Is Healthy Eating Different for Everyone?

We all know what healthy eating means by now. Forget fad diets, has been the message of the past few years: eat more vegetables, more carbohydrates, less red meat and less fat, and not only will you feel better, you will (hopefully) lose weight and sustain that weight loss.

But a new eating plan, the Metabolic Typing Diet, challenges the concept that there is any such thing as a universal definition of healthy eating. Based on an analysis of each individual’s metabolic type, it provides a tailor-made eating plan for every subscriber—and some of its recommendations will seem pretty surprising.

Research into metabolic typing has been under way for 20 years, although this has only recently been put to use in terms of weight loss. William L Wolcott, a scientist specializing in nutrition and a keen advocate of this new approach, has treated about 50,000 people using the system and claims some success with conditions as diverse as arthritis, allergies, cancer, and diabetes. He published the book of the eating plan, The Metabolic Typing Diet, earlier this year.

The Underlying Concept of The Metabolic Diet

The underlying concept is that we all metabolize food differently, hence there is no universal “right” diet. Although many factors contribute to metabolic type, genetics is the biggest determinant. So, for example, Eskimos in their natural habitat eat a high-protein, high-fat diet without being overweight or suffering from diet-related diseases. Likewise, health and leanness are the norm in East India, where the cuisine is high carbohydrate and low fat.

Anglo-Saxon types, broadly speaking, are thought to thrive best on high-protein, high-fat diets. “We’re all told to eat like Mediterraneans; low fat, low protein, and high carbohydrate,” says Alison Loftus, a nutritionist at the Hale Clinic in London, an alternative therapy center, who is one of the few professionals in the UK to have trained in metabolic typing. “But given our genes and climate, most of us aren’t suited to this diet.”

These are broad stereotypes—there are lots of metabolic differences within genetic groups. Which is why metabolic typing home tests claim to be so useful, offering each person a diet generated to complement his or her specific metabolic type.

How Does This Diet Work?

The kit, available only from qualified nutritionists, tests the nine different body systems involved in the assessment of metabolic type. Blood, urine, and saliva are analyzed for acidity and sugar levels after the user has consumed a carbohydrate drink and then a protein drink. The results, along with an analysis of health, body type, personality, and diet, are then assessed by the nutritionist to determine your type.

Advocates of the system say that it has turned their eating habits upside down. Alison Loftus was tested two years ago and told she should eat a meat-rich diet. “This went totally against what I had been practicing for 12 years,” she says. “With my nutritional training, I had been following a high-carbohydrate, low-fat, low-protein diet, as close to vegetarian as possible. But this was all wrong for my metabolic type. As an animal lover, the thought of eating meat was completely disgusting to me, but I couldn’t ask my patients to do something that I wasn’t prepared to do myself.”

Although Loftus couldn’t quite stomach the heavy meats and offal that she is ideally suited to, she has been following a high-protein, meat-based diet since her test. “My energy levels have gone up, and I have lost weight,” she says. “I have stopped having cravings, which means I’m not bingeing anymore. It’s just fantastic that now I don’t have to think about my diet at all.” Meanwhile, her partner Ian was “over the moon” to discover that he should also be eating meat and has shed weight since cutting down on the chips and upping the steaks.

The system is set to be refined further in the next few years, taking into account sub-classifications such as environment and even menstrual cycle fluctuations. Until then, you can buy the book (of course), take the test and—fingers crossed—let your metabolism do the hard work for you.

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