When choosing a diet high in protein, make sure carbohydrates are accounted for to prevent nutritional deficiencies such as insufficient fiber intake. A study presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology in Manchester suggests that high-protein weight loss programs like the Atkins Diet are a more effective way to drop unwanted pounds compared to calorie counting.
"We can use this information to help manage and prevent obesity, through ensuring that the diets we eat have a sufficient level of protein to satisfy our appetite,” nutritional ecologist from the University of Sydney, Professor David Raubenheimer, said in a statement. "We also need to get the balance of fats: carbs right…high protein diets might help us to lose weight, but if they involve other imbalances then other health problems will be introduced.”
Raubenheimer and his colleagues analyzed the feeding habits of baboons living on the edge of human settlements. Their research also reflected comparable studies featuring spider monkeys and orangutans, which also forage for a balanced diet. Although the baboons used for this study ate a variety of foods throughout the day, around 20 percent of the energy they required came from proteins. To achieve the right amount of protein, primates will eat too much or too little fats and carbs to compensate for seasonal changes that prevent a balanced diet.
"This suggests that the baboon values getting the right balance of nutrients over energy intake per se,” explained Raubenheimer. "There is diversity even among closely related primates. It also demonstrates that an energy-only approach is not adequate to understand primate foraging or for making conservation decisions. Foods are complex mixtures of nutrients and these do not act independently but interact with one another. The appetite systems for different nutrients compete in their influence on feeding.”
Defining the nutritional value of food by calorie count tends to underscore macronutrients like carbs, fats, and proteins which ultimately regulates appetite and energy intake. Similar to humans, apes and monkeys focus their diets on proteins over carbohydrates and fat, meaning all three species will adjust for a diet low in protein by consuming larger amounts of fats, carbs, and energy to make for the protein loss. This could explain why obesity rates have continued to climb in the Western World in the past 60 years while the amount of protein in Westerner’s diets has declined.
"A simple rule for healthy eating is to avoid processed foods – the closer to real foods the better,” Raubenheimer added. “Whilst it is clear that humans are generalist feeders, no human population has until recently encountered "ultra-processed foods" – made from industrially extracted sugars, starches and salt. Our bodies and appetites are not adapted to biscuits, cakes, pizzas & sugary drinks and we eat too much of them at our peril.”