Obesity driven by overconsumption of protein-mimicking carbs and fats

If the authors are right and the problem is meat-flavored non-protein, then it would seem to follow that we don’t even need to try to eat more protein or less fat/carbs. If we simply ate normal, non-fake-flavored fat/carbs, then the authors’ model would suggest we’d naturally eat them in the right amounts.

I’m skeptical. The foods The_Irony mentions seem like they must be what the authors are talking about, but how big a part of our diets are these niche snacks, really?

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This is an oversimplification of the problem. We don’t test food calories by putting them in someone and seeing what happens. We burn it, to give a global maximum calories that can be extracted. But how many calories will be extracted by the human body is a multivariable problem that involves everything from gastric emptying rates to your particular gut flora. It’s easy to say, “Consume X calories.” It’s much harder to actually know how many calories you’ve consumed and how many leave the body in waste.

This is why calorie-based approaches are so prone to failure, and vary considerably in terms of results across populations. This is why your friend who does one jumping jack a day can’t keep weight on while eating exactly what you eat, and why you can’t seem to lose weight while bouncing around all day carrying more body weight. Maybe the reason a person is desperately hungry and tired when they diet is because they need to consume more not less, even though their BMR and calorie stickers say otherwise. This is why they get discouraged and stop trying.

But all of this misses a major point: How much of a problem is obesity really? People undertake plenty of risky behaviors from Abseiling to… um- Zkydiving. Obesity never actually kills anyone, except in extreme cases. All we hear about is “risk factors”. These risk factors can be mitigated by more holistic approaches to healthy living that may not ultimately “shrink fat cells” (as one quacky commercial goes on about round these parts). I think we’re geared to examine obesity as a problem in itself, rather than looking for the solutions to the problems it supposedly causes.


I think our culture has a problem with overconsumption in general, and food is just one aspect of that trend. I recently did an informal poll of people I know (this is totally science): How would you feel if your child(ren) got just one christmas present? The looks on people’s faces - the thought was heartbreaking. I recognize that some of these children have been used to getting more for years and would notice the lack, but some were two and would have been very happy with one present any day.

If we need to be consuming to be happy then we are going to consume. Sugary treats just happen to be the cheapest way to do that.


Doesn’t the evo-psych logic imply that it’s sugar and fat that we should be craving endlessly? Shouldn’t protein be the one thing we’d have evolved good appetite-regulating mechanisms for?

I think it’s less the “niche snacks” and more things like chicken nuggets, which taste KIND of like they’re mostly meat but it’s pretty obviously that they aren’t.

I tend to think studies like this are mostly nonsense. Know what you’re eating. Eat fresh foods as much as you can. Do your best to avoid the processed stuff. Get some exercise. There are obviously economic issues that make some of these things more difficult, but keeping these things in mind when making decisions every day will lead you in the right direction.

EDIT: “Nonsense” in the sense that everyone seems to want to blame the big food companies, when most of this seems to be pretty logical; people need to take responsibility for their own choices.

Why? Our brains still think it’s 50,000 years ago. No such thing as “too much” protein when you might go weeks between eating only what you could gather.

Maybe, but add that to the lack of fat/carb regulation that the authors say we’ve evolved, and now the conclusion becomes that we have no appetite regulation at all. We just crave more of everything. In that case, everything the authors say about meat-flavored low-protein food becomes moot.

Yes, they sell cheap foods. But no one is forcing adults to go there. Adults shouldn’t need protection from their own stupidity, only from being wilfully lied to. There can be made a point that children need special protection, so I’m fine with limiting food advertisement or perhaps even banning “food” that’s specifically aimed at kids.

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We crave protein, fat and sugar…all things that were harder to get 50,000 years ago.

We don’t crave vegetables in the same way. Or even grains, unless they’re dressed up with ingredients that make our brains think we’re eating protein, fat, and/or sugar.


You are mistaken

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Why does every study about obesity have to be dismissed as fat-shaming?

Certainly there is nothing wrong with being a healthy larger person, but no one can deny that unhealthy obesity has risen in the past few decades, and with it a host of problems like heart disease. Heart disease is now the #1 cause of death, having grown steeply in both absolute and relative terms since being the #4 cause of death in 1900.

What’s wrong with trying to work out the cause of this?


Obesity never actually kills anyone, except in extreme cases.

Obesity and related health problems kill quite literally millions of people every year. Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally, and is quite clearly linked to obesity rates.

What about deliberately misled? i.e. Jelly Beans! Now 99% fat free (and almost exclusively sugar!) I’m not proposing we stop advertising, nor ban junk food. I do however think we need some sort of regulation to stop giant corporations utterly distorting the truth to the point that it is nearly impossible to tell what is healthy and what isn’t anymore.


Um, heart disease isn’t caused by diet. Certainly not diet alone. It takes a godawful lot of eating to get into heart attack. Especially if you’re not predisposed. Atherosclerosis starts at childhood, a big hint that diet is not a primary factor in heart disease. There’s even speculation that air pollution is a factor, considering smoking is certainly a factor.

In fact nothing is caused by diet alone except obesity. Diet always has been at worst a contributing factor. One contributing factor among many, The only reason we focus on diet as a society is because we can see it. It’s classic human confirmation bias. This is why it’s easy to dismiss as fat-shaming: We’re not analyzing other behaviors. Driving a car is a risk factor for poor health because you don’t get as much exercise, but we don’t ever discuss it in those terms. Instead we talk about how fat you are, rather than car culture in America. We don’t talk about the fact that you no longer have to wash clothes by hand, or make as many runs to the bank and the library, because of advances in technology. We’re not talking about activity levels, or going for walks. We’re pretending --and that’s all it is, pretending-- that mere poundage equates with something it doesn’t. The authors are linking an unbalanced diet to obesity, not to ill-health. They’re defining ill-health as obesity and vice-versa. It’s based on a faulty syllogism.

Edited to add: Another note on what causes heart disease and things like it. I’ve had hypertension and prehypertension. Doctor told me to lose weight. I did. I lost a ton. Still had hypertension. You know what cured my hypertension? Antidepressants. Maybe? I’ve gained weight since and my hypertension has not returned. Then I did some digging: Turns out that we can’t accurately determine the cause of hypertension beyond considering various “risk factors”. My hypertension is completely gone despite the fact that I now weigh more than I ever have- and I’m off anti-depressants. My little anecdote isn’t to provide evidence of anything other than what about these conversations irks me: The level of certitude with which people approach the topic of obesity-linked illness. Obesity-linked is not, and has never been, obesity-caused.


I can’t believe we’ve made over 30 comments without some paleo-woo being brought up, then vigorously defended with links to more woo.


This is huge. Whether you live within a few kilometers of a supermarket is probably a much better predictor of weight than what food is on the shelf when you get there (I read a study on this once, I swear!).

This is silly oversimplification. You are suggesting we take all the benches out of a hallway and then blame the people there for not sitting down anymore.



“Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.”

Maybe paleo is on its way out???

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There’s a very good book on calories called Why Calories Count which goes into a ton of research on calories, on food combinations, on diets. It’s a great book but a little disheartening as it seems every diet is doomed to fail.

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We can only hope.


More calories are consumed than are used.

This is technically correct, but it doesn’t explain anything.

It’s akin to walking into a crowded room and asking, “Why is this room so crowded?”.

If someone answered, “The room is crowded because more people are entering it than are leaving it”, you probably wouldn’t take them very seriously afterwards. Technically correct, but useless information.