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‘Carbohydrate-insulin model’ suggests this column’s diet advice is spot-on

Joe Friday, the detective in the classic television police drama “Dragnet,” is remembered as a man of few words. But who can forget the 19 he spoke to introduce each show?

“The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

If only good old Joe would say “confuse” instead of “protect,” his words would be the perfect intro for today’s column as well. Then he truly would be, as the saying goes, my man Friday.

The story you are about to hear is that an opinion paper published in the Sept. 13 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition declares a number of things about eating and weight management you’ve read in this column for years:

• That the “overconsumption of modern, highly palatable, energy-dense processed foods, exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle” is the “commonly held view” for why four out of every 10 American adults are obese and the world is in the midst of an obesity epidemic.

• That, despite the medical world endlessly stressing the need to eat less and move more, obesity rates “remain at historic highs” in the U.S. and everywhere else.

• That our fatness arises from following the “energy balance model.” (The EBM holds that weight gain occurs when more calories are ingested than burned.)

The opinion paper offers an alternate to the EBM called “the carbohydrate-insulin model” and suggests by following it you could “experience less hunger” and “spontaneous” weight loss, as well as improve your energy level. The use of the phrase carbohydrate-insulin model is the reason Joe Friday’s famous words were mentioned.

That phrase is the only-the-names-have-been-changed part to this column.

For all intents and purposes, the carbohydrate-insulin model is what I’ve called nutrient partitioning for about for about 25 years.

Just like nutrient partitioning, the carbohydrate-insulin model does not dispute that ingesting more calories than you burn will lead to weight gain. It does, however, propose a few twists as to why weight is gained.

It’s not the “overconsumption” of “modern, highly palatable, energy-dense processed foods”; it’s the consumption of any of those foods at all. They digest too easily and alter the secretion of hormones that in turn drive your desire to consume more food than need be.

Or, as Deep Shukla writes in “Obesity and weight loss: Why overall calorie intake may not be so important,” his assessment of the opinion paper for Medical News Today, “diet quality matters more for weight loss than total calorie intake.”

Confession time. I will not lie.

It’s gratifying to read the opinion paper in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Shukla’s assessment of it. Both strongly support the dietary advice I’ve been dispensing and calling nutrient partitioning.

And since I don’t expect you to commit columns to memory (though I do hope you could ace an easy monthly true-or-false test), an overview of what I mean by nutrient partitioning follows.

First and foremost, all calories are not equal because the way in which your body processes proteins, healthy fats, unhealthy fats, simple carbohydrates, and complex carbohydrates differs.

Cals that come from fats (except medium-chained triglycerides) and simple carbs - especially simple carbs that get that way from food processing - get digested and absorbed by the body virtually intact. For fats, the rate is 98 percent; most simple carbs, about 95 percent.

Protein and complex carbs, though, are not absorbed as easily and far more waste occurs.

Generally 20 to 25 percent of calories from protein get used in the process to digest the rest. Eight to 10 percent of the complex carbs get used during digestion and complex carbs contain fiber.

Fiber cannot be digested (though your gut microbiota certainly benefits from your ingestion of it). It’s defecated, along with any fat molecules that have attached themselves - one more way in which a high-fiber diet saves you calories.

The amount of insulin secreted in response to each macronutrient is another reason why not all cals are equal.

Simple carbs - especially when they make up most of the calories in a meal or snack - cause the body to release too much insulin. As a result, more than the amount of glucose the muscle cells can store as energy is removed from the blood.

The blood glucose not accepted by the muscle cells gets stored as body fat.

And because your blood glucose level is now low, you feel hungry and eat again, a phenomenon the opinion paper calls “the second-meal effect.” Eating again, surprise, surprise, leads to more fat being stored.

But the second-meal effect is avoided if the initial meal creates a low or moderate release of insulin. You can ensure that happens by avoiding most forms of fast food and much of what’s sold in grocery stores and creating your own meals of predominantly proteins and complex carbs with a modicum of healthy fats.