After studying how the body responds to different foods at the molecular level, Norwegian biologists have come up with a dietary formula they say is the best for maintaining optimum health: one-third protein, one-third fat and one-third carbohydrate.
When that formula is skewed - particularly to be on the carbohydrate-rich side - that causes genes to work "overtime," said scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Too many carbs activate genes that cause inflammation as well as those associated with the development of cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia and type 2 diabetes, throwing the body off kilter.
Results of their study were released by the school Monday.
Their observations came after conducting a study in which 32 slightly overweight men and women were fed a diet made of specially powdered food. For six days, participants consumed a diet composed of 65 percent carbs, 15 percent protein and 20 percent fat.
After another week of no diet, they were then put on a six-day diet in which they cut the carbs in half and consumed twice as much protein and fat. Researchers gleaned their information from blood tests.
Lead author Berit Johansen said the study yielded two important findings: the positive effect of eating multiple meals throughout the day and the fact that a carb-rich diet - regardless of whether or not the person overeats - can negatively affect the body at the molecular level.
"A healthy diet is about eating specific kinds of foods so that that we minimize the body's need to secrete insulin. The secretion of insulin is a defense mechanism in response to too much glucose in the blood, and whether that glucose comes from sugar or from non-sweet carbohydrates such as starches (potatoes, white bread, rice, etc.), doesn't really matter," she said in a statement.
If you think you're consuming excess carbs, ask yourself if you experience the following: your body stores more water, your skin is slightly redder, you feel warmer, and you're not on top mentally. The condition is known as metabolic inflammation and is a byproduct of eating a carbohydrate-based diet, researchers said.
However, Johansen pointed out that while a high carb diet may carry negative health consequences, it took just six days for researchers to see marked improvements in the gene expression of the volunteer.
"...it's easy to get started," Johansen said. "But if you want to reduce your likelihood of lifestyle disease, this new diet will have to be a permanent change."
To help Americans eat balanced meals, the US Department of Agriculture also replaced the iconic food pyramid with a more user-friendly icon, MyPlate, a color-coded diagram that allows consumers to eyeball how much protein, grains, fruits and vegetables to put on their plate. The biggest area is allotted to vegetables, followed by grains and protein and fruit.