We all know what healthy eating means by now. Forget faddy diets, has been the message of the past few years: eat more veg, more carbohydrate, 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 in the US for 20 years, although this has only recently been put to use in terms of weight loss. William L Wolcott, a scientist specialising 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 in America.
The underlying concept is that we all metabolise 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 centre, 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, on offer in this country for the first time, claim to be so useful, offering each person a diet generated to complement his or her specific metabolic type. …