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    The Protein Leverage Hypotesis of Obesity


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Monday, September 12, 2005 4:25 am Email this article
    The obesity epidemic in recent years may be the result of a decrease in protein content of the average diet according to a theory called "The Protein Leverage Hypothesis" proposed by Stephen J. Simpson of the University of Oxford in Oxford, England.

    His theory is as follows.

    People eat in order to get a certain amount of protein

    People eat in order to consume a certain amount of protein, however, protein content of the average diet has decreased over the past 40 years.

    Since 1961, protein content of the U.S. diet has decreased from 14% to 12.5%

    For example, in the U.S., protein content in the average diet has decreased from 14 percent protein to 12.5 percent protein.

    Therefore people eat more food in order to get the necessary protein

    Therefore, people eat more food—more fats and carbohydrates—in order to satisfy their protein requirements, thus leading to a greater calorie intake and we get fatter and fatter.

    Protein intake has remained constant

    Here is some of the evidence that he gives to support is theory.

    Protein intake, as either a percent of diet or in absolute terms, that is the amount of grams eaten per day, “has remained far more constant over time and across populations than either fat or carbohydrate.”

    This suggests that protein intake is more regulated than fats or carbohydrates.

    Because of the constant protein intake, many researchers have ignored protein’s role in the obesity epidemic

    Because of this constant intake, many researchers have ignored the role of protein, assuming that could not be the problem.

    Protein is a small percent of diet, so a small decrease leads to a large increase in calorie intake

    Simpson points out that protein is a minor part of diet, usually about 15 percent of the calories we consume.

    This means that about 85 percent of the calories we consume come from fats and carbohydrates. (Alcohol is a fourth macronutrient that must also be accounted for.)

    Therefore, if the protein content of our diet were only 10 percent rather than 15 percent, we would have to consume 50 percent more calories in order to get the same amount of protein. (15 divided by 10 equals 1.50)

    But in reverse, if the protein content of our diet were 30 percent rather than 15 percent, we would only have to consume half as many calories in order to get the same amount of protein.

    How many more calories you have to eat if protein content decreases

    Here are some calculations how many more calories a person would have to eat as the percent of protein decreases.

    14% protein diet would require eating 7% more calories

    A one percent decrease in protein content of the diet, that is decreasing from 15 percent to 14 percent, would require a person to eat approximately 7 percent more calories in order to get the same amount of protein. (15 divided by 14 equals 1.07)

    13% protein diet would require eating 13% more calories

    A 2 percent decrease, that is from 15 percent protein to 13 percent, would require a person to eat approximately 15 percent more calories to get the same amount of protein. (15 divided by 13 equals 1.15)

    12% protein diet would require eating 25% more calories

    A 3 percent decrease, that is from 15 percent protein to 12 percent, would require a person to eat approximately 25 percent more calories to get the same amount of protein. (15 divided by 12 equals 1.25)

    11% protein diet would require eating 36% more calories

    A 4 percent decrease, that is from 15 percent protein to 11 percent, would require a person to eat approximately 36 percent more calories to get the same amount of protein. (15 divided by 11 equals 1.36)

    10% protein diet would require eating 50% more calories

    A 5 percent decrease, that is from 15 percent protein to 10 percent, would require a person to eat approximately 50 percent more calories to get the same amount of protein. (15 divided by 10 equals 1.50)

    How many fewer calories you have to eat if protein content increases

    Here are some calculations how many fewer calories a person would have to eat as the percent of protein increases.

    16% protein diet would require eating 6% fewer calories

    A one percent increase in protein content of the diet, that is increasing from 15 percent to 16 percent, would require a person to eat approximately 6 percent fewer calories in order to get the same amount of protein. (15 divided by 16 equals 0.94)

    17% protein diet would require eating 12% fewer calories

    A 2 percent increase, that is from 15 percent protein to 17 percent, would require a person to eat approximately 12 percent fewer calories to get the same amount of protein. (15 divided by 17 equals 0.88)

    18% protein diet would require eating 17% fewer calories

    A 3 percent increase, that is from 15 percent protein to 18 percent, would require a person to eat approximately 17 percent fewer calories to get the same amount of protein. (15 divided by 18 equals 0.83)

    19% protein diet would require eating 21% fewer calories

    A 4 percent increase, that is from 15 percent protein to 19 percent, would require a person to eat approximately 21 percent fewer calories to get the same amount of protein. (15 divided by 19 equals 0.79)

    20% protein diet would require eating 25% fewer calories

    A 5 percent increase, that is from 15 percent protein to 20 percent, would require a person to eat approximately 25 percent fewer calories to get the same amount of protein. (15 divided by 20 equals 0.75)

    25% protein diet would require eating 40% fewer calories

    A 10 percent increase, that is from 15 percent protein to 25 percent, would require a person to eat approximately 40 percent fewer calories to get the same amount of protein. (15 divided by 25 equals 0.6)

    30% protein diet would require eating 50% fewer calories

    A 15 percent increase, that is from 15 percent protein to 30 percent, would require a person to eat approximately 50 percent fewer calories to get the same amount of protein. (15 divided by 30 equals 0.5)

    35% protein diet would require eating 57% fewer calories

    A 20 percent increase, that is from 15 percent protein to 35 percent, would require a person to eat approximately 57 percent fewer calories to get the same amount of protein. (15 divided by 35 equals 0.43)

    REFERENCE

    Simpson S, Raubenheimer D. Obesity: the protein leverage hypothesis. Obes Rev. 2005 May, 6(2):133-42.

    AUTHOR’S CONTACT INFORMATION

    Stephen Simpson
    Department of Zoology and University Museum of Natural History
    University of Oxford
    South Parks Road
    Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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