Melbourne: Counting calories before every meal to keep your weight in check? You may chill out a bit now as researchers have found that instead of counting calories for weight loss, you would do better to boost the protein content of your diet.
Overall energy intake seems to be less important than achieving the correct nutritional balance, the findings showed.
"Foods are complex mixtures of nutrients and these do not act independently but interact with one another. The appetite systems for different nutrients compete in their influence on feeding," said David Raubenheimer, professor from University of Sydney in Australia.
Nutritional values of foods are typically given in kilojoules or kilocalories, standard units of energy. The study suggests that this is too simplistic as different macronutrients - carbohydrates, fats and proteins - interact to regulate appetite and energy intake.
When foods are nutritionally balanced, there is no competition between these appetite systems, and when one nutrient requirement is satisfied, so too are the others.
Many foods, however, are unbalanced and have a higher or lower proportion of protein to carbohydrate than one requires.
Therefore, to obtain the right amount of protein one may have to over- or undereat fats and carbohydrates.
The researchers studied baboons that live on the edge of human settlements. Despite eating different combinations of foods each day, they achieved a consistent balance where 20 percent of their energy needs came from protein.
However, their overall energy intake varied significantly, over a five-fold range.
"This suggests that the baboon values getting the right balance of nutrients over energy intake per se," Raubenheimer added.