Eating for your metabolic type
By Judith Torel
And the headlines read, “10 best foods for weight loss” or “Top 5 foods everyone should eat for good health” or “If you want to be healthy follow the Mediterranean diet”.
There are two inherent flaws in the above captions. The first is that the properties of the food are what should be used to determine if it is healthy to a human being. We can analyze a food for vitamins, minerals, glycemic rate, protein grams and omega 3 fatty acids. But, when we eat a food, it interacts with our individual biochemistry and it is the interaction of the food with our metabolic processes that determines if that food is healthy for our system.
A food that makes one person maintain metabolic homeostasis can cause someone else to move away from homeostasis. For example, peanuts are a protein containing good fats and are viewed as a healthy snack, but if you have an allergy to peanuts it could literally kill you. So in order to determine if a food is healthy, you have to take into consideration how that food reacts with your individual metabolic processes.
The second flawed premise is that there is one healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats for all human beings. According to some nutritional theorists, there are at least nine fundamental homeostatic systems that comprise an individual’s metabolism and you can be anywhere on a continuum of each of these systems, making metabolism highly individualistic. But, there appears to be congregates of certain “metabolic types” that require different mixes of protein, carbs and fat for ideal health.
Each type requires a different balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats in order to achieve ideal health. One type needs higher protein and fat and less carbohydrates while another type may need more of an equal mix of protein to carbohydrates while another may do best on a low fat, plant-based higher carbohydrate, low protein eating plan. There are a number of factors that contribute to the determination of your particular metabolic type, but one of them is your ancestry.
Throughout time and the evolution of humans, groups of individuals who lived in different parts of the world developed specific dietary needs as an adaptation to the environment and geographical location. People today who have lineage originating from northern-based climates have a predisposition to do better on higher protein and fat-based diets. For example, Alaskan Inuits consumed large quantities of wild game like caribou, moose, seal and whale blubber, at times eating a carbohydrate free diet.
On the other extreme, contemporary people whose ancestors came from more temperate regions and ate diets high in vegetation consisting of fruits, vegetables, tubers, nuts and seeds will achieve higher states of health on a semi-vegetarian, plant-based, low fat eating plan similar to the Mediterranean diet.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that someone who has ancestry from northern-based climates may not achieve maximum health eating the Mediterranean diet. This type of person may be better with more of an Atkins-based eating approach.
Ancestry is not always directly traceable in today’s world where clear-cut ethnic/genetic heritage is not always known, but it is only one of many factors that contributes to metabolic type.
There are 10 fundamental homeostatic systems that contribute to the determination of your particular metabolic type according to the metabolic typing system of William Wolcott, a nutritional theorist. Ancestry influences all of these systems.
The autonomic nervous system is one of the three main systems used to determine metabolic type. It is comprised of the parasympathetic and the sympathetic. The parasympathetic is the processes that slow down and relax the nervous system and the body in general, whereas the sympathetic is the side that revs up and excites the nervous system and the body in general. A person can be sympathetic dominant, parasympathetic dominant or generally balanced between the two. Depending on which you are will factor into what mix of protein, carbs and fats you need to maintain ideal health, as well as what particular foods within these categories blend best within your body systems.
The oxidation of foods is the second most influential system in the determination of metabolic type. Oxidation has to do with the rate at which you digest, absorb and assimilate foods. An individual may be predisposed to a fast oxidative rate in which glycolosis, the use of sugars for fuel, is preferred by the body. Another individual may generally operate at a slower oxidative rate in which the body prefers the beta-oxidation path of energy conduction. There is also a mixed type in which there is more of a balance of the oxidative rate. Where an individual falls within this framework determines whether she will feel more energized by faster-burning carbohydrates or slower-burning fats and proteins.
Other systems involved in determining metabolic type include: lipo/oxidative balance, neurotransmitter balance, electrolyte balance, acid/alkaline balance, prostaglandin balance, endocrine type, blood type and general constitution.
Current thinking suggests that in order to design an ideal eating plan, an individual needs to know his metabolic type. You can find Wilcott’s system at www.healthexcel.com.
Judy Torel is a USAT coach, personal trainer, nutrition consultant and psychotherapist. She conducts online services through her website www.judytorel.com. Her office is located in Planet Fitness, Loudonville. She is also a competing triathlete who is currently training for Ironman, Florida.