal of causal direction.”

Focusing on quality, not quantity

Nearly 20 experts in the field worked on the paper and drew their evidence from as early as the 1900s. Their primary takeaway was that the types of foods we’re eating are more responsible for the increasing obesity rates than how much we’re eating. 

They explained that recent diet trends have favored highly processed foods and carbohydrates. When these are eaten on a regular basis and in excess, they can have significant impacts on the metabolism. 

These types of foods can alter our body’s natural hormone levels, like insulin, which can then impact how the body stores fat and even how hungry we feel. Processed carbs specifically can trick the body into feeling depleted of energy and slow down the metabolism long term. When these habits occur over long periods of time, they can all lead to obesity. 

Because of this, the researchers suggest thinking more in terms of adopting a quality diet rather than fixating on portion control or burning calories through exercise. While all of these things are important for a healthy lifestyle, focusing on the carbohydrate-insulin model may lead to better long-term results for consumers trying to manage their weight. 

“Reducing consumption of the rapidly digestible carbohydrates that flooded the food supply during the low-fat diet era lessens the underlying drive to store body fat,” said researcher Dr. David Ludwig. “As a result, people may lose weight with less hunger and struggle.”

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