Obesity is one of the most pressing health challenges of our time, and new research (which I link here) focuses on an unexpected culprit: protein. The so-called "ultra-processed" foods that abound on Western tables don't just make us fat. They trigger a real perverse mechanism, identified by this research as the real hidden engine behind the obesity epidemic which is now (finally!) at the center of a scientific and social debate.
The predators of lost proteins
Humans have an innate drive to regulate their protein intake. This impulse, which has served us well for millennia, is now backfiring. Modern processed foods high in fat and carbohydrates are "diluting" protein, prompting people to consume more calories in an effort to meet their protein needs.
The phenomenon, known as "protein leverage", is now identified as a significant underlying factor of the obesity epidemic that we are facing.
Protein, what nostalgia: when food deceives us
It might seem counterintuitive: after all, we live in an age of food abundance. But it is precisely this abundance, or rather the quality of what we eat, which is becoming our Achilles' heel. Ultra-processed foods, while convenient and tasty, often lack the nutritional balance needed for a healthy diet.
And they force our body into a state of "desperate hunting" for the proteins it lacks, eating over and over again.
The cumulative effect
It's not just about "going off the beaten track" for an occasional meal or food choice. The cumulative effect of years of unbalanced food choices can have serious repercussions on our health.
Recent studies have shown, for example, that early exposure to diets with a high protein content, such as through some types of powdered milk, could lead to an increase in protein requirements and a greater susceptibility to obesity in later years.
An integrated vision for a better future
With WHO declaring obesity to be the greatest health threat facing humanity, it is clear that we need a new strategy.
The research authors suggest an integrated approach, examining how various factors contribute to obesity, rather than seeing them as competing explanations.
Only through a deep and integrated understanding can we hope to identify sustainable intervention points to reverse the incidence of obesity and associated complications, obviously excluding pathways through surgery or medication.