According to the CDC, more than 40% of American adults are obese, putting them at greater risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some kinds of cancer. To lose weight, “adults must decrease the number of calories they receive from meals and drinks and increase the amount they burn via physical activity,” according to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.
Weight gain is a result of eating more energy than we exert, according to the century-old energy balance concept. Being surrounded by cheap processed meals, extensively advertised and deliciously tempting ones, makes it simple for individuals to consume more calories than they need. This imbalance is worsened by our sedentary lives. According to this theory, the obesity pandemic is fueled by excessive eating and inadequate physical exercise. Obesity and obesity-related illnesses have been on the increase for decades, despite widespread public health campaigns encouraging people to eat less and exercise more.
Researchers in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’s journal “The Carbohydrate-Insulin Model: A Physiological Perspective on the Obesity Pandemic” point out flaws in the energy balance model and argue that a different model, the carbohydrate-insulin model, explains obesity and weight gain better. In addition, the carbohydrate-insulin model suggests long-term weight loss methods that are more successful.
Endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School Professor Dr. David Ludwig, the study’s main author, says the energy balance model fails to explain why people gain weight “Adolescents, for example, may increase their daily caloric intake by 1,000 during a growth spurt. Do they overeat because of their growth spurt, or do they become hungry and overeat as a result of their growth spurt?”
The carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis, in contrast to the energy balance model, asserts that over eating is not the primary cause of obesity. To put it another way, the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis argues that the present obesity pandemic may be traced in part to contemporary dietary patterns that emphasize high-glycemic-load foods such as processed carbs. These meals induce hormonal reactions that fundamentally alter our metabolism, resulting in fat accumulation, weight gain, and obesity. They are thus unhealthy.
Highly processed carbs raise insulin and lower glucagon production in the body. As a result, fat cells begin to store more calories, which reduces the amount of energy available to feed muscles and other metabolically active tissues. Due to the brain’s perception that your body is not receiving enough energy, you’ll experience hunger pangs. As a result of the body’s effort to save energy, metabolism may also slow down. As a result, we’re always on the verge of being overweight even as we eat more.
For a better understanding of the obesity pandemic, we must look at how the things we consume impact our hormones and metabolism as well as how much we eat. The energy balance paradigm is flawed because it assumes that all calories are created equal in the body’s eyes.
In fact, the carbohydrate-insulin model dates back to the early 1900s, but a team of 17 globally renowned academics, clinical researchers, and public health specialists has developed the most complete articulation of this model to date in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. They’ve outlined the increasing body of data in favor of the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis as a result of working together. To help guide future study, the authors have developed a set of testable hypotheses that differentiate between the two theories.
The switch from the energy-balance model to the carbohydrate-insulin paradigm has profound effects on weight loss and obesity therapy. The carbohydrate-insulin model proposes a different approach that focuses more on what we eat rather than telling individuals to eat less, which is seldom effective over the long term. Dr. Ludwig claims that “The underlying urge to accumulate body fat is lessened when people consume fewer of the quickly digested carbs that were abundant during the low-fat diet period. People may be able to lose weight with less effort and hunger if this is the outcome.”
The authors agree that further study is required to definitively evaluate both theories and, potentially, to create other models that better match the data. They admit this. To that end, they advocate for “collaborations among scientists with different views to test predictions through rigorous and impartial research” and “constructive debate.”