Nutrient partitioning: An easy way to eat well
Generally, researchers are matter-of-fact about results, content to simply present what they have found. So when the principal investigator of a health-related matter says that the logical end result of what she has researched is "like the sky is falling," you know that something serious is wrong.
It's something I warned you about years ago: that children are now developing diseases previously found only in adults.
The best-known example is type 2 diabetes. Only two generations ago, it was officially called adult-onset diabetes.
That's because the hallmark of the disease, insulin's decreased effectiveness when it transports energy to cells, was believed to occur only after decades of poor eating and inactivity. But sometime in the early 1980s the American Dietetic Association changed the term to type 2 diabetes even though most medical textbooks still noted that those who contract type 2 are "usually over 40 years of age."
That, unfortunately, is not the case any more.
The prevalence of highly processed carbohydrates in the typical American diet along with a decrease in exercise has done more than triple the rate of obesity in children in 30 years.
Now research led by Dr. Catherine Davis, a clinical health psychologist in Georgia's MCG's Georgia Prevention Institute and the researcher quoted above, shows that obese 8-to-11-year-old children have stiffer arteries than leaner children. Until now, stiff arteries were thought to occur only in adults.
The development of stiff arteries is a characteristic of atherosclerosis, a type of heart disease that often leads to a heart attack or a stroke.
That's why we should revisit a topic touched upon in last week's column: nutrient partitioning, the theory that it is not so much the number of calories consumed but rather the type that determines whether weight is lost or gained.
While the concept of nutrient partitioning flies in the face of the mainstream medical belief that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, there's ample evidence that nutrient partitioning does indeed take place. The Princeton study referenced last week, for example, produced a 48 percent weight gain in rats fed a diet rich in high-fructose corn syrup as opposed to rats fed the same number of calories fed typical rat food supplemented with table sugar.
Additionally, there's a 2003 study where human subjects consumed 25,000 more calories over the 12-week period than a second group on diet designed to promote weight loss, yet both groups lost an equal amount of weight. According to the math used to govern the field of nutrition, the extra-calories group shouldn't have lost weight, but added a bit more than seven pounds during the study.
Anecdotally, bodybuilders dieting for competition have proven nutrient partitioning for years. John Parrillo, a longtime leader in the field of sports nutrition and one of the first to understand the advantages of applying the concept of nutrient partitioning, often recounts an experiment he did years ago.
Parrillo had bodybuilders shedding body fat for a competition follow the same strict diet that they had been following but replaced 300 daily calories of brown rice with 300 calories of banana. Since both are extremely high in carbohydrates and low in fat, you might expect the change to be negligible.
The bodybuilders all recorded an increase in their body fat percentage.
So what exactly is nutrient partitioning?
In essence, it accomplishes what Atkins diet and other low-carb diets strive for, but in a far healthier way. But instead of replacing the ingestion of simple carbohydrates with fat in order to diminish the secretion of insulin, nutrient partitioning uses primarily complex carbohydrates and protein since research has shown that the release of insulin can also be lessened by their ingestion.
That's why adherents of nutrient partitioning can eat foods high on the glycemic index, like baked potatoes, without a blood-sugar fluctuation. They combine the baked potato (a complex carb) with a fibrous complex carb, like green beans, and a protein source, like chicken, both of which cannot be broken down into energy quickly.
The end result is delayed ingestion and a gentle rather than a dramatic rise in blood sugar. Additionally, some of calories in these hard-to-break-down foods gets wasted in the process.
The fiber in the green beans can't be used as energy and gets passed as waste. And high-quality protein in isolation, egg whites for instance, is so hard to digest that up to 30 percent of the calories consumed can be wasted in the process.
This is one of the reasons why some people seem to be able to eat more than others without gaining weight.
If you'd like to experiment with the concept of nutrient partitioning as a way to improve your health, reduce your weight, and give your children a fighting chance to live to be an old age, the formula is simple.
As often as you can, eliminate simple carbohydrates primarily processed grains like the ones found in typical breads, pastas, and convenience foods like frozen waffles, tacos, and delivery pizzas, as well as sugar-laden products like sodas, fruit juices, cereals, and condiments. Replace them with vegetables, whole-grain products, and high-quality protein products.