People often choose the deliciousness of highly processed and refined foods over the health benefits found in a protein-rich diet. This is a huge contributor to the high obesity rates seen in the West. A study conducted by the University of Sydney is adding to the mountain of evidence already staring the world in the face. The study was published in the latest issue of the journal Obesity conducted by the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre (CPC). The basis of it was based on the national nutrition and physical activity survey undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), as well as the ‘Protein Leverage Hypothesis’.
The scientists analyzed data collected from 9,341 adults, in a cross-sectional survey known as the National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. It was conducted from May 2011 to June 2012, with a mean age of 46.3 years. The study has been chosen as one of the year’s top five papers by the editors of the journal Obesity,
The study was led by Professor David Raubenheimer, the Leonard Ullmann Chair in Nutritional Ecology at the School of Life and Environmental Sciences. He said, “Humans, like many other species, have a stronger appetite for protein than for the main energy-providing nutrients of fats and carbohydrates."
Yet it was found that the population’s mean energy intake was 8,671 kilojoules (kJ), out of which, the mean percentage of energy obtained from protein was just 18.4 percent. Compared to that, 43.5 percent of energy was obtained from carbohydrates, 30.9 percent from fat, 4.3 percent from alcohol, and just 2.2 percent from fibre.
Furthermore, this showed that participants that consumed a lower proportion of protein than recommended at the first meal consumed more energy-dense foods. These are high in saturated fats, sugars, salt, or alcohol, throughout the day. They also had an overall poorer diet at each mealtime. The percentage of their protein energy decreased even though the intake of processed food rose. The scientists call it ‘protein dilution’.
Professor Raunbenheirmer said, “The results support an integrated ecological and mechanistic explanation for obesity, in which low-protein, highly processed foods lead to higher energy intake in response to a nutrient imbalance driven by a dominant appetite for protein.” He added, “It supports a central role for protein in the obesity epidemic, with significant implications for global health.”
The lead author also worked on understanding the role of protein in human nutrition. For this, he had studied the diets of people in some of the most remote places, from the Congo to the Himalayas. He concluded that a myriad of health issues like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease were all linked to our diets. He was sure that this information about “protein hunger” can help bring these diseases under control.
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