More and more notable happenings in the nutrition environment seem to be cropping up on a near-daily basis in both the lay and technical communities which remind me that our attitudes and understanding about the foods we eat are changing rapidly. From a lay perspective, separate recent articles on the front page of the Wall Street Journal business section outlined the continuing downturn in the fortunes of two global brand icons, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. Each article discussed various rationales for the worsening decline in sales at both companies, but one fact seemed inescapable, even to executives at the global giants: changing consumer eating habits, and a desire for healthier food options, are helping to drive sales trends. A positive sign for most folks in the health/nutrition fields; not such a positive sign for companies that continue to peddle high-sugar, high-calorie, high-fat fare.
And on the technical front, it was not lost on me during my time at this past week’s Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual meeting how many presenters, as well as exhibitors, were highlighting higher-protein foods and diets as potential keys to better health. In fact, the Egg Nutrition Center was pleased to sponsor a breakfast session at the conference in which Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar, professor at the Pennington Institute at Louisiana State University and incoming president of The Obesity Society, discussed his ongoing research on the impact of high-protein diets on satiety and weight control. Dr. Dhurandhar cited numerous studies from his lab and others in which subjects who consumed high-protein or high-carbohydrate meals acutely or chronically displayed greater satiety and weight loss after the high-protein treatments.
Findings such as these have prompted the research team at ENC to delve further into the issue of macronutrient intake and health. We have funded a least a half dozen studies on this topic in the past year alone, on issues ranging from the impact of protein quality to the amount and timing of protein intake on various indices of health. Most recently, we awarded an Obesity Society grant to Dr. Dexi Liu from the University of Georgia to examine the impact of high-protein diets on obesity-induced liver disease.
Bottom line—our beliefs and understanding about the foods and diets we consume are changing. Our knowledge regarding the impact of the various macronutrients on obesity induced by overconsumption is still evolving. But the days of the 65-70% carbohydrate diet appear to be over. Science will ultimately provide us with more definitive answers, but that will take time. In the meantime, consumers are looking for solutions, and they’re voting with their purses. Where this will all net out remains to be seen, so stay tuned.