When it comes to weight loss, the guiding principle any personal trainer or fitness enthusiast will tell you is that you need to be in a calorie deficit; that weight gain is a result of how much you’re eating, an excess amount of calories that the body doesn’t expend. But according to a new study, this age-old line of thinking could be on its way to being debunked, with researchers claiming that it’s not how much you eat but rather what you’re eating that plays a far bigger role in weight gain than previously thought.
In a new study conducted by a team of 17 internationally recognised scientists, clinical researchers and public health experts for the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, they found that the accepted energy-balance model (calories in, calories out) is actually flawed. According to these researchers, the world’s obesity problem isn’t one that results from how much people eat, but rather the consumption of high-glycemic foods.
When it comes to high-glycemic foods, these are those that can be quickly digested and rapidly raise blood sugar as a result. Consider your highly processed carbs like white bread, white rice, and of course your cakes, cookies and sweet treats. Researchers believe that these types of food cause hormonal responses that fundamentally change our metabolism, which in turn drives fat storage, encouraging weight gain and obesity.
In a press release, the study’s authors explained: “When we eat highly-processed carbohydrates, the body increases insulin secretion and suppresses glucagon secretion. This, in turn, signals fat cells to store more calories, leaving fewer calories available to fuel muscles and other metabolically active tissues. The brain perceives that the body isn’t getting enough energy, which, in turn, leads to feelings of hunger. In addition, metabolism may slow down in the body’s attempt to conserve fuel. Thus, we tend to remain hungry, even as we continue to gain excess fat.”
Obesity rates have continued to rise around the world, even as people have been told to eat less and exercise more. Scientists now argue that a shift needs to be made from the energy-balance model to the carbohydrate-insulin model which would better explain obesity and wight gain and could also help people to lose weight in a more pleasant way.
“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,” says Dr. David Ludwig, an endocrinologist at Boston Children’s hospital and co-author of the study. “As a result, people may lose weight with less hunger and struggle.”