A call to end the demonization of macronutrients

First, fat was declared to be bad, unhealthy, and disease promoting. Though this belief has hardly subsided there also arose a group of individuals declaring that carbohydrates were the real problem behind disease and should be avoided. Most recently there has been a push to declare protein as promoting poor health. All of these beliefs rest on a foundation of overly simplistic models that neglect the reality that all of these macronutrient groups are important to health. These models satisfy a need in people have certainty and simplicity in a complex and uncertain world. The problem is that they do not serve the health of the public or individuals.

While changing the macronutrient composition of an individual’s diet may be health promoting it is problematic to promote the hypothesis that there is a single macronutrient change that will benefit ¬†everyone. So rather than worrying about how much fat/carbohydrates/protein one is consuming here are some better places to put that energy:

  • Food quality – I believe that the quality of the food is far more important to a person’s health than the quantity of the macronutrients. Higher quality food, though generally more expensive, is a better value because of it’s higher nutritional content and lower macronutrient damage.
  • Macronutrient appropriateness – Each individual can decide if managing their macronutrient balance is a worthwhile their unique health context. Reducing carbohydrates, particularly sugars, may be wise for someone who is accumulating excess fat, but that does not mean crabohydrates cannot be nutritive for other individuals, or even for that same individual as their health changes. The same is true for fats and proteins.

A topic I keep coming back to is that though simple models would be nice as they are easy to explain and use to make decisions, most aspects of health and nutrition are extremely unlikely to have such simple models. The simple models which have been promoted as worse than useless as they often promote unhealthy behaviors leading to deeper malnutrition.

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